THE misfortunes of a landmark pub in a town on the central-western plains of NSW enabled the Charles Hotel at Fairy Meadow to open for business on September 15 1955.
The Charles was built and established by the Waterhouse family, well-known in Sydney for their horse-racing connections and bookmaking.
The hotel was built at a cost of £200,000 after approval was given in 1952 to transfer the license of the Avenue Hotel at Coonamble to Fairy Meadow, just north of Wollongong.
The Avenue Hotel was licensed by Sam Bibb in 1901. It had a colourful history and was destroyed by fire twice – once in 1909 and again in 1941. The occupants of the pub were lucky to escape with their lives it was reported after the 1909 blaze.
The pub was rebuilt, and was lucky to have escaped destruction again in 1933, when the Coonamble Fire Brigade saved the building from flames.
Another blaze, less than 10 years later in 1941, finished the old two-storey timber pub off for good.
A temporary bar was built at the back of where the pub once stood. The temporary bar though was far from temporary and continued serving customers for over a decade.
The Waterhouse family, under the company name of Pioneer Tourist Hotel Pty Ltd, bought the temporary bar, and hotel license in January 1949. They proposed to transfer the license to Bomaderry, near Nowra, however that plan was later changed and they instead focused on a bustling little suburb, just north of the industrial city of Wollongong.
Charles Waterhouse, a bookmaker, was granted the removal of the license from Coonamble to Fairy Meadow, which at the time didn’t have a pub, in July 1952. Present in the licensing court at Wollongong were the licensee Reginald James Dennis and hotelier brothers, Charles and William Waterhouse. The Waterhouses’ plans showed a two-storey, 20-bedroom hotel with an attached covered beer-garden. The foundation of the building would be set so that an additional storey could be added if needed.
Charles Waterhouse would not live to see his new pub open, and he died in August 1954, aged just 39. The family named the new hotel in his honour, and it has retained the name Hotel Charles ever since.
Gwen Waterhouse, the spouse of another brother, John, was the Hotel Charles’ first licensee, when it opened for business.
After Charles’ death, the hotel and bookmaking business were run by William and John. As trustees of his estate, they managed the bookmaking and hotel business as late as 1982.
A large lounge bar, a beer-garden and bottle shop were added to the northern side of the pub in about 1960. The lounge bar was later converted to a small auditorium during the 1980s, where some of Australia’s most popular bands, like Midnight Oil and Cold Chisel, entertained crowds.
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