IF you follow the old Cobb & Co coach route between the two historic country cities of Bathurst and Goulburn, through former gold mining villages and settlements in New South Wales’ mid-west, it should take you about three or four hours, without lengthy stops. But you would miss a lot doing it that way.
Time Gents visited seven historic pubs along the 225km route earlier this month, beginning our journey at the Farmers Arms, just south of Bathurst late on a Saturday morning. We completed our journey on dusk, with a schooner of Toohey’s Old, beside a welcoming bar-fire in a 19th century stone pub at Taralga.
First opened in 1857, I was not-surprisingly looking forward to visiting the Farmer’s Arms along Vale Road at Perthville – a typical single storey coaching inn that that had serviced the surrounding rural community and travelling public for 160 years.
As I approached the front door, all looked quiet. It was 11.30 on a Saturday morning, so I convinced myself that we had arrived a little early, and the locals were sleeping of a big Friday night. Some country pubs, don’t turn the taps on ‘til after one or two on a Saturday morning.
When I spotted the “Closed for Stock Taking” sign on the front door, I was naturally disappointed. But, arriving at our next destination, the Bridge Inn, at Perthville, I was even more disappointed to learn that the Farmers Arms had recently closed for business.
The stone inn was first licensed by Terence McGurren on April 21 1857, at what was then known as Queen Charlotte’s Vale along the old coach road from Bathurst, south to Goulburn.
Less than five years after opening his pub, McGurren had landed in financial strife and lost the pub and surrounding properties in 1862. The Farmers Arms was described as sitting opposite “Mrs Mutton’s residence”, on the Vale Road and was kept by William Dillon on 12¼ acres in 1862.
Verandahed, and most substantially built, being all stone walls two feet thick, and well fitted throughout with cedar; the Farmers Arms contains six rooms, besides large dining-room, kitchen, out-houses, and good stable, and is situated in the most eligible part of the Vale Road for commanding a good trade in and out of Bathurst. The Bar is neatly fitted; in the yard is a well of excellent water, and a good kitchen garden in the rear.
Richard Roberts, who became the second publican of the Farmers Arms in 1858 after McGurren, bought the freehold and hosted the pub for many years. Roberts sold the freehold of the Farmers Arms to Jack Stokes in 1921, who in turn sold it to Henry Burt “Bon” Whitmarsh. Whitmarsh hosted the pub until 1942, when his license was disqualified after he was convicted three times in three years for offences against the liquor act.
MAGPIE’S NEST IN BAR.
A magpie is building a nest on a shelf over the bar of the Farmers’ Arms Hotel on the Perthville road – near Bathurst. The bird is not at all perturbed by the presence of customers in the bar. It threads its way amongst the beer mugs to a keg, from it ascends to the shelf. The licensee (Mr W H Whitmarsh) had a haircut last week, and his shorn locks were carefully gathered by the bird and woven into the nest. In its quest for suitable material, household mats and rugs have suffered to some extent, as the magpie thinks nothing of picking the fabric out of them. Examination of the nest reveals that, to addition to a quantity of string, hairy wool, and briar, one of its constituents is a spring from a roller blind, which the magpie cunningly worked into a convenient position.
– The Inverell Times Monday 2 November 1931.
A five minute drive from the Farmers Arms is – architecturally – one of my favourite country pubs. The Bridge Hotet at Perthville is everything that typifies an Australian country pub. A single storey, stone building, with a bull-nosed veranda slung around two sides, ‘The Bridge’ sits on the corner of two main roads, with a small river flowing steadily past its backyard beer garden.
When we called, around midday, we found half a dozen men in the beer garden, gathered around a blazing open fire, drinking beer, and talking football.
We headed into an empty public bar, where another open fire was smouldering. “I’ll throw on another log to warm the place up a bit,” the barmaid said.
Our host would lucky to be 30, and we exchanged pleasantries as she pulled me a ‘mud’, and made my wife a steaming cup of hot tea. It was cold outside, and the extra log on the fire was a welcome addition, which quickly warmed our table.
The Bridge Hotel is the second pub by that name in the village that what was originally known as Perth, but had its name changed to Perthville in 1908 to curiously avoid confusion with Western Australia’s capital. The original Bridge Hotel was established by John Edwards in 1874 and sat on the opposite side of the road.
The original pub was forced to close after the NSW Government resumed the land to make way for the railway in the early 1880s, prompting Edwards to re-build on the opposite side of the road. The license was transferred from the old premises to the current pub in June 1882.
Born in Worcester, England in 1836, Edwards arrived in Melbourne at the age of 21. Gold fever was high, and he went to Bendigo, afterwards to Castlemaine, and later Port Curtis in search of his fortune. He ventured to Sydney, from which he journeyed to Mudgee, thence to Back Creek, and then Rockley. He was at Lambing Flat (Young), when the Chinese riots took place before making his way to the small rural village of Perth.
Edwards had saved a considerable amount of money during his prospecting days, and decided to establish a butcher shop and settle at Perth. In 1874 he purchased several acres of land from Joshua Hughes, to build ”The Bridge Hotel” which he controlled successfully for years before the Government resumed his land.
In 1889 the Bathurst Advocate reported that “anyone desirous of spending a truly happy evening should pay Perth a visit, and obtain infinite consolation from a visit to the cheerful home” of John Edwards and his wife.
In six distinct and separate respects the Bridge Hotel is attractive from a bachelor’s point of view. The host and hostess possess six charming daughters, who have decked the hotel with countless evidences of their artistic ‘culture’ and training.
Edwards owned much property in and around Perthville. He died a wealthy man in 1905 at the age of 69.
The pub today consists of a large public bar, and two small parlours. As mentioned, it also has a beer garden, with large timber tables and benches, a welcoming open fire place, and an interesting little poker machine room, decorated with planter pots made from beer kegs.
They were “between cooks” when we visited, so we enjoyed our drinks and made our way to the next historic watering hole on the old Cobb & Co route to Goulburn for our lunch.
We arrived at our next destination, Newbridge and the Gladstone Hotel just after 1pm. The Gladstone proclaims it was opened in 1876, but the architecture told me different, and prompted me to dig a little deeper into its past. To me, the two-storey brick pub, with balcony, looked more like architecture from the late 1880s or 1890s.
After a little research, I found that the Gladstone Hotel was built by Michael Toomey in the early 1890s. Toomey applied and received a license for the premises, which contained nine bedrooms, on January 29 1894.
Newbridge village developed around the railway line and station, built in 1876. The station was called Back Creek, however, the post office was called Duramana. To avoid confusion with Duramana on the other side of Bathurst and due to either the large number of Irish settlers in the area reflecting upon Newbridge in Ireland or as the result of the opening of a pedestrian overhead bridge built at the station, the names of the station, post office and village were changed to Newbridge.
The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal reported on Monday January 29 1894:
NEW PUBLIC HOUSE AT NEWBRIDGE
Michael Toomey, of Newbridge, applied for a publican’s license for premises situated at Newbridge, to be known as the “Gladstone Hotel.” The house contained nine rooms exclusive of those required for the use of the family. Constable Barnes reported that the house was large and lofty, with sufficient accommodation. The applicant is a very respectable man, and has held a license previously. He did not consider there was any necessity for a third public-house in Newbridge. Mr. Thompson appeared in support of the application, and the Bench said they would like to hear evidence. Michael Toomey deposed: There were formerly three licensed houses in Newbridge; one is now closed; it is the starting point from Newbridge to Trunkey; the coaching traffic is increasing owing to new finds; the mining population is also increasing and the traffic with produce is on the increase; it is the main depot to Trunkey, Tuena and other places; there is more traffic there than to Blayney, where there are ten houses; the house is a better class than the others and I am still building; I held a license years ago, and have been known in the district for thirty years; there has been no objection to me in any way. Sergeant McDonnell, sub-inspector of the Licensing District of Bathurst, deposed that he had seen the house for which application was being made; it was a building superior in every way to the others, it having two stories; Mr. Toomey has been in Bathurst district a number of years, and has always borne a character above reproach; such a hotel would be an acquisition to the place; do not know much about the traffic; it fell off for a time but is now increasing. The Bench said that there was a good deal in the report from the police, but they took into consideration the character of the applicant and superior class of house and granted the application.
Toomey was born in Newcastle in 1850 and with his wife and children moved to Newbridge with the arrival of the railway. He was 44 years of age when he opened the Gladstone Hotel, and he remained as host until his death at the age of 63 in 1913. His wife, Johanna became licensee of the pub after his death.
When we arrived at the Gladstone Hotel, there were two local farmers enjoying a yarn at the bar, and an elderly couple – tourists, like ourselves – eating a meal in the pub’s dining room.
History is everywhere in the Gladstone Hotel. Old photographs don the walls, and like the previous pub, a roaring open fire greeted us when we entered the public bar. We decided to eat in this grand old house of hospitality. Two giant sized beef burgers, with a healthy serve of chips, another schooner of ‘mud’, and a tea, served in the pub’s finest china tea-pot and cup and saucer, kept us satisfied, while the licensee’s old Labrador laid at our feet at the fire.
As I checked out the historic photos on the wall of the pub, one grabbed my interest… The Royal Hotel, Newbridge. A single storey brick corner pub. “Where was this one”, I asked one of the farmers standing at the bar. “That’s it down there on the corner. It’s still there, though it’s been closed for a long time,”was the answer.
We finished our meal and drinks, wandered about, looking at the ageing buildings along the quiet streets of Newbridge for a short while – including the former Royal Hotel – before continuing our journey.
The next pub on our list was at Trunkey Creek. Although the Black Stump Hotel was built in 1928, it was established on the site long before as the Commercial Hotel in 1877.
When John Hade, 26, and his wife, Mary, opened the Commercial Hotel in August 1877, there were at least six other pubs trading in and around the gold mining village. He had previously hosted the Australian Hotel, to the north of the Commercial on the corner of Arthur Street and Lloyd Streets, Trunkey Creek. He knew his customers.
Hade had a short stay at the Commercial, and by 1880 he was hosting the Royal Hotel, located on the opposite corner from the Australian Hotel in Trunkey Creek.
Hade later purchased the Royal Hotel in Carcoar, before hosting the Occidedental Hotel in Bathurst, and retiring a wealthy man as licensee of the Star and Garter Hotel in King Street Sydney in 1903. He died at his residence in Watson Bay in 1904 after a “lengthy illness” at the age of 53.
The Commercial Hotel at Trunkey Creek was rebuilt in 1928. The Lithgow Mercury reported on June 27 1928:
The Commercial Hotel at Trunkey — a relic of the early gold-digging days and one of the oldest buildings in the district — has been, pulled down, and a new building of concrete created. The new hotel is expected to open for business at an early date. Besides being a vast improvement to the village, it will be a boon to travellers. The main road connecting the south and central west vans through Trunkey, and the traffic is considerable.
While one by one the remaining goldfields’ pubs faded from existence, the Commercial Hotel survived, providing welcoming refreshments and hospitality along the dusty road between Bathurst and Goulburn. The name of the hotel was changed from the Commercial Hotel to the Black Stump Hotel in 1959.
When we pulled-up for a drink at the Black Stump, the publican – who told me he had only been at the reins for three months – was reading the newspaper on the veranda, while listening to the music of Cold Chisel, blasting from an old juke box in the pub’s lounge. He turned the music down a few notches as I approached the pub. “Looking for a beer, mate?” he asked. “I am,” I replied. There was no one else in the pub, until a couple of blokes wandered in while I sank my ‘mud’ and continued onto the next pub at Tuena.
The former Goldfields Inn Hotel at Tuena was closed in May 2012 due to a lack of business, and large “keep out, private property” signs greeted us when we pulled-up in front of the old single storey building.
Contrary to much published material about the history of the Goldfields Inn, the pub, I believe, was not opened in 1866, but was licensed 16 years later in 1887 when a silver mine at Mount Costigan, gave the sleepy settlement a much-welcomed ‘second wind’.
The silver mine, three miles from the town, gave an impetus to Tuena, sparking a resurgence after the gold rush had fizzled. During the height of the gold discoveries in the 1850s and 60s, the population of Tuena numbered over 2000 and there were half a dozen pubs trading at the same time. There was the Gold Diggers Arms, the Travellers Rest and the Diggers’ Home, servicing the thirsts of the prospectors and other settlers.
The former Goldfields Inn was opened as the Tuena Hotel in July 1887 by David and Catherine Bremner. I was unable to establish when the old pub was given the name “Goldfields Inn”, but it traded as the Tuena Hotel from 1887 to at least 1954.
Bremner was locally born to one of the area’s first gold prospectors, and one time police constable, John Bremner. The Crookwell Gazette reported on Friday June 3 1887:
At one time the population of Tuena numbered over 2000. At present it is not more than 300; but new arrivals are to be seen daily, some with the view of commencing business, others for prospecting purposes, whilst a few are making a good living by “fossicking”. Experienced miners state that the diggings have not been “worked out,” but that there will be some rich finds close to town shortly. On entering Tuena, the first building of any consequence is the public school… We next visit Mr Parsons’ store… The proprietor has the confidence of the people, and does a very large business. Adjoining this is Mrs. Simmons’ Post Office Hotel. Here the weary, or unweary, traveller can obtain really first-class accommodation. This, coupled with the greatest civility and attention, renders this hostelry one of the most popular in the Carcoar district. At present this is the only hotel in the place. On the opposite side of the street several new buildings are in course of erection. A billiard room, 30 feet x 20 feet, will shortly be constructed for Mrs Simmons, the allotment for the purpose having been secured and the contract taken. A butcher’s shop for Mr. Biddulph of Carcoar, black smith’s shop and other buildings will soon form one side of the street. We next enter the store of Mr. David Bremner, a resident of more than twenty years. This gentleman is highly respected and appears to be driving a sound and remunerative trade. The stock in the shop is well assorted, and the goods are cheap. Mr. Bremner is erecting an hotel with underground cellars. The building is being constructed with weatherboards on a stone foundation, with roof of iron, and contains eight rooms. In addition there will be a kitchen 24 feet x 12 feet. The stables at the rear are capacious, being no less than 40 feet x 15 feet. Mr. Bremner, on account of the ground being fully seven feet lower on one end, intends utilising the space for rooms underneath. These will doubtless be appreciated during the summer months. Mr. Bremner, in addition to storekeeping carries on with success a butchering business. The name of the new hotel when, completed is we understand to be called “Tuena”. Proceeding along Bathurst street (the main street in the town), we reach the post and telegraph office, in charge of Mr. T. Fred. Bell, who has been stationed here for nearly seven years… We next visit the new police barracks…
When the hotel was licensed and opened in July 1887, there was one other licensed pub in the village. The Post Office Hotel was trading on the opposite side of Bathurst Road, to the south. Bremner continued gold prospecting between pulling beers at his pub. He died while still publican at the Tuena Hotel in 1896.
The Post Office Hotel closed about 1910, leaving The Tuena Hotel as the town’s only watering hole, until it too sadly closed its doors in 2012.
After a few photos, and as the afternoon shadows drew longer, we headed further south towards our last Cobb & Co town – Taralga. There is just the one pub remaining in Taralga these days. Like most of the pubs we visited on our Bathurst to Goulburn journey, my research on the history of the Taralga Hotel didn’t quite match with previously published material.
Most information available on the hotel – including signs on the pub itself – proclaim it was established in 1876. I believe the pub was established a lot earlier than this, by 27-year-old Martin Tynan and his wife, Mary, as the Richlands Hotel, in 1863. The current pub – now known as The Taralga – was rebuilt from the Richlands Hotel in 1869, and completed in 1871.
Tynan had arrived in Sydney in 1856, and by 1860 had made his way to Taralga. 1863 was an eventful year for the young Irishman. He married Mary O’keefe in Wollongong before gaining the license of the Richlands Hotel in November 1863 to begin his new career as a publican.
Tynan began rebuilding the Richlands Hotel in 1869, and the project was still underway two years later. The Goulburn Herald reported on August 18 1869 that “two stone buildings are in course of erection in the village of Taralga – one a Catholic school-house, the other Mr Tynan’s for a public house”. The following month the same newspaper reported on October 27 1869: “Tynan’s new hotel is progressing slowly, but from the character of the work we may add surely”.
The Goulburn Herald reported on April 15 1871 that Tynan’s new pub was nearing completion. “There are two new buildings nearly finished now. One is Mr George Blay’s weather-boarded building, intended for a flour-mill… The other building is Mr Martin Tynan’s two-storied stone building for a public-house. When a new public house is being erected here, it is evident that the sons of temperance have not found their way here.”
Martin Tynan died at the age of 48 in 1884, and his wife, Mary in 1923 at the age of 84. By the 1950s the pub was known as the Taralga Hotel.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and we arrived at the Taralga Hotel late on a chilly winter’s afternoon. A large sign hanging from the balcony revealed that the pub was under new management. The cosy public bar had a healthy crowd huddled inside, around a roaring fire place. The pub had a fairdinkum family feel to it. Teenagers were enjoying a game of pool in the back bar, while parents and others gathered drinking in the warmth of the front bar.
We relunctantly left the warmth of the bar, finished our drinks, before visiting one last pub – The former Argyle Inn. Down the road from the Teralga Hotel, north along Orchard Street, the Argyle Inn sadly had shut shop in recent years. Inside it looked as though there were major renovations underway.
The pub was established in February 1875, with John Francis Mooney as publican, and it seems the old two storey pub could be re-opened. Let’s hope so.
From Taralga we continued towards Goulburn, where our old Cobb & Co pub expedition came to an end, and we joined the busy traffic along the Hume Highway, back to Sydney.