GALLERY: Time capsule uncovered

A TRULY odd time capsule, which lay beneath Auckland Street for more than 100 years, has unearthed a long-forgotten part of the city’s history.

A demolition crew found the cracked bottle, apparently placed by the Grand United Order of Oddfellows, under the foundation stone of the Performing Arts Newcastle building yesterday morning.

The building, opened in 1907, was originally the ‘‘Oddfellows Hall’’ and the headquarters of the society’s City of Newcastle Lodge.

Once the significance of the find was realised, most of the contents were sent to the local-studies section of the Newcastle Region Library.

Inside the bottle was a collection of remarkably well-preserved documents, memorabilia and coins.

They include a program and tickets from the friendly society’s Grand Jubilee banquet, held at Newcastle Trades Hall in 1905.

Those lucky enough to attend the £5 affair dined on ox tongue and merrily toasted ‘‘The King’’, ‘‘Parliament’’ and ‘‘The Press’’.

A copy of the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate, from March23, 1907, indicates when the capsule was buried.

The Herald reported a few months later in July 1907 that the building had been opened with ‘‘a gold key, suitably inscribed’’.

‘‘There was no want of enterprise or lack of enthusiasm among the brothers of the City of Newcastle Lodge, who had from time to time during the past 52 years done so much for the cause of Oddfellowship, the aims and objects of which were to visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and for the uplifting on their fellowmen,’’ the article said.

Bob James, a Tighes Hill-based historian, confirmed that the Performing Arts Newcastle building was once the lodge.

‘‘Newcastle was very strong, both in friendly societies and the Grand United Order of Oddfellows,’’ he said.

According to Dr James, the friendly societies were the beginning of insurance societies and health funds.

The Grand United Order of Oddfellows came to Australia in the 1840s, he said.

The Performing Arts Newcastle building is one of five at the intersection of Auckland and Hunter Streets that will be demolished in the coming months to make way for a planned University of Newcastle city campus.

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