The Armidale Old Teachers' College is empty after being used as storage for more than 30 years

REMOVAL EXPEDITION: Speedy Staff Solutions worker Tim Allerton helped clear the Armidale Old Teachers' College for the University of New England. Photo: Madeline Link.
REMOVAL EXPEDITION: Speedy Staff Solutions worker Tim Allerton helped clear the Armidale Old Teachers' College for the University of New England. Photo: Madeline Link.

THE OLD Teachers’ College is one of the most prolific buildings in town, but it’s what’s behind the wooden doors that’s really compelling.

Over six weeks, four men quietly began to empty the building, formerly managed by the University of New England, and what they found surprised them.

“Bill Oates the archivist was about two days ahead of us, going through the stuff and looking at what needed to be kept,” removalist Tim Allerton said.

“There was a lot of valuable stuff here but I don’t think anyone had really been in behind the scenes, it was just a storage space for everything they didn’t know what to do with.

“And it just started piling it up.”

In the storage bunker used to hide Australia’s most precious art and literary works, the remnants of a gun were found. 

It’s possible it belonged to the watchman, charged with protecting the priceless pieces, including Shakespeare’s first folio and a Vincent van Gogh painting.

A few weeks in, the men found another room but the master key they were given didn’t work.

After breaking the lock, they found a room under a set of stairs they said was creepy, where the air “felt thicker”.

The five story building, six if you count the dungeon, held 30 years worth of storage.

With no lifts, everything needed to be brought down by the stairs.

“One of the classics was where we had to carry down a grand piano, there were eight of us around it and that was probably the most scary thing we had to move,” Mr Allerton said.

“We found up in the original library some old documents, lots of the old Sydney Morning Herald’s going back to the 1930’s all bound – which made them twice as heavy.”

Upstairs, in the old UNE Drama School, the removalists found stacks of weird and wonderful props.

“In the music rooms there were a lot of Indonesian music items, they were original.

“All the old 78 records, the vinyl records were up there in the music section.

“As a labour job it was just fascinating.”

Among the historical information were convict charge books dating back to the 1800’s, before the CB Newling building was erected.

The plot previously housed the old Armidale Gaol.

Stumbling upon glass floors in the archive library, newspaper photo negatives and passageways between the building, the old prints and paintings were some of the favourite finds.

It took eight skip bins and four removal trucks to empty the Old Teachers’ College, a beautiful heritage building where the fate still remains uncertain.

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