Old Arapiles Court House
The first public premises for the Collection was the Old Arapiles Courthouse in Natimuk. A tenancy of this building was granted to the Arapiles Historical Society by the Arapiles Shire Council, and was officially opened as the Arapiles Historical Society Collection Historical Museum on 15 September 1968.
The Arapiles Courthouse was constructed of brick in 1891, by CJW Crowle of Railway Place Newmarket, and of East Melbourne, for a contracted price of ₤1372/1/7. The Courthouse furniture, all or most of which is still in situ, was made locally by R&J Sisson.
During the post-World-War-One influenza epidemic the Courthouse was commandeered as a hospital. The rooms were reportedly filled with patients, and two nurses and a doctor were required to attend to them all.
In the mid-1960s the functions of the court were transferred to Horsham. Apparently even at this date, forty years ago, one of the reasons for the transfer of functions was that the Courthouse was in need of repair. Tenders were invited for the sale and removal of the Courthouse in 1966, but those with more imaginative ideas prevailed and in 1967 the Arapiles Shire Council was gazetted as a committee of management of the site. The Council in turn granted tenancy of the site to the Arapiles Historical Society, and the Arapiles Historical Society Courthouse Museum was officially opened on 15 September 1968.
Before and since that time, restoration and perhaps some renovation works have been conducted on the building. Under the name of the Old Arapiles Courthouse, this building is part of the Horsham Rural City Council Local Heritage Overlay (number HO16 of the Horsham Planning Scheme). The building was placed on the Register of the National Estate (ID 4081) on 25 August 1981. It is worth reproducing the National Estate Statement of Significance in full:
The court house is quite intact internally and externally. It has a high timber ceiling carefully detailed and the partially exposed roof trusses have been made a feature. Still intact is the locally made court room furniture (bench, witness box, bar table and dock), so integral to the building’s original function. This building is a well preserved example of a late Victorian court house. The intact front verandah and side entrance pavilions combined with the building’s larger scale provide an impressive and important element to the streetscape of this small country town (Criterion F.1). The building is important for its long association with Arapiles as a centre for justice in the area and for a short period after World War I as a hospital and then again as courthouse until the 1960s (Criterion A.4).
Finally, the National Trust has registered the Courthouse as the ‘Court House Natimuk, file B1984’, with the citation: “A simple form of courthouse built in 1889/90 but embellished by stepped brickwork in the principal gable and by a transverse verandah with elaborate frieze and gabled pavilions”.
On 14 March 2007 the Arapiles Historical Society and the Courthouse, or ‘Old Court House’, was gazetted as a Place of Deposit for the Natimuk Urban Water Meter Books from 1929 to 1953, and for the Western Wimmera and Natimuk Urban Water Rate Books, 1909 to 1951.
Unfortunately soon after this date the condition of the structure of the Courthouse became of such concern that the Place of Deposit items were not placed with the Arapiles Historical Society and some of the Arapiles Historical Society Collection was moved out until the building could be confirmed safe, and made habitable again.