Wandong, more than just a town

Wandong, more than just a town

The Hotels of Wandong.

In January 1876 David Pickup become the licensee of The Travellers Rest Hotel. One can imagine the hotel in those early days, no more than a rough shanty, but travellers weary from a long and arduous ride over the rough hills of the Plenty Ranges, arriving in Wandong, perhaps the horses trotted a little faster with the promise of a rest in the, “large accommodation paddock” or even better the “commodious stables” of the Travellers Rest hotel.

By 1884 David Pickups son, Charles had taken over the license due to the death of his father. Change was just around the corner as Charles began to expand the hotel.

By 1887 George Clayton had become the proprietor, applying for a Victuallers license for a 6 roomed establishment, but he was soon in trouble with the law. He appeared before the Kilmore Licensing Board charge with “having the door open on a Sunday, and “being drunk on licensed premises. After paying the fine adjudicated George was free to return where he and his wife Margaret continued to run the hotel which was the hub of the town.

Matters such as meetings to choose candidates for local council, a gentlemen’s group to arrange a social evening and with the advent of the Robertson empire making its presence felt in Wandong the hotel was used to conduct magisterial enquiries into deaths and accidents that occurred in conjunction with the sawmill operations, usually with Robert Affleck Robertson sitting as the local Justice of the Peace; the finding most often “accidental” but I am sure there was no prejudice shown by the owner of the operations.

Margaret Clayton was a great poet, writing verse for the local papers, describing local events in prose while caring for seven children and running the hotel, George and Margaret would have had busy lives during these times as Wandong was alive with industry at the time.

George and Margaret’s daughter Rosa made Wandong history when she wed Mr Archibald Spicer, on March 6th 1894, the first wedding of the district. It was held in St Johns Church which was located next to the Fairholm homestead.

1892 saw a new proprietor at the Travellers Rest Hotel, Richard C Quinton took over the running of the establishment, and it appears ran the hotel with few problems. By 1901 Elizabeth Quinton was applying for the license to run the hotel, the reason for the transfer given as ill health of Richard. The Quinton’s ran the hotel until 1910, Elizabeth’s death saw the hotel passed into the hands of Mrs Gertrude Stevenson who was allowed to take over the license as no objection was made by the local police. “I should think not”, said counsel for the applicant, “considering that my clients have conducted licensed premises for twenty-nine years without a single complaint against them”. (them refers to Gertrude and her sister (Mrs Quinton), who ran the hotel together).

Every year the proprietors of licensed establishments were required to attend the local licensing court where the license to carry on was either granted or rescinded. In 1911 Gertrude had to pay the princely sum of 50 pounds for her license, a large amount of money in those days. By June 1921 Gertrude and her sister sold all their Wandong holdings and were given a send-off at the public hall. Charles Marshall took over from Gertrude with his wife Florence, and in 1925 transferred the license to Florence. They continued to run the hotel until 1926 when the following occurred: Florence Marshall of Rossmoyne St Thornbury, petitioned for divorce from Charles Thomas Marshall on the grounds of misconduct. The parties were married in 1911. In 1921 she engaged a housemaid and in 1925 she heard that the respondent and the housemaid were very friendly. Both the respondent and housemaid admitted misconduct and subsequently her husband signed an agreement transferring all interests in the hotel to her and providing maintenance for the two children of the marriage.

Bertie Smith was the publican when the great fire of 1933 occurred as described in the poem by Jews Harp.
Tis near Kilmore, you can’t go wrong,
To find the to find the town of Wandong’

Where every sire, each son and maid,

Compose the Wandong Fire Brigade.
Now this tale of fire and flame.
Of plucky men and flappers game,
Who fought the fire and did their best,
To win or die at the Travellers Rest…….

The Travellers Rest, a grand hotel
Went up in smoke that blew to… well.
We cannot say, and are afraid,
To ask the Wandong Fire Brigade.
(This poem is quite long to find a full rendition go to the publication Ghosts Gold and a White Elephant– Ron Pickett).

On the 10th July 1933 the license of the Travellers Rest Hotel was surrendered. The occupier received 125 pounds and the owner 475 pounds.
So began a long period of Wandong being a dry town, although in 1966 the general store obtained a liquor license, but it wasn’t until 1994 that the Magpie and Stump Hotel opened for business built on the same ground as the original Travellers Rest hotel.

The Magpie and Stump Hotel

The opening of the Magpie and Stump Hotel on the 18th of June 1994 was met with excitement by the majority of the locals. Finally, after years of having to go out of town for a meal there was somewhere close by to go. The permit for the building was issued six months before work commenced, one sole objector held the work up and a hearing at VCAT resolved the issue and the pub went ahead.

Wandong Investments headed by Robert and Denise Collier commenced the business with Rob Ferris as Licensee, after Rob left, the license was held by Dale McMillan who had recently retired from the police force.

The hotel was built to reflect Wandong’s history, the Swing bill Bar catered for some while the “Comet Room” named after the Comet Saw-Mill became the first in the area to have Poker Machines. Images of local history adorn the walls and the large warm welcoming open fireplace entices visitors to linger.

The hotel boasts a large function room and a lovely beer garden located along the creek with no name, in 2011 the creek was to impact the hotel in a flood that saw the west side of Wandong under water.

Today the hotel continues to be a popular meeting place for the locals, no longer a Pokies venue but the hotel does support a TAB , functions continue to be held in the gardens and meals are served daily. After 61 years without a pub the Magpie and Stump on the site of the original Travellers Rest continues to serve the local community.

Recording and Preserving Our Past

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