History: Local Government in the Hawkesbury

The old Richmond Council building photographed by M. Chadwick, 1979. Courtesy: Hawkesbury Library Service
The old Richmond Council building photographed by M. Chadwick, 1979. Courtesy: Hawkesbury Library Service

The Municipalities Act passed by NSW parliament in 1858 enabled the citizens of towns to petition the state government for the establishment of a local council which had the power to levy rates on freehold property and had the responsibility for the repair of roads and the provision of services.

Towns with at least fifty households could elect a council composed of six or nine representatives depending on the number of qualified voters. In the case of Richmond, there were 110 signatories to the petition. Males over 21 years who owned property in the town were entitled to vote.

Richmond Borough Council was incorporated on June 18, 1872 and following the elections held on August 10 that year, George Bowman was invested as the first mayor. For the first few years of local government in the town, meetings were held in the School of Arts on the corner of West Market and March streets.

The NSW Local Government (Shires) Act 1905 precipitated the Borough of Richmond to become a municipality in 1906 when the boundaries were redrawn to include rural areas. The new municipality was bounded by the Hawkesbury River and Rickabys Creek.

In 1913, the Richmond Council resolved to provide a more permanent home. The stables and other outbuildings facing March Street belonging to the home Eulabah were purchased for use as its chambers. One of the buildings may still be found at the rear of the present Richmond Branch Library.

The Windsor and Richmond Gazette of July 5, 1913 reported that "Mr. F. Stevenson is re-modelling the buildings which will make comfortable chambers. The meeting room will be spacious, and in addition there will be the Mayor's room and the clerk's office. The work is expected to be completed before the end of the present month".

These premises served the functions of council for over twenty-five years. In June 1939, Richmond Council announced its proposal to erect new council chambers and to make alterations to the existing building at the cost of £1500. Funding for the works was by way of a Special Loan which was said to be repaid with very little additional expense to ratepayers. At this time there were 459 ratepayers in the town.

Master builder H J Abbey of Epping, NSW won the tender and the Windsor and Richmond Gazette reported on October 13 that the excavations for the foundations were "well in hand". Council's Health and Building Inspector, Mr P S Bailey was the overseer of works. Mr Abbey came with good credentials as he had also constructed new chambers for Blacktown Council, the Bank of NSW in Windsor and private homes and factories throughout Sydney.

The new building on the corner of West Market and March Streets was officially opened on January 13, 1940. The Windsor and Richmond Gazette published a very detailed report of the day's events which included a tour of the buildings, afternoon tea, multiple toasts and a concert of vocal items which were reportedly enjoyed by all in attendance.

Richmond and Windsor Councils amalgamated in 1949 to form Windsor Municipal Council. In June 1957 the decision was made by council to remodel the former Richmond Council Chambers to become the home of Richmond Branch Library, opening in December that year. The building was again refurbished and enlarged in 1980 when Windsor Municipal Council merged with Colo Shire to form Hawkesbury Shire Council.