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Print Shop Returns To Walhalla
November 29th, 2003 - Another enterprise born again!


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The press and guillotine in the new shop

Press and guillotine in their new home


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November 29th, 2003, Walhalla, VIC. - The Immediate Past President of the Walhalla Heritage and Development League, Brian Brewer, has built a new shop in Church Hill Road, above the existing Corner Store in the main street. It commemorates the store previously operated on the same site by his great-great-grandfather, Michael Trembath, a hundred years ago. As luck would have it, the store's location is directly downhill from the original site of the Walhalla "Chronicle" newspaper, which was published in Walhalla until July, 1915, and which is marked today by a heritage sign in that location.

Chronicle sign
The sign marking the Chronicle office.

Lucky because the new shop has provided a fresh focus for the League's activities in the town, and has solved a problem that we wrestled with for more than three years.

The offer -- July, 2000

In 2000, we were offered an early printing press and industrial guillotine by Mr John Brickley, of Burwood, a retired printer whose wife, Jean, had other plans for the use of their home's garage space as a much-needed play area for their visiting grandchildren.

John is a veteran visitor to Walhalla from the 1950's, whose daughter, Jenny, thought the town would be a fitting place to display this example of a long-standing craft that is now being eclipsed by ubiquitous desktop publishing and more advanced technologies. The problem that his gift presented us with was that at that time, we had no location suitable for the press's requirements (for example, for a solid cement footing), nor did we have any prospect of one that would do it justice.

Fortunately for us, John is a very patient man, and agreed to keep the press on our behalf until we could provide a more fitting home for it. Eventually, this fell into place with Brian's long-standing ambition to commemorate his family's trading activities in the town, by building a replica of the store purchased by Michael Trembath in 1892. It was the second store to occupy this allotment -- the first store on this site was destroyed by the major town fire of 24th November 1888 -- and stood until it was demolished in the 1950ís.

The Trembath family emigrated to Australia in order to escape the oppressive conditions of the Cornish tin mines. They arrived in Stringer's Creek (as Walhalla was then known) around 1869, within six years of gold being discovered, and 23 years later took over operation of the store.

Little evidence remains of this section of Walhalla's original "CBD". The Church Hill Road is one of the oldest features of Walhalla, and was a central part of the original township. A number of businesses were situated on the bend in this road, above the present stone wall, and a laneway ran up the hill to the south of them, as shown in the photograph opposite.

Original shop

The old shop at the end of a laneway (r) that no longer exists.

Hovever, no trace of any of these buildings was left by the end of the millenium. Brian accordingly sought and obtained the necessary permits to make use of part of the land in Church Hill Road in front of his property for this reconstruction, and he worked very closely with the committee of the Heritage and Development League throughout 2003 on the project.

The store (on the left) above the stone wall

The original store (L) above the stone wall.

The photograph above shows the original store behind our present museum in the Corner Store among the Gold Era Shops in the main street. The following series of photographs, all taken from more or less the same position down the hill in the main street, show the original store, and the work that went into its reconstruction.

The old shop in 1930 The original shop photographed in the 1930's

This photograph, taken in the 1930s, shows the shop as it appeared throughout most of the first half of the twentieth century, until it was demolished and the site cleared in the 1950s. The laneway is still visible to the right, and the post supporting the building's verandah, possibly added as an afterthought, can be seen intruding into the laneway.

The roof of the Corner Store and Museum of the Gold-Era Shops can be seen at the far right of this and other photos.

The site in February 2003 The site in February 2003

This is how the site looked at the beginning of 2003. All signs of the former shops have disappeared, and most of the land that they previously occupied has been resumed as driveways, gardens and parking areas.

After concrete pour in April 2003
The site after pouring the slab in April 2003

By April, the site had been levelled and a retaining rock wall had been rebuilt behind the site. The necessary cement slab was poured just before Easter, while a front counter was being built for the shop.

Remarkably, the concrete was even able to set without managing to attract the usual array of signatures, footprints and graffiti!

The frame is up in May
The frame is up in May, 2003.

Assisted by his brother Ross, a builder, Brian had the building's frame and roof trusses cut to order off-site and transported in for assembly by mid-May, when this picture was taken.

Note the addition of further stone-walling around the front of the building site.

Brian and Ross working on the shop in late June
Work proceeds on the shop in late June, 2003.

By mid-June, wall and roof cladding had been added as Brian and his brother continued to invest every minute of their precious spare time into the building's completion.

The structure's design was always intended to remain as faithful as possible to that of the original shop, right down to a slightly-offset corner doorway.

Finishing touches to the shop in mid-July 2003
Putting finishing touches to the shop in mid-July 2003

With walls and roof in place as a defence against winter's rains, July was taken up with beginning to fit out the interior of the shop, using recovered period fittings wherever possible, with baltic pine lining and lacquered layers of old newspaper front pages providing an authentic and interesting home-grown wallpaper.

By the end of the month, the shop was completed to lock-up stage, with the front wall pinned temporarily in place to allow for easier entry of the bulky equipment.

The shop at lock-up stage by early August 2003
The shop at lock-up stage by early August 2003

By early August, we were finally able to transport the press and guillotine, and all of its associated equipment, from Burwood to Walhalla. The move took a group of six volunteers all day on Monday, August 4th.

The project to move the equipment was managed by Bernard Bolch. Les Cromb loaned his invaluable services and his new V8 4WD with a tandem trailer attached, and additional "grunt" was provided on the day by Brian Brewer himself, League President Andrew Stephens, present-day "Chronicle" editor Harvey Hutchison, and Honorary Life Member Ollie Dobratz, who all made the trip from West Gippsland to Burwood in time for a 9:30am start.

Brian and Hizonner arrive Brian and the Mayor arrive.

The Mayor of Baw Baw Shire, Mr Geoff Davey, arrives for the ceremonial opening of the store on November 29th in Brian Brewer's 1921 Willys Overland. The ceremony, which took place in front of more than 100 invited guests, ended another major redevelopment project in Walhalla, but marks the beginning of a new chapter in the town's resurgent trading district.


The move -- August 4th, 2003

Having already inspected the equipment, which had been originally given to John on his retirement, we knew we could expect difficulties in removing it, because of its sheer weight. Initially installed with a light crane, its removal was rendered more difficult by the narrow width and shallow depth of John Brickley's concrete driveway. In a masterful feat of driving, Les Cromb (eventually) succeeded in backing his tandem trailer right up the driveway and into the garage, with barely millimeters to spare on either side.

Once this was done, the balance of the morning was spent in some rather inventive applications of the basic (and some of the more advanced) principles of leverage to getting the heavy equipment, some of it weighing the better part of a tonne, loaded up and firmly secured on the trailer.

Loading up the equipment in John Brickley's garage
Tie the blade down first! Loading the guillotine onto the trailer

There then ensued a cautious drive for the next 180 kilometers from Burwood up to Walhalla, with several stops along the way to check that the load remained securely attached. Trays of type and other, smaller ancillary items made the trip in the boots of accompanying passenger vehicles.

When the convoy eventually reached Walhalla, Les Cromb outdid his earlier performance by reversing his trailer up a rather steep and narrow incline, with a sharp drop-off on both sides, to the front of the shop. All to no avail, because it soon became evident that it would be easier to transfer the press and the guillotine from the roadway, immediately adjacent to the shop's front door.

Arrival of the press
Lifetime League member Ollie Dobratz directs Les Cromb delivering the press.

With the canny application of some pallets, crowbars, sturdy ropes and tubular steel rollers, and a considerable expenditure of sheer brute strength, the equipment was slowly unloaded from the trailer, one item at a time. A great deal of care and planning was called for on each movement, with very little margin for error and even less willingness on the part of the participants to find themselves standing downhill from such unstable and substantial (and top-heavy) items.

Unloading in Church Hill Road at Walhalla
Unloading: Les Cromb, Harvey Hutchison, Andrew Stephens, Brian Brewer, Ollie Dobratz

In what on later reflection seemed like no time at all, but which at the time was an arduous and dangerous, moment-by-moment ordeal, the heaviest items had been moved across the threshold and into the relative safety of the shop floor.

Inch by inch into the shop
Manoeuvring the press into the shop, inch by inch

The sun had well and truly set, and there was again a distinct mountain nip in the air by the time all the equipment had been unloaded and people began to think about getting home to dinner. But they were able to leave with a feeling of real accomplishment, and the satisfaction of a job well done.

The printing press finally in place in Walhalla
The press in place in the shop at last

Gala Opening -- 29th November, 2003

Preparations for the opening ceremony could now proceed apace, and the final interior decorations were completed and fittings installed. Over a hundred Trembath descendants and other guests were invited to the opening ceremony at Walhalla on November 29th, where the Mayor of Baw Baw Shire, Cr Geoff Davey, congratulated Brian and the League on their work to restore another enterprise to the centre of the township, before cutting a ceremonial ribbon and declaring the print shop open.

The mayor cuts the ribbon at the opening ceremony

Watched by Brian Brewer, Mayor Davey cuts the ceremonial ribbon

A substantial crowd of locals and visitors lined Church Hill Road to witness the ceremony, spilling over down to the museum corner. Dressed in period costume, as were Brian Brewer and Honorary League Life Member Ollie Dobratz for the day, the President of the Walhalla Heritage and Development League, Andrew Stephens, spoke on the work of the League and its contribution to this and other endeavours throughout the township. Harvey Hutchison captured a videotape record for posterity.

The crowd at the opening ceremony

Part of the large crowd that gathered to witness the opening ceremony

The brief formalities concluded, all those attending by invitation retired to a barbecue lunch in Stringer's Park. This is no trivial distinction, because on the day in question, in addition to Walhalla's regular stream of weekend tourists and four-wheel drivers coming down from Woods Point, the town also played host that day to two weddings, and a very colourful visit by approximately a hundred custom hot-rods from an overnight gathering in nearby Rawson.

The Heritage and Development League would like to extend its thanks again to John Brickley for his gracious donation, and to the volunteers who helped to move the printing press and associated equipment up to Walhalla, and made such a stunning success of the day, principally including:

  • Ollie Dobratz
  • Les Cromb
  • Andrew Stephens
  • Harvey Hutchison, and of course
  • Brian Brewer.

The team that brought you the new shop

L to R: Brian Brewer, Andrew Stephens, our benefactor John Brickley and Ollie Dobratz

A great deal of old printing technology has been abandoned in the last decade or two, as computers have become less and less expensive, and desktop publishing has become correspondingly more prevalent. We are confident that we will find there are many others who share John Brickley's enthusiasm to perpetuate a craft that has so many hundreds of years of skill behind it.

The store and its display have already attracted many tourists and numerous day trippers. It provides an opportunity for their donations to be funneled into further work on the community's behalf by the Heritage and Development League.

In accordance with John Brickley's wishes, the League has installed plaques on the press and guillotine acknowledging that it was his daughter Jenny's original idea to donate the equipment to the Walhalla museum. Brian Brewer has also installed a simple commemorative brass plaque outside the shop stating:

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"This building is dedicated to the
memory of the Trembath Family,
our pioneering Cornish ancestors."


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The old shop in Church Hill Road

Original shop (again)

The new shop in Church Hill Road

New (old) shop

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