Potted Histories

Wokalup Hall

By Heather Wade, 2022

It was announced in the Bunbury Herald and Blackwood Express on 22 October 1919 that ‘A meeting of the newly formed Wokalup Progress Association was held at the Wokalup Hotel on Wednesday, the 15th inst. The business discussed was the erection of a Hall at this centre, which would be a great boon to the residents.’ Previously the social activities for the area had been conducted at the school which opened in January 1915.[1]

It took until September 1920 for the Association to hold a meeting to consider building the hall at Wokalup for the Progress Association. Those in attendance were Messrs R Clifton, G Setter, RJ Camden, W Berry, R Lofthouse, A Jack, H Grover, B Lofthouse, PE Wagner and R Wagner, with Peter Jurgensen presiding. At a second meeting it was decided to commence work on the building. A whip-around and subscriptions enabled the purchase of materials, with the labour for the erection of the hall to be carried out during working bees.[2]

Local farmer Peter Jurgensen was the architect and was in charge of the working bees. [See ‘Peter Jurgensen’ on this website] The foundation stone was laid on 1 September 1920 by Mr McCardie, NSM. The building, on the Perth Bunbury Road (now South West Highway), was to be constructed of jarrah, with a dance floor of 40 feet by 25 feet, a supper room 30 feet by 10 feet and a ladies’ room 10 feet by 10 feet.[3]  The opening of the Hall on Friday 26 November 1920 was celebrated with a Grand Ball. Mr Robert Clifton, as one of the oldest settlers in Wokalup, officially opened the Hall. He told the audience that the farm where he lived was named Wokalup by his father Marshall Waller Clifton.[4] The town was named after it and he had watched the place grow. Atkins’s Jazz Band from Bunbury supplied the music and the ball terminated at 4 a.m. Another Ball was held in October 1921 as part of fundraising for the purchase of a piano.[5]

The Wokalup social life was centred on the Hall, with euchre parties, frequent dances, meetings and fortnightly church services held there. The Merrymakers orchestra provided excellent music for the local dances,[6] especially during the 1930s.

The Wokalup Hall, date unknown. Photo courtesy Harvey and Districts Historical Society, Federation Display.

At the Progress Association’s annual meeting in September 1936 it was reported that the Association had discharged the mortgage on the hall and Mr BH Lofthouse, one of the trustees for the hall, handed the President a certificate of title for the building and the land. The committee strongly recommended that the incoming secretary be appointed caretaker of the hall and be granted some remuneration for his efforts. This was passed and the secretary was to be paid £1 per month.

The hall was being used by sporting and other bodies at a small rental. Improvements and additions had been made to the building since it was built.’[7]

The Progress Association held its first annual meeting in nearly three years in June 1943, no doubt due to World War 2. There had been little activity in the previous year but the finances stood at £9/11/0 in the bank and assets £469.[8]

In June 1945 dancers at the hall were very happy with the innovation of electric light.[9] In 1947 the Progress Association thanked the large number of residents of Wokalup and Harvey who assisted financially with the purchase of the lighting plant for the Hall.[10] Later the Hall was wired for connection to the State Electricity Commission (SEC.)

By February 1952 the Wokalup Timber Yards had closed.[11] In that same year there were suggestions that the Harvey Road Board should take over the hall and that the hall be pulled down.[12] Neither of these occurred, as in January 1953 the Harvey Thirty and Over Club leased the Hall for a period of five years. As part of the terms of the lease, the Club had to maintain the hall in a fair condition which would be done through working bees, and at its expiry the Club would have first option for a renewal provided the owners did not want to take over the management of the hall themselves. The Club had started well around 1951 and had given donations to the Harvey Hospital and the Harvey St. John Ambulance Association, but by August 1954, it was struggling to form a committee. However, the Association was still going in January 1955 but how long afterwards is unknown. In April 1955, the Department of the Army wrote asking for renewal of the lease of the Hall which was granted.[13] According to Jean Rigg, after the timber yards closed, houses were carted away and the Progress Association faded away.[14]

The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (ROAB, widely known as ‘The Buffaloes’) bought the hall in 1970 from the Progress Association. They maintained it for functions and it was used as a polling station for many years.[15]

The Wokalup Hall when the Buffaloes owned it.

By 1995 it was privately owned and was used as a craft and tea rooms.[16] It is still in private hands, having been converted into a residence.

Photo from Harvey Municipal Inventory[17]


[1] Marion Lofthouse & Kerry Davis (eds), Shire of Harvey, Proud to be 100, 1895 – 1995 Centennial Book. Shire of Harvey, Harvey, Western Australia, 1995, p. 40.

[2] Bunbury Herald and Blackwood Express, 10 September 1920, p. 5.

[3] Ibid., 24 September 1920, p. 6.

[4] First Nations meaning of ‘Wokal’ is carpet snake and ‘up’ is the place of, or camp of. Therefore, Wokalup is the place of the carpet snake.

[5] Bunbury Herald and Blackwood Express, 13 September 1921, p. 2.

[6] Shire of Harvey, Proud to be 100, p. 41.

[7] Harvey Murray Times, 18 September 1936, p. 5.

[8] Harvey-Waroona Mail, 3 June 1943, p. 1.

[9] Harvey Murray Times, 14 June 1945, p. 7.

[10] Harvey-Waroona Mail, 1 August 1947, p. 2.

[11] Harvey Murray Times, 29 February 1952, p. 7.

[12] Harvey-Waroona Mail, 21 November 1952, p. 1.

[13] Harvey Murray Times, 22 April 1955, p. 11.

[14] Emma Jean Rigg’s oral history available at Harvey History Online.

[15]  Hocking Heritage Studio, Shire of Harvey, Municipal Heritage Inventory Review – November 2015, p. 671

[16] Shire of Harvey, Proud to be 100, p. 41.

[17] Hocking Heritage Studio, Shire of Harvey Municipal Heritage Inventory, Review – 2014, p. 671.