Save the Silver Ball and Fletcher’s Gardens Campaign

"It was heartbreaking to see it falling down like that"  Eleanor Anderton said.  (Eleanor worked for FJs from 1966-1982).  

And that was how so many people felt as we watched in disbelief and despair while the state heritage Fletcher Jones, Pleasant Hill site in Warrnambool deteriorated almost beyond repair  from 2007-2014.  

A group of artists salvaged materials, coat hangers and patterns as they were loaded into trucks to be dumped in 2007. And from this accumulation, a community arts collective called The F project was formed in 2008, drawing inspiration from the values of Fletcher Jones and his support for the arts. To date, the salvaged Fletcher Jones items have been re-purposed in three community art events.  

A small community group, Warrnambool Planning and Heritage Group, drew attention to the site’s decay and endeavoured to get action from the local council & Heritage Victoria to require the owner to repair and maintain the state heritage listed aspects of the site.   

F Project Cinema ran a series of film-making workshops, leading to a Silver Ball Film Festival, where movies were projected in laneways around Warrnambool, as well as from a replica Silver Ball!   

Bluestone Magazine ran stories and feature articles about the deteriorating Fletcher Jones site. 

In the beginning of 2014 we decided to give people the opportunity to share stories and photos about their memories of the Silver Ball and FJ gardens. Tonia Wilcox started the Save the Silver Ball and Fletcher’s Gardens Facebook page in February 2014 and the page very quickly reached 500 members and kept growing. 

Then in May 2014, Dean Montgomery bought the Fletcher Jones site. And on the day the sale became public, we also realised that he was one of our members on the Save the Silver Ball and Fletcher’s Gardens Facebook page!  And then in his first radio interview on ABC Radio, he said that the strong community connection expressed through the Facebook page attracted him to look again at buying the property! And in this same radio interview just after he'd bought the site, he said that the Silver Ball and FJ gardens were iconic. 

With these connections and words, we released a huge collective sigh of relief.  We believed we now had an owner who understood the historical, social and cultural importance of the site and we started to believe that key elements, like the Silver Ball and Gardens, were safe! 

Dean has proven to be true to his word.  He is restoring and renewing all aspects of the state heritage listed site, with plans to open a large motor museum. Other parts of the building will become a reception centre and cafe/bar while the existing large stall holder run second hand market is thriving.  

"It would have been easier to demolish large sections of the building as it was in such bad repair but the buildings tell a story and we want people to wander around and see these things that tell a story. So we are trying to retain as much as possible."  Troy Kelly, FJ Site Manager. 

During a community picnic in the Fletcher Jones gardens in December 2014, well-known local artist Glenn Morgan did a painting called Saint Dean! We agree, Dean Montgomery you are indeed a saint and we cannot thank you enough!  

Visit the timeline of key events in the Save the Silver Ball and Fletcher's Gardens from the timelines link.  Watch the movie below for the story of the campaign.  

 

 

VIDEO

Participate

Become a Part of the Fletcher Jones Story.

If you would like to share images, stories or anecdotes about Fletcher Jones, the man or the business, please contact the Project Coordinator, Julie Eagles, through this website or contact via the Save the Silver Ball and Fletcher’s Gardens Facebook Page.  

We'd also love your feedback about our website and your favourite stories.  You can also let us know if you think we've got anything wrong, misspelt or left out.