As a result of a public meeting held at the home of Mr Greber on March 8th 1935 the social life of Bentley residents was to undergo a remarkable change. It was decided at this meeting to call tenders for the supply of timber and joinery, employ a carpenter and form a working bee to erect the hall. Up until this time dances were held at the homes of Moroney’s, Greber’s, Holme’s and Hartley’s. These homes each had a piano and couples could be seen dancing through the kitchen, down the hall and onto the verandah. Joe Byrnes played the accordion.
The office bearers elected at the meeting were Mr H. Holmes, President, Mr L. Hildebrand, Secretary and Mr H. Hartley, treasurer. The committee consisted of the above three gentlemen as well as Mrs Hartley, Mrs Collins, Mr Greber and M C. Steele.
The dimensions of the new hall were to be 50”x 30”. Mr Gorton was asked to draw up plans according to the draft. Tenders were called for the erection of the hall in the “Express” and Northern Star”. The tender of Norton and Norris for 279/-/ − ($549.00) was accepted. Mr Steele (who was the teacher in charge at Manifold Public School at the time) travelled to the Mongogarie Hall to make enquiries regarding its construction and was reimbursed 1/-/ − ($2.00) for expenses. Mr Mick Moroney, Mr Les Hildebrand and Mr Bert Holmes were appointed trustees of the hall and Mr Moroney placed the necessary land in the possession of the hall committee. 100/-/ − ($200.00) was raised for the start of the hall. Charlie and Bess Steele along with Bert and Alma Holmes and Herb and Vera Hartley were the backbone for raising money for the hall. The balance of the cost was met by a 300 pound ($600.00) loan from the Bank of N. S. W. The responsibility for outfitting the hall was shared by the committee.
It was decided to hold an opening dance for which crockery was hired and free buses were run from Lismore and Casino. The official opening was held on August 12th 1935. Annual balls were then held every August for many years. Dances and meetings were arranged according to the full moon. If this was not possible, travellers had to bring a hurricane lantern to hang under the sulky on the axle to light the way. People would gather at Walter Wards home and trave down to the hall together. There would be up to 17 horses and riders at any one time. Meetings were held regularly to handle business maters and set dates for functions. In November 1948 the rent was raised to 2/-/ − ($4.00) for a dance or social and 10/ − ($1.00) was paid to a newly appointed cleaner/caretaker, Mr George Ball Jnr.
On Tuesday March 11th, 1952 a “Switching on the Lights” social was held to commemorate the connection of electricity to the hall. Cr. and Mrs E. Humphries performed the switching on ceremony. The old lights were sold to Leeville Public Hall for 1/-/ − ($2.00) each. In August 1955 the tender of L. Dodd for 429 / 15/ − ($950.00) was accepted for the extension of the hall and the erection of a stage. While extensions were undertaken the local men carried out additional repair work. Fortnightly card parties were held along with a cattle drive to help offset the cost. The extensions were completed and an “Opening of the New Extensions Ball” was held on October 18th, 1955. Admission was £6/ − (60cents). Prizes of £1 / 1/ − ($2.10) were awarded to winners of Jazz and Waltz competitions and novelty prize for the lady wearing the prettiest frock.
Over the years the Bentley Hall has been used by many people for different purposes:
For music tuition when in 1936 a fee of 6d/hour (60cents), for euchre and ping pong tournaments — a ping pong outfit and table was purchased in 1948 at a cost of £2 / 13 / 4 ($4.00). Many kitchen teas and farewells have been held, sometimes fortnightly. Patriotic meetings and dances were held during Word War 11.
History of Bentley Art Prize
The first Bentley Art Prize was held in 1985 with just two art categories and 70 entries. It was held in conjunction with the launching of the history of the Bentley book “In and Around Bentley” by Helen Trustum. From that small beginning the prize has grown to be one of the most prestigious art prizes on the North Coast.
Prize money has increased considerably and many artists who entered in 1985 are still exhibiting. All enjoy the co-operative and friendly attitude and family orientated week-end. The hall is also utilised twice a week as a Pre-School servicing the many families in the Bentley community.
History of Bentley Art Prize Logo
Judy Rodgers won the inaugural prize to design the Bentley Art Prize logo in 1988. Judy was a local artist living in the country hamlet of Goombungee, approximately 40 kilometres west of Toowoomba. Judy grew up in Blue Mountains with a childhood passion for art and painting. As teenager Judy won a scholarship to study painting and design at the East Sydney Technical College in the late 1950s. After qualifying as an art teacher Judy taught high school students in Albury and remained interested in collage and design. She had a ticket writing certificate and was recognised for her design, signwriting and calligraphy skills. These are some of the skills which are on display in the Bentley Art Prize logo.
In the 1970s Judy moved to Toowoomba in Queensland and set up her on silk screen and signwriting business. Once her daughters grew up, Judy took the opportunity to return to painting, initially experimenting with oils and then moving to watercolours. Her confidence developed with age and her focus on landscapes freed up her style and dexterity. She used photography to configure a drawing into a painting. Painting subjects were often rusting farm machinery and abandoned rural buildings, discovered and photographed in driving trips in northern NSW and southern Queensland, with her husband, Bill.
Judy exhibited and won many local and regional painting prizes in the 1980s and 1990s ranging from Casino’s Beef Week to Brisbane, Oakey, Dalby and North Queensland. She was also heavily involved in the Oakey Art Group (Qld) and gave freely of her time to help many people in her local community with picture framing, and teaching painting and design techniques.
Judy was somewhat of a perfectionistic who enjoyed studying new painting techniques, and her final watercolour research and experimentation were inspired by Turner’s use of light. Sadly, Judy passed away prematurely at the age of 59 while en route to participate in a Turner-inspired painting tour in Britain.