By MICK ROBERTS ©
THE Glenrowan Inn where the bushranger Ned Kelly’s ‘last stand’ took place in 1880 is likely Australia’s most infamous pub.
While the history of bushranger Ned Kelly is well documented, the story of Glenrowan Inn host, Ann Jones, and her pub, just over 230km north-east of Melbourne, near the Warby Ranges of Victoria, has been largely untold.
Now a vacant paddock, where the pub once traded has been probed and prodded by countless historians, archaeologists and enthusiasts fascinated by the infamous bushranger. It’s the pub, and Mrs Jones though, that takes my interest.
The timber inn traded for less than two years, although many histories wrongly state that it was rebuilt and traded as a hotel after it was reduced to ashes in Ned Kelly’s 1880 last stand. While it did continue to provide accommodation after it was rebuilt, its days as a licensed hotel ended with the Kelly siege.
Here’s my take on the history of the Glenrowan Inn, and its best-known publican, Ann Jones.
Born in Tipperary, Ireland in 1833, Ann Kennedy survived the potato famine as a child before making the journey as a 20-something woman to gold-rush Victoria in search of a better life. She claimed that she arrived in Melbourne in June 1854 aboard the vessel, Queen of the South, but there is no listing of her on the passenger log.
Within months of her arrival, at the age of 21, Ann married 27-year-old Owen Jones, a Welsh labourer, in September 1854. Owen had arrived in the colony just two years prior.
The newly married couple were in Victoria at the time of the Eureka Stockade in December 1854 before settling in Wangaratta where they set up a “roadside tea room”.
Roadside tea rooms were notorious sly-grog shops during these times. By 1876 the pair had 11 children, and when their roadside tea room went bust, husband Owen gained work with the Department of Railways.
The couple lived mostly apart from this time, with Ann deciding to open a pub at Glenrowan, where the tracks of the north-east railway had recently been laid.
Borrowing money from two local businessmen and relying on financial assistance from her eldest son and daughter, in February 1878 she purchased land at what is today the corner of Beaconsfield Street and Siege Street at Glenrowan for £4. There Ann built her pub, which would later go down in Australian history.
At the Wangaratta Licensing Court on Tuesday December 17 1878 Ann was granted a license for the Glenrowan Hotel. At the time there was already a pub, the Railway, trading in Glenrowan, operated by the McDonald family, on the opposite side of the rail tracks. Despite this, 45-year-old Ann managed to establish a thriving business and her financial future looked sound.
Less than 12 months later Ann’s good fortune started to unravel.
The first of Ann’s series of tragedies occurred on December 20 1879 when her 16-year-old daughter, Ann was killed by a tree that she and younger sister Jane were felling in the backyard of the pub.
Eighteen months later, she would lose her son in the deadly Glenrowan siege, and her daughter, Jane would be fatally injured by a stray bullet before her pub burnt to the ground.
Ann Jones later testified that she had no idea that Ned Kelly was to knock on her door that cold winter night. Kelly had come to Glenrowan to tear up the railway tracks and derail a carriage full of police on their way to investigate the murder of Aaron Sherritt by his gang.
The story of Ned Kelly’s life of crime and the circumstances of the siege are well documented. I’ll briefly describe the events of that night, which began when Ned entered the inn on Sunday June 27, 1880.
“I am sorry, but I must detain you,” Ned calmly told those who were gathered at the inn that night.
The bushrangers took over Glenrowan without meeting resistance from the locals, and imprisoned them at Ann Jones’ Glenrowan Inn, while the other hotel in town, The Railway, was used to stable the gang’s stolen horses. By Sunday afternoon, Ned and his gang, Steve Hart, brother Dan, and Joe Byrne had gathered a total of 62 hostages at the hotel.
As the hours passed without any sight of the train, the gang insisted that drinks be provided to the townspeople and that music be played. They danced with hostages while the landlady’s son sang bushranger ballads, including one about the Kelly gang.
Dan and Byrne became fairly drunk; Ned, however, abstained from drinking, and instead staged games with the hostages, who were also encouraged by the bushrangers to amuse themselves with card games.
With the train’s arrival the gang members doused the inn’s fires and lights, and changed into their famous metal ‘armour’.
Meanwhile Constable Bracken, taken hostage the previous night, made his escape. Running across to the Railway Station he reported to the police disembarking from the train of the situation.
The armour-clad Ned Kelly, Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne took up positions on the inn’s veranda ready for a shoot-out with the police.
By the time the siege was over, with Ned Kelly captured and the rest of the gang dead, the inn had been reduced to ashes. A fire was lit by police to flush out gang members.
Dan Kelly and Steve Hart’s charred bodies were returned to family members by the evening of the siege, on Monday June 28. The body of Joe Byrne, who was killed by a police bullet, was retrieved unburnt from the inn.
Ann Jones’ 13-year-old son, John and hostage, Martin Cherry, also perished in the shootout. The Illustrated Adelaide News reported on September 1 1880:
Jones’s Hotel, the last refuge of the hunted outlaws, is a public house about a hundred yards from the Glenrowan railway station. It is of the kind common all over the country — wooden walls, shingle roof, a verandah in front, a kitchen behind. It stood on its own isolated allotment of ground, and, consequently, was easily surrounded; the siege on this place began shortly before four o’clock in the morning, and was kept up until soon after three in the afternoon. Senior-constable Chas. Johnson, of Violet Town, at a given signal then approached the hotel, and fired it with a bundle of straw on the west side. The place was soon ablaze, but the occupants it was intended to dislodge were dead probably long before, and only their scorched bodies were dragged out of the burning building. In a very short time only a few uprights, the chimneys, a signpost and a mass of charred wood remained to tell where once the hotel stood. The ruins are shown in our illustration, and some idea may be formed of its appearance and relation to the surrounding houses from the bird’s-eye view of’ the township of Glenrowan.
A very comprehensive bird’s-eye view of a pretty township, that will always retain historical interest because of the law less performances of the Kelly outlaws, and the tragic end that most of them came to there. The town is situated in a gap in Futter’s Ranges, 136 miles distant from Melbourne.
The figured reference to the picture shows several interesting features; amongst them — Jones’s hotel where Byrne, Dan Kelly, and Hart were killed; the outhouse, where Martin Cherry, the platelayer (railway worker), was found after the hotel was fired; the tree where Ned Kelly was captured, and several others. The picture will materially assist our readers in understanding the particulars of the attack on the outlaws.
Ann Jones had a warrant issued for her arrest on November 11 1880 – the day of Ned Kelly’s hanging. The charges: receiving, harbouring and maintaining outlaws. The charges were later dropped, but not before she spent three months behind bars. Mrs Jones was released from Beechworth Prison in February 1881.
The tragic story of Ann Jones continued in April 1882 when her daughter, Jane, who was wounded by a police bullet in the 1880 siege, died of her injuries. The Ovens and Murray Advertiser reported at the time that Jane “was never the same girl since she was wounded. This is the third child that Mrs. Jones has had killed at Glenrowan within three years — one girl in 1879, by a tree falling on her; The second was a son shot at the capture of the Kellys, and now Jane is the third”.
Ann and her husband Owen, who was working as a railway labourer at the time, were awarded £265 by the Victorian Government – barely enough to pay her legal expenses and debts on the hotel – as compensation for their losses as a consequence of the Kelly siege. She had sought £5000.
The ever resilient Ann Jones, at the age of 44, started rebuilding her inn on the site and by July 1882 had purchased furniture ready to apply for a new license. The Bairnsdale Advertiser reported on August 19 1882:
Mrs Jones also has nearly completed a neat and attractive house, which is intended for a hotel. It is built on the site of the hotel which was burned during the Kelly tragedy, and is a much more substantial and comfortable house. It contains seven rooms with a three roomed kitchen attached. The place presents a busy appearance.
Despite a number of applications to have her new inn licensed, the magistrates refused the request. Ironically, Ann eventually leased her proposed pub to the Victorian Government as the Glenrowan Police Station barracks. The Bairnsdale Advertiser reported on August 19 1882 that Mrs Jones was “unable to obtain a license, and hence her alleged decision to rent it to the authorities for police purposes”:
From the plan it would appear to be a very commodious and somewhat ornamental structure, containing seven rooms, in addition to a kitchen, a well-built stable and other buildings. Its central situation renders it most suitable for a police station.
At the age of 54, Mrs Jones’ luck turned for the better when she was granted a license at the Wangaratta Licensing Court to operate a wine saloon from her Glenrowan property on December 8 1887. The new premises also included accommodation quarters.
The police had vacated her property, and the Ovens and Murray Advertiser reported on December 17 1887 that Constable Hayes gave her a good character reference. Mrs Jones seems to have won back the support of authorities. Constable Hayes told the licensing court that he considered a wine-shop necessary for the convenience of picnic parties and others in Glenrowan: “There were no hotels on the north side of the line, and he would support the application.”
Although Mrs Jones had seemingly won the support of the local constabulary, the same could not be said about Melbourne’s authorities. An officer of the Revenue and Customs Department, Peter Hastings was sent from Melbourne to Glenrowan in October 1888 to catch out Ann Jones selling whiskey from her ‘wine cafe’. Mrs Jones license only permitted her to sell colonial wine.
On the evening of October 19 1888, after the Revenue Officer had dinner at Mrs Jones’ wine cafe, he later walked into the bar where he asked for a glass of whisky. He also asked Mrs Jones to have a drink herself.
Mrs Jones, not knowing the man, gave him a glass of whisky and had a drink herself. As a consequence a search warrant was issued on the premises the following day. Two bottles of whisky were found under the bar, and a gallon and a half of the same liquor was found in a demijohn in Mrs Jones’ bedroom. She was fined £25, with £3 and 16 shillings costs.
Despite this, Mrs Jones was able to renew her wine license later that year, before again fronting the court on a similar charge of allegedly selling whiskey in 1889. In July 1889 Mrs Jones had another visit from a Government Revenue Officer, who testified he was served a glass of whiskey, for which he paid a shilling, by the barman, Henry Smith. This time, Mrs Jones escaped a conviction, after the judge dismissed the case for lack of evidence.
Mrs Jones at the age of 57 lost her husband, Owen in 1890 after he suffered as asthma attack. He was 63. The Ovens and Murray Advertiser reported on Saturday 5 July 1890:
Death of Mr Jones. — Mr Owen Jones, husband of Mrs Jones, of Glenrowan, died at Toorak on Friday, 20th ult. The deceased had been suffering from asthma for the last 10 years, which eventually caused his death. During the past 14 years be was in the Railway Department, and was highly esteemed by all who knew him. He was a native of Carnarvon (Wales), and arrived in the colony in the year 1852. He resided in the Wangaratta district for upwards of 28 years. His remains were interred in the Wangaratta Cemetery, the Rev. Mr Poole officiating at the grave. Deceased was in his 63rd year.
Mrs Jones, now aged 58, married her barman, Henry Winston Smith, in 1891. With her new husband, she continued as host the Glenrowan Wine Cafe until 1895, when she again tried to license it as a hotel. The application was again rejected.
There was more tragedy around the corner for Ann Smith. Her new husband Henry was charged with attempted suicide in November 1895 after the Glenrowan constable found him lying on the wine cafe’s stable floor. He was bleeding freely from the mouth with a revolver by his side.
The constable asked him what had happened, and he said he had shot himself by accident. After inquiries, and hearing that Smith had quarrelled with his wife, the constable charged him with attempted suicide.
Despite his injuries, Smith was refused bail and remanded for a week before appearing in the Wangaratta Court. Medical evidence showed that the muzzle of a revolver had been placed inside his teeth and discharged, the bullet splitting his tongue and becoming embedded in his neck. Smith testified that he was endeavouring to remove a cartridge, and put the revolver in his mouth to blow grit out of the barrel. “The trigger fell at that moment, but the occurrence was purely accidental,” he told the court. He was discharged after the court found there was no evidence to support the charge of suicide.
Ann Smith continued as host of her wine saloon until 1901 when she suffered yet another loss. Her second husband, Henry Smith died on March 4 1901. The North Eastern Ensign reported on Friday March 22 1901:
Henry W. Smith, referred to in our issue of Friday last, our Glenrowan correspondent writes: – Mr Smith had been for some little time ailing and his medical adviser did not anticipate any serious results until the day of his death. Deceased had been for some years past in the Navy and also came of a distinguished military family. His uncle Lieutenant-Colonel Smith was a Crimean veteran. The funeral took place at Wangaratta cemetery… Deceased leaves a widow for whom much sympathy is felt.
Ann retired from the Glenrowan Wine Cafe at the age of 68. The license was transferred to Sarah Ann Hill on November 21 1901.
The following year the inn, which Ann Jones had rebuilt in 1882 after it was burnt to the ground to flush out the Kelly Gang, was once again reduced to ashes. The Ovens and Murray Advertiser reported on Saturday January 25 1902:
DESTRUCTIVE FIRE AT GLENROWAN
The most disastrous fire that residents of Glenrowan have yet had experience of occurred shortly after midnight on Thursday, and in about an hour four buildings were totally destroyed the ruins being so complete that on Friday morning there was nothing left of the principal corner block in the township but seven chimney stacks and a pile of galvanised iron, bent and perished.
The fire originated in the premises of Mrs. Hill, who for the past four months has occupied under lease the Wine-shop carried, on for many years by Mrs Ann Smith, who relinquished business owing to ill-health, and a now a resident of Benalla.
At ten minutes past twelve on Thursday night Mrs. Hill was conversing with three young men, when screams were heard from a bedroom at the rear, which was occupied by one of Mrs. Hill’s daughters, who, being in ill-health, had retired early, and there was barely time to rescue her from the flames, which were by that time encircling the room.
The young girl, Miss Eliza Cupples, had a very narrow escape, and she relates that she was not awakened until the bed-clothes had become ignited, the flames having apparently come from the outside and below the bed. She fell from the bed, and the noise of the fall, followed by screams, gave the alarm to the others in the house, and it was Mr. George Miller who first reached the room and, after bursting in the door, dragged Miss Cupples out of danger just in time.
The flames spread with great rapidity through the house, which was built of wood and had inflammable linings, and a number of passages sided the fire in its progress. The noise soon roused sleeping occupants of the house, and in addition to Mrs. Hill and her three friends there were her four daughters, a young son, Mr. J. Lowther, a tea-traveller, under the roof at the time. The majority of them were in bed, and they were all fortunate enough to escape with the few garments that they hastily seized as they ran out of the burning building.
To save the building was, of course, an impossibility and efforts were directed to the saving of furniture, but the flames made such headway that nothing was rescued from seven of the 13 rooms comprised in the building. By great exertions two men dragged out a piano that was purchased by Mrs. Hill a fortnight ago, and a few other articles of furniture and of clothing were saved. But Mrs. Hill is a heavy loser, and is to be sympathised with in her misfortune.
The Glenrowan Wine Café, containing 12 rooms, was totally destroyed. Sarah Hill was later given permission to conduct her business on premises at the rear of the property, pending rebuilding. Mrs Hill started rebuilding the wine cafe the following month. The new single storey brick wine saloon was completed later that year.
Mrs Hill tried unsuccessfully to gain a hotel license for her new building in 1903. At the time the Railway Hotel, a single storey timber structure on the opposite side of the railway tracks, remained Glenrowan’s only licensed public house.
Mrs Hill’s new brick building continued trading as the Glenrowan Wine Café.
Meanwhile the old timber Railway Hotel at Glenrowan was rebuilt as a two-storey brick structure in 1909, ending any hope of Mrs Hill ever receiving a hotel license for her wine café.
The following year ended the long and colourful history of Ann Smith’s association with Glenrowan. She died on October 7 1910 at the age of 77. Her son provided the following reminiscence of his mother’s encounter with the Kelly Gang, published in the Benalla Standard on Friday October 14 1910:
THE DEATH OF MRS. SMITH
In reference to the death of Mrs. Ann Smith, which took place at Glenrowan on Friday last, as stated in our last issue, her son Tom, who resides at Glenrowan, supplies the following interesting description of the Kelly visit to his mother’s hotel:- About 1 a.m. on the day of the capture of the Kelly’s, June 28th, 1880, Ned Kelly and Steve Hart, accompanied by several quarrymen and other residents whom Ned and Hart had taken prisoners, located themselves in front of Mrs. Jones’ hotel. Ned called out, “I want you, Mother Jones,” One man, “Neil McKee, said Mrs. Jones was ill in bed, and had been ill for weeks. Ned Kelly then inquired if the police were within, and what was the cause of the light burning. One of the party answered that they had been card playing, and that accounted for the burning light within. Thereupon Ned Kelly called out, “Open the door, or I’ll smash it in.” Mrs. Jones answered from a back door, “What do you want?” Kelly went to the back and demanded admittance. Mrs. Jones replied, “If you are a policeman, go and look for whom you are in quest of.” Ned replied, “If I were a policeman you would like me better.” Mrs. Jones then instructed her daughter to admit the unknown man. The man, dressed in full armour, proved to be Ned Kelly. He said to Mrs. Jones, “Who got you your license? Was it not Detective Ward and the police?” Mrs. Jones said, “No, it was a petition containing 60 signatures that secured the license,” and she also added, “Now I see you are Ned Kelly.” Ned replied, “Yes, and I’ll let you know it yet; you kept police here to catch me, and now you’ll keep me to catch them, and I’ll see you are as attentive to me as you are to them.” Mrs. Jones pleaded that she extended uniform courtesy to all her patrons. Ned now invited Mrs. Jones to leave her hotel and assist him in pulling up the railway line, remarking that she was too fond of peeping out of the window. Mrs. Jones begged to remain indoors on account of ill-health, but Kelly insisted on her assisting, and in despair Mrs. Jones told Kelly to take her daughter as a pledge that she would not betray him. This did not meet with Kelly’s approval, and as Mrs. Jones and her daughter were leaving the hotel Kelly surveyed the kitchen and wished to know who were the occupants sleeping there. Having satisfied himself that the sleepers were Mrs. Jones’ children. Kelly locked tho door and put the key in his pocket. By order of the outlaws, Mrs. Jones, her family, and other prisoners, were located at the station master’s residence, in charge of two of the outlaws. Ned Kelly, Steve Hart, several railway repairers and other prisoners tore up the railway line to the east of the rail-way station. After their return to the stationmaster’s residence Ned asked for food, which was supplied by the station master’s wife. A meal of pig’s cheek and bread was enjoyed by Kelly and his com-patriots. Ned’s next request was food for all, and Mrs. Jones volunteered food at her hotel, directing her daughter to prepare the meal. Ned invited all to join him at the hotel. Those who remained at the station master’s residence were in charge of Steve Hart. This exciting experience, combined with the burning down of the hotel in the capture of the gang and the death of her son from a bullet, caused a breakdown in her constitution. A remarkable turn in the tide of events took place when on September 12th, 1881, Mrs. Jones was arrested in Melbourne on a charge of inviting and harbouring the Kelly’s in her hotel. She was brought before the bench three times in Melbourne, and remanded to the gaol hospital, where she remained for some weeks. She was remanded to Wangaratta and committed for trial, and was eventually discharged.
The Glenrowan Wine Palace, as it had become known, was acquired by Sarah Hill from Ann Smith’s estate. After Sarah Hill’s death in 1912 the saloon was operated by various licensees, including Michael Keenan, James Tanner, Agnes Mogford, William Grosvenor and Robert Cunningham.
Just when the building ceased operating as licensed premises is difficult to determine. The last licensee I can find for the building is Robert Cunningham in 1930. To confuse my research further, there is a 1947 image of “The Last Stand Hotel Glenrowan”, in the collection of the State Library of Victoria.
The photograph was taken by the Victorian Railways. However, after Jones’ inn burnt to the ground during the Kelly siege in 1880, Glenrowan has had only one pub – the Railway Hotel on the opposite side of the rail tracks.
I believe this photograph was given the misleading caption: “The Last Stand Hotel” by the photographer, and in fact does not show it as a licensed hotel.
As far as I can ascertain, the wine cafe likely closed for business in the early 1930s and the property was eventually bought by the Briggs family in 1952.
The former Glenrowan Wine Café, the third building on the site, was demolished in 1976. Since that time the land has been left vacant and today continues to be an empty paddock.
The property, at the aptly named “1 Siege St”, is now part of the Glenrowan heritage precinct and was sold again in 2017.
There are limited signs of that infamous night, with the exception of memorial plaques and a replica sign.
An archaeological dig in 2008 uncovered artefacts of the siege including shells, bullets, the charred timbers of the inn, melted window glass and the brass eyelets of one of the bushranger’s boots.
© Copyright Mick Roberts 2020
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