Our history

The concept of a Neighborhood Centre for Beechworth came about after a group of interested people held a casual meeting in December 1985 and formed the Community Services Beechworth Group.  It was agreed at this meeting that Beechworth needed a facility that provided a venue/meeting place/hub for individuals and community to gather, learn and generally support each other in times of celebration and need.

A submission was presented to the department of Community Services Victoria (CSV) with an in-principle agreement from the Beechworth Shire Council that the old railway station could be renovated and utilized if this application was successful.

In February 1986 the Community Services Beechworth Group was successful in receiving funding from the State Government’s Neighbourhood House program to establish the BNC.  After formal agreement from Beechworth Shire Council and with the generous support of the Beechworth Rotary Club (and many working bee’s) the doors opened in April 1986 with Ms Shirley Bartsh as the first coordinator.

The same year, a group of local people lobbying for a community childcare centre discovered they had been successful in their submission for funding. However, this was conditional on using the same building. Eventually, an agreement was reached for the BNC to relocate to the Methodist Sunday School Hall Building on the corner of Ford & Church St – now known as Oregon Hall.

With a grant for renovation, there followed many months of working bees before the building was opened in 1987 with Ms Joy Mason as its first coordinator.

After celebrating 10yrs of service, in the early hours of the morning of 12 March 1996, Oregon Hall was gutted by fire.

There was a strong commitment by the community and the shire council to rebuild.

A funding proposal was submitted to the Historic Buildings Council to renovate the original Methodist church, next door.  With this funding, BNC could renovate and move into the church building which was opened in 1997.

Insurance money allowed for the renovation of the original Sunday School Building, thus providing both buildings for use by the community.

Mother Goose Play Group used the church building until the then manager, Judy Lazarus applied for funding to develop a social enterprise that was to become ‘Quercus Community Books’ in 2008.

In 2015, Beechworth Neighbourhood Centre celebrated 30 years of service to the Beechworth Community and  in recognition of changing expectations of the community became known as Quercus Beechworth (named after the Quercus Tree located on the corner). With an ongoing focus on community food, community learning, community enterprise, community support and community events.

In 2018 Beechworth Community Support (Our Community Op Shop) officially joined Quercus Beechworth, having been auspiced by Quercus for many years.

Quercus bookshop building history

This site has been continuously occupied since April 1854 where the Reverend William Butters chaired a meeting on the premises and proposed by Charles WIlliams and by appointment by the Wesleyan Church,  the Rev. Charles Akrill to this neighbourhood.

They resolved immediately to erect a building to be used as a place of public worship and school room.

The meeting established a committee to secure the erection of a building suitable for these purposes on the land granted by the government to the Wesleyan Church.
It was noted that some £300 had been raised for this purpose.

By July it was being reported that a “new and handsome Weslayan Chapel’ was under construction. It was completed by the end of the year as Christian Haeffner, an early hotel keeper, and Mary Conway were married there on 24 December, 1854.

In September 1855 the governor of SA visited Beechworth and noted “the largest and most conspicuous place of public worship at present is that belonging to the Wesleyan’s… it is a plain wooden structure at a cost of about £1500”. An early photograph shows a dark, wooden building with a high pitched roof and relatively squat walls and windows.

The Wesleyan Chapel was soon found to be inadequate because it was ‘not large enough and insufferably hot’.  It was therefore decided to build a new chapel, on the adjoining land and use the redundant chapel as a school room.

The new Wesleyan Chapel was opened on 12 April 1857 and after that date the former chapel on this site was used as the Wesleyan School.  Just over 12 yrs later on August 17 1869, the Ovens & Murray Advertiser carried this report;

“Demolition of the Wesleyan School. – one by one, the old landmarks of Beechworth are disappearing.  The wooden building in Ford Street, locally known as the Wesleyan School, but for some years used as a place of worship – in fact, the first place of worship in the town and subscribed to by persons of all denominations – has been doomed to demolition.  For some time, the building has been considered unsafe, and at a committee meeting held last evening, it was determined that it should be taken down, and a new brick structure was erected in its place.  Tenders for constructing the building are called for and will be received up to Tuesday next, 24th instant.”

Four tenders were received and on 26 August 1869 the Advertiser reported that;

“The tender of Mr J. Kyle for £287, was accepted.  The removal of the present building is included in the conditions of the contract’.  Demolition began on 30 August and the advertiser commented that “The building now being taken down was, we believe, the first public edifice erected on the Mayday Hills – as the locality was termed before “Beechworth” was named.  It is intended to replace it with a neat brick structure.”

On 13 November 1869, the advertiser reported that the building had been completed on the previous day and would be reopened on 14 Nov when sermons would be preached in the church by the local Presbyterian Congregational and Wesleyan Ministers. In addition to the £287 paid to Mr Kyle, £14 was spent on furniture for the school and £47pounds on ‘other expenses’ – a total of £348.

The sum of £168 pounds had already been raised through donations and monthly subscriptions, leaving £180 still to be found.

On Nov 15 1869 ‘about 250 ladies and gentlemen attended a tea meeting in the new school room at which the Wesleyan Minister Rev James D Dodgeson and others spoke.  It is also recorded that Mr Ah Ling ‘sang a hymn in Chinese and delivered a few remarks in English.

1865-1890 – A view of the Wesleyan Church and adjoining schoolroom in Beechworth, Victoria. Inscription: Album inscribed at front “Early Beechworth Photos”. “Wesleyan Church & Schoolroom, Beechworth ” is written in ink on the back of the photograph.