Surat is 80 Kms from Roma along the Carnarvon Highway, with St George 120 Kms further South. The town is in the center of the Waroo Shire, a picturesque area in the Western Darling Downs. A great road trip is the loop from Toowoomba to Roma, on to St George, then to Warwick via Goondiwindi. Other than the scenery, there are many heritage and historical attractions in the region that remain unspoiled by the commercialism of modern day tourism.
The area was first mapped by New South Wales Surveyor-General Sir Thomas Mitchell in 1846. By the end of the 1840s pastoralists had arrived, and in 1849 Mitchell directed surveyor Edward Lewis Burrowes to select a township site on the Balonne River. The town was an important service center for the area and the State School opened in 1874. The population today is about 400.
The Astor Picture Theatre
This building is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register because “The Astor is rare as one of the very few early picture theatres remaining in Queensland that have not been adapted for other uses. Alterations have been made over the years to improve its function as a picture theatre, rather than to accommodate changed use. It retains two early projectors in the bio box.” The entry adds that “Surat Pictures Limited was formed in 1925 when W. Kitson sought building approval for the construction of a picture theatre in the main street of Surat. This was an open-air picture theatre comprising an earth-floored enclosure, a canvas screen at the rear and a shallow building along the street frontage containing a foyer with a projection booth above it. This type of structure was the cheapest and simplest kind of purpose built film venue and was not uncommon at the time in the warmer parts of Australia, though many of them were later roofed over.” If it does not get some TLC soon it will be lost.
The Shire Hall
The Shire Hall was designed by Harry Marks. It opened in 1929 and is also on the Queensland Heritage List… “Harry Marks was an innovative and idiosyncratic designer who introduced a number of his inventions into buildings he designed, including the patented Austral window. On a number of occasions Marks designed windows especially for a commissioned building and the windows in the Warroo Hall are a distinctive feature of the design. They pivot to improve ventilation, a particular interest of Marks’.”
“The Warroo Shire Hall is a fine and intact example of a timber shire hall of its era, catering for both administrative and social functions in its design. It has rooms for shire offices, with a large hall, stage, projection booth and small kitchen to the rear.
Cobb and Co Office
Cobb & Co played a large part in the history of Surat: “”Fred (Tommy) Thompson was the last man to drive the Cobb & Co Coach from Surat to its final destination at Yuleba in 1924. It was to be the last Cobb and Co (stage)coach run in Australia. On Thursday morning the 14th August 1924, with the ground being quite muddy, Fred took the reins of Coach No 141, for the last time and drove the 75 km between Surat and Yuleba. The following Saturday Fred did the return run in a seven-seater International truck.”