Gundagai’s Great Flood

The 24th & 25th June 2015 will mark the 163rd anniversary of the Great Flood of 1852 which descended upon the Murrumbidgee River and in particular the township of Gundagai. To this day, the 1852 flood remains as the worst flood in Australian history due to the loss of life which occurred at Gundagai.

The original settlement of Gundagai was officially gazetted in 1838 and a township soon began to develop on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River at a place that had been known as “The Crossing”. It seemed natural that a development would spring up at a location that was one of the main crossing places on the road between Sydney and Melbourne. This particular site had even been identified by Captain Charles Sturt on his explorations as a favourable place for crossing the Murrumbidgee.

Unfortunately, the growth, development and surveying of the fledgling village coincided with one of the worst droughts of the 19th century, which was particularly bad in 1838-39. This meant that the first buildings were constructed along the banks of the river and the adjacent river flats. Allotments of land were sold and the plan for the township was laid out with inns, hotels, stores, schools and homes all being built on a tongue of land between the Murrumbidgee River and a tributary called Morley’s Creek.

Despite dire warnings about building on the river flats and possible future floods from the local Indigenous population, Gundagai began to thrive. The first real signs of trouble were in 1844 when a serious flood inundated most of the buildings in Gundagai to a level of approximately three feet. This experience was enough for many locals to petition Governor Gipps for land on higher ground to be released, however this request was denied. Understandably, the Government was later subjected to severe criticism for this decision following the devastation of the 1852 flood.

By 1852 Gundagai had a population of approximately 250 people. The month of June had been incredibly wet with almost three weeks of heavy rain. By the morning of Thursday 24th June the township was isolated, and later in the afternoon the river flats were also completely under water. On Thursday night and during Friday the floodwaters continued to rise as the waters from the upper catchment areas began to hit the township.

During Friday night (25th June) people were forced to clamber onto the roofs of the buildings to avoid being swept away. Others braved the raging waters and tried to swim to find the safety of a tree. The floodwaters were flowing through the houses and buildings at a height of six and a half feet.

One survivor who was obviously deeply traumatised by the whole ordeal later recounted, “Men, women and children never ceased screaming the whole time…A lull would come for a few moments, we could hear the most heartrending shrieks from those who were on the tops of their houses, crying for help, but none could be given them…We could now see a few poor creatures clinging on the trees calling for help; as the day drew on, their voices became more weak, their cries more faint; one after another dropped, and were swept away…those shrieks are now in my ears – never shall I forget the horrors of that dreadful time…the once happy and thriving town of Gundagai was now a desolate, wretched waste. The finding of dead bodies continued for eight or nine weeks.”

Some survivors who were able to find safety in the branches of a tree on Thursday night remained there until Saturday afternoon, through two days and nights of bitter June temperatures. Two such survivors were the young Gormly brothers, James and Thomas (their parents and three other siblings perished). The former was to later become one of Wagga Wagga’s most prominent citizens in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a politician and public figure.

When the Murrumbidgee River eventually peaked early in the morning of Saturday 26th June it was a mile (1.6km) wide. The township had been almost completely washed away with some reports saying that only three buildings had been left standing. Whilst estimates vary on the number of inhabitants drowned, it is believed that at least 89 people perished as a result of the flood. This accounts for at least 35% of the entire population of Gundagai in 1852.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported the calamity in the following manner. “Never within the memory of either black or white man has there been such a disastrous and fatal visitation in these unhappy districts…One of the most fearful catastrophes which it has ever been our lot to record…The village of Gundagai has been almost entirely destroyed.”

As is often the case with devastating natural disasters, many stories of heroism come to the fore. In the Great Flood of 1852 at Gundagai, several young Indigenous men distinguished themselves with acts of bravery that resulted in dozens of people being rescued from rooftops and trees. Some reports say that one of the Aboriginal men called “Yarri” single-handedly saved 49 people by paddling out into the raging river in a small bark canoe. Fittingly there is now a memorial to “Yarri” where he is buried in the Gundagai cemetery. Two other Aboriginal men, “Jacky Jacky” and “Long Jimmy” also helped save a large number of people stranded by the floodwaters. For their bravery the men were presented with inscribed breastplates as a token of appreciation from the township.

Not surprisingly, after the destructive events of June 1852, Gundagai was rebuilt on the higher slopes above the Murrumbidgee River, as depicted in the photograph of the 1896 flood.Gundagai_1896[RW98_25] cropped

Compiled by Wayne Doubleday.

Photograph: Gundagai during the flood of 1896 clearly showing the floodplains where the original township was situated. (CSU Regional Archives – RW98/25)

References: Sydney Morning Herald 05/07/1852, 06/07/1852, 07/07/1852, 08/07/1852, 10/07/1852, 03/03/1855; The Argus 08/10/1932; The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser 24/07/1852; Australian Parliamentary Papers – NSW Legislative Council Votes & Proceedings, 1824-1855, Reel 8, pp. 239-249; The Daily Advertiser, 01/08/1998, pp. 16-17 & 07/07/2010; NSW Government Gazette, 09/10/1838, 22/11/1844, 22/10/1852; “Yarri – A Frontier Story”, Lateline Transcript, ABC, Published 22/09/2003;  www.emergency.nsw.gov.au/content.php/636; www.australianicons.com.au; www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/the-worst-floods-in-australian-history.htm.

The Transformation of South Campus

There’s been a few changes around us on South Campus lately, with the de-construction of some of the older buildings on the campus. Those of you that haven’t visited us for a while are in for a bit of a shock on your arrival.

For many years now, the buildings have looked very sad and dilapidated. Some of them were originally installed on this site for the RAAF hospital in 1944; others were added not long after the beginning of the Wagga Wagga Teachers’ College in 1947. It’s highly unlikely there was ever any intention for them to last 70 years and, believe me, it showed.

However, back in the heyday of the Teachers’ College, the campus grounds were the pride of Wagga Wagga with gorgeous rose gardens, band rotunda, statues, and even a pleasance – all providing a lovely framework to the, frankly, fairly ordinary wooden buildings dotted throughout the campus.

We thought we’d take a look back this week at what the campus looked like in the 1950s and 1960s. The following photographs were all taken from the Wagga Wagga Teachers’ College collection (SA1).

The Wagga Wagga Teachers' College from the air in 1953.

The Wagga Wagga Teachers’ College from the air in 1953. The Principal’s residence, which was recently removed, is in the top left corner.

The College Auditorium - While the auditorium was not a RAAF building, it was on the College very early on and was used for College assemblies, graduation ceremonies and all sorts of performances by the students.

While the auditorium was not an original RAAF Hospital building, it was installed on the site very early on in the College’s history and was used for student assemblies, graduation ceremonies and all sorts of performances by the students up until relatively recently.

View of the College gardens, sundial and auditorium.

The College was very proud of its rose gardens. Here, in 1955, there are labels telling us they had planted Talisman, Mirandy, and Crimson Glory.

The entrance to the Wagga Teachers' College in 1953

This was the entrance to the College in 1953. The photographer is standing in front of the office block, not far from where the Archives is now located.  The gates have changed, and the Principal’s residence was recently removed.

The trellised walkway from the College Gates is still with us, in a way, with a few climbing roses still grimly hanging on to life. Here, the walkway is made of wood. At some point between 1953 and 1971, it was rebuilt out of  steel poles and wires.

However, the trellised walkway is still with us, in a way, with a few climbing roses still grimly hanging on to life. Here, the walkway is made of wood; at some point between 1953 and 1971, it was rebuilt out of steel poles and wires.

The view along College Avenue (Anne's Road).

This was the view outside the gates to the College in 1953. Originally, this potential quagmire was called Anne’s Road, but it was changed to College Avenue in 1949. At the end of the road is the Show Ground and you can see the campus fence was lined with standard roses (it’s now lined with gum trees).

F Block in its prime.

Up until a couple of months ago, this building was the first building you could see when arriving through the College gates. We call it “F Block”, the name it was given in the 1970s. It has been on this site since the RAAF Hospital days when it was the Outpatients Department Hut.

View of the grounds from the roof of one of the central buildings.

Another building that was here since the Hospital but was recently removed is the one seen here on the left (located near the bus stop). Our records show it was originally the NCOs’ Sleeping Hut and when the Teachers’ College took over it may have been the matron’s quarters, then later the office of the Master of College Halls for RCAE.

The statue affectionately known as Myrtle, standing outside the Administration Office.

Myrtle is a blog post all on her own, but suffice to say she is still gracing the grounds of Charles Sturt University, just off the path between Tabbita Walk and Carpark P7.

The Principal's Residence, located on the corner of Charleville Road and College Avenue.

This was the Principal’s Residence, located at the entrance to the campus off College Avenue. One wonders how many students found themselves trying to sneak back to College but were spotted through those windows!

T Edmondson and Co: anything from a tack to an aeroplane

T Edmondson and Co was one of Wagga Wagga’s earliest and largest department stores, serving the town and surrounding district for over a century.

The founder of T Edmondson and Co, Mr Townley Edmondson, arrived from England in 1862. He began working as a commission agent for Mr George Forsyth, then for TH Mate and Co of Albury.

A little later, he purchased a site in Gurwood Street on 9 April 1868 to open his brand new wholesale store. The land had been originally owned by George Forsyth, who sold it to James Simpson in 1858. Simpson built a two-storey brick building on the site, which, combined with the prime location, must have added to the appeal of the site for Edmondson.

T Edmondson and Co., initially trading as a wholesaler to graziers on large stations, was open for business by the end of 1868. The store was situated exactly where Woolworths is now located in Gurwood Street.

During this time of unmade roads, paddle steamers and before the railway, the business dealt mainly as a wholesale nature distributing to the farmers and graziers. The open area between Gurwood and Johnston Streets was once full of waggons and bullock teams. Everything was supplied in bulk and if a “customer ordered whisky, he meant a cask, not a bottle.”

Little is known of the personal life of Townley Edmondson but he certainly had the confidence and enthusiasm to build a business which became known throughout the Riverina. He returned to England permanently in the late 1880’s and passed away at Trefriw, North Wales, at the age of 85 in March 1925.

The staff of Edmondson and Co, Ltd. sometime around the 1930s [from the  Margaret McDonald Collection, RW3018/12].

The staff of Edmondson and Co, Ltd. outside the store in Gurwood Street, sometime around the 1930s [from the Margaret McDonald Collection, RW3018/12].

THE PARTNERS

The store continued to carry the name of T Edmondson long after Townley had relinquished his part in it. James Edmondson, Robert Burrows Wrathall and Edward Edmondson were early members of the company.

A little later, James Skirrow Lupton arrived from England with his wife and entered into partnership with Edmondson’s in 1870. James Lupton headed the firm for 40 years until his retirement.

In 1881, James Edmondson and Robert Wrathall left the partnership and bought Mittagong Station near Yerong Creek. It is not known when James Edmondson returned to England but he died in North Wales on 27 December 1894. Robert Wrathall died on 14 February 1901 at the home of James Lupton in Wagga Wagga.

Charles Hawthorn Croaker resigned from the Bank of New South Wales in Tumut on 4 May 1882 and for about twelve months he managed his own business as a Stock, Station and Commission Agent. He joined T Edmondson and Co. just a year later as a partner and continued to conduct the business in conjunction with James Lupton until his death in June 1898.

Lupton continued in his role as head of the firm until 1901 when Edward Kerfoot was appointed Manager. Mr Kerfoot took over the business until his retirement in June 1945.

During Kerfoot’s time, there was a number of changes to the store, possibly the most dramatic being the amalgamation of T Edmondson and Co with WG Huthwaite and Co, followed by the company becoming limited and selling 150,000 shares at £1 each.

An advertisement for the selling of shares in T Edmondson and Co. Limted. [From The Daily Advertiser, 5 September 1921, page 3].

From The Daily Advertiser, 5 September 1921, page 3.

RETAIL

With the large stations disappearing, retail became the focus of the store and a new era began with extra departments added. At Edmondson’s, you could buy nearly everything: from fine china to sheep licks, groceries to farm ploughs, beds to door handles – “anything from a tack to an aeroplane.”

Jump over to Trove and take a look at some photographs of the interior of the store in 1910: Enterprise in Riverina: T. Edmondson and Co, Wagga Wagga. There are views of the ironmongery department, the grocery department, the bulk stores and produce stores sections, the wine and spirit cellars, the accountants’ room with their very uncomfortable chairs, and the muddy yard, with its jumble of farmers’ sulkies.

A cash receipt from Edmondson's in 1918 [from the Wagga Wagga and District Historical Society Collection, RW5/285].

A cash receipt from Edmondson’s in 1918 [from the Wagga Wagga and District Historical Society Collection, RW5/285].

THE END

The historic name of T Edmondson and Co Ltd ended in 1973 when the store changed its trading name to Mates in July of that year.

Not many years later, Mates became John Meagher and Co, then JB Young Stores with their main office in Baylis Street.

On 2 August 1982 the Gurwood Street closed its doors. JB Young continued to trade in Baylis Street until 5 March 1986 when the store opened as Grace Bros.

The growth and development of Edmondson and Co closely follows the fortunes of Wagga Wagga itself. The town grew exponentially from the 1860s onwards and the Gurwood-Fitzmaurice street area was for so long the “centre” of the town. The changes in the store’s clientele, from wholesale for graziers to retail for town-dwellers and smaller landholders also perfectly reflects the changes in the district.

There was the changeover to shareholders in the 1920s; the acquisition by chain stores in the 1970s and 1980s, the closure of the store in Gurwood Street in the 1980s and the move to Baylis Street. These milestones in the store’s history are milestones in many Wagga businesses during the previous century. But only a very few stores can claim to have seen them all.

Edmondson and Co staff in 1936 [from a photograph donated to CSURA by Mr P Naylor of Wagga Wagga].

Edmondson and Co staff in 1936 [from a photograph donated to CSURA by Mr P Naylor of Wagga Wagga].

By June Dietrich

References: The Argus, Melbourne: 5 April 1956; The Daily Advertiser: 14 February 1901, 30 November 1921, 27-28 August 1923, 25 March 1925, 2 June 1945, 13 October 1969, 25 July 1973, 2 August 1982, 1 April 1986; The Hobart Mercury: 27 July 1874; The Sydney Mail and NSW Advertiser: 10  August 1910; Wagga Wagga Advertiser: 1 January 1895, 18 June 1898, 10 August 1910.

CSU’s Anzacs

Yes, Charles Sturt University does have it’s own World War 1 Anzacs!

While CSU is a relatively young institution, we have been built on the shoulders of colleges who, in their turn, rose out of other educational institutions.  This means that CSU has “inherited” (so to speak) its own Anzacs to remember on this Anzac Day anniversary.

The top of the Wagga Experiment Farm Honour Roll

There are two Honour Rolls on the University campuses, one on the Bathurst Campus for the students and teachers from the Bathurst Experiment Farm, and one on the Wagga Wagga Campus from the Wagga Experiment Farm.

The Bathurst Experiment Farm Honour Roll is a grand memorial made of marble, embellished with a symbolic wreath. Initially installed in the Dining Hall of the Farm, it is now fixed to the wall of the Religious Centre (Bldg 1298). The Roll was unveiled on 4 July 1923 by Mr Chaffey, Minister for Agriculture.

In contrast, the Roll of Honour for the Wagga Experiment Farm is a massive wooden board of oak panels, with carved eucalyptus nuts and leaves around the edges. It can be found inside the Sutherland Building (Bldg 268) along with other memorabilia from the Experiment Farm and Agricultural College.  The Roll was unveiled by Mrs HE Mitchelmore, president of the Wagga Red Cross League, and took place on 31 December 1918.

The Bathurst Experiment Farm Honour Roll, 1914-1919

The Bathurst Experiment Farm Honour Roll, 1914-1919 on the wall of the Religious Centre, on the Bathurst Campus.

 

The Wagga Experiment Farm Honour Roll, 1914-1918

The Wagga Experiment Farm Honour Roll, 1914-1918, inside the Sutherland Building on the Wagga Campus.

  The Bathurst Experiment Farm Roll of Honour:

CSD Adamson G Hebblewhite* FJ Salisbury
RB Allport JO Heinrich AE Salway
W Andrew B Holmes
(Distinguished Service Order)
RG Scott
JM Archer J Holland HL Shannon
EJ Ashworth * WRM Holt
(Distinguished Conduct Medal)
JW Shaw *
E Atkinson C Hutchinson CA Sheddon
WG Balcombe J Hutchinson JG Shepherd
LR Bell CH Hutton AE Shierlaw
JH Bilsborrow RH James NS Shirlow
RB Bousfield EJ Johnson FA Simson
HF Brown R Johnson KR Slade
A Browne
(Distinguished Service Order; Military Cross)
JC Kebby * RM Sloman
RS Browne* LJ Kehoe DWA Smith
AN Burton
(Distinguished Conduct Medal)
CH King H Spencer
HM Butler EF Lane H Stevens
F Capper RD Lee DC Suttor
LP Cameron RD Lees PL Suttor
N Cameron RD Little DWK Taylor *
WW Challis JA Loveday D Terry
L Channer RL Mack HS Thirkell
RA Chapple J Maitland CT Thompson *
DK Colley HS Major HMR Tomlinson
HS Connor * RA McDonald * MP Tonkin
(Military Medal)
JA Cran AS Macpherson
(Military Cross)
TD Toppin
FC Crage M McPhillamy G Traegar
FJ Crebert CLD Meares G Valder
R Curtis * LG Meek * SW Vivian
CH Dakin * DS Middleton WH Wallace
A Dignam * B Minter
(Military Cross)
H Walker *
RG Downing
(Military Cross)
SB Milne H Warden
HJ Dunn JE Moulton HS Wark
JR Edginton R Mowatt JLL Waterhouse
EA Elliott JRG Nash CH Watson
C Farran-Ridge M Parrish R Watson
N Fitzpatrick HA Patterson R Weiss
JW Forbes * LH Phillips JH West
CPC Forsyth * AJ Pinn G Wheeler
CR Gibson C Preston J Williams
EG Gibsone BH Radcliffe A Willmann *
AB Goard * PC Regan E Wilkinson
ABN Grainger
(Military Medal)
LM Rhodes A Wilson
EB Grainger J Rigby JB Wood *
H Gregg CH Robinson RC Woodhill *
A Guthrie * WE Robinson JS Woodruffe
CH Harkness O Rossitter AW Wright
LS Harrison EJ Rowse
AR Hawke NR Roxburgh

 

 

The Wagga Experiment Farm Roll of Honour:

C Armytage
(Military Medal)
GP Edwards * NA Macken RG Rose
GM Armytage CR Elder * SD Maclure JNO Rowe
WJ Atkinson GH Ellis HS Major EH Rowlands
HR Austen R Elkington SH Mallett + ES Rowntree
AH Baber + JA Elmslie H deC Manning V Rowntree
E Barker * GP Edwards JS Martin * TS Rudkin +
RE Barker + NS Edmond EL Meggitt AC Russell +
JE Barlow GC Failes
(Military Medal)
WT Meggitt * G Rutherford
R Barnett T Farrell EW Mitchell RCC Scot-Skirving
H Bartlett W Finlayson GA Mitchell JVG See +
FT Baxter RA Firth G Mitchell ER Shelley
(Military Cross)
HB Baylis AW Fisk W Mitchell * KE Shellshear
BG Beale DB Fitzgerald + TE Moloney + AE Shierlaw
RE Bell JH Forester M duM Montgomery BJ Skelly
BHDM Bertram + GP Forsyth * HR Muddle * CL Smith *
LP Biddulph
(Military Cross)
GV Fosbery JI McBride * TT Smith
C Bolton AP Fox F McDermott HM Smith
JLC Booth GH Francis
(Military Cross)
S McDermott HW Smith
VF Bowler * CL Franzen * WS McKay KG Smith
EG Bracken * AF Furner NR McKeown
(Military Cross)
LF Smith
EA Brassey HH Furner HT McKern * FR Snowball
IA Brassey
(Military Cross)
JS Gardener SHG McKern *
(Military Medal)
EW Sollas
FH Brentnall + CKJ Gibson A McKinlay * (Distinguished Conduct Medal) RJ Spring
HG Brentnall GC Glissan +
(Military Medal)
CG McKinlay E Steele
G LeGay Brereton JC Gorman JK McLauchlan PG Stephens
ATR Brown + JS Gorman RO McLachlan RC Stevenson
ERW Brown RW Graeme DSL McLean + JH Stewart
RR Brown HM Graf EG McMurtrie F Stuart
GH Browne WM Graham I Nelson CH Studdert
SC Bush EJ Gunnersen WE Neill SA Sullivan
JEW Bushelle
(Military Cross)
LJ Gurney * RE Norman CP Summers
VW Caiger A Hannam JR Oates EJ Sustenance
AB Campbell * F Harlock DMM O’Connor WG Tait
HS Campbell CJ Hazlick AH Oliver * MK Tarte *
AM Carne SH Heathwood HO Oliver * OC Taylor *
JB Carson HG Henderson * C Packham CE Thomas
SD Carver
(Mentioned in Despatches)
RW Hill EM Parker FH Thomas
RK Casper
(Croix de Guerre)
FB Hinton
(Military Cross)
ER Parr J Thomas *
WN Child LF Horsley EHH Peck J Thompson
G Clarke
(Military Cross & bar)
CG Hogan FH Penfold HW Thomson
KA Clark ae GE Holroyde WE Penfold GB Thorpe
R Cliff L Horder A Phillips AH Thurburn
L Clifford * CA Hordern GD Pike PF Tierney
HO Clissold EJ Hoskins
(Military Cross)
NW Pile * VR Townsend
JP Coffee SJ Hoskisson * RJN Plowman HR Townson
RJ Cohne F Hughes D Ponsford + OM Tooth *
ER Collins + FW Hughes HO Preshaw EIH Tucker
VR Conolly JBP Hunter * FM Priddle * FL Turner
JM Connor
(Military Cross)
AJ Inglis * CEM Puckle * E Twynam
JJ Combes OCM Ingrey CA Ramsay WJ Varley
(Military Cross; Mentioned in Despatches)
EAF Carfield * NCP Ireland AW Ranken FCG Wade
FW Corner * NAG Johnson RW Raper RG Walsh
C Cotton EE Keenan CS Rayment WD Walster
RB Cowan LJ Kehoe CE Rennie + W Ward
BC Cowper AD Kelynack WR Reynolds JA Watson
NH Cox RS Kemp +
(Kings Honour)
VF Ridge TC Weedon +
TB Craig + BG Kennedy FL Ridgway * HW Weakley
CC Crane WD Kerle HC Ritchie WJ Webster
GH Craven CR Lamrock Eric Robertson CAT West
JW Croker J Langwell Erle Robertson JCD West
HC Cullen
(Military Medal)
RW Lawrence IS Robertson + GS Wilkinson +
JB Cuthbert * LT Leake
(Military Cross)
LD Robertson * LT Willison
KN Cuthbertson CC Little RJ Rodgers + KB Wilson
AD Devlin AS Lloyd FC Rodgers E Windeyer
WM Dill-Macky BB Logan + JA Rolfe CM Wingrove *
LK Dircks WS Macansh
(Distinguished Conduct Medal)
AC Ronald FR Wood
AT Doig *
(Military Cross)
AR Macfarlane + KM Ronald * BR Woods
M von Drehnen AD MacKellar + HH Rose * JL Woodall
G Ducker ES Macken * FL Penfold RW Resso *
CH Edwards RV Hurst * GB Penfold RR Walton
(Military Cross)
Supplementary Board
AC Aiken HR Allen WH Bowden LJG Campbell
L Coffee DR Crawford OV Daly TJJ Dunn
AA Forsyth KVW Lacey FHWW Larbalestier CI Mitchell *
HTS Rake FB Rake CG Reading R McD Rossiter
BV Sheey W Still JI Stuart CH Toomer
HV Way CW Litchfield

 

[A big thankyou to Justin Williams and Julie Clements for their help with getting photos of the two Honour Rolls.]

The Fire-Prone Criterion Hotel

FitzmauriceSt [RW98_25](6)b

Millenet’s Criterion Hotel and Bellair’s Commercial Hotel side by side in Fitzmaurice Street, during the 1891 flood (from the Gormly Collection, RW98)

The Criterion Hotel, located next to the more substantial Commercial Hotel (later Romanos), was established in 1870 by James Markey. Markey, an Englishman, who had arrived in Wagga by the late 1850’s, was also licensee of the Prince of Wales, New Ferry and Squatters Hotels at various times.

Markey purchased the one acre site, which included extensive stores and a commodious dwelling, for £1800 in March 1870. He converted the existing dwelling, which consisted of seven bedrooms, a large drawing room, pantry, kitchen, servant’s room, laundry, offices and underground cellar into “the equal of any hotel out of Sydney”.

A publican’s licence was obtained in May 1870. The Bar and Commercial Rooms commenced operation on June 2, but the opening of remainder of the Hotel was delayed until July 23. Remarkably, and quite unfortunately for Mr Markey, the Hotel was burned to the ground that same night.

Mr Markey recovered from this devastating loss and rebuilt the Hotel upon a much grander scale. Within 18 months of the fire, the Criterion had been transformed into one of the more elegant hotels in Wagga, boasting 36 rooms and featuring a system of plunge and shower baths.

The hotel changed hands many times over the next seven years, with the license passing from Markey to John Clark in 1872 and then transferring to John Perrin, Samuel Gorman, Michael Gorman and eventually to Harry Moxham in 1878.

In 1880, with Moxham as licensee, the Criterion was once again in the news, this time caught up in a much more destructive fire.

By 1883, the hotel was being run by Jean Henry Millenet, who had arrived in Wagga from France during the 1860’s. Millenet, who had operated a bakery during his early years in Wagga, was licensee until 1913, when he relinquished control to Peter Sullivan. He died in Wagga on December 1, 1917.

The Criterion served the public of Wagga until May 24, 1960 when it closed. The furniture and equipment were auctioned on June 7 that year and the building itself demolished in December 1961.

Criterion Demolition001

The Criterion under demolition late 1961 (Tom Lennon Collection – RW1574/330)

 

Get the Habit – Shop in Wagga

There has been a lot of debate in the local press recently regarding consumer loyalty to local “bricks and mortar” retailers, with many business owners decrying the drift towards online shopping. Local retailers argue that they provide sponsorship and donations to local sporting clubs and charities which their online competitors do not match. In addition, the online, frequently overseas based, suppliers do not employ locals.

Interestingly, this is not a new phenomenon, as this excerpt from the Daily Advertiser dated 11 August 1928 shows:

 

Scan.33672

Elsewhere in the same edition there is another advertisement extolling the many virtues of the town and attempting to engender a sense of pride and loyalty within the local community.

Scan.33674

Bellmen, Butchers and Price Gouging

Did you know that Wagga Wagga once had a town crier? We didn’t!

We recently stumbled across an advertisement published in the Wagga Wagga Express on 3 January 1872, saying:

The “Bell” of Wagga Wagga.

Jim Robbins

Wishes to inform the public generally that he has again BEGUN BUSINESS as

Bellman, Town Crier, and Bill-sticker.

All orders left at the Pastoral Hotel will be strictly attended to.

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.

After a bit more searching, we found that the position of town bellman was around in Wagga previous to Mr Robbins’ appearance. A Mr John McCarron identified himself as Bellman in the Wagga Wagga Express on 12 May 1866.

Presumably, it is John McCarron that the paper was referring to as the bellman in the 3 February 1866 edition. Here the author of the report was commenting on the sudden reduction of meat prices – even in 1866, accusations of price gouging spread quickly in Wagga.  The report described the role the town bellman was playing in the affair:

“The Butchers of Wagga Wagga have had every thing their own way lately, and have contrived by a little quiet understanding to [raise] up the price of meat to a most unconscionable figure. All this is now at an end, but whether the change has been brought about by the circulation of a rumour that another butcher was about to establish himself in the town, or by some disagreement amongst the butchers already in business, we know not.

“Certain it is that on Monday last, the bellman dinned into the ears of the townspeople the not unwelcome intelligence that one knight of the cleaver had reduced his prices by about fifty percent. Immediately afterwards he was dispatched through the streets on a similar errand, by a second member of the meat-vending fraternity and was then again hired by the first, and so on the whole morning through.

“The grass is growing beautifully after the rain, and the butchers ought now to have no difficulty in keeping the market supplied with something like decent eatable meat.”