A stunning preservation of period architecture, the Stratford Courthouse boasts a modern 100-seat theatre featuring film and live performances. Adjoining the theatre is the Segue Community Hub and Arts cafe.
The Courthouse Theatre is intimate and cosy, and gives visitors the rare feeling of being immersed in the show. At the Stratford Courthouse we take care to curate our program to bring you a selection of the highest quality artists and events on offer – and we bring them right to your doorstep!
We invite you to enjoy a quality arts experiences while also getting to meet and greet all performers post show in the “wits end” bar giving you an experience like no other theatre.
We thank you for continuing to support your local independent venue and arts scene.
Gavin and Anna Roberts
A stunning preservation of the beautiful period architecture and brimming with a colourful history — the Stratford Courthouse, originally built in 1885 as the Shire of Avon's Court chambers and Municipal offices, is nestled in the Gippsland town of Stratford on the Avon River.
Originally built as the Shire of Avon's Court chambers and Municipal offices, both premises were leased to "Queen Victoria, her successors and assigns" for an ambitious 999 years. Terms as one peppercorn, if demanded. In Stratford's case the indenture was dated 1 June 1885.
An early case: extract adapted from Courthouses of Australia.
This was also the year in which Parliament passed a new licensing Act to create a separate licensing court for each district. The act curtailed hotel opening hours and had sought to prohibit the employment of young women as barmaids, unless they were the licensee's family. Suggesting barmaids were fallen women or at risk of becoming so. Their real objection was probably that barmaids made hotels more attractive. The proposal was narrowly defeated.
However in 1896 a new act did introduce the local option procedure, by which residents could vote to reduce the amount of hotels in their area. The Stratford division was one of the first to conduct the opinion poll. Of 851 residents only 395 bothered to vote and of that 301 electors opted to vote for reduction to minimum numbers of hotels.
So in 1886 hotel owners were summoned to court in Sale and subsequently the Stratford Hotel survived, but the Swan and Shakespeare were both closed down. The objecting owner of the Shakespeare was awarded 400pounds compensation.
The building was closed as a court in 1976 and council offices then moved to Sale. The Courthouse was then partly leased to the historical society in 1978 using the front Chambers and the Avon Shire (later Wellington) moved the Stratford library into the main Court room. Much of the original furniture made by Bell Brothers can be viewed at the Historical society.
Attempts of restoration works to fix the rising damp were made during the shire occupation and rotting timber floors in the offices and Chambers were replaced with concrete slabs. Unfortunately this was a short term solution and eventually sent the damp directly to the structural foundations and up the walls. Due to the serious rising damp and structural problems a new neighbouring library was built in 1992 and the Historical Society moved to the old Anglican Church in 1981. The Historical Society continued to use the Chamber side for storage until the negotiated purchase by Eye to Eye theatre company in 1993. The building has a H1 heritage listing.
With a building considered past repair by the local council the Kline's Eye to Eye Theatre thrived, regularly transforming the building producing more than 1000 shows and quickly becoming an essential part of Gippsland's arts and entertainment scene. The eclectic venue and quality local theatre was a perfect match, attracting many locals from all walks of life to perform and support the Kline's vision.
In 2007 the Eye to Eye theatre ceased productions from the Courthouse and in 2008 the building was put up for sale. It was hoped that the building would be purchased and restored for continued community enjoyment.
In late 2008 the courthouse was purchased by the Roberts family who moved to Stratford with the aim of restoring and injecting new life into this great piece of history and architecture. The Stratford Courthouse Gallery and Theatre was officially opened in September 2009.
The Stratford Courthouse restoration included an environmental makeover — adopting modern technology and some smart ideas to optimise energy and water use.
The intelligent C Bus lighting system automatically controls and monitors unused lighting. While the HRV ventilation and climate control system uses no more power than a light bulb to climate control the building and change the air volume six times every hour. Heating and cooling utilises air from the roof space.
All this retains a comfortable and dry environment benefiting both the occupants and the building itself.
All wet area amenities have been fully updated to ensure the most efficient water use. These quirky facilities are worth a visit to the 'small room' just to see!