WE ended our recent road trip to the former gold mining villages and towns of central west NSW by calling into historic Canowindra, located between Orange and Cowra.
Where the town’s pubs trade is the curving main street, which is partly an urban conservation area. At the 2016 census, Canowindra and the surrounding area had a population of 2,258, and it seemed most of them were either in hiding or had left town when we pulled up about 4pm on the Sunday afternoon.
The main street was almost deserted when we arrived, and two of the town’s three pubs (the Royal and the Junction) we visited were closed for business.
The three pubs in town are architectural stunners, as is the former Old Vic Inn, which is now a guest house and licensed restaurant.
The pubs that remain licensed are the Junction, the Royal and the Canowindra, all located in Gaskill Street.
With the strong afternoon sun casting long dark shadows on Canowindra’s magnificent historic street facades, I wuickly captured a few images on my camera, before we made the long drive back to Sydney.
The following is a brief description and a little history on Canowindra’s pubs.
The Junction Hotel
THOMAS Dwyer called for tenders to build a two storey brick hotel in Canowindra, containing eight rooms and of “a substantial character” that would “prove a valuable addition to the buildings in the town” in February 1890. The Junction Hotel is the oldest of the three pubs trading in the town and was completed and licensed in December 1890.
A travelling reporter for the Carcoar Chronicle gave the following glowing report of his stay at Dwyer’s pub in October 1899:
The sun showing close to the horizon, I concluded my wisest course was to steer straight for Canowindra, where I eventually found myself located at the Junction Hotel, with my feet firmly planted under the hospital boards of Mr Mathew Dwyer’s. Nothing beats a good table, with plenty of farm produce thereon — more especially where “fair sweet faces” peer over your shoulder waiting to supply your every want. To any stranger calling in at Canowindra for the first time, I can honestly recommend him the Junction Hotel.
– The Carcoar Chronicle Friday 27 October 1899.
The Former Victoria Hotel
The first weatherboard Victoria Hotel was built in 1865. A new brick section consisting of ten rooms was built in 1908 in anticipation of the railway coming to Canowindra. The new Victoria flourished and grew in the heart of Gaskill St providing both hotel accommodation and office space. The weatherboard pub was demolished and two new additions were built in 1911 and 1913. The graceful arches and iron lace of the verandas were matched in the new wing, though the fashion of the twenties demanded that a veneer of glossy tiles should cover the mellow hand-made bricks outside the bar. The Victoria closed its doors as a hotel in 1967. After the interior was remodelled, it reopened in 1969 with a group of local investors giving it a new life as Canowindra Convalescent Home during a period of declining business in the area. In more recent history, The Old Vic was transitioned back to accommodate visitors to the area as a guesthouse and restaurant. It has also become a central hub for the growing local arts scene. The entire Inn is dedicated art space playing host to the work of local artists.
-Courtesy of oldvicinn.com.au
The Royal Hotel
The Royal Hotel was established in 1910.
The two-storey brick pub was built on the site of the Robinson’s Hotel, which was a single storey timber sructure, established in the early 1850s. It became famous in 1863, when Ben Hall and his gang of bushrangers took over the hotel for three days.
In 2013 the Royal was again the centre of attention in Canowindra when it celebrated the 150 year Jubilee with a re enactment of Ben Hall and the Bushrangers riding down the main street and taking over the pub.
Its seemed a clean, country style pub. In 2013 the new owners refurbished the pub. However, when we visited it seemed to be closed.
The Canowindra Hotel
THE Canowindra Hotel was built for Tooth & Company brewery in 1923, and was the fourth pub to be licensed in the township. After listening all day to the evidence of objectors in April 1923, the Cowra Licensing Bench granted the application of Thomas Newham, for the removal of the license of the Holmwood Hotel, a wayside inn a few miles from Cowra, to premises to be built close to Canowindra Railway Station.
The chief objectors were the other hotelkeepers, who maintained that their places were, on the average, only half full – a clergyman, and the captain of the Salvation Army.
The pub opened for business on October 16 1924 with Oliver “Ned” Fogarty as host. This was at a time when pubs were required to shut shop at 6pm, and the police enforced the early closing laws with an iron fist. The Truth newspaper reported the following incident after a customer was caught drinking in the Canowindra Hotel after hours on Sunday December 4 1927:
(FROM “TRUTH’S” BATHURST REPRESENTATIVE.)
HAVE you a dryness in the throat that gets especially irritating round about 6pm?
Have you found yourself grow weak and trembling in the presence of a row of bottles?
Do you reach that stage where black spots before your eyes will only vanish when confronted with other spots before your nose?
Have you noticed that these attacks get worse and worse after closing hours, when the cruel law stands between your disease and its cure?
Well, you need burn in misery and thirst no longer.
A magistrate – may his name be inscribed in gold letters a foot high – has opened the door of every bar in New South Wales to the parched invalids who roam the streets after nightfall with lolling tongue and a lime kiln under their vests.
Simply go to a doctor, let him feel your pulse and epigiottis, and get him to recommend a little something after meals. Armed with his cure for dryness, you can walk into any pub anywhere at any hour of the night, toss off a whisky or two, and when a trouble-seeking policeman grabs you by the ear for after-hours drinking, just flash your medical certificate in his astonished face and walk off a free – and full – man.
Read what happened at Canowindra Court this week, when Michael Thompson – may his whiskers never whiten -earned the unquenchiable gratitude of his countrymen when he appeared before Magistrate J. B. Scobie.
Michael, a night-watchman, was found in Ned Fogarty’s Canowindra Hotel on the night of October 14 with a whisky inside him, and a gleam of content in his eye.
The arresting constable grabbed both Michael and Fogarty, the former for being there without lawful excuse, and the latter for allowing him to be there. But Michael created history by pleading that the drink he had taken had been taken on the doctor’s orders.
Dr. Allen had advised him to take a little stimulant, and, being a good patient, Michael had obeyed! Did the magistrate fall off his bench at the cool audacity of this pioneer in the realms of Rye? No sir! When he had heard the supporting argument of Michael’s counsel, Mr. Campbell – that in following doctor’s orders and drinking a stimulant, Michael was not breaking the law – that magistrate dismissed both cases.
Hurroo for Michael!
Hurroo for Scobie!
Two or three hurroos for the doctor!
– Truth (Sydney), Sunday 4 December 1927.