Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Eden's historic Thompson's Point Baths - A rare and important recreational facility:

For generations of Australians, the beach and ocean has played a significant role in our culture and lifestyle - coastal indigenous peoples were utilising the shoreline and neighbouring waterways for centuries, and unsurprisingly, it took little time before the early European settlers also began making use of the resource.

With the British medical profession highlighting the hygienic and therapeutic benefits of open-air bathing in cold saltwater, ocean swimming began to gain popularity by the late 18th century. Australian coastal waters, however, also represented unfamiliar and often intimidating prospects - pounding waves, strong currents and threat of shark attacks all served to unnerve those who braved the ocean, particularly in an era when few could swim properly, let alone strongly.

Metropolitan areas began to construct purpose-built baths in an attempt to protect swimmers from these physical dangers, providing participants with a safe environment in which to utilise the health benefits of the ocean. The development of these facilities also addressed the 19th century Victorian social standards of decency and morality by enabling restriction of widespread public display of the human form. Since 1833, a daylight hours ban on bathing had been in place, restricting opportunities for swimming, but as the 1890s turned over into the 20th century, a shift in social attitudes saw the activity regarded more as a healthy activity and cost-effective competitive sport as opposed to those earlier therapeutic and hygienic values.

Thompson's Point Bath, C. 1907. 
Courtesy of the Eden Killer Whale Museum [EM3869].
Finally, in 1902, the issue came to a head when Manly newspaper editor William Gocher took a personal stand, entering the ocean at noon on three successive Sundays before being finally arrested on the third occasion in front of some 1,000 onlookers. His efforts had the desired affect, with the liberalisation of the law the following year, although all swimmers over eight years of age were still required to wear neck to knee bathing costumes.

Australia's early beach culture had begun, and combined with the increasing affluence of an expanding middle class, greater disposable income, more leisure time and a developing sea side tourism industry, a shift in attitudes and values saw escalating public demand for improved beach access and safer swimming facilities. Just one result was a rising number of ocean baths constructed up and down the coastline to provide smooth, calm swimming environments with greater protection from drowning and shark attacks.

By this time, Eden was already becoming a popular far south coast holiday destination, with its sandy beaches and convenient ocean access being highlighted to promote the benefits of the town.

Thompson's Point Baths and wharf. 
Courtesy of  Eden Killer Whale Museum.
It was in December 1899 that moves were first made to secure a public bathing facility for Eden - that month a public meeting was held to nominate individuals to take charge of a site recently granted for such a facility. With a committee consisting on J. A. Boyd, C. Downton, F. H. Phillipps, T. H. Wellings and C. J. Williams, September the following year saw the inaugural meeting of the Trustees, with F. H. Phillipps being appointed Chairman; T. H. Wellings Secretary; and J. C. Williams Treasurer.

The following month, a letter was forwarded to the Minister for Lands requesting a special grant of £300 for construction of a "suitable bathing area" at Thompson Point, along with additional correspondence to local member, the Honourable W. H. Wood, asking for his support for the special grant.

November 1900 saw a request to the Lands Department for an officer to inspect the site and assist with construction cost estimates, while in February the following year, the Minister for Public Works advised that Mr. Bossier, Clerk of Works, had been requested to inspect the site and estimate baths costs while in the area.

Jean Helmore (Whiter) with friends at the Thompson's Point Baths.
Courtesy of Jenny Drenkhahn.
By March 1901, Mr. Bossier had undertaken the site inspection, but as he was not qualified to give estimates, the Minister for Public Works requested the Merimbula Wharf construction Superintendent to inspect the site. The Trustees received a £75 grant from the Lands Department the same month but although Mr. Bloomfield, Engineer of Harbours and Rivers Department, suggested Shelly Beach as a more suitable site during his July inspection, the committee decided to stick with their original site at Thompson's Point.

By 1904 public donations had reached £10/18/- and the following year after £25 was paid to the Trustees by the Lands Department for construction of the Public Bath " the foot of Flinders Street..." Contracts were awarded -  J. A. Spurling was paid £15 for the excavation of the rock, while John Hines was paid £11/18/- for cementing the baths and erecting a room.

The two dressing sheds on the reserve above the baths can be seen in the foreground.
These were destroyed during the disastrous 1952 bush fires.
Courtesy of Jenny Drenkhahn.
After only three years, the Trustees were looking to enlarge the facility, and with a £2 donation from a Mr. Whitney and £25 from the Lands Department, the contract was awarded to J. A. Spurling at a cost of £45. During October 1907, C. E. Walcott provided a loan of £8 and by the end of the year, expenditure on the Thompson's Point Baths stood at £70/18/-. However, despite use of the site for around a decade, it wasn't until 1913 that the Land Board issued the trustees with a Permissive Occupancy.

By 1936, consideration was being given to again extending the baths and to that end, the Eden Advancement Association secretary, the Harbourmaster and Mr. Denholm inspected the site and took soundings. With estimates not considered to be "...excessive...", the advancement association members agreed that a shark proof swimming area was an "...absolute necessity...", and decided to apply to the then Imlay Shire Council for a £1,200 grant to undertake the work. Although the shire supported the move and agreed to submit a grant application, the President said that he would let Minister for Works and Local Government Mr. Spooner "...toss for it - the baths or the Burragate Bridge..."

View of the Thompson's Point Baths and the footbridge that provided access from
the cliff top, C. 1930s.
Courtesy of Jenny Drenkhahn.
By mid-1936, the association had begun considering alternatives to the Thompson's Point Baths site, calling a public meeting in July to "...devise ways and means of bringing about the construction of the proposed baths..."  The Eden Town Baths Committee, consisting of local residents such as G. D. Impey, V. T. Welsh, H. P. Wellings, J. B. Eurell, H. Denholm, H. C. Hartup, P. T. Brown, J. Turnbull, W. Blaxter, T. Tracey, T. L. Ramsey, S. G. Earngey, W. H. Quin and W. J. Duffy with J. A. Ireland as secretary, were appointed to take over the project from the Eden Advancement Association, with the objective being the "...establishment of safe swimming baths at Eden..." However, when they met the following month, only six of the fifteen members showed up, and after the group faltered, Eden Advancement Association again stepped back in to the fold to continue what was to be a lengthy and drawn out process.

Thompson's Point Baths as they presently appear (2015).
Between the mid-1930s and 1960, a number of alternative sites were raised, including Snug Cove, Cattle Bay, the wharf area at the end of Weecoon Street, Yallumgo Cove (Ross' Bay), Shelly Beach, both the northern and southern ends of the cemetery, Imlay Park, and, finally, Aslings Beach. Options explored included wire netted bathing areas, heavy rope shark-proof nets and stone sea walls, while other local governments, including Manly, Sutherland, Kiama, Kogorah, Bulli, Ramsgate, Cronulla and Rockdale were all contacted to secure information regarding construction and maintenance costs. Eden Advancement Association also approached the Imlay Shire Council for preparation of plans, specifications and costing estimates for the various options.

Public fundraising for a new facility commenced in early 1937 and over the years a plethora of events including street stalls, sports days and balls were held. By May 1937, the trust account for the project stood at £150 and the same month £1,000 from a £10,000 shire-wide town improvement scheme grant was earmarked for a bath at Cattle Bay, land which the Eden Advancement Association purchased around 1939. However, by this time World War II had broken out and local fundraising quickly focused upon patriotic rather than infrastructure work.

Not surprisingly, with so many other competing demands and no facilities to dispute its place, the Thomson's Point Baths continued to play an important recreational role for the community.  After the Permissive Occupancy was terminated by the Lands Board in April 1946, a peppercorn rent option was offered to the Eden Advancement Association. 1947 saw a £1 payment by the Eden Advancement Association to the Lands Department for permissive occupancy of the area, although this was refunded early the following year, when it was noted that payment was not usual.

By 1949, the facility was still being described as "...the present rock pool..." and by March 1953 council was trying to determine ownership and construction dates of the facility in order to respond to public requests for repair of the footbridge that provided access from the cliff top. The permissive occupancy was apparently still active by 1962 and in November that year Mrs. F. M. Smith wrote expressing concern as to the safety of the footbridge.

It was in 1946 that the the option of Aslings Beach was first raised as a potential alternative site for a new ocean pool, but despite local media frequently raising the "...urgent need for [a] shark proof swimming pool...", it wasn't until 1960 that the site at the southern end of the beach was finally agreed upon. Construction of the Eden Memorial Swimming Pool (now referred to as the Aslings Beach Rock Pool) commenced in January 1961 with the official opening taking place in November 1961.

Nonetheless, the Thompson Point Baths were to remain a popular and important recreation and educational facility for the local community for many generations. Even after construction of the Aslings Beach facility, it continued to provide a sheltered, calm and safe swimming area, free from sharks and other ocean predators for many of the district's youth right through and in to the 1960s.

Today , the Thompson's Point Baths are the oldest and one of only three remaining examples of ocean pools within the Bega Valley Shire Council local government area and one of the oldest extant non-metropolitan examples across the State. 

They are indicative of the birth and growth of the Australian beach and later surf culture that figure so prominently in the local and national Australian way of life today. A popular communal gathering place, the baths reflect an era in which broader social and cultural attitudes towards sea bathing shifted from secluded bathing primarily for therapeutic and hygiene reasons towards public sea bathing pursued as a legitimate healthy leisure time activity.

The baths have a strong social significance for the local population. As a focal point of recreational and education activities from its initial completion until beyond the 1960s, the baths are held in high esteem by many generations of the local community who played, relaxed, sunbathed and learned to swim there. They provide significant evidence of the value placed on recreational bathing by residents over a period of more than half a century.

Considered in conjunction with the Aslings Beach Rock Pool (originally known as Eden Memorial Swimming Pool) and the Eden Olympic Swimming Pool, the Thompson's Point Baths provide important evidence of the growth and development of bathing and swimming facilities within the township from around the turn-of-the-century right through to the present day. They also provide a link with and illustration of the impact that the growth of the amateur swimming movement had on community expectation, demand and provision of increasingly improved public facilities.

Eden's Thompson's Point Baths is a representative example of community recreational tidal pools that were once popular along the NSW coastline. However, as a result of changing community swimming habits and the fact that construction and maintenance of many similar facilities were largely a public / community responsibility, it is an increasingly rare example of its type. They also provides an important physical link with important local builder and contractor John Hines and are an unusual extant example of his work.

Retaining its traditional irregularly shaped layout and appearance, the baths are set in an aesthetically spectacular harbour location, providing an important physical link with, and documenting the development and use of the foreshore for local social and public recreational facilities. The baths are also an important illustration of an ingenious early design solution to exploit and alter the natural environment for the provision of amenities for human use and enjoyment.

In July 2013 the Thompson's Point Baths were nominated for inclusion in Schedule 5 (heritage) of the Bega Valley Shire Council's Local Environment Plan (LEP). 

© Angela George

Bega Budget
Drenkhahn, Jenny, pers. comm.
Eden Baths committee minute book, Eden Killer Whale Museum collection
Eden Magnet
Eden Magnet and Pambula Voice
Helmore, Paul, pers. comm.
Henry, Geoff, pers. comm.
Korner, Joanne, pers. comm.
Magnet and Voice
Moore, Cheryl, pers. comm.
Pambula Voice
Raymond, Pat, pers. comm.
Roberts, Karen, pers. comm.
White, Jody, pers. comm.
Whiter, Peter, pers. comm.
Whiter, Robert, pers. comm.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Eden's Hotel Australasia - a local hub & the heart of the town:

A landmark building in Imlay Street for more than a century, the Hotel Australasia was the last of Eden's nearly two dozen hotels to be constructed & the most recent to close it's doors.

Mrs. Sabina Pike purchased the one acre allotment that would become the site of the hotel in late 1904, paying £500. This was reportedly the highest price paid for land in the township for a forty year period. In the wake of the purchase, local media reported on Mrs. Pikes intention to build "...a large up to date hotel..." on the block & by December 1904 she had awarded the construction contract to Mr. John Hines. With plans to erect a two-storey 43-room brick structure "...on up to date lines...", it is believed that the move was made in response to the expectation that Twofold Bay would become the site of the Australia's federal port.

Eden's Hotel Australasia, C. 1908.

At the time, the search for Australia's federal capital site was continuing & with Southern Monaro sites such as Bombala among those being strongly touted, Eden business people & residents were looking forward to the establishment of the Bay as federal port & elevating the township to a position of importance. Local media, writing of the new hotel, commented that Twofold Bay was being raised to a rank of "...prominence..." as a result of the "...strong representations made in favor [sic] of Southern Monaro..." becoming the Federal Capital site. Even as far away as Lismore, Mrs. Pike was being acknowledged as looking forward to the time when Twofold Bay took its place as the federal port.

Hailing from Moss Vale, building contractor John Hines arrived in Eden in early 1901 & was responsible for the construction of a number of important public & commercial buildings both in the township & throughout the district, including Bank of NSW (1904), Robinovotz's Store (1904) & lock-up & lock-up keeper's residence (1914) in Eden, as well as the police sergeant's residence at Pambula (1901). Remaining in the district, he married Rachel Davidson of the Twofold Bay whaling family.

A horse team carting sleepers outside Hotel Australasia, C. 1908
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection

Hines erected brick kilns near the town cemetery in late 1904 to take advantage of the onsite clay & it was here that the bricks for the Australasia were burnt. The same year, he erected a saw milling plant north of Lake Curalo to utilise the ready supply of timber, & there milled the timber for the hotel.

In December 1904, local media commended Mrs. Pike for her "...enterprise & energetic action..." in undertaking what was an extensive local development & later the same month, Mr. W. A. Robertson was granted the first license for the Hotel Australasia.

Work on what would become one of the district's premier tourist accommodation centres commenced in December 1904 with the marking out of the foundations, while Mr. Hines' workmen began carting "...large quantities..." of bricks from his local works to the site.

January 1905 saw the laying of a solid concrete foundation & Hines' kilns were in "...full blast..." turning out bricks for the building. Carting continued on a daily basis to meet the demand of the outer walls, which were 18 & 14 inches thick, with inner walls of 9 inches.

A gathering outside Eden's Hotel Australasia, C. 1908.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
Providing employment for "...quite a small army of men...", the ground storey was completed by mid-April 1905 & by July, the roof had been put on. Wunderlich pressed metal ceilings that were described as "...neat & handsome..." had been fitted, giving "...a light & airy appearance to the whole of the rooms...", much of the flooring had been laid, staircases were ready for installation, & with brick work of the parapet completed, plasterers were busy adding a "...very attractive design..." which "...when completed, will show a very handsome front..."

With work "...proceeding apace...", by August all upstairs rooms had been plastered, with downstairs "...undergoing similar treatment...", while the front balcony was nearing completion & within a fortnight the rear example had reached a similar stage. An arched vestibule at the main entrance presented "...a very pleasing effect..."

Occupying a "...commanding position..." overlooking the ocean & bay, building design took advantage of the glorious views of Twofold Bay, Boyd Town, "...the distant verdure clad hills & mountains...", Mount Imlay, & the mountain ranges & valleys by boasting wide balconies & verandas at both the front & rear of the building.

Local media were reporting on completion  of Eden's "...handsome addition..." by mid-October 1904, noting that it was "... credit to the contractor...& an ornament to the town..." Acetylene gas fittings were completed by the end of the month, showing the whole building " great advantage..." when lit. A 17,000 gallon underwater tank at the rear of the building supplied the hotel with water while another of 3,000 gallons provided for the stables.

Shortly afterwards, the new building was the subject of a lengthy & highly complimentary write up. Noting the enterprise & energetic action of Mrs. Pike in her "...endeavour to further the interests of this district in meeting the demands for additional accommodation...", the writer commented that the growing demand of visitors from "...various parts of Australia..." for accommodation year round "...would seem to justify the erection of an hotel of an up to date & substantial character..."

Carrying an extensive description of the Hotel Australasia, the Eden Observer & South Coast Advocate noted many details about the newly completed building, including:
  • Forty-four rooms, including twenty-five bedrooms;
  • The main private entrance via a large double door;
  • Private entrance leading to a hall 11 feet wide & 34 feet long;
  • Two large dining rooms, including a private dining room, located on the left of the hall "...richly furnished & choicely papered with a handsome three light chandelier hanging in the centre of the ceiling..." & a "...roomy & comfortably..." public dining room in close proximity to the kitchen;
  • Corridors branching off the main ground floor hall, on both sides of which were "...roomy well ventilated bedrooms, all of which are beautifully furnished, the drapery being very choice..."
  • A "...splendid roomy kitchen...", scullery & two pantries;
  • A "...handsome..." kauri pine staircase providing access between the ground & upper floors;
  • Another "...fine hall..." running along the upper level, with two more corridors on either side & a number of  bedrooms, as well as access to the back balcony overlooking the north bay & ocean;
  • The "...large & roomy..." front balcony with two "...nicely furnished..." bedrooms opening on to it, this area being set apart for tourists, which was noted to be "...of a strictly private character...";
  • Two bathrooms;
  • A smoking room;
  • Sitting room;
  • Two public parlours along with a private parlour;
  • Store room;
  • Luggage room;
  • Tap room & bar, with another office attached;
  • A six feet deep concrete & brick cellar under the public bar;
  • A garden at the rear, enclosed from the more public part of the yard;
  • A "...spacious aviary..." adjoining the hotel on the northern side & boasting Australian native bird species "...many of great interest to the student of natural history & attractive to all persons...";
  • A "...large space of ground..." at the rear of the building, divided into two distinct areas, partly for use as a vegetable garden & partly for stable quarters.
  • A twelve-stall stable;
  • Out offices;
  • Two separate sample rooms for commercial travellers, one attached to the main building with office attached, & the other alongside the servant's ironing room;
  • The whole building, with the exception of bedrooms, fitted with acetylene gas with a Hopper Patent Acetylene Gas Machine, patented by Sydneysider Mr. C. Bissaker;
The article concluded that "Altogether the Hotel Australasia is a very fine building...having an imposing front & situated in a position of attractiveness. Mrs Pike has not, apparently, spared expense in placing in her new hotel a superior lot of furniture, which accords well with the style & finish of the building."

Imlay StreetEden, showing the Hotel Australasia second from left, C. 1910.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
Finally opening its doors to guests in early January 1906 under publican Mr. W. A. Robertson, building owner & developer Sabina Pike had taken over the reins by the following month & was to remain as licensee of the Australasia for almost two decades. A divorcee with a wealth of experience in the hotel trade locally, "Aunty Pike" as she was fondly known, had previously operated Eden's Commercial Hotel with her former husband James during the 1890s, before taking over as publican of the Great Southern Hotel for at least a decade. It was only when  the Australasia was nearing completion that she relinquished that position & in January 1905, the license & goodwill was transferred to Sam Solomon.

Writing of her business acumen, the Australian Town & Country noted that Mrs. Pike's successful local business activities had led to her establishment of "...the splendid hotel..." where she managed the business personally & did "...everything possible for the comfort of her guests..."

Describing the business in 1906, an journalist noted that the Australasia was "...the largest & most modern building in Eden...", commenting that it was "...thoroughly up-to-date in all its appointments & is furnished most elaborately...", which, combined with the "...magnificent views..." of ocean & harbour, made the premises " ideal place at which to stay..."

Local residents gathered in front of the Hotel Australasia for a trip to the Pambula races, 1910.

With such glowing reports appearing in metropolitan papers, the Hotel Australasia soon began to attract a notable clientele, including politicians & other public figures. During his 1907 tour of the region, Australian Governor-General Lord Northcote & his vice-regal party were entertained by at a public banquet the Australasia before spending the night as guest at the hotel. Impressed by a tour of the bay & harbour, he made mention of the "...greatly enhanced popularity that Eden & its beautiful port of Twofold Bay would enjoy as a health & holiday resort were its attractions & advantages more generally known..." The following year NSW State Governor Sir Harry Rawson & his daughter toured the region, during which they were also treated to a banquet entertainment at the Australasia. Expressing his admiration of Twofold Bay's beauty, His Excellency said that he "...anticipated a great future in this district, & felt sure that from what he had seen of it, his good wishes for its prosperity were ere long be realised." By 1909 Mrs. Pike was advertising that the hotel was "Under the Patronage of his Excellency Lord Northcote, late Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, & his Excellency Sir Harry Rawson, late State Governor of New South Wales...", while the 1912 edition of the Illawarra & South Coast Steam Navigation Company's Illustrated Handbook described it as " of the finest hotels in the State."

Eden's town band standing in front of the Hotel Australasia, C. 1911.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
Always keen to maintain her position as hostess of the town's premier hotel, Aunty Pike's Australasia was also the venue of choice for local residents holding functions, including public farewells, birthdays & fund raisers, among other events. In 1916 she was advertising the "...large airy rooms..." & "...commanding magnificent panoramic view from front the back balconies of ocean & bay...", noting that coaches met all steamers & boats & launches could be arranged for visitors.

Hotel Australasia, C. WWI (1914 - 1918).
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
Mrs. Pike also looked forward to the growing needs of her clientele & was continually updating & improving the Australasia. In 1911 she "...lately had considerable improvements effected to the Hotel in the way of addition lighting..." with gas illumination laid on to all sides of the building making it " of the best lighted on the coast..." Later the same year,  Mr. F. Kellsall "...thoroughly renovated..." the taproom, including repapering of the walls & laying linoleum on the floors. By 1912, with automobile travel gathering popularity, a motor garage was added & in 1916 a "...fine motor repairing pit..." of sleepers was constructed by Mr. C. Gandon. Electric lighting was installed in 1922.

Imlay StreetEden, showing the Hotel Australasia, C. 1915.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
In June 1923, Sabina Pike's license for the Australasia was renewed by the Eden Licensing Court, but the following month, after almost two decades at the reins of the Hotel Australasia, local media reported that Mr. H. B. Gunter (or Gunton) of Melbourne had purchased the property & goodwill as a going concern. With the new owner taking over in July, the township farewelled Mrs Pike, who was departing to take up residence in Sydney, but the following year the woman who had done so much for the commercial, social & tourism development of the town returned to Eden after purchasing Mr. Frank Dawson's "...seaside home..."

Imlay StreetEden, showing the Hotel Australasia, C. 1915.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection

The business remained a popular one with locals, tourists & visiting officials alike. During 1929, NSW Minister for Agriculture Harold Thorby & his ministerial party were publicly entertained at a dinner hosted by the Australasia, while in 1938, English, Scotch & Irish representatives of the British Empire Rifle Team were accommodated en route from Melbourne to Sydney.

Hotel Australasia, C. 1920s.
Next to take over the Australasia was David Bourke, who purchased the property from Mr. Gunton in 1925. No new comer to the business, Bourke had taken up employment at the hotel by 1917, &, described as Mrs Pike's "...right hand man...", had remained involved with the business for more than a decade before leaving the area briefly to run Adaminaby's Australian Hotel. Returning to take up the reins at the Australasia, the license was transferred by the Bega court in March, & the new owner wasted little time promoting his business as "The best place to stay...", noting the "...superior accommodation & cuisine..." as well as mentioning the "Vice-Regal & other Distinguished Patronage..."

Hotel Australasia, C. 1926.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
Under his management, the Australasia underwent further renovations & extensions. In 1925, Mr. A. Mawson completed additions, including "...two large bathrooms upstairs..." & constructed an underground water tank to enlarge the hotel's supply. Three years later, Messrs. Bray & C. Gandon undertook exterior renovations to the premises.

Hotel Australasia, C. 1930.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection

1929 saw Bondi's George Impey take over the business & in the wake of American author Zane Grey's interest in big-game fishing at nearby Bermagui, local potential began to be explored. Keen to see the sport developed from Twofold Bay, Mr. Impey made a standing offer to reward the master of the first fishing boat to bring a marlin into Eden. The challenge was answered in 1936 when Sale (Vic.) angler Mr. W. A. Borthwick landed a 240-pound Black Marlin from the deck of the Dorothea & the local boat owner & master Art Goulden found himself collecting the £5 reward. By 1946, hotel proprietor Lance Robinson was promoting Eden's "...famous fishing...", offering launches for hire & during the 1950s, advertisements in Melbourne newspapers for the Hotel Australasia were referring to Twofold Bay as the " resort of Australia..."

Marlin hanging from the veranda of the Hotel Australasia, probably C. 1930s.
During 1935, William Alexander Greig and his son Ron re-roofed the premises, while 1937 saw further improvements carried out by Mr. Denholm. In 1941, what was referred to as "...extensive works..." were undertaken, including alterations in addition to four new bedrooms erected at the north-western end of the of the building.

Imlay Street, Eden, showing the Hotel Australasia to the left, C. 1930.

 After almost a decade, George Impey sold out to Andy Graham in 1939, & following this, there was a rapid changeover of publicans. Mr & Mrs. J. King had taken over by September 1940, but disposed of their interests in the business that month to Mrs. Julia Dingle who installed Mr. E. Ritson as manager. By the early 1940's, Lance Robinson was in charge, followed by Mr. Winrose who became publican in 1942. The following year, Mr. George Moore purchased the hotel lease, but by 1945, Lance Robinson was once again behind the bar as publican.

Imlay StreetEden, showing the Hotel Australasia to the left, C. 1930s / 40s.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection

Despite the business occupying a central place in the heart of the community, Eden residents were not averse to taking action against publicans if they felt their interests were not being considered. Such was the case with both the Hotel Australasia & the Great Southern during 1945 when the town's two hotels were declared "" during an open-air meeting attended by a group 60 & led by one of "...the principal trawler owners..." Alleging overcharging & not adhering to opening hours, a deputation waited on the publicans in an attempt to secure agreement with their demands, but upon receiving a reply that the hotels would carry on as usual, pickets were set up to " for defaulters..." It is believed that this may have been the catalyst that led to the establishment of the Eden Fishermen's Club.

Imlay Street, Eden, showing the Hotel Australasia to the left, C. 1940s.
Mr. Robinson, together with by Eva Chapman & Miss Roberts, remained in charge until Towamba farmers James ("Jim") Love & his wife Irene (fondly known to many as "Mum" Love) purchased the property in early June 1958 paying a £3,000 deposit on the £30,000 overall price. Taking over the following month, the couple's reign was to be very short lived & after Jim took his own life the same month, Irene returned to their Towamba property. Robinson & Chapman again took charge of the Australasia until 1960, when ill health forced Lance to relinquish his position, Peter Cesco taking over the business in April that year. It is believed that it was during the 1960s that the facade underwent the major change to its current appearance.

Rear of the Hotel Australasia, showing vegetable gardens, out buildings and water tank, C. 1940s.
Mr. Cesco was followed by Harold & Agnes Bennett between 1962 & 1965 & after they sold to Arthur Meahan, Doug & June Patience arrived to manage the business. The couple had previously operated Meahan's Town Hall Hotel in George Street, Sydney, prior to their arrival at the Hotel Australasia.

Hotel Australasia's fee schedule, C. 1940.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection

Around the early 1970s, Brian Horner took over as publican of the hotel, remaining until 1975, when the Parkers replaced him. By about 1976, Jim & Noni Greenhill had taken over, followed by Frank Stanmore in about 1977. An Australian & NSW rugby league five-eight great of the 1940s & '50s, Stanmore played representative football in 1947, moving to Sydney to play for the Western Suburbs. A member of the club's 1948 grand final winning team, he was selected for Sydney & NSW that year, but despite being also selected to join the Australian national team tour of New Zealand, didn't play a test match as result of a dispute between his former club at Cessnock & Wests. During the 1950s he was selected to play in the victorious Australian team against Great Britain during the Ashes series; represented both Sydney & Australia against France & played in the 1952-53 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain & France, playing in four tests & captaining the Kangaroos to victory in seven out of seven matches. Although retired from professional football by the time he arrived in Eden, there is little doubt that he would have fitted in well with the town's avid rugby league tradition.

Hotel Australasia, C. 1940s.
Around 1980, Stanmore moved on & Larry & Betty Galloway took over. Among the other names that have, in more recent years, been associated with the Australasia were Brian & Dawn Linklater, John Crosby, Donna Shannon & Dennis Lees, the Slater family & finally the Taits, who held the license when the historic venue closed it's doors without warning on 23 May, 2010.

Now popularly referred to as "The Pit", it was apparently during Frank Stanmore's time that the name had its origins. According to one source, when it came around to official closing time, the publican would shut the premises to the public, pull sliding doors across what was then the main lounge area & continue to serve to the private party. The "Snake Pit", as this arrangement was referred to, was a common occurrence during the brisk trade of the local tuna fishing season. Eventually shortened to "The Pit", this is a name that has remained in common usage locally right through to the present day.

Imlay StreetEden, showing the Hotel Australasia on left, C. 1940s.

It was also around this time that the up market roots of the Hotel Australasia's early years changed radically. Becoming more working class in its clientele, the customer base tended more towards the bush workers of the timber industry, along with the rough & tumble of the seasonal tuna fishermen, many of whom, according one source, had been "barred" from the Fishermen's Club. This was also the era when the so-called "Sex, Drugs & Rock & Roll" movement hit Eden, & the Australasia was to play an integral role in that lifestyle locally.

In more recent years, the Australasia moved to what some would perhaps consider a surprisingly egalitarian establishment where men & women from all walks of life, educational backgrounds & socio-economic levels from young professionals to the die-hard "Pit Crew" of old mixed with ease & mutual respect. As one local resident recently put it, it was "The heart & soul of Eden..."

Following the hotel's sudden closure, the property was placed on the market & after being passed in at a March 2012 auction, sold to Artarmon-based retail development company Great Southern Developments Pty Ltd in April 2013. With proposals including redevelopment to encompass a large format supermarket, it then came to light that the building had never been included on the Bega Valley Shire Council's Schedule 5 or Schedule 6 Local Environment Plan (LEP), despite its obvious heritage value.

Local residents are seeking to rectify this situation, with a nomination for inclusion of council's LEP having been recently submitted, but the wait for Australasia's fate must continue as government officials assess the relevant issues & come to a conclusion as to the future of one of Eden most recognisable historic landmark structures.

Bega Valley Shire Council met and considered the issue of including the Hotel Australasia on their Local Environment Plan on July 24, 2013. However, despite the fact that an assessment by their heritage adviser Pip Giovanelli recognised the historic value and significance of the property and recommended its retention, a majority of councillors voted not to list the Australasia.

In response, an online petition has now been set up to allow residents and interested individuals to express their concern. Anyone wishing to sign the document can do so by going to

At their March 2014 meeting, Bega Valley Shire Councillors voted six-two in favour of listing the historic Hotel Australasia building on Schedule 5 of the Comprehensive Local Environment Plan, providing recognition of the property's heritage significance.

In April 2014 Hotel Australasia property owners Great Southern Developments lodged an appeal in the NSW Land and Environment Court against Bega Valley Shire Council's decision to reject their Development Application for demolition of the building and construction of a retail complex on the site. A decision is still pending.

The developer is now looking to sever the applications to demolish the building; and construct the proposed new supermarket complex. There is a very real possibility that this could result in the building being demolished and the town being left with nothing in its place but a vacant site. A petitions has been got up, which is being carried by local businesses in hard copy; and you can also sign on line asking Bega Valley Shire Council not to allow the DA to be split into stages:

Article links:
Eden Magnet, April 11, 2013:

ABC Open, September 30, 2013:

Eden Magnet, March 27, 2014:

Eden Magnet, April 16, 2014:

Inheritance, April 25, 2014:

Eden Magnet, April 29, 2014:

Eden Magnet, July 1, 2014:

Eden Magnet, July 10, 2014:

Eden Magnet, July 30, 2014:

Eden Magnet, July 31, 2014:

Bega District News, July 31, 2014:

Eden Magnet, July 31, 2014:

Batemans Bay Post, July 31, 2014:

ABC NSW, August 3, 2014:

Eden Magnet, August 4, 2014:

Eden Magnet, August 6, 2014:

Eden Magnet, August 13, 2014:

Eden Magnet, August 15, 2014:

Eden Magnet, September 1, 2014:

Eden Magnet September 1, 2014:

Canberra Times, September 7, 2014:

Eden Magnet, September 9, 2014:

Eden Magnet, September 10, 2014:

Eden Magnet, September 19, 2014:

ABC South East, 25 September, 2014:

Eden Magnet, November 13, 2014:

© Angela George.

Adelaide Mail
Australian Town and Country Journal
Ballantyne, Kathy, Pers. Comm., 5 April, 2013
Bega District News
Bega Standard
Bennett, Mick and Vicki, Pers. Comm., April 2013.
Canberra Times
Chester, Kerrie, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Dunn’s Almanac, 1921
Eden Magnet
Eden Magnet and Pambula Voice
Eden Observer
Eden Observer and South Coast Advocate
Farrell, Bronwyn, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Geraghty, Lesley, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Gibson, Gail, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Gippsland Mercury
Gippsland Times
Harris, Lee Jane, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Henry, Geoff, Pers. Comm., 9 April, 2013
Illawarra and South Coast Steam Navigation Company Illustrated Handbook, 2nd edition, 1912
Korner, Joanne, Pers. Comm., April 2013
McDonald, Margaret, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Melbourne Argus
Miller, Christine, Pers. Comm., 15 April, 2013
Moore's Almanac and New South Wales Country Directory, 1930
Narandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser
Northern Star
Pambula Voice
Ralph, Brett, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Raymond, Pat, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Smith, Jennifer, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Stanmore, Frank, Wikipedia entry,, retrieved 14 April, 2013
Sunday Herald
Switzer, Denise, Pers. Comm., 15 April, 2013
Switzer, Simon, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Sydney Morning Herald
Turner, Tania, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Twofold Bay Magnet
Vogt, W. Stanley, Picturesque Travel: Princes Highway Bairnsdale to Bega, Bairnsdale, ND: [C. 1915/16]
Whiter, Allan, via Robert Whiter, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Whiter, Peter, Pers. Comm., April 2013
Whiter, Robert, Pers. Comm., April 2013

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Lion & The Shamrock - Eden's Pubs from the Past:

As well as the Seahorse Inn & Crown & Anchor, two other hotels were to have their start in Eden during the late 1840s & early 1850s.

Lion Inn:
It was in November 1848 that the Eden Bench of Magistrates granted a license to James Roberts "...for the retail of spirituous liquors & wines...", with Hugh Cameron & William McNiven, both of nearby "Panbula", named as sureties.

According to a 1930 obituary penned following the death of his second son John Charles, James had resided in Melbourne prior to his 1845 arrival in Twofold Bay, at the time when Boydtown was "...a flourishing settlement..." & the main township of Eden was also beginning to gather strength.

In addition to purchasing land in the township, James began pursuing the hotel keeping trade & in April 1849 secured a "publican's general license" for the premises known variously as the Lion & Red Lion Inn & naming Hugh Cameron & Nathanial Thompson as sureties. His 1850 license renewal noted John Love & A. McCausland as guarantors, while in 1855, Saul Solomons of Eden & Jeremiah Bryan of Maneroo were similarly noted.

Continuing to operate his hotel until just after the 1859 gold discovery at Kiandra, Roberts found himself fronting the Eden Bench of Magistrates in February 1860, charged by Chief Constable John Marshall Walker as "...being an unfit person to keep a public house, he being an habitual drunkard & failing to keep good order & rule in the house licensed by him..." However, although agreeing with the Chief Constable's opinion of the situation, the Eden Bench nonetheless opted to adjourn their final decision " consideration of Roberts having a large order that Roberts may in the meantime let his house to a proper person..."

As a result, the license for the Lion Inn was transferred the following month to Sampson Courtney Boyland. Apparently a Bounty Immigrant from County Antrim, Ireland, Boyland had arrived in Sydney in 1841, eventually moving to Wollongong where, in 1853, he married Eliza Hoare. By 1857, when the second of their seven children was born, the family were living in Eden & when the Lion Inn's license was renewed in April 1860, Boyland was still noted as the publican.

However, after a two year battle with cancer, he passed away in March 1861, & by April, the license for what was referred to as the "Red Lion Inn" had been transferred to Thomas Matthews.

After Matthews took over the Crown & Anchor Hotel around 1862, the Lion Inn appears to have closed its doors, & no further mention of this early business has been found to date.

Shamrock Inn:
In the wake of Boyd's financial demise & the resultant decline of Boydtown, Seahorse Inn licensee Anthony Falkner turned his attention towards the government township of Eden & set about establishing the Shamrock Inn.

An 1856 lithograph by Elizabeth Hudspeth. What is believed to have been the Shamrock can be seen on the hill to the right of the work.
Occupying a site on the hill facing the wharf in Albert Terrace, according to local historian H. P. Wellings, the premises was erected after Boydtown's collapse, with Falkner transferring his Seahorse Inn license to the new premises. In December 1850 he advertised "... to inform the public & settlers on Maneroo & its vicinity, that he has entered upon the commodious building, the Shamrock Hotel, Eden, where he intends carrying on business as formerly, wholesale & retail...The Shamrock Hotel is situated near the Jetty, where the steamer lies, & offers every accommodation for the pubic & passengers proceeding to & fro by the steamer..."

Falkner had arrived in Colonial Australia, like so many others, as an English convict. As a baby, he had had a less than auspicious start to life - his 1817 baptism records show him a resident of London's St Pancras Foundling Hospital, a charity established by philanthropist Captain Thomas Coram for "...the maintenance & instruction..." of deserted infants.

An illustration from an 1886 Sydney Morning Herald, showing the Shamrock Inn on the right of the track heading up the hill.
By the 1830s, he was engaged as a "footboy" in London by Sir Nicholas Harris Nicholas & it was during this employment that he ran foul of the law. Aged just seventeen, he was brought before the Old Bailey, Middlesex, in 1834, charged with stealing a ten pound note from his master. Found guilty of "simple grand larceny", he was sentenced to a seven year term & transported to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) on board the Waterloo, one of 224 male convicts on board the vessel.

Arriving in the penal colony in March 1835, within two years he had been assigned to public works, his trade being described as a "brick maker". Although the young man's conduct during incarceration was generally good, he still managed to accrue a number of strikes on his record -  November 1835 saw him "admonished" for "neglect of duty & insolence", while in 1838, he was placed on bread & water for 48 hours after "...being in a Public House...& absent without leave..."

From the Lookout across the wharf area and Ross's Bay & showing the Shamrock Inn building on the right of the track heading up the hill.
Securing his Certificate of Freedom in September 1841, he evidently made his way to Sydney where he met Mary Byrne & in 1845 their first son, also named Anthony, was born, at which time Falkner's occupation was described a "steward". Although they didn't actually marry until 1850, the couple were eventually to have five more children.

It was during his residency in Sydney that Falkner moved to purchase property in Eden, buying a block in Bass Street at the town's first land sales in 1843. After arriving in the Twofold Bay area, he became involved, among other things, in the shore based whaling industry, operating at various times in partnership with Barclay & Rixon, & in August 1852, Mary Braidwood Mowle, wife of the local Custom's Officer, noted in her diary that "Falkner got a whale today..."

Eden from the wharf area, showing the Shamrock Inn to the right.
Entering the inn keeping trade, he held the license for Boydtown's Seahorse Inn during the late 1840s before transferring the permit to the Shamrock. Although originally described as being situated in Albert Terrace, by 1856 the address was noted as Imlay Street, although the actual location of the premises remained unchanged. Records from that year also show the Shamrock as being "...10 yards from the nearest licensed premises...", with an "...old..." license.

1857 saw the Shamrock receive praise in a May edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, when a writer confidently stated that "...should any Sydney gentlemen pay Eden a visit, I beg to assure you that they will...[find] as pretty a little town as any in the colony, & get as good accommodation at the best hotel Sydney can boast of..."

A 1900 view from the Eden wharf looking towards the township & what is today known as "Warren's Walk". The site of the Shamrock is evident only by the Mulberry trees.
Continuing the hold the license until 1859, Anthony Falkner's wife Mary passed away in April that year & in May he advertised the hotel for sale or to let " consequence of a heavy domestic bereavement..." Noting that the business was in full trade, the premises was described as "...containing four parlours, seven bedrooms, bar & tap room...delightfully situated, elegantly furnished throughout, & replete with every convenience..."

Joseph Walpole Silk took over the Shamrock soon afterwards, & in April 1860 when he was granted his license renewal, he named Solomon Solomons & Joshua Blow, both of Eden, as sureties.

Looking up the wharf hill during the C. 1920s towards the site of the Shamrock, as indicated by the grouping of Mulberry trees to the right.
With the Kiandra gold rush making itself felt in the district by that time, hotel & inn facilities were in great demand by hopeful miners making their way to the Monaro via the port of Eden. June 1860 saw the Twofold Bay & Maneroo Telegraph describe the convenient location of the Shamrock as "...the first house from the wharf..." & the same month it was reported that "Mr. Silk, of the Shamrock, has... made considerable improvement on the road by cutting away a portion of the hill leading from the jetty past his house. He also contemplates improving his property..."

Granted a renewal of his license in April 1861, Silk drowned three years later in the Bibbenluke River, & it would seem that the Shamrock ceased to operate as a hotel around this time. Images of the area at the beginning of the 20th century indicate that the building was no longer in existence, & by the 1930s all that remained to indicate its location was a grouping of Mulberry trees.

A later view looking from the Lookout across Ross's Bay to the old Shamrock site. The mulberry trees are still evident.

© Angela George.

  • AONSW, Bench Books Eden Court of Petty Sessions
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  • Wellings, H. P., Eden & Twofold Bay - Discovery, Early History & Points of Interest, 1797 - 1965­, Bega News Print, 1953