Fremantle Stuff > Organisations > Oddfellows


Oddfellows Hall (former), William St, lot and number unknown

The Oddfellows (or Odd Fellows) Lodge is what is known as a Friendly Society. Friendly societies were voluntary associations of workers, established with the purpose of providing financial and social services to members, often according to their religious, political, or trade associations. Among other things, they preceded medical benefit funds like HBF, in providing medical insurance. In Australia the organisation is called the IOOF, the Independent Order of Oddfellows.

The Oddfellows Hall/Gaiety/Bijou, William St opp. Town Hall, opened July 1867. Harper's Biograph Vaudeville Company showed a season of films 8-13 November 1897, as one of the earliest screenings in Fremantle. (The very first was in the Town Hall.) Demolished 1925 (or 1919).


This photograph 'copyright Nixon' was reproduced in Hitchcock's History: 30, but can't have been taken in 1866 by Charles Millington Nixon, as he wasn't born until 1870, and did not arrive in WA in 1892.

oddfellowsThe Grand United Order of Oddfellows established two lodges, in Perth and Fremantle, in June 1865. The Oddfellows Hall in William St dates from 1866. Meetings of various kinds were held there. The building was also used as a theatre and as a cinema, before being demolished in 1925. I have not as yet been able to find an image of the exterior, only this one of the interior, on the WA cinemaweb site, where it's accompanied by the following text.

The Oddfellows Hall in William St was described in 1889 as 'a miserable place without convenience of any kind and for which extortionate terms were asked' (Lt M.Rose, Inquirer and Commercial News, 21 August 1889). It was renovated in 1890 and became known first as the Gaiety Theatre and then from 1898 to 1910 as the Bijou. The building was demolished around 1925 and the site was not again used as a theatre.
As the Oddfellows Hall, it was a multi-purpose building, and as the Gaiety or the Bijou usually a live theatre, but occasionally films were screened there. It is significant for this database because it was the site for a season of Harper's Biograph Vaudeville Co, from 8 - 13 November 1897, that is, one of the earliest film screenings in Fremantle.
Fremantle City Council rate books 1867 - 1925
Inquirer and Commercial News, 21 August 1889
West Australian, 13 November 1897
Photo: John Corrick?
WA cinemaweb

In the same year [1899] the New Swan Lodge M.U.I.O. of Oddfellows was formed. The hall built by that institution in William-street was erected in the early sixties [1860s - actually it was 1866], but was demolished a few years ago [c. 1919-25] , having outlived its usefulness as well as its stability. Until the erection of the present Town Hall the Oddfellows' Hall was used for all civic purposes. The Oddfellows were an extremely popular and influential institution in the old days, and their annual procession on August 18, which was followed by a banquet in the evening, was always looked forward to as an event of some importance.
At that time amusements were few and in the long intervals between the visits of professional entertainers, some good amateur dramatic performances were given in the old hall. One of the devices for relieving the monotony of the community was the holding of spelling bees with prizes for the winners. Those orthographical contests were as much in vogue as crossword puzzles are to-day, and it was rather humiliating for a competitor who misspelled a word to have to suffer the indignity of being ordered before a large audience to ”Stand Down!” Another form of amusement was the propounding of conundrums on local topics, prizes being awarded for those which were adjudged the best. Hitchcock, J.K. 1929, The History of Fremantle, The Front Gate of Australia, 1829-1929, Fremantle City Council: 37.

There was an Oddfellows Hotel from 1897 on the corner of Norfolk Street and South Terrace. Cut in half after 'renovations' in 1985, at the time of the Americas Cup defence, it is now called the Norfolk Hotel. Any connexion between hotel and lodge is not at present known by this author.

There is an Oddfellows Lodge building (1897) on the corner of Oxford and Richmond Sts Leederville.


References and Links

WA cinemaweb

Hitchcock, J.K. 1929, The History of Fremantle, The Front Gate of Australia, 1829-1929, Fremantle City Council.

Garry Gillard | New: 12 October, 2015 | Now: 14 November, 2019