1900-1960 Timeline

Note: This page is a constant work-in-progress, with new information and corrections being made all the time. To search on the “1900-1960 Timeline” for any particular year, person, event, business, shop etc, simply press CTRL+F and type in the thing you are looking for in the small box that will appear on the screen.


Ford Street, Beechworth (looking north) 1900


Beechworth Hospital ‘Wood Day’ procession up Camp Street in 1900


Alfred Ladson opens his third shop in Beechworth – Ladson’s Furniture Dealer store – at 16 Camp Street, directly opposite his Ladson’s Branch Stores shop. It specialises in Ladson’s real love – new and second-hand furniture.

Since 1990 this store at 16 Camp Street has traded asThe Finer Things Of Life’.


A charming three-bedroom home is built at 8 Hodge Street in Beechworth. With various modifications, and now known as ‘The Manor’, it still stands proudly today.


The ‘Midland Counties Hotel’ on the corner of Ford and Church Streets in the 1870s, before Ferderick Warden adds the second story.

In 1889, Edwin ‘Teddy’ Warden had passed the licence of his 1868-built ‘Midland Counties Hotel’ to his two sons – 35-year-old Edwin Warden Jnr and 28-year-old Frederick Oscar Warden. Now, at the start of the new century, the younger son will add a second story to the popular hotel, containing ten new hotel rooms, with a new front balcony, and a rear balcony with ‘a view of the distant Buffalo Mountains’. However, Frederick Warden will die suddenly at the hotel in 1905, aged just 43, leaving his widow Ellen Warden to run the business.


30-year-old William Henry Phillips converts an auction business on Ford Street into the Beechworth Horse and Vehicle Bazaar which includes a wheelwright’s factory and showroom, a harness room, and stables. Phillips, who is President of the Beechworth Trades’ Cricket Association, will soon take over the Beechworth Foundry in Newtown which has been closed since 1896.


A ‘Federation-style’ home – now known as Craig House – is constructed at 32-34 Albert Road. Set on a 4,654 square metre estate, it is built as a home for Daniel O’Connor, manager of the Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum, who will live there for a number of years with his spinster sister Charlotte. The building features a return bullnose verandah with decorative cast iron posts, brackets & frieze and full height windows to the verandah. The four-bedroom home has 13-foot ceilings, leadlight windows, a marble surround fireplace, and a large cellar.

It will be named ‘Craig House’ in honour of Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum’s final manager Douglas Craig, who held the position from 1976 to the end of 1991 and lived in the house with his family during that time. In his retirement, Douglas Craig will research and write the book “The Lion of Beechworth: An Account of the History of Mayday Hills Hospital, Beechworth 1867-1995” published in 1998.

1900 – Oct 31              

A large ornamental fountain is officially unveiled at the Beechworth Cemetery. A journalist describes it as “a cuticular pedestal with circular corners and ornamental panels with a dolphin at each corner, from whose mouths issue water jets. Above spreads a circular shell, upon which stands a graceful female figure supporting another and smaller shell, above which is a circular spray, the whole standing about 15 feet high, and constituting a beautiful work of artistic design”. Amongst those present for the unveiling are Shire President Alfred Arthur ‘Bosher’ Billson and his wife, who is invited to turn on the tap, and the effect is much admired as “the jets of water descend with a pleasant rippling sound into the basin beneath”. Those present then stroll along the path to the new Rotunda at the centre of the Cemetery to partake of light refreshments and to admire the peaceful surrounds of the Cemetery, which had been beautified by the planting of hundreds of trees and shrubs – many of which had been planted only a year earlier.

Beechworth Cemetery Rotunda
Shire President ‘Bosher’ Billson is the eighth child of George Billson, founder of Billson’s Brewery.

1900 – Dec                   

The Zwar Brothers Tannery – one of Beechworth’s biggest employers.

5,332 gold miners still sluice and dig for alluvial gold in the Beechworth area, bringing up a very impressive 400 ounces of gold for the year. The other major industries and employers in Beechworth are the Tannery (above), the Foundry, the Coachbuilders and the two breweries.

1901 – Jan 1                

‘Opening of the First Parliament of the Australian Commonwealth’ at Melbourne’s Exhibition Building – painting by Tom Roberts. It contains 269 individual portraits and took Roberts two and half years to complete. (Image: National Portait Gallery)

Federation! Victoria ceases to be an independent colony and becomes one of 6 states in the Commonwealth of Australia as part of the process of Federation. As Melbourne is the country’s largest city, it becomes Australia’s [temporary] capital city while a new national capital city is planned. (By 1905 the population of Sydney will overtake that of Melbourne to become the Australia’s largest city.)


The Bandstand added to the newly named ‘Queen Victoria Park’ in 1903 after a push from the ‘Beechworth Tourist Club’

Shire President Alfred Arthur ‘Bosher’ Billson calls for Beechworth to have a “beautiful resort for health or pleasure which shall be an object of pride to the residents and an attraction to visitors”. Out of this, the ‘Beechworth Tourist Club’ is founded, becoming a pivitol part of the town’s regeneratrion … introducing walks and walkways, carriage rides, a bandstand, a fernery and almost 200 trees to the Botanical Reserve – soon to become known as Queen Victoria Park.


The front exterior of the newly renamed ‘Federal Hall’ on Loch Street as it looks 100 years later

Following Australia’s Federation on January 1st, St. George’s Hall (also known as the Oddfellows Hall) on Loch Street is renamed Federation Hall. It will become known as the Federal Theatre once silent films begin screening there.

Section of the interior of ‘Federal Hall’


Charlie Prater’s Central Hotel in 1901.

Beechworth now has 20 hotels, including The Central (above), The Star, The Commercial, London Tavern (below), Empire, Belfast, Hibernian, Post Office, Water Right, Shamrock (below), the Harp of Erin and two Chinese hotels – the Sun Quong Goon and Wy Kee.

The ‘London Tavern’ at 43 Camp Street in 1906.


12 women are employed as nurses under Matron Margaret Winning at the Ovens District Hospital, while many more female nurses are employed at the Beechworth Lunatic Asylum under Matron Maria Meade. Many women in Beechworth work in traditional employment such as teaching and nursing … but are paid significantly less than men working in the same occupations.


George Henry Billson, eldest son of George Billson Snr, founder of Beechworth’s ‘Billson’s Brewery’

57-year-old George Henry Billson – who moved to Beechworth with his family in 1865 and went on to serve as the Mayor of Albury in NSW – leaves North East Victoria and moves to ‘Dun Lappie’ in Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick, and is promptly elected to the St. Kilda City Council (1901-11) serving as Mayor in 1909 where he is responsible for the development of the St Kilda Esplanade. He also establishes another highly successful aerated water manufacturing business on Brighton Road, Elsternwick. He dies in 1927 at the age of 83.

George Henry Billson’s brewed Ginger Beer – “finest on the market”.
Billson’s Elsternwick factory occupies about an acre of ground and is fitted with the finest machinery and appliances in the state. On busy days, 14 two-decker wagons, drawn by two horses – each loaded with between 160 and 200 dozen bottles – are sent out. On special days the number of wagons is increased to 18. The factory has stables to stall up to 36 horses. The 40 factory employees handle no less than 50,000 bottles a day! George Henry Billson’s ginger beer is pronounced by experts to be “the finest on the market and well-known Melbourne public houses like ‘Young and Jackson’ “will keep no other brand”.  


The ‘Golden Bar Mine’ at Chiltern (photo courtesy Burke Museum)

There is still gold to be found in the area, and the Golden Bar Mine in established in Chiltern, 25 km from Beechworth. It will yield around 12,453 ounces of gold before work at the mine ceases in 1922. It will be one of the principal mines in the area, as well as the deepest and one of the richest.


A train at Beechworth Railway Station in April 1901

The railways – both for passengers and freight – is a vital and important part of life in Beechworth. Even day trip excursions from Beechworth to Yackandandah are popular (below).

Train from Beechworth to Yackandandah – March 17th 1905


‘The Mansion’, its Servants’ Quarters, outhouses and large gardens

After purchasing Red Hill allotment 6B from Thomas Sandham and allotments 5 and 6a from Mr T. Haig’s widow, 62-year-old German-born Aguste Elsie Marie Meglin commissions the construction of a home that will become known as The Mansion. Sitting on a large property, just over 2km from the centre of Beechworth and close to Lake Kerferd, the house will include several other buildings including servants’ quarters.

‘The Mansion’ at Red Hill in the 1950s, boarded up and overgrown
By 1903, Miss Meglin will be the owner of 28 properties, including 22 acres in Beechworth and 40 acres at Diamond Creek. She had made her money from her family’s success with the ‘Walhalla Gold Mining Company’.


The area under vine in the Shire of Beechworth has now dropped to 103 acres and wine production of 10,416 gallons.

By 1910 this figure will drop even further, to just 33 acres and 1,410 gallons of wine, possibly the result of the spread of phylloxera, first discovered in Rutherglen in 1899. By 1916 less than 5 acres are under vine. Eventually nearly all vineyards disappear from the Beechworth region (except for one) until a resurgence in the late 1970s. 


Pine Trees at the Beechworth ‘Botanical Reserve’, now known as ‘Queen Victoria Park’

A volunteer community group, led by a member of Council, clear a section of land and then plant new trees and shrubs in the ‘Botanical Reserve’. One avenue of 14 pine trees is planted to represent the 12 Beechworth Councillors in office at the time, along with the current Secretary and Engineer. The following year the ‘Botanical Reserve’ will be renamed in memory of Queen Victoria.

1901 – Oct 17

Beechworth pioneer John Alston Wallace photographed in 1890 at age 66

All flags in Beechworth and around the North-East are flown at half-mast following the announcement that John Alston Wallace has passed away in Melbourne at the age of 73. One of the most dynamic of Beechworth’s early pioneers, Wallace seemed to find it impossible to turn his back on business opportunities or to resist the lure of any mining speculation. Although he is one of the first miners in Beechworth and Stanley, he quickly realises that providing supplies for miners will create better financial opportunities than actually digging for gold, and begins establishing a chain of hotels and stores around the goldfields. He becomes famous for his marathon trips on horseback, leaving one of his businesses in one town late at night before arriving at another of his businesses in another town the following morning. Becoming a very wealthy man, in 1889 he provides a lavish ‘Beechworth Banquet‘ for 500 people to celebrate and acknowledge the old pioneers of Beechworth and then puts up money for a new wing at the Ovens Benevolent Asylum and attends the laying of its foundation stone on the day following the ‘Beechworth Banquet’.

1891-built ‘Quat Quatta’ – the home in Ripponlea in Melbourne of John Alston Wallace from 1893 to his death in 1901
Unfortunately, Wallace will lose his substantial fortune – like so many others – in the “land boom bust” in the 1890s, followed by a bitter feud with his family before dying at his Melbourne home ‘Quat Quatta’. On his death, the Legislative Assembly of Victoria is adjourned as a mark of respect.


Zwar Bros Pty Ltd is one of Beechworth’s largest employers and the tannery regularly holds annual picnics and events for its employees and their families, like the one pictured above in 1902.


The Silver Creek School No. 2438 in 1900

The goldmining village of Silver Creek, three kilometres east of Beechworth on the road to Stanley, now has three hotels, along with its small Silver Creek Post Office and School (established in 1882).

When the gold begins to run out, the last hotel at Silver Creek closes in 1920 and the school closes in 1927.  

1902 – May 7                            

A major celebration is held as the ‘Botanical Reserve’ is officially renamed ‘Queen Victoria Park’ after the monarch who died the year before. The dedication is led by The Honourable John Morrissey, Minister for Agriculture. A bowling green is developed in the park the following year (below) and in 1920 a croquet lawn and an open air theatre – complete with public seating on the ‘Giant’s Grave’ rock – have been established.

1903 – Jul 9

One of Beechworth’s early leading citizens, the Honourable Frederick Brown, dies at the age of 73. Having arrived in February 1853 (as an agent for the Port Phillip Gold Mining Co.) when the settlement is a mere collection of canvas and bark buildings, Brown initially works as an auctioneer, going back to Melbourne to study law, before returning to Beechworth as a solicitor and barrister. Elected to Beechworth’s original Borough Council in September 1856, he will become one of its longest serving councillors on record, before serving the district as a member of Victoria’s parliament. Two stained glass windows in the chancel of Beechworth’s Anglican Church perpetuate the memory of his service to the church and to Beechworth.

1903  – Aug                           

The new Beechworth Fire Station opens at 30-32 Camp Street with the station’s steel bell tower and a meeting room added around 1907. The fire station is built by T.A. Shoebridge and features rendered detailing above triple false arches in the ‘Federation Style’. Although the steel tower has been removed, the building stills stands today, one of the few remaining in Victoria from the era, another being in Ballarat.

Beechworth Fire Station in Camp Street at the time of its sale in 2014.
Following the completion of a modern fire station on Victoria Road in November 2013, the old Fire Station is sold in 2014 for $630,000, including the fireman’s residence next door.

1903 – Nov

George Newton’s house ‘Beaumaris’ at 11 Weir Lane.

Beechworth butcher George Newton passes away at the age of 79 at his home ‘Beaumaris’. A well-known and highly respected resident of the Upper Three Mile, English-born Newton had arrived on the ‘May Day Hills’ goldfields soon after gold was discovered in 1852 and the 28-year-old quickly opened a butchering business, which he continued to run until the early 1890s. Living alone in his later years, after the death of his wife, he is regularly visited by his neighbour Mrs. Hartman who, on entering the house on a Monday morning finds old George dead in his chair, with the lamp still burning, suggesting he passed away during the previous night. A few days later, under the direction of Beechworth undertaker W. H. Phillips a funeral procession leaves George’s house ‘Beaumaris’ at 11 Weir Lane and makes its way to the Beechworth cemetery.

The walled pool garden at ‘Beaumaris’
After Newton’s death, his property ‘Beaumaris’ at 11 Weir Lane is sold to Thomas Wood, a painter. He bequeaths it to his daughter Margaret Ryan in 1918 and she holds it until her tragic death by drowning in the well near the kitchen in 1931. It is then sold (by her trustees) to Francis Blume and upon his death in 1938 it passes to his sister Alvina (known as ‘Tops’). She sells it 1971 to Adrian Bartsh and in 1977 Bartsh sells it to Beechworth school teachers Helen Gordon and Neil Smooker. Helen renews the formerly derelict gardens over the following 28 years before she and Neil sell ‘Beaumaris’ in 2005 to Peter and Yvonne Wilkinson. The Wilkinsons refurbish the house and extend the gardens. Peter Kenyon and Jamie Kronborg will re-name the property ‘Wallasey-Beaumaris’ when they purchase it from the Wilkinsons in October 2013 for $765,000.

1903 – Dec 16             

The Beechworth Bowls Club (BBC) is officially opened at Queen Victoria Park by Florence Rose Bligh, the Countess of Darnely (below), on her first visit back to Beechworth since leaving as a young girl. Today the club is situated on the corner of Albert Road and Harper Avenue.

Florence Rose Bligh (née Morphy) is born in 1860, the youngest daughter of John Stephen ‘James’ Morphy, Beechworth’s police magistrate and Gold Commissioner for Beechworth. Florence meets English cricket captain Ivo Bligh at ‘Rupertswood’ near Melbourne in 1883. They marry, and after he becomes the 8th Earl of Darnley in 1900, she becomes Countess of Darnley.

1904 – Apr 17

Bishop Stepehen Reville – born 1844, dies 1916

60-year-old Irish-born Stephen Reville, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst (Bendigo), arrives in Beechworth for the laying of the Foundation Stone for extensions to the 1890s-built Brigidine Convent & Boarding School in front of an excited crowd of around 2,000 people. Situated on 10 acres of land, it will be one of Beechworth grandest buildings, requiring half a million bricks.

Bishop Stephen Reville has huge responsibilities as the Bishop of Sandhurst (Bendigo). The diocese is (then) made up of 22 districts with a total of 37 secular and Order priests, 105 churches, seven Religious Brothers and 200 Religious sisters. The sisters and brothers are responsible for Catholic education in the diocese and control 6 boarding schools, 37 primary schools and 13 secondary schools.


The Beechworth Federal Competitions are inaugurated as an annual musical and elocutionary eisteddfod.


The Beechworth Camera Club is established. Meeting once a month at the Beechworth Public Library, its first President is Beechworth chemist Charles Hembrow, resident pharmacist at the Ovens District Hospital. In 1916 Hembrow will take over William Johnston Bowen’s pharmacy on Ford Street when Bowen retires and moves to Melbourne.

1904 – Jul 4

View of Beechworth from Fletcher’s Hill featured in a 1909 colour-tinted postcard.

Donald Fletcher dies at the age of 74 and is buried at the Beechworth Cemetery. His grand home Myrla sits at 2 Fletcher Road, on Fletcher’s Hill, overlooking the township.  Myrla and its large gardens and surrounding farm land will be purchased by the government in 1953 and then known for a number of years simply as Fletcher House.

Another view of Beechworth from Fletcher’s Hill, named after Donald Fletcher.

1904 – Aug

Two new memorial stained-glass windows – representing St. Peter and St. Paul (below) – are unveiled at Beechworth’s Christ Church in memory of the late Frederick Brown, M.L.C., respected barrister and parliamentarian, Mayor of Beechworth (1866 and 1871). A special address is delivered by the Right Rev. Thomas Armstrong, Lord Bishop of Wangaratta. The congregation includes brethren of Beechworth’s Masonic Lodge of St. John, of which Frederick Brown had been a member from its inception in the town in 1856.

Frederick Brown became the first chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Wangaratta after its creation in 1901.  The stained-glass windows honouring Brown are created by ‘Brooks, Robinson and Co’ of Melbourne who also installed the ‘great cycle’ of windows at Melbourne’s ‘St Paul’s Cathedral’, made by London firm ‘Clayton and Bell’ in the 1890s.
The two stained-glass windows – St Peter (left) and St. Paul – in honour of Frederick Brown in Beechworth’s Christ Church.
Beechworth’s Christ Church (and the new Rectory next door – at left) on the corner of Ford and Church Streets. Note the street lamp in the middle of the intersection.


The wedding party of Frederick John (Jack) Bartsch and Emma Beel at the Baarmutha Railway siding in 1930. Frank Jarvis is sitting on the platform on the extreme left. (photo: The Bartsch Family)

Lee’s Crossing on the North-East Rail Line from Wangaratta to Beechworth is renamed Baarmutha.

1904 – Dec

‘The Priory’ in 1913 featuring a group of pupils and nuns on the balconies

The new wing of the grand Brigidine Convent & Boarding School is completed. Situated on 10 acres of land adjacent to St. Joseph’s School on the newly named ‘Priory Lane’, the school and its gardens become known simply as The Priory.

The school will reach its attendance zenith in the 1960s with 150 students, but by 1978, declining student numbers lead to the closure of the school and convent and the property passes to private enterprise. It is now known as ‘The Old Priory’. 


A view from Camp Street looking up Albert Road towards the Asylum. Blue arrow points to a large sign for ‘Hodge & Hughes’ on the extreme left just before the bridge. Red arrow points to the ‘Ovens Benelovent Asylum at the top of the hill

Hodge & Hughes Monumental Masons are busy at their establishment on Albert Road. John Hodge and Charles Richard Hughes complete orders for the design, creation and erection of monuments in the Beechworth Cemetery and other cemeteries in the district, which are “distinguished by their superior workmanship”.

27-year-old John Hodge arrives in Beechworth in 1888 with a contract to construct cottages at the ‘Hospital for the Insane’. When he completes his contract, he and Charles Richard Hughes go into business together as stone masons. In 1893 Hodge marries Ellen Cornelius of Beechworth and they have four sons (one deceased) and five daughters. In August 1908 – when the borough is divided into ridings – Hodge is elected to the Beechworth Shire Council – of which he becomes a very active member – and will become president of the Shire after World War One. He is a good churchman, a trustee of the Methodist Church and, for over 25 years, a most enthusiastic member of the choir. In 1916, after the death of one of his sons from meningitis, the health of this once remarkably active, energetic man, gradually fails. He continues to devote himself to war work and his work on the council at the expense of his health. Successive attacks of influenza leave with him with a weak heart. Although advised by Dr Lawrence to give up his heavy stone mason work, he continues at his trade until November 1921 when – at age 60 – his health fails completely. Although he is able to attend a Council Meeting in December, it will be his last public appearance. Just after Christmas he suffers a heart attack. Briefly revived by Dr Lawrence, less than an hour later he suffers another heart attack and dies. On the day of his funeral at the Methodist Church, nearly every Beechworth business is draped in black, and a large funeral procession to Beechworth Cemetery is led by members of the Beechworth Council, his business partner 58-year-old Charles Hughes, and his dedicated employees.


The Beechworth Football Club leaves the Ovens & Murray Football Association (O&MFA) and joins the Ovens & King Football Association (O&KFA) where the standard of football is somewhat lower. The Beechworth Bombers will remain with the O&KFA – with the exception of a single season return to the O&MFA in 1907 – until after World War One. The club fields strong sides during much of its time in the O&KFA and will win an unprecedented three-flags-in-a-row between 1912 and 1914!

Beechworth will return for one last attempt at glory in the O&MFA in 1923 but, after six dismally inglorious seasons, will switch back to the Ovens and King with much better results, winning three-flags-in-a-row again between 1937 and 1939! It will remain with the O&KFA until the end of the 2003 season. The club’s overall tally of fourteen senior grade O&KFA/L premierships is surpassed only by Moyhu.  


Victoria’s telephone system is extended to Beechworth, now connected to the telephone exchange.


Cornish-born Joseph Pearce Harper – who arrived in Beechworth as a 16-year-old in 1877 and quickly apprenticed to local bootmaker William Datson – finally opens his own highly successful boot-making business at the age of 44. His business will have clients both locally and, eventually, all over Australia and even in England. An active member of the Beechworth Volunteer Fire Brigade, the Beechworth Rifle Club, and a leading member of the Beechworth Bowling Club, Harper will serve as a member of the Beechworth Council from 1913 to 1923 and again from 1929 to 1945 and is twice Shire President. He will become a respected Justice of the Peace and Beechworth’s Deputy Coroner and – for an impressive 59 years – serve as a member of the Ancient Order of Foresters, having been initiated in ‘Court Robin Hood’ in Beechworth back in 1886 (below). Harper Avenue is now named in his honour.

Newspaper notice regarding the ‘Ancient Order of Foresters’ (A.O.F.) and their ‘Court Robin Hood’


A 1932 image of the Ford Street store owned by Frank Jarvis (highlighted by arrow)

22-year-old Beechworth-born Frank Jarvis purchases a shop on Ford Street and establishes a grocery business. Beginning modestly, Frank makes home deliveries using a handcart or a bicycle. By buying commodities such as flour, sugar and vinegar in very large quantities, he realises he can undercut his competitors and his business grows. He soon acquires horse drawn vehicles – a spring cart and a covered wagon – and for many years he has four horses, two very strong horses to pull the wagon, one cart horse and one saddle hack. They are stabled behind the shop but are regularly moved to one of several grazing paddocks nearby. “Dolly” and “Ginny” (the latter lives for over 30 years) pull the wagon that convey the goods from the station to the shop, all of which come to Beechworth by rail.


The detached weatherboard cottages constructed at Mayday Hills in the 1880s for the accommodation of nurses who live within the walls of the Asylum (photographed in 1900)

The Beechworth Hospital for the Insane has 623 patients, mainly ‘chronic cases’, but a Health Inspector argues that the asylum has “100 patients too many” considering that there is no proper sewerage or heating system; a defective water supply; poor conditions in the kitchens and laundry; high turnover among nurses (possibly due to the poor standard of their accommodation – see photograph above); and other staffing problems.

Due to the findings of the damning report, by 1914 general repairs have been carried out and a new male hospital and kitchen have been constructed.

1905 – Jun

Collet Barker Dodson (1861-1936)

The 1859-built London Tavern at 43 Camp Street has a new licensee – renowned New Zealand actor Collet Barker Dodson. He will depart after a year to become the manager at the Beechworth Jam Factory – established in 1906 as a co-operative to produce jams, pickles and preserves – before resuming his acting and theatre management career. He will die of a heart attack at the Majestic Theatre in Adelaide in 1936. The new licensee of the London Tavern is John Timothy Kelly.

1905 – Jun 22             

Tanswell’s Commercial Hotel with lanterns and bunting – across the road from the fire

Another Fire! A fire breaks out at 4.30am in the dental surgery of Henry Vandenberg, next door to the Star Hotel on Ford Street. Awoken by the noise and the flames, people gather in the street and stand on the balcony of Tanswell’s Commercial Hotel directly across the road to watch the fire brigade try to contain the blaze. Amongst the onlookers at the Commercial Hotel is Sir John Madden, the Chief Justice, and his wife, who will donate £5 to the Star’s licensee John Rowe, and £7 to Mrs Ryan who loses her Fancy Goods Store next door to a vacant shop (also destroyed) on Ford Street. Although there is some fire damage to the roof of the Star Hotel and lots of water damage to the interior, it will continue to operate for the next 13 years.

1905 – Sep

Dr. Henry Augustus Samson, Medical Superintendent of the Beechworth Hospital for the Insane, dies suddenly at the age of 50, leaving his wife Mary with seven children, the youngest just 5 years old. A week earlier, feeling unwell, Dr. Samson travelled to Melbourne to obtain medical advice. He was quickly diagnosed with Bright’s Disease which results in his unexpected and premature death. His body is returned to Beechworth on the train, and mortuary arrangements are carried out by undertaker Mr. W. H. Phillips. Dr Samson and his family had been living on the top two floors of the Beechworth Hospital for the Insane Administrative Building with their accommodation described as “very comfortable” and “palatial”, with patients attending to all their housekeeping duties, including keeping the fires stoked. The Samson family had regularly joined in with the Beechworth community and enjoyed local community life before Henry’s premature death.

10-year-old Henry Samson had arrived in Melbourne with his family from Essex in England in 1865 after his father Edmund Samson’s appointment as a teacher of English and Elocution at Melbourne’s Scotch College. Young Henry went on to study medicine at Melbourne University and become a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in 1880. Whilst studying he meets and marries a nursing assistant, Mary Savage. He becomes a GP in 1882 but decides to specialise in Psychiatry and is appointed Senior Medical Officer at the ‘Kew Asylum’ in 1887, followed five years later by an appointment at ‘Ballarat Asylum’ subsequently being transferred to Beechworth in 1896 to succeed Medical Superintendent Dr Deshon after his passing.


The former Oriental Bank building at 97 Ford Street is taken over by the Savings Bank of Port Philip which will operate from the building until 1988 (as the State Savings Bank of Victoria).

The government-controlled ‘Savings Bank of Port Philip’ is founded on January 1st 1842. In 1912, the Victorian government will reconstitute the bank as the ‘State Savings Bank of Victoria’.


(Image courtesy Burke Museum)

Crowds flock to Baarmutha Park during Easter celebrations. Beechworth is becoming quite the tourist desination.

1906 Postcard of Ford Street in Beechworth


Richard Warren (seated on chair, with white beard) with his staff in front of the ‘Ovens and Murray Advertiser’ Printing Office on Loch Street

Richard Warren, the owner of The Ovens and Murray Advertiser dies, and the newspaper is taken over by his wife Mary Ann Warren who runs it until her death in 1918.

Richard Albert Warren has owned ‘The Ovens and Murray Advertiser’ since 1855 and, at the time of his death at the age of 75, is considered the oldest active newspaper proprietor in Victoria at the time, being the paper’s proprietor and editor for over 50 years. His adopted son Richard Rowe Warren – nicknamed ‘Little Dick’ – works with his father at the newspaper for many years but after his father’s death (and his mother takes over the paper), ‘Little Dick’ chooses to buy Alfred ‘Alf’ William Foster’s popular Newsagent and Tobacconists shop at 74 Ford Street, which Warren will run successfully until his death in 1950. ‘Criterion Lane’ which runs beside the shop is renamed ‘Warren Lane’ in his honour (now ‘The Marion Arcade’).


Alfred Arthur ‘Bosher’ Billson

Following the death of Frederick Allen, his Spring Creek Brewery is purchased by 48-year-old Alfred Arthur ‘Bosher’ Billson who begins converting the brewery into a jam and fruit preserving works. The Beechworth District Jam, Pickle and Fruit Preserving Company Ltd is officially opened in January 1907. A number of Beechworth farm families earn up to £2 a week selling blackberries to the factory.

The S.S. Jam Company in Melbourne.
Billson will sell the preserving company in 1912 to a Melbourne company who rename it the ‘S.S. Jam Factory’ and it continues operations until 1915.

1906 – Nov 5

76-year-old widow Harriet Pratten is found dead on the footpath near her home on High Street, where Harriet has lived alone for the last 22 years following the death of her husband Thomas Pratten (who had run his popular grocery store on the hill at Newtown in Beechworth since the late 1850s – see photo below). The coroner determines she has died due to a brain haemorrhage and chronic Bright’s disease. When Beechworth Police Sergeant Blade and Constable Colin Campbell Gardner later visit Harriet’s home, they make a surprising discovery … they notice a box tucked in behind the back of the chimney. It contains eight large glass jars filled with sovereigns, holding over 850 of the valuable coins. With other jars holding smaller value coins, the complete number of coins in the jars is counted out to be over 3,000 … with a total value of around £900, equal to over $160,000 in today’s decimal currency! Harriet appears not to have made out a will and, as the Pratten’s two sons had both died in their 20s in the 1890s, and their only living relative is a teenage girl in Melbourne, the coins are delivered to her. It is not known what she did with them.

The Newtown Hill shops in 1860, with Thomas Pratten’s store on the far right.


Beechworth locals flock to see silent films presented by various ‘Travelling Picture Show’ companies including McGuires Pictures and Parkinson’s Pictures. One of the most popular and anticipated ‘picture show men’ is Will Hill, who arrives in town with his films and equipment in his truck, then jacks up the back wheels to create a generator to power his electric projector. Mr Hill then gives a lucky local lad a free ticket to the screening for walking around Beechworth with a hand bell shouting “Will Hill’s electric picture show is on in town tonight!”. One of the most popular silent films of the time is “The Story of Kelly Gang”. Released at Christmas 1906, and running for one hour and ten minutes, it is now considered the world’s first feature film. However, by the end of 1907 it will be banned in Victoria for its “romantic portrayal of bushrangers”.


At the Mayday Hills Asylum, a Medical Superintendents quarters is constructed. It will soon be used as an early psychiatric treatment centre.


John Alston Wallace (1828 – 1901)

Although it had been opened on June 22 1897, Wallace Park is now officially dedicated in honour of Beechworth titan John Alston Wallace who had passed away in 1901. The dedication ceremony is overseen by the Honourable Mr Swinburne, Minister of Agriculture, where several memorial oak trees are planted in the park, one of them planted by Margaret Trim, vice-president of the Beechworth Ladies’ Benevolent Society and wife of William Trim, owner of Beechworth’s popular Oven’s Bakery on Albert Road (also known simply as Trim’s Bakery).

1907 – Nov 21

24-year-old Frank Jarvis marries 21-year-old Lillie Gentle Harvey. Beechworth-born Frank is running his popular general store on Ford Street.

1908 – Jan 28              

Nellie Melba aged 46 (photographed in 1907)

A number of excited Beechworth residents pile into coaches to travel to Wangaratta where they have tickets to a performance by Nellie Melba at His Majesty’s Theatre, 48-50 Murphy Street.  After the sold-out concert, Melba will stand on the balcony of Wangaratta’s Commercial Hotel in Murphy Street (below) to wave goodbye to all the Beechworth locals as they head back home, calling out “How long will it take you to get home?” When they call back “About four hours if we meet without accident.” Impressed, Melba replies “And all for the sake of a little music!”.   

Commercial Hotel, Wangaratta (corner of Murphy and Reid Streets) circa 1910
Nellie Melba (real name Helen Porter Mitchell) will be made a Dame in 1918.

1908 – Feb 14

A heatwave hits the North-East of Victoria. Daily temperatures of over 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) will last for a record-breaking eight continuous days in and around Wangaratta and Beechworth.

Another heatwave strikes the area in 1919 where the temperature reaches a sweltering peak of 107.2 degrees (41.7 Celsius) in Wangaratta.


Carlo Catani

Famed Italian engineer 56-year-old Carlo Catani arrives in Beechworth to inspect progress of the first section of the Gorge Road. He has travelled from nearby Mount Buffalo where is is presently in charge of building a road to open up the Mount Buffalo Plateau and dam the Eurobin Creek below the mountain to form a lake (which now bears his namebelow). He will also design and build the difficult roads to Arthur’s Seat and to Mount Donna Buang, so his insights and advice are invaluable.

Catani Lake below Mount Buffalo, 42 km from Beechworth. It is completed in 1910 as part of a larger project to establish Mount Buffalo as a tourist destination.
Since arriving in Australia in 1876 Catini has carved out a respected career with Victoria’s Public Works Department, including widening and improving the Yarra River upstream from Princes Bridge in Melbourne and overseeing the planting of the Alexandra Gardens. Just before his arrival in Beechworth, Catani designs the landscaping of the gardens at the beach-end of Fitzroy Street in St Kilda. They are later named the Catani Gardens’ and are still a popular St Kilda feature today.


The Beechworth Mounted Rifles, a voluntary detachment of the Australian Light Horse Milita, march on their horses down Ford Street. The detachment consists of soldiers from Euroa, Longwood, Violet Town, Benalla, Thoona, Wangaratta, Rutherglen and Beechworth. They will form the 8th Australian Light Horse Regiment.


30-year-old Lot Victor Diffey becomes a local Councillor and eventually serve two separate terms as Shire President, before becoming a member of Victoria’s Parliament in 1929. Diffey Road is named in Lot’s honour.

1908 – Dec 26  

Postcard – Boxing Day 1908.

Beechworth residents – young and old – gather in their finery at Baarmutha Park for Boxing Day celebrations and sporting events.


(Image courtesy Burke Museum)

65-year-old John Fletcher, who has been running the Beechworth Newsagency and Bookseller business next door to the Beechworth Post Office (above) since 1898, sells the popular business to Mr. M. Wyatt. Fletcher – who has acted as agent for “The Leader” and “The Age” during the whole of his business career in Beechworth – had bought the business from James Ingram Jnr, who had himself taken over the business (established by his father in 1855) back in 1882.


The Newtown Bridge and the Newtown Falls – 1909 postcard.

The Newtown Bridge is getting more and more traffic and becoming quite the tourist attraction.


The ‘London Tavern’ on Camp Street photographed in 1906

Popular Beechworth doctor David Skinner and his wife Wilhelmina ‘Minnie’ Skinner purchase the London Tavern at 43 Camp Street and rename it the Federation Hotel. (It stands next door to their home and surgery.) John Timothy Kelly is the licensee and after Minnie’s death the following year, Kelly continues to run the business before purchasing it outright from Dr Skinner and his new wife Beryl in 1918. By 1920 the hotel has become a private home before gradually falling into a state of decline.

The ‘London Tavern’ / ‘Federation Hotel’ in a state of disrepair in the 1950s.
In 1970 the property is purchased by Frank Strahan and a syndicate of fellow Melbourne academics and friends linked to the National Trust, with the aim of conserving the buildings (below).
The front of the restored ‘London Tavern’ facing Camp Street

1909 – May

The Heaviest Man in Australia? Beechworth blacksmith, 57-year-old Charles Phillips – said to be “the heaviest man in Australia” – passes away of a heart attack. For much of his adult life Charles weighs upwards of 30 stone (approx. 191 kg), although he loses 11 stone (70 kg) in weight during an illness before his death. He works as a blacksmith for many years until his ever-increasing weight interferes with his movements and he can longer work.


Billson’s Breweries release their first non-alcoholic beer … and Billson’s Herbal Beer will prove to be one of their most popular beverages. Said to be ‘invigorating’ & ‘healthful’, its original recipe – flavoured with lemon, orange and a range of exotic bitter herbs – is developed from a prescription by Beechworth’s much loved Dr David Skinner. The distinctive bitter drink, later sold as Eks Herbal Beer, is revived by Billson’s in 2019 (above).

1910 – Jan                   

Amy Castles

30-year-old Australian soprano sensation Amy Castles arrives in Beechworth to perform a sold-out concert.


Bridge Road, Newtown in 1910.

Newtown continues to grow on the steep hill just before the Newtown Bridge, with the private home Pennyweight House built at the top of the hill (far right above).

Bridge Road, Newtown in 2010, before restoration in 2020.

1910 – Jan                            

In summer, seats are set up at the bottom of the rock at Queen Victoria Park (above) for popular open-air film screenings (below) and, throughout the year, the Empire Picture Company screens silent moving pictures in the Federal Hall (later renamed the Regent Theatre) while Mr Philips advertises new Edison Phonograph Players and hundreds of popular records at his Ford Street Store.

The screen set up for film shows at Queen Victoria Park

1910 – May 20

King Edward’s Memorial Service at Queen Victoria Park

A procession, followed by a memorial service, is held in Beechworth in memory of King Edward “Bertie” VII who had died on the 6th of May at Buckingham Palace. The procession begins at the upper end of Ford Street led by Captain Robert Barnes, who is followed by the Town Band. The band’s drum is draped in black for the occasion. The procession concludes at Queen Victoria Park where the memorial service takes place.


Elephants from ‘Wirth’s Circus’ make their way up Camp Street from the Beechworth Railway Station.

Wirth’s Circus – led by 46-year-old Beechworth-born Philip Wirth – makes a triumphant return to Beechworth during one of their many Australia-wide tours. Arriving in their special train – consisting of eight passenger cars and 20 wagons – they perform an extended engagement in Beechworth featuring their now famous herd of elephants, along with 40 horses, a lion, two lionesses, two Russian wolves along with cages of wild animals … and a huge tent seating over 1,000 patrons!

Crowds gather at the entrance to the ‘Wirth’s Circus’ tent in 1941 (photo: Sam Hood) ‘Wirth’s Circus tours Australia – and the World – between 1882 and 1963.

1910 – Oct 10

Hopton Nolan’s ‘The Plough Inn’ at Tarrawingee in 1865. It still stands and trades to this day on the main road between Beechworth and Wangaratta.

Irish-born Hopton Nolan passes away at Tarrawingee the age of 82. A substantial landowner in and around the township of Tarrawingee, Nolan (who established The Plough Inn at Tarrawingee in 1861) had been one of John Alton Wallace’s right-hand men at the Nine Mile diggings (later known as Stanley) just as Wallace was starting to build his empire of hotels and stores in the district.


Parker John Moloney – the last headmaster at Beechworth College

Beechworth College – established by James Goldsworthy as Beechworth Grammar School in 1856 – closes its doors after 54 years, when its owner and headmaster Parker John Moloney leaves Beechworth for Melbourne after winning the Victorian seat of Indi for the Labor Party in the Federal election. The Beechworth College school building on Loch Street will become the printing office of The Ovens and Murray Advertiser.

Beechworth Postcard printed in January 1910
Moloney will serve in the House of Representatives from 1910 to 1913, 1914 to 1917 and from 1919 to 1932. He will be the Minister for Transport and Markets in James Scullin’s Labor Government from 1929 to 1932 when he will negotiate Australia’s first trade treaty with Canada.


Staff at Billson’s Brewery, c.1907.
Percy Haddon at far left
, with owner Alfred ‘Bosher’ Billson at far right.

Alfred Arthur ‘Bosher’ Billson’s Beechworth brewery is amalgamated with his brother George Henry Billson’s Albury Brewing and Malting Company, to become the Border United Co-operative Breweries Ltd.  

The Albury Brewing and Malting Co Ltd, near the Union Bridge over the Murray.
‘Bosher’ Billson moves to Melbourne in 1916, making his home at ‘Wooragee’ in Toorak (‘Wooragee’ is named after the place his father George had built a hotel in the 1850s). He dies at ‘Wooragee’ of coronary vascular disease on 31 October 1930 at the age of 72, survived by his wife, three sons and two daughters, leaving an estate valued at £6,047. His older brother George Henry Billson, who at one stage is Mayor of Albury in NSW, moves to ‘Dun Lappie’ in Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick in 1901, and elected to the St. Kilda City Council (1901-11) serving as Mayor in 1909 where he is responsible for the development of the St Kilda Esplanade. He also establishes another highly successful aerated water manufacturing business on Brighton Road, Elsternwick. He dies in 1927 at the age of 83.


Beechworth State School cadets in 1911. Note the ‘Rifle Room’ and ‘Guard Room’ signs on the doors in the background.

The Defence Act of 1910 makes it compulsory for all boys aged 12-14 to sign up for junior cadet training and boys aged 14-18 to join the senior cadets. Students at the Beechworth State School are no exception and begin cadet training. When war is declared in 1914, Australia has “a ready-made army of well-trained, disciplined and patriotic young lads, glad to risk their lives.”


Students outside Beechworth Technical School on Ford Street in 1916

Beechworth Technical School is established at 101 Ford Street. The first headmaster is former Working Men’s College (later RMIT) lecturer William Troutbeck, hired by Albert Michael Zwar, the President of the Technical School Council. The first intake at the new school is an impressive 130 students.

The Beechworth Technical School Football Team in 1920

1911 – Jun 22

A grand ‘Norman Gateway’ is erected in Camp Street to celebrate the Coronation of King George V.


The Public Hall at Beechworth Junction

At Beechworth Junction – where the railway line from Wangaratta branches off to Beechworth – the North Wangaratta Public Hall is completed at a cost of £220. Situated on the north-western side of the railway line, on the corner of Depot Road, the hall initially has corrugated tin walls and roof (with no lining!) but the floor is made of beautiful jarrah and wooden stools surround the side walls. The main part of the hall features two large ‘Miller’ kerosene lights with large chimneys, and a raised stage at one end. The building will later be clad in brick.

With the settlement of North Wangaratta growing at the turn of the century – with new farms and small industry expanding – the local community see the need to establish a community hall to cater for their social needs and the ‘North Wangaratta Public Hall’ will quickly become the centre of district life. ‘Beechworth Junction’ will be re-named ‘Bowser’ in March 1922 in honour of Sir John Bowser, a local journalist, state politician and former Premier of Victoria.


The Minster of Education, Beechworth’s own Alfred Arthur ‘Bosher’ Billson, announces a major development in Victoria’s education system … a number of new ‘Higher Elementary Schools’ are to be established in certain country towns. These will include Benalla, Rutherglen, Omeo and Beechworth. These changes will take effect immediately. This is the most fundamental and important change in Victoria’s education system since its establishment under the State in 1872. The new act strengthens the elementary school system by insisting that every child must now remain at school until the age of 14, unless the child has obtained the merit certificate and is 13 years of age; and, further, it insists that every pupil must, unless there is reasonable excuse, attend school on every school day.


Beechworth State School’ will now include the ‘Beechworth Higher Elementary School‘.

A new High School is established in Beechworth. Following changes to the Victorian education system, the Government proclaims Beechworth State School No. 1560 will add a Higher Elementary School. This is much needed following the closure of Beechworth College in 1910, which had been educating Beechworth’s secondary students for 35 years.  Declining enrollments at the Higher Elementary School will later cause the loss of Leaving Certificate classes, which are not revived until 1957. The Higher Elementary School will be officially upgraded to Beechworth High School in 1959 and then moved to a new, purpose-built building in Sydney Road in 1962. The rooms formerly occupied by the Higher Elementary School then revert to the Beechworth State School.

Some of the older students at ‘Beechworth State School’ in 1900. Note the sequoia pines which were planted around the school grounds by the students as a project over many years, finally completed in 1938.


Harry Anton Johnson purchases ‘The Mansion’ at Red Hill, 2km from the centre of Beechworth, close to Lake Kerferd. Harry moves his family – his wife Elizabeth (‘Lily’) and their five children – to Beechworth from St Kilda in Melbourne, and the Johnsons establish a ‘Ham & Beef’ shop called ‘The Little Digger’ opposite the Beechworth Fire Station on Camp Street. Harry and Lily improve the land surrounding ‘The Mansion’, clearing the brush, erecting more fences, and planting hundreds of trees including 800 apple, pear, walnut lemon and limes (clearly seen in the photograph above). They also attempt to plant a vineyard but it, and the fruit trees, eventually fail. The Johnsons eventually return to Melbourne when Lily Johnson becomes ill, dying at the Austin Hospital for Incurables in September 1924.


Dr David Skinner, Beechworth’s popular local doctor, becomes the first person in town to own a car – a Renault.


Official Beechworth Police Residence (1912-2018) now Dryden House

Victoria Police build a Federation-style home at 104 Ford Street (corner of William Street, opposite the Beechworth Gaol) as the official police residence, and it will remain the Beechworth police residence for more than a century.

In April 2019, the police residence is transformed into ‘Dryden House’ – a multi-use accommodation facility for Victoria Police employees working in Eastern Region Division 4 (ED4) away from home or in the process of relocating to the area. It is named in honour of long-time injury management consultant Jeanette Dryden who assists police employees return to work after physical and mental injuries.  


A stamper battery is built beside the Nine Mile Creek, 10 km east of Beechworth. The stamper battery is used to crush ore-bearing rock, with its twelve stamping heads powered by a single-cylinder steam engine.


‘Warden’s Hotel’ as it looks in the 1930s, on the corner of Ford and Church Streets

Eight years after the sudden death of her 43-year-old husband Frederick Warden in 1905, his widow Ellen Warden has continued to run the family business – The Midland Counties Hotel – established by Frederick’s father Edwin ‘Teddy’ Warden in 1868. Ellen now carries out major renovations and changes the name of the business to ‘Warden’s Hotel’. To celebrate, the Beechworth Town Band play selections from the front balcony for the gathered crowd at the official re-naming, and ‘free drinks are dispensed for an hour’. With the new name of the hotel, Ellen also adds two now ‘iconic’ stained glass windows – ‘Wardens’ and ‘Hotel’ – which can still be seen on the front of the building facing Ford Street today (below).


A ‘passable’ section of Sydney Road in the Shire of Benalla in 1914. This is the road from Melbourne towards Beechworth is it looks at the time.

‘Sydney Road’ – which runs from Melbourne to Wodonga – is officially declared a ‘main road’ by the ‘Country Roads Board of Victoria(established in 1913), although most of it is still unsealed. The passing of the ‘Highways and Vehicle Act of 1924’ through the Parliament of Victoria will provide for the declaration of ‘State Highways’, and Sydney Road (also known as ‘The Main Sydney Road’) will become known as the ‘North Eastern Highway’ on July 1st 1925. Made up of a number of roads from Melbourne – through Seymour, Benalla, Wangaratta and Wodonga at the Murray River- it stretches for a total of 161 miles.


The Beechworth Mining Board, along with other mining boards throughout Victoria, is phased out.


Determined to finish the Gorge Road (started in 1908) behind the town, the Beechworth Progress Association arranges a ‘series of entertainments’ to raise £75 in order to claim the Government grant of £175 to complete the project. Their first fund-raising event is a picture show – the 1913 silent three-reel American film “Ivanhoe” – held at Queen Victoria Park.

The Gorge Road under construction
The completed Gorge Road featuring the Truss Bridge over the Reid’s Creek Falls pictured in the late 1920s
So far, the Gorge Road has only been completed to the head of the Reid’s Creek Falls, and a bridge now needs to be erected over the creek so that the road can continue to the Sphinx. This is estimated to cost around £250, chiefly in labor. It will end up costing substantially more and take another 12 years to complete!


The Billson brothers Border United Co-operative Breweries Ltd. is liquidated and sold to their good friend Albert Michael Zwar, who renames it Murray Breweries in August 1915 (see document above) and takes the name of one of Alfred ‘Bosher’ Billson’s popular products and creates the Melbourne-based soft-drink company Ecks Pty. Ltd. (bottle samples below). Albert Michael Zwar is known as the unofficial ‘King of Beechworth’ and is bestowed the nickname of ‘Big Fella’. He quickly begins restructuring Murray Breweries, closing the Tallangatta factory by the end of 1914 and selling the Albury brewery (which no longer brews due to poor water quality) in 1920. However, Murray Breweries in Beechworth continues to operate successfully, selling Ecks, cordials and various aerated waters within an 80 kilometre radius of Beechworth.  

The Billsons and the Zwars always have a good, if competitive, relationship. There is an annual cricket match between the two companies for many years and the Zwar Bros Pty Ltd annual Christmas party is always well stocked with an extensive range of Billson’s beverages!   
Workers outside the Billson’s Brewery at 29 Last Street in 1915

1915 – Sep 18-19         

Fire at Zwar’s Tannery. A spectacular overnight fire destroys much of Zwar’s Tannery, one of the largest factories of its kind in Australia, and one of Beechworth’s biggest employers. The cause of the fire is never discovered. The economic reality of the time is to move the entire operation to Melbourne, given that the Zwar family already have interests in a tannery in Preston. But the business is insured for £16,000 and Albert Michael Zwar displays his loyalty to the town and his local employees by rebuilding the Tannery in Beechworth – on a larger and more modern scale. (Another factor in his decision might be Albert’s success in negotiating reduced rail freight costs with the Victorian Railways Commissioners.) Little unemployment in Beechworth occurs during the rebuilding phase as many employees are temporarily transferred to the Preston Tannery.

In the 1920s ‘Zwar’s Tannery’ will install electric generators and is able supply Beechworth with electric power (see entry further below) until the State Electricity Commission takes over serves in the 1940s. ‘Zwar’s’ is the largest tannery in country Victoria.


A 1918 newspaper advertisement for Arthur Ladson’s store on High Street.

Established by Alfred William Ladson in 1882, Alfred’s 33-year-old son Arthur George Ladson takes over his father’s popular store at 30 High Street.

Alfred William Ladson arrived in Beechworth at the age of 13 in 1855, and will pass away in Beechworth at the age of 82 in 1923.


The completed first section of the Gorge Road (from the Rose Stereograph Company, courtesy of the State Library of Victoria)

Work is halted on Beechworth’s Gorge Road during the Great War as there are not the funds, nor the manpower, to complete the planned ‘full circuit’ of the road, which has only reached as far as the Reid’s Creek Falls. 82-year-old John ‘Jack’ Skidmore approaches the Beechworth Shire Council to ask for financial assistance after he has spent much his own money and time on the upkeep and repair of the section of the road that has been completed so far.

Skidmore Road will be named after Jack Skidmore in recognition of his efforts in conservation. Skidmore Road links the bottom of Camp Street to the ‘Powder Magazine’ and the Gorge Road. Jack’s home at the bottom of Camp Street had been destroyed in the Christmas bushfires of 1899. Skidmore dies aged 91 in Beechworth on 9 March 1925 and is buried in the Presbyterian section of Beechworth Cemetery.


In the shade of Beechworth’s famous 300-year-old applebox “But-But” tree, the historic house at 2 Dowling Lane becomes ‘Nurse Dowling’s Private Hospital’ and many a Beechworth luminary will be born here between 1916 and 1927. Originally constructed as a prefabricated two room miners’ cottage by prominent citizen James Scobbie during the gold rush, two homes are later joined together on the land and modified in the ‘Victorian style’ by Nicholas & Elizabeth Dowling around the turn of the century, to become known as Dowling House.

A kookaburra happily sits on the Dowling Court street sign in Beechworth (photo: Merri Hogan)
Nicholas ‘Nicky’ James Dowling joins the ‘Cobb & Co’ coach company at the age of 10 in 1862, growing up to become a coach driver with the company. Eventually moving to Beechworth as a driver for ‘Crawford & Connolly’, he will later be elected President of Beechworth’s ‘Hibernian Society’. Nicky Dowling dies in January 1939 and ‘Dowling Court’ is named in his honour.


The Shaw Brothers are now successfully operating two Grocer, Wine Spirit & Produce Merchant stores, one on Camp Street opposite the Fire Station, the other on Albert Road (below).

The Shaw Brothers store on Albert Rod as it looked in the late 1850s


‘Wongrabel’ at 5 Finch Street as it looks today

Frank Jarvis and his wife Lillie Gentle Jarvis (née Harvey) purchase ‘Wongrabel’, the large property at 5 Finch Street established by John Armstrong and his wife Margaret Armstrong (née Johnson). (Armstrong had run ‘Cheapside House’ on Ford Street since 1889.) The beautiful gardens feature a large fern house and glass house. Sitting on two blocks of land on Finch Street and three on the Last Street boundary, the Jarvis’ soon expand the property by acquiring two more blocks on Last Street and, much later, another adjoining property. Frank and Lillie have three children – Max, Roma and Verna – and always live well, with a regular live-in maid. Between 1928 and 1931, their son Max builds a “dirt” tennis court on Last Street.

The ‘Wongrabel’ house still stands, although the once large property has been divided up, with two houses on Finch Street and five on the Last Street boundaries.

1917 – Mar 2

Richard Wesley Wong becomes one of the many young men from Beechworth to die in ‘The Great War’. Educated at Beechworth State School, Richard enlists on February 22 in 1916 and fights as a Private with Australia’s 17th Infantry Battalion. Just over a year later, on March 2nd, an artillery shell explodes close to Richard and he is killed instantly, aged 28, near the French village of Warlencourt. He had been on the Western Front less than four months.

Richard is the son of the respected members of Beechworth’s Presbyterian Church – Chinese-born Bartholomew Wong and his English-born wife Emma Jane Richards. Although Richard successfully enlists in 1916 when the army is desperate for soldiers, a year earlier, in February 1915, when Richard’s younger brother William Thomas Wong attempts to enlist with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) he is turned down as being “not substantially of European descent”.  

1917 – Jun 7

The worst flood since 1870 hits North-East Victoria. Following days of heavy rain, water rushes down the Ovens and King River systems and overflows, drowning six people in Wangaratta and causing much destruction and loss of property throughout the area.

1918 – Jan

Bowen’s Chemist shop at 55 Ford Street at the turn of the century.

After William Johnston Bowen retires from his popular chemist shop at 55 Ford Street in 1916 – selling the business to pharmacist Charles Hembrow of Camp Street – and moving to Melbourne, Bowen misses his footing boarding a Windsor tram whilst in motion on the Esplanade at St. Kilda and is dragged underneath the tram. His injuries are fatal. Aged just 55 at the time of his death, Bowen had served as a member of the Beechworth Shire Council and was also a local J.P. An esteemed member of the Beechworth community, Bowen always takes an active and financial interest in many companies and movements for the advancement of the town. He leaves behind a widow and two sons.

William Johnston Bowen dies tragically at age 55
The shop at 55 Ford Street will continue to operate for many years as a pharmacy before becoming the home of the popular ‘Beechworth Dairy’.


Beechworth Gaol is closed after only one prisoner is held in custody. He is moved to the old police lock-up. Over the following eight years Beechworth Gaol will undergo various alterations before re-opening in 1926 as a reformatory prison for habitual male prisoners.

The alterations include the construction of a new two-storey wing with a chapel at ground level, and a dining-room above; the installation of new bathrooms; and the re-roofing of all building with corrugated iron.


Sittings of the Supreme Court in Beechworth are moved permanently to Wangaratta, while Courts of General Sessions will continue at the Beechworth Courthouse.

The hustle and bustle outside the Beechworth Courthouse in the early 1900s (photo courtesy Burke Museum)


The Beechworth Powder Magazine is closed and abandoned. It has been in use for almost 60 years without an explosion ever taking place. During the depression in the 1930s, a number of unemployed and homeless people will take refuge in the building (which they nickname ‘The Menzies’ – see box below) and woodwork from the interior is ripped from the floors and walls to be used for campfires. There is still evidence in the corner of the foyer of one of the campfires held inside the building during those desperate times. To discourage the homeless and move them on, the Beechworth Council removes the roof, which consequently leads to the Powder Magazine’s deterioration and demise.

1908 image of Melbourne’s magnificent ‘Menzies Hotel’ – opened in time for the visit of Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Alfred, in 1867 (photo: Powerhouse Museum Collection)
Some of the homeless men who use the Beechworth ‘Powder Magazine’ as an overnight shelter will refer to it as “The Menzies”, a sarcastic reference to Melbourne’s grand ‘Menzies Hotel’. Built for Scottish immigrants Archibald and Catherine Menzies in 1867 by David Mitchell, Dame Nellie Melba’s father, the hotel stands proudly on the corner of Bourke and Williams Streets. It will be demolished in 1969.

1918 – Apr                   

Beechworth’s two local newspapers – ‘The Ovens and Murray Advertiser’ and ‘The Ovens Register’ – amalgamate. Thomas Frederick Powden Porritt (son of The Ovens Register founder Andrew Porritt) decides to keep alive the older title and incorporates the Register into the Advertiser.

1918 – Jun

42-year-old George William Hines moves his butcher shop business to John Rowe Pyle’s larger premises on the corner of Camp and High Streets opposite the Empire Hotel (see photo below). Hines will pass away in Melbourne in 1960 at the age of 84.

The large shop on the corner of Camp and High Streets will trade as a Beechworth butcher for many decades. Here, pictured in the 1930s, it is ‘Spencer’s Butcher Shop’.


The Woolshed Falls (5.4km from the centre of Beechworth)

Between 1918-1920 nearly 2,000 ounces (57 kilograms) of gold is extracted from the pool at the bottom of the Woolshed Falls, a much larger amount of gold than other areas around Beechworth at this time. A large steel flume (pipe) is built from the top of the falls to a point downstream, diverting it away from the pool at the bottom. Once the pool is dry, it exposes the gold-bearing material in the sand.

1919 – Jan                   

Following a severe outbreak of pneumonic influenza (‘Spanish Flu’) in Victoria, the pandemic will cause the border between Victoria and New South Wales to be closed.

This border closures will be repeated just over 100 years later when the Covid Pandemic hits Australia in 2020.


John James Alfred Arthur Clements (known as J.A. Clements) takes over the vast William Andrews & Son store at 52-58 Ford Street (where he had worked as a teenager) renaming it the John Clements Store, alters the front of the store including the awning and verandah, and installs the first concrete paving in the shopping area, with “J. CLEMENTS” in large capital red concrete lettering on the pavement right in front of his store. (The lettering can still be seen on the pavement today, over 100 year later.)

The Clements family have been operating shops in Beechworth since 1866 when John Clements Snr opened the first ‘Clements Store’ on High Street. After his death in 1884, his 29-year-old Beechworth-born son John Nichols Clements takes over his father’s popular shop, running it until his death in 1907, aged just 51. His son, John James Alfred Arthur Clements Jnr, who runs his own ‘Cash Grocery’ store on Ford Street, then merges his late father’s High Street ‘Clements Store’. with his own Ford Street shop. He will successfully run the ‘Clements Store’ on Ford Street until his death at the age of 65 on June 12, 1942.


A map of the Beechworth Railway Line, including Beechworth Junction, in 1920

The Postal Department establishes the Beechworth Junction Railway Station Post Office.


The large and imposing brick Salvation Army Hall (Citadel) at 35 Ford Street (above) is demolished after a fire. A new, smaller wooden hall quickly replaces the 1885-built brick building. An extension is added at the rear of the building in 1996. Both sections still stand today and are still run by The Salvation Army.

The front of the 1920-built Salvation Army Hall at 35 Ford Street


Sluice at the Nine Mile Creek in Baarmutha in 1920

The search for gold continues along the Nine Mile Creek at Baarmutha where a large sluice system is now in operation.


Mrs Doig’s Cottage’ is built at 11 William Street. The house is now known as ‘Summerleigh’.

1920 – Mar 23             

Albert Michael Zwar the unofficial ‘King of Beechworth

The Zwar Bros Tannery is incorporated as Zwar Bros Pty Ltd with Albert Michael Zwar as Governing Director with full powers of control. Exports are expanding rapidly, with Zwar Bros overseas shipments to London alone exceeding 315 tons to a value of £72,714.

With the rise of the motor car, in 1922, Albert Michael Zwar sails to England to purchase a large quantity of ‘whole hide’ machinery required for motor trimming. Following his return from overseas and later that same year he stands for election in the Victorian Parliament and is elected unopposed to represent the North-Eastern Province as an MLC. He remains a member of Parliament until his death in 1935. 


The new pavilion at Lake Kerferd is becoming a popular picnic spot and tourist destination. The lake is the main source of water for the Beechworth community, with a capacity of 200 million gallons of water.

1921 – Feb 21

Beechworth RSL Sub-Branch members. Alfred Hoffman seated second from the left. (photo: courtesy Beechworth RSL Sub–Branch)

Receiving its charter from the Victorian Branch of the Returned & Services League of Australia, the Beechworth RSL Sub-Branch is established. One of the founding members is World War One veteran Alfred Hoffman, whose brother Frederick Hoffman had been killed in action.

The RSL Clubroom and Bar at the ‘Anzac Hall’ on Ford Street
Established in 1916 during World War One, the RSL provides support to veterans and their families, acknowledges Australian Defence Force service, and perpetuates its patriotic duty whilst encouraging conversation and mateship between those who have served and their communities. The RSL also commemorates those who have suffered and died in the service of Australia.


Commercial gold mining operations – close to the township of Beechworth – finally cease, while people still search for gold in the surrounding district.

Just a few metres walk from the centre of town, where Lake Sambell now stands, was once a vast goldmining site, which yielded over 1,360 kg of gold through the use of hydraulic sluicing. 


Hiram Crawford’s Livery & Bait Stables in Wodonga in 1876

Despite providing motorised transport services and recently adapting to hiring out motor cars, the coaching firm of Crawford and Connolly finally closes after 65 years in business, symptomatic of Beechworth’s decline as a commercial centre.


The population of Beechworth stands at 2,624, with nearby Wangaratta eclipsing Beechworth at 3,700.

By 1947, Beechworth’s numbers slightly increase to 2,900, while Wangaratta surges ahead to 6,700 people. In 2021 Beechworth stands at 3,900, while Wangaratta has reached 29,400! 


At the liquidation sale of the Rocky Mountain Extended Gold Sluicing Co. the Zwar Bros Tannery purchase the tunnel under Beechworth, together with the water rights from the Rose Reef at Silver Creek, for the knock-down price of just £35!

The tunnel had cost a massive £30,000 to complete between 1876 and 1880. Water is now siphoned off in a 6” pipeline to the ‘Zwar Bros. Tannery’ reservoir and water will never be a problem again.

1921 – Dec

Beechworth’s biggest employers, like Zwar’s Tannery, are relieved when the Arbitration Court in Melbourne rejects the proposal by numerous unions to lower the 48-hour standard working week to 44 hours. Although engineers and timber workers had been granted a reduction in standard weekly hours in 1920, it will take another 14 years before most other unions will be granted a reduction of weekly hours – to 44 – which will become the standard throughout the country.


A newspaper advertisement for Mary Jane Roger’s ‘Star Coffee Palace’

Mary Jane Rogers purchases the Star Hotel on Ford Street for £400 and renames it the Star Coffee Palace, offering good meals and beds for moderate prices, but no alcohol. She will run the Star Coffee Palace for the next two years until she forecloses on the mortgage and Henry Vandenberg takes over the licence, reverting it to the Star Hotel, but the hotel’s “glory days” are now well and truly over.

1922 – Mar 1                            

A Goods Train at Bowser Railway Station in the 1960s

The Railway Station at Beechworth Junction is re-named Bowser after Sir John Bowser, a local journalist, state politician and former Premier of Victoria. A Station Master is appointed at Bowser Station on March 20, 1923, with the position being withdrawn on January 13, 1933.

1922 – Apr

To celebrate 70 years since the discovery of gold at Spring Creek, the first ‘Back to Beechworth’ weekend is held, featuring a number of festivities and a street parade (above).


In nearby Wodonga, the “Number 5 Bridge” is completed and opened to traffic. Spanning Wodonga Creek, it is built of reinforced concrete, except for the central beams which are fabricated steel.


A ‘Flint’ automobile, assembled by the ‘Flint Motors Division’, a subsidiary of the ‘Durant Motors Company’ in Flint, Michigan, in the United States.

After owning an original Ford ‘Tin Lizzie’, Beechworth General Store owner Frank Jarvis purchases a new car – a ‘Flint’ – and establishes a taxi service in Beechworth. Over the following years he will own many different models, always purchased new and always kept impeccably clean and shining. His vehicles include a ‘Durant’ an ‘Austin’ followed by a ‘Hudson’, two ‘Packards’, two ‘Oldsmobiles’, then a very big black Ford, and lastly two Holdens. Soon after setting up his taxi service, he installs a petrol bowser on the street in front of his ‘Bike Shop’ on Camp Street. By 1941 this was a ‘Caltex’ bowser with a glass tank on top into which approximately four gallons (about 17 litres) of fuel is pumped. Commercial travellers journey by train to Beechworth, where they find accommodation and from that base use Frank’s taxi service to convey them to nearby towns such as Myrtleford, Stanley, Whorouly and Yackandandah to obtain their orders. Whenever possible, Frank meets the train from Melbourne which arrives at Beechworth in the afternoon, six days a week, and on many mornings he’d be booked to drive a client to the station to catch the train departing for Melbourne.

Frank’s constant ‘opposition’ is one of Beechworth’s memorable characters – Nicholas ‘Nicky’ Dowling – who for 64 years transports people in his black horse-drawn cab, never failing to meet every train. Nicky had started working for the ‘Cobb & Co’ coach company at the age of 10 in 1862!

1922 – Sep 14

Wangaratta’s streets lit with new electricty (photo: Marg Pullen)

Electricity is switched on in nearby Wangaratta and the town celebrates by lighting its main streets with a dazzling display. Before kerosene lamps were installed in Wangaratta in 1866, the only streets lights are the lamps outside hotels and a publican could go to court for “failing to keep their lamps lighted”.

Although the provision of electricity to Wangaratta had been proposed as far back as the 1870s, the building of Wangaratta’s Gasworks in January 1888 led instead to the transition from kerosene to gas.

1923 – Mar 27

90 year old Ellen Kelly with Father Ryan of Benalla – photographed in 1922.

Ned Kelly’s mother, Ellen Kelly, dies at the age of 91. Ellen has outlived her two husbands and seven of her twelve children. She has reared three of her grandchildren after their mother died, including Frederick Foster who is killed in France during World War One.

In 1841, Ellen and her six brothers and sisters arrived in Australia from County Antrim, Ireland. Her father, James Quinn, is a free settler who rents land for dairying in Brunswick upon their arrival, before moving his brood to Broadmeadows.


Members of the “Beechworth Male Ballet” and their choreographer get ready for the 1924 Beechworth Concert Party’ with the Loch Street swimming baths in the background.

‘Concert Parties’ are a regular and popular form of entertainment in Beechworth.

Men and boys dressed for the 1924 ‘Beechworth Concert Party’, posing in front of Bill Howes’ home on Loch Street, adjacent to the old swimming baths.


77-year-old Henry Vandenberg takes over the Star Hotel on Ford Street. Henry’s parents had run the Vine Hotel (about a mile from Beechworth) for many years (starting in 1863) and Henry now resides in the de-licensed 1858-built Vine Hotel, now known as Vine House.

Henry Vandenberg (or Henry Van Den Berg) is born in London to his Dutch parents Jacob and Christina in 1847 and arrives in Beechworth with them in 1857. At various times Henry has run the ‘Victoria Hotel’ in Everton and the ‘Corner Hotel’ in Beechworth. In the 1890s, attracted by the new gold rush, Henry spends time in Western Australia, gold-prospecting, working as a commercial traveler and then training to become a qualified dentist! He returns to Beechworth where he establishes a successful dentist practice in the former ‘Star Theatre’ building next to the ‘Star Hotel’. He dies at the age of 86 on July 20, 1933, and is buried in the Beechworth Cemetery.


Boys dressed in assorted historic school uniforms in the playground of the Beechworth Higher Elementary School for their “School Days” play.

The Beechworth Higher Elementary School on Sydney Road presents a farcical play titled “School Days” as part of the 1920s State School Concert series. They may well have performed the specially written school song ‘One and All’ (below).

The Beechworth School song – ‘One and All’ in 1924

1925 – Jul 1

The ‘Main Sydney Road’ – between Melbourne and the Murray River – is officially renamed the ‘North Eastern Highway’. Made up of a number of (mainly dirt) roads from Melbourne – through Seymour, Benalla, Wangaratta and Wodonga at the Murray River – it stretches for a total of 160 miles. For many though, the railways are still the best way to travel from city to country areas.


With motor cars becoming more popular, Charles Algernon Reynolds has established the Beechworth Motor Garage on Ford Street and offers a brand new, imported ‘Hudson Super-Six’ to Beechworth customers. From his garage he also sells a range of confectionery and is a licenced radio dealer. At various times Reynolds will be the secretary of the Beechworth Football Club and the Ovens District Hospital. He will die in 1979 at the age of 89, five years after the death of his beloved wife Catherine.

A 1925 Hudson Super-Six crank-start two-door sedan. It is designed and built by ‘The Hudson Motor Car Company’, founded in Detroit by Joseph L. Hudson in 1909.

1925 – Jul 4                 

The Boy Scouts Association – which had begun in Australia in 1908 – commences its first Beechworth Scout Group. Led by Scoutmaster Keith Zwar, they hold their first meetings at the Fire Brigade Hall before Mr W.J. Edwards kindly leases his old Auction Mart on Ford Street to the scouts at a low rent. The 1st Beechworth Girl Guides will be formed two years later with Miss Bell as Captain, and the Beechworth Girl Guide Rangers established in 1931, with Miss Syme of Eldorado appointed Commissioner of Guides for the North-East.

From 1957 the ‘Beechworth Scout Group’ meet at the ‘Serviceman’s Memorial Hall’ on Ford Street before finally moving to its present location, the Scout Hall on the corner of Church and Finch Streets in 1961.


Beechworth’s first electricity! The Zwar Bros. Tannery convert their power supply from steam to oil when they import two Ruston high-compression engines from Lincoln in England. The 13,000kg crude-oil powered engines drive alternators which provide electricity for the tannery.

A Ruston high-compression oil engine similar to the machines Albert Michael Zwar imports from England to create electricity at the his tannery.
By 1925 ‘Zwar Bros Pty Ltd’ owns many properties in Beechworth and surrounding rural areas, with many of the tannery workers living in rental houses owned by the company. The Tannery also organises picnics and outings throughout the years which become quite famous and are always well attended.


Beechworth Gaol re-opens as a Reformatory Prison for habitual male prisoners. In the eight years the gaol has been closed, a new two-storey wing is constructed, featuring a chapel at ground level and new dining hall above, along with new workshops along with a bath house. The roofing of all buildings, both old and new, now features corrugated iron … and electricity is soon connected to the gaol.


A car travels over a snow-covered culvert on the Beechworth-Stanley Road before the road is fully sealed.

£12,000 is spent on upgrading and sealing the first seven miles of the road between Beechworth and Stanley.

1926 – Apr 22

Another of Beechworth’s pioneers, Frederick Reid, passes away. He had moved to Wangaratta in 1888 to marry Margaret Spillane later becoming the landlord at the Red Lion Hotel in Tarrawingee and then the Vine Hotel in North Wangaratta.

‘The Red Lion Hotel’, a red brick building, stood on the corner of Eldorado and Beechworth Roads, next to the Tarrawingee Football Oval, in an area of Tarrawingee known at the time as ‘Irish Town’.

1926 – May 26             

The completed Truss Bridge on the Gorge Road over the Reid’s Creek Falls (from the Rose Stereograph Company, courtesy of the State Library of Victoria)

On a wet and soggy day, the second and final section of the Gorge Road – completed at a cost of £2,000 – is officially opened by Alfred Downward, the Commissioner of Crown Lands, with a ribbon being cut by Jessie Diffey, wife of Beechworth Shire Councillor Lot Diffey. The day ends with a celebration dinner at Tanswell’s Hotel where it is proposed that new electric lights be installed along the new road to give it a “fairyland appearance” at night. The first section, from Sydney Road to Reid’s Creek Falls, had commenced construction around 1908, with work continuing with volunteer ‘working bees’ over many years.  The 5-kilometre scenic one-way road takes in the northern and western outskirts of Beechworth, ending at the Newtown Bridge, allowing visitors – both on foot and in motor vehicles – to take in the specular views of the Spring Creek ravine and the Reid’s Creek Valley.

Gorge Road tourist postcard from the 1940s
The man who officially opens the completed Gorge Road is the Honourable Alfred Downward (above) – the Victorian Minister for Water Supply and Agriculture (1908-09), Minister of Mines, Forests and Public Health (1917-18), Minister for Immigration and Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey (1924-1927). Downward will die in Mornington in 1930 at the age of 83.
Gorge Road runs through the ‘Beechworth Historic Park’ which takes in the ‘Powder Magazine’; ‘One Tree Hill’ (named for the single red stringy bark that survived the miners’ determination to cut down every tree!); the ‘Spring Creek Cascades’; a diversion dam built to divert water into a water race for usage in mining operations; ‘The Precipice’ (with views of the former Reid’s Creek goldfields); ‘Ingram’s Rock’; ‘Fiddes Granite Quarry’; and the ‘Woolshed Falls’.

1926 – Jul 2

A water drinking fountain is unveiled outside the Beechworth Post Office, on the corner of Ford and Camp Streets, in honour of leading Beechworth citizen James Warner, who had passed away, aged 88, on 8 June 1925. The red fountain features gold lion’s heads from which drinking water is dispensed by pushing a small pedal at the bottom of the structure. It still stands proudly in the centre of town (below) and is used regularly for a refreshing drink.

James Warner and his wife Anna have three children, Alice, Charles and their youngest – Lance-Corporal Ray Thomas Warner – who is killed in action in the First World War in 1917 and awarded the ‘Military Medal’ at Messines. One of Beechworth’s most popular butchers, James Warner runs his butcher shop for many decades on Camp Street, just a couple of doors up from the Hibernian Hotel towards the Post Office. He also gives fifty years of service to the town as a local shire councillor from 1875 to 1898, then from 1901 to 1907, and finally from 1908 to 1925, and serves as ‘Beechworth Shire President’ four times and is also a director of the ‘Third Beechworth Building Society’. Warner Road is named in his honour.

1926 – Jul 9

Photograph of celebrated writer Ada Cambridge taken in 1916 by Walter Stoneman (courtesy National Portrait Gallery, London)

Ada Cambridge dies in Elsternwick in Melbourne at the age of 81. Better known to many in Beechworth as Mrs Ada Cross, the wife of Reverend George Cross (who ministered at Beechworth, Wangaratta and Yackandandah), Ada will write more than twenty-five fictional works (many of them serialised in newspapers – under the name of “A.C.”), three volumes of poetry, and two volumes of her autobiography – “Thirty Years in Australia” (1903) and “The Retrospect” (1912) using her maiden name of Ada Cambridge. She experiences her share of tragedy, including a near-fatal miscarriage and a serious carriage accident, as well as the loss of children to whooping cough and scarlet fever.

‘Fidelis’ written by Ada Cambridge in 1895


Stephen Carkeek is running the Post Office Hotel on Camp Street, advertising the fact that the hotel has ‘Electric Light’, only introduced to Beechworth the year before.

1927 – Jun 8

Full steam ahead at the ‘Zwar Bros Tannery’

As the 1926 upgrade from steam to oil has dramatically increased the power output at the Zwar Bros Tannery – and they are now producing excess electricity – Albert Michael Zwar signs a contract with the United Shire of Beechworth Council to supply Beechworth with 24 hour electric power for street lighting at 4 pence per kilowatt unit. The electricity will come from Zwar’s sub-station at Albert Road (next to the Beechworth Gas Works, opposite where Indigo Veterinary Services now operates) until the State Electricity Commission (established in 1921) takes over the service in November 1945.

1927Jun 8

Street Lamps outside the Beechworth Town Hll (photo by Kathy Adamo)

Having taken out a loan of £5,000 to erect and wire new electric streetlamps and poles throughout the main streets, the United Shire of Beechworth Council switch on almost 60 new-fangled electric streetlamps, replacing 37 gas lamps around town. The electricity is provided by Albert Michael Zwar’s crude-oil Ruston engines after the Council signs a contract Zwars at 4 pence per kilowatt unit. The State Electricity Commission will take over the service in 1945.

1927 – Dec

The Silver Creek School in 1922

As the population of Silver Creek dwindles, the Silver Creek School No. 2438 closes after 45 years operating 3km east of Beechworth on the road to Stanley.

1928 – Jan                   

The future site of Lake Sambell

The Beechworth Forward Committee wins £200 to beautify the town in the Sun News Pictorial’s “Ideal Towns” competition. Beechworth-born John McConville supplements this win with a further £200. A lake is proposed for an area very close to town that had been gouged out during the gold-mining era. Council reclaims the land from a grazier who has been leasing it for just £1 per year and construction of Lake Sambell begins within three weeks of approval.

Lake Sambell is named after shire engineer Leslie Herbert Sambell who designs a plan for planting around the lake, with plants purchased from the Victorian Government nursery at Macedon. McConville Avenue that skirts Lake Sambell is named for the generosity of former Beechworth resident John McConville.       


The ‘Hume Highway’ is born as more sections of the road are bitumen-sealed

The ‘Hume Highway’ is officially named. The road has formerly been known as ‘Sydney Road’ and ‘North Eastern Highway’ in Victoria, and the ‘Great Southern Road’ in parts of New South Wales. Adopting the principle of giving each important State Highway the same name throughout its length, both state governments agree to rename the entire inland route between Sydney and Melbourne after NSW-born explorer Hamilton Hume who, with William Hovell, led the first exploration party overland to Port Phillip in 1824. The ‘Hume Highway’ follows much of their route.

Sydney Road begins at Flinders Street Station in Melbourne. Starting as Elizabeth Street, it runs north from the centre of the city eventually becoming Sydney Road. From 1925 the ‘Country Roads Board of Victoria’ has used the term ‘North Eastern Highway’ for the route towards the border, until accepting the change to the ‘Hume Highway’.


After winning the “Ideal Towns” competition, Leslie Herbert Sambell, shire engineer and secretary of the ‘Forward Beechworth Committee’, publishes a 56 page booklet entitled “Beechworth: The Ideal Tourist Resort” to promote the attractions of Beechworth for tourists and prospective residents.


‘The Mansion’ – built by Auguste Maglin at Red Hill in 1901 – is now owned by Frederick John Roberts and his wife Amy who run the property as ‘The Mansions Private Guest House’, although is not not connected to the town’s electric supply or water supply and gets its water from a well on the property.

The main house at ‘The Mansions’ – boarded up and overgrown by the 1950s

1928 – Mar 17             

Ingram’s Rock, beside Old Chiltern Road – named in honour of James Ingram.

James Ingram – one of Beechworth’s pioneers and its one if its oldest citizens – dies just six weeks before his 100th birthday. The “Grand Old Man” lives near the rock on Old Chiltern Road that now bears his name. He is still remembered for his newsagency (still operating today) which supplies newspapers and stationery to diggers on the goldfields in the 1860s, and his part in establishing the Beechworth Hospital and Beechworth State School.

James Ingram’s grave and headstone at Beechworth Cemetery.
Ingram’s house still stands at 75 Old Chiltern Road, just a few yards from the massive ‘Ingram’s Rock’. He is buried at the Beechworth Cemetery where he had been the secretary of the ‘Beechworth Cemetery Trust’ for over 70 years!

1928 – Apr 5-11

A second ‘Back to Beechworth’ festival is held over Easter in commemoration and recognition of Beechworth winning the ‘Ideal Towns’ competition earlier in the year. Old ‘Beechworthites’ and their friends are invited to return for the celebrations, organised by Beechworth Shire engineer Leslie Herbet Sambell.  A special train travels from Melbourne to Beechworth on Saturday April 5th bringing hundreds to the town. Running for seven days over Easter, the ‘Back to Beechworth’ festival includes a vast array of events including a race meeting, Anzac sports, a monster picnic, a motor gymkhana, swimming carnival, fireworks display, re-unions, a Grand Ball, band recitals, motion picture screenings, and a game of cricket – Beechworth versus a Melbourne team.


W.J. Pemberton’s Store on Ford Street in the centre of Beechworth (image from 1932)

Beechworth-born William Joseph Pemberton establishes his Pemberton’s General Store in Beechworth. After learning the grocery business with Taylor &. Co. as a teenager in Beechworth, Pemberton moves to Bright and then to Hay in NSW before establishing his first grocery and bakery business at Goulburn, then at Queanbeyan, before returning to Beechworth at the age of 43 to open his grocery store to support his seven children. Pemberton’s General Store – which competes with eight other grocery traders in Beechworth – delivers goods by horse and cart to customers all over the district, including the hamlet of Stanley. He will run his grocery store in town for the next two decades before retiring and handing over the store to his wife Bertha and their two sons Maxwell and Robert, but continues to run his second business – a real estate agency – until his death in December 1953 at the age of 68.

In November 1935 William Joseph Pemberton moves his Beechworth grocery business into the former ‘Star Hotel’ at 59 Ford Street, a much larger building a few doors up from his long-established store.


Zwar’s finished leather products are shipped to Melbourne by rail from the busy Beechworth Railway Station.

While most country tanneries have closed (going from 40 to just 4) due to freight costs, the Zwar Bros. Tannery is going from strength to strength and now covers over 6 acres and is spending up to £40,000 a year on wages and over £3,000 a year on freight. All finished products are carted by horse and cart 3 kms to the Beechworth Railway Station and then by rail to Melbourne and beyond. The tannery is now using about 400 tons of wattle bark each year. Supplies are becoming difficult to obtain in Australia with some now sourced from South Africa.

The crane at Beechworth Railway Station used for lifting heavy objects on & off trains


The Beechworth Post Office Clock & Bell Tower being raised.

Scaffolding is erected so that the Beechworth Post Office Clock and Bell Tower can be raised even higher, while renovations begin inside the Post Office to update and modernise the interior. When the work is completed in 1930, the tower is almost one floor higher and customers are finally allowed inside the building to undertake their tasks! The long-standing ‘serving window’ is replaced by a double doorway and a full serving counter inside.

The original, shorter Post Office Clock & Bell Tower.

1928 – Oct 6                 

Water fills the former open cut sluice mining site to create Lake Sambell.

Lake Sambell, named after Beechworth Shire Engineer Leslie Herbert Sambell, is formally opened to the public by the Victorian Government’s Minister of Water Supply, Henry Stephen Bailey, as part of initiatives to boost the economies and development of Victorian country towns. This includes the building of a dam wall with overflow capacity. (The dam wall will need major repairs in 2012 after cracks appear.)

Beechworth locals quickly take to the the waters of Lake Sambell in October 1928

1929 – Mar                   

The wooden bridge over Spring Creek – where Camp Street becomes Albert Road – is finally replaced by a concrete and stone structure. Built by a party of Italians employed by the Beechworth Shire Council, the small but sturdy bridge is covered by 8 inches of tarred metal and then given 14 days to set, which is “an inconvenience to people travelling up and down Albert Road”.

Albert Road Bridge in the 1930s
The approach to the Albert Road Bridge today.

1929 – Aug

The owner of Beechworth Motors, Frederick William ‘Wheeley’ Orme, passes away suddenly at the age of 44 after complications following an operation for appendicitis a week earlier. Orme is a popular car salesman in town, selling a range of American cars – including Chevrolets, Dodges and Pontiacs – to excited Beechworth residents. He also offers comfortable motor vehicle tours of the district. He had recently doubled the capacity of his car dealership on High Street and had planned other extensions before his sudden death, leaving his widow Ruby to find a buyer for the lucrative business. A line of 50 cars and other assorted vehicles – nearly half a mile in length – lead Wheeley’s funeral procession through the streets of Beechworth.


(Photo: Dale Cooper)

The Beechworth Gaol acquires a 480-acre property, three miles west of Beechworth. The property, known as ‘The Rest’ after an early local hotel, is to be used by the prisoners to create a pine plantation. The plantation is a success and will be extended with a further 777-acres purchased in 1965. Prisoners also work at ‘The Rockery’ a 280-acre grazing property two miles north of Beechworth.


Happier times at the ‘Beechworth Technical School’ at 101 Ford Street

After 18 years of operation, dwindling student numbers, the decline of local mining jobs, and the opening of a rival technical school in Wangaratta in 1928, brings about the closure of the Beechworth Technical School, whichamalgamates’ with the Wangaratta Technical School.

In its prime position in Ford Street, the modest timber Technical School building – a rectangular hall with an annexe of small rooms on the west side – will sit empty for a few years until acquired by the ‘Beechworth RSL Women’s Auxiliary’ in the 1940s with the intent of turning it into a war memorial hall. Following various proposals, plans, designs, alterations and improvements, the old school will finally be turned into the ‘Beechworth Servicemen’s Memorial Hall’ in 1957.

1929 – Dec 6

Two years and nine months after his death, a memorial to Beechworth pioneer James Ingram is unveiled at the Beechworth Cemetery. The inscription at the base of the memorial reads – “Erected by Friends and Relatives in Recognition of his Great Public Services – Beechworth’s Grand Old Man”. Ingram had died shortly before his 100th birthday.


Chemist Charles Hembrow is now running his Beechworth Pharmacy in Camp Street. He uses his own bottles to dispense his medicines. (These bottle are now collector’s items – above.) Hembrow had previously been the secretary-manager and resident pharmacist of the Ovens District Hospital.


Cyclists gather in town to compete in a big Beechworth Bicycle Race.

1930 – Mar 17             

Ford Street in the 1940s – C.W. McBean’s ‘Reliance Garage’ at far right.

Cameron William McBean (and a Mr O’Brien, his business partner at the time) open the Reliance Garage on Ford Street, a few doors south of the Commercial Hotel. Initially selling ‘Plume’ petrol, it will be replaced by ‘Mobil’ in the 1950s (below).

1930 – Jun 15             

Amy Johnson

Causing a traffic jam on the Hume Highway, 17,000 spectators turn out to witness British aviatrix Amy Johnson – on her solo flight between England and Australia – make her only stopover in Victoria (on her ‘victory lap’ from Canberra to Melbourne) at the tiny Bowser airstrip opposite Bowser Railway Station (formerly Beechworth Junction). She is afforded an official welcome party – led by Councillor Mather, Mayor of Wangaratta – who escorts her from her aircraft ‘Jason’ for celebrations at Wangaratta’s Hotel Pinsent (formerly the Royal Hotel).

1930 – Jul 10

Copies of the Melbourne Herald newspaper are dropped over Beechworth by an aeroplane! The July 9 edition of the afternoon paper had carried a special feature about Beechworth as a tourist resort so, the following day, a plane flown by Pilot Officer Kinnear departs Essendon Airport at 10 am and flies over Beechworth just after midday dropping copies of the special edition from the sky, before flying over nearby Stanley, dropping more copies of the Herald on the Stanley school oval. Having successfully completed his ‘publicity drops’, Kinnear lands his plane back in Melbourne just after 4 pm. At the time, a copy of the Herald sells for 1½ Pence.

1930 – Jul                    

The Ovens and Murray Advertiser is purchased by Raymond Albert Zwar and Bernard Michael Zwar. The brothers will own and manage the newspaper and printing business for 16 years, before selling it 1946.

1930 – Dec 6

Tom Parkinson establishes the first Wangaratta to Beechworth Motor Car Service. This new – and necessary – service has been motivated by the discontinuation of the regular weekend night train service to Beechworth. Parkinson agrees to meet the night train from Melbourne at Wangaratta Station on Saturdays and provide a road service back to Beechworth in a Buick Six car for 10 shillings a head.

Cars lined up in front of ‘Parkinson’s Garage’ on Ford Street which is advertising ‘Buick Six’ cars across the top of the building

1931 – Jan 22

The original tower at Mt.Stanley (photo courtesy Jim Browning)

At Mt. Stanley, located around 11km from Beechworth, a 14-metre tower is completed. Constructed over many weekend volunteer ‘working-bees’, the material for the tower is provided by the Forest Commission. While the tower’s prime function will be for fire observation and protection, its spectacular views will also make it a popular scenic viewing platform.

The Mt. Stanley Tower with added cabin on top (photo by Jim Browning, towerman)
A cabin will be added on top in 1948 and then replaced twice – in 1968 and 1984. The Mt Stanley Tower is last used in 1991 with the cabin removed in 1995 and relocated to the Mt Pilot Tower. Fire detection from Mt. Stanley is now carried out in a new Telecommunication Tower, built in the 1990s.     

1931 – Jan 22              

Portrait of Govenor General Isaac Isaacs by John Campbell Longstaff,

On the same day as Isaac Isaacs is sworn in as Australia’s first locally-born Governor General, the official opening of the newly completed Mt. Stanley Lookout Tower is held, with the ribbon being cut by Beechworth’s Sarah Foster, mother of Beechworth-born legal luminary Judge Alfred William Foster Jnr.

1931 – Apr 7

Portrait of Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, by David Jagger

The founder of the Boy Scouts, 74-year-old Lord Baden-Powell and his 42-year-old wife Olave St Clair Baden-Powell travel through Beechworth in a chauffeur-driven motor car on their way back to Melbourne after visiting their son Peter in the nearby Kiewa Valley. The Baden-Powell’s car even stops to fill up with petrol in Beechworth but, much to the dismay of the 1st Beechworth Scout Group – established in 1925 – nobody is notified of the brief visit, and the boys and their Scout Leader Keith Zwar are disappointed to find out later that they had missed seeing the great man. As one wag commented “the scouts – who should always ‘Be Prepared’ – were not”!

A disappointed Boy Scout.

1931 – Aug                   

The Railway Hotel is purchased by Walter John Nicholas who has plans to expand the business. In 1935 he will add a second storey to the building and change its name to the Hotel Nicholas. The popular hotel on the corner of Camp and High Streets has since been restored to reflect the period of its construction.

A game of ‘Two-Up’ being played in front of the ‘Railway Hotel’ in the early 1930s before a second storey is added and the name changed to the ‘Hotel Nicholas’.

1931 – Dec

The ‘Beechworth School Brass Band’ – getting ready for a performance at the ‘Ovens District Hospital’ – with Tom Tansey seated at front centre, holding cornet.

The popular Beechworth School Brass Band – led by Tom Tansey – perform a concert at Christmas.

Tom Tansey – baton in one hand and playing a cornet in the other – leads the ‘Beechworth School Brass Band’ at the Beechworth Higher Elementary School

1932 – Jan                   

For a second time, Beechworth wins the Sun News Pictorial’s “Ideal Town Quest” competition, with Sarah Foster – mother of Beechworth-born legal luminary Judge Alfred William Foster Jnr – presenting the Beechworth Ideal Town Committee with a cheque for £200. (Frankston comes in at second place with the town of Nhill coming third.)

Screen caption from the 1932 newsreel “Back To Beechworth: The Ideal Town”.

1932 – Mar 24-29        

The third ‘Back to Beechworth’ festival – Easter Parade down Ford Street.

To celebrate the Sun News Pictorial naming Beechworth the “Ideal Town” again, the third “Back to Beechworth” festival is held over Easter. Organised again by Beechworth Shire engineer (and secretary of the ‘Forward Beechworth Committee’), Leslie Herbert Sambell and Beechworth Shire secretary Charles Algernon Reynolds, the varied program includes a Monster Picnic, Easter Monday Sports, Motor Gymkhana, Swimming Carnival, Fireworks Display, Reunions, Back to School event, Grand Ball, a Fancy Dress Procession, and a big cricket match. Arrangements are made for the reception of ‘Old Beechworthites’ to travel back home on a special train that leaves Melbourne on March 24th. Beechworth is the only town to claim the honour of being named ‘Ideal Town’ for a second time.

Due to inclement weather, the Town Band concert, under Bandmaster Tom Tansey, is relocated from the shores of Lake Sambell to the ‘Federal Hall’. The concert includes a range of musical numbers and also features an item by a visiting troop of boy scouts from Yarrawonga, including an exhibition of ‘rope coiling’. Then, on Easter Monday, a large procession makes its way along Ford Street to Baarmutha Park, where a motor gymkhana is held. On the last night, to end the festival, a torchlight procession winds its way through town to Queen Victoria Park, to watch an outdoor screening of the 12 minute silent film “Back to Beechworth: The Ideal Town” (above) followed by spectacular fireworks display which lights up the sky over Beechworth.     

1932 – Jul 31

‘Henry’ Ah Yett – reportedly 105-years-old – dies at Reid’s Creek. The elderly Chinese gentleman is a well-known identity of Beechworth and the district, having lived in the area for over 70 years and is known as the last of Beechworth’s “Joss House Keepers”. ‘Henry’ had arrived in Beechworth in the 1860s and digs for gold for a number of years before establishing a market garden at Reid’s Creek and regularly delivers his vegetables to numerous customers in Beechworth and Chiltern. Also skilled in the use of herbs for medicinal purposes, he is noted for his honesty and his geniality, and his kindness to children is proverbial. He will be the second-to-last Chinese person buried in the ‘Chinese Section’ of the Beechworth Cemetery.


Lake Kerferd, created in 1862, is Beechworth’s main water supply and is still a popular summer place for locals and visitors who can make the 4 mile (6.5km) trip from town (below). The lake has a capacity of 200 million gallons of water.


The ‘Pinsent Hotel’ on Wangaratta‘s bustling Reid Street. In 1923 Anne Edith Pinsent had renamed the former ‘Royal Hotel’ – the first brick building in Wangaratta – after herself.

The Borough of Wangaratta continues to grow and now has a population of 4,795, while the residents of the Beechworth township number 2,852.  


Anyone for Tennis? With the recent addition of a new asphalt court at the Town Tennis Club on the corner of Kars and Finch Streets, Beechworth now has six tennis clubs, including those at the Methodist and Presbyterian Church grounds, the Lawn Tennis Club, as well as the court at the Mayday Hills Asylum (below).


The Beechworth Town Brass Band is popular, performing at numerous functions and events, and regularly practice their music (and their marching!) at Baarmutha Park (above).

1834 – Dec

A “quickie” silent movie “The Adventures of Dot” is shot in and around Wangaratta by filmmaker Jack Mexeldo St. Ledger. Locals are chosen to appear in the film after winning their roles in a competition run by Wangaratta’s Plaza Theatre. Sylia Hardisty is cast to play ‘Dot’, a new schoolteacher who arrives by train in a country town and is romanced by two local lads, to be played by young locals Alan Dodsworth and Les Mears. The plot also involves the local fire brigade, school children and a printing office. It is a ‘quickie’ in every way – cast on December 1st, filming commences on December 2nd, with the completed film rushed to Wangaratta to screen to big crowds at the Plaza Theatre on December 18th!

Texas-born filmmaker Jack Mexeldo St. Ledger travels Australia producing an amazing 47 local versions of ‘The Adventures of Dot’. The films follow exactly the same plot – new schoolteacher ‘Dot’ and her two rival lovers ‘Bill’ and ‘Andy’ – but features local talent and locations. Today, only four different versions of “The Adventures of Dot” still exist, all held at the ‘Australian National Film and Sound Archive’ in Canberra. Sadly, the Wangaratta version starring Sylia Hardisty is not among them. They’re from Grenfell, Temora and Young in New South Wales, and Glenelg in South Australia.

1935 – Feb 23              

Albert Michael Zwar (1863-1935)the unofficial ‘King of Beechworth

Albert Michael Zwar passes away, aged 71. Born in Beechworth in 1863, he receives a state funeral for his dedicated service to parliament and the people of Victoria, with members of Parliament and other Victorian dignitaries joining family and friends at the service, with 150 workers from the Beechworth Tannery marching in front of the funeral cortege.

During the Depression years Albert Michael Zwar is responsible for the establishment of the Stanley pine forest and completing the southern end of the Gorge Road, making it a continuous circuit. He funds these projects by lobbying successfully for unemployment relief money. He is involved in almost every sports club in Beechworth, included the role of President of the ‘Beechworth Bowling Club’ for 26 years. Albert serves on the hospital board for 20 years and is a loyal supporter of the Church of England. A most generous contributor to all forms of charitable endeavour, he helps many young Beechworth locals get a start in business, his one stipulation being that his help remains anonymous. 


The Town Tennis Club and the Lawn Tennis Club amalgamate to form the Beechworth Lawn Tennis Club.  The new club purchases a large piece of land between Albert Road and Tanswell Street and builds seven grass courts and four clay courts. Lighting of the courts will be added later along with a small clubhouse and a carpark.

Aerial view of the tennis courts in 2019 with Albert Road on the left and red-roofed clubhouse on the right by Tanswell Street.
The Beechworth Tennis Courts will stay at this location until April 2019 when the land is sold for housing redevelopment and four new courts are built at the Baarmutha Park Sports Complex, opening in May 2022. 


The Fiddes Quarry is finally closed. Blocks of granite – from along the hills lining the Woolshed goldfields – has been quarried and supplied to Beechworth by Donald Fiddes and Co since the mid-1850s Mostly cut by hand using drills and hammering in wedges to split the rock, the heavy granite is then taken to town by horse or bullock wagons, eventually replaced by motor trucks. The founders of the company, Scottish-born brothers Donald and William Fiddes, had both died some years before. William Fiddes passed away at the age of 73 in 1906, and his older brother, architect Donald Fiddes, had passed away at his home on Finch Street on 11 September 1910, at the age of 85.

The remains of the once thriving ‘Fiddes Quarry’
Numerous important Beechworth landmarks are constructed using granite from the Fiddes Quarry including the Gaol (above), the Newton Bridge, the Courthouse, the disused and dismantled Ovens Hospital and the Powder Magazine. 


Tom Tansey (left) with his mate Rex Thompson

Tom Tansey (who lives on Camp Street and teaches music at the Beechworth Higher Elementary School) and his friend Rex Thompson indulge in their hobby of sluicing for gold in Spring Creek. Even though the ‘rush’ is well and truly over, they continue looking for any alluvial gold still in the creek bed or trapped in the fissures in the rocks. They fill their barrows with soil and rocks then use water to wash away the relatively lighter soil and leave behind particles of gold, using either use a small round pan or a larger sluice.  While they find “bits and piece”, they don’t make their fortune!

1935 – Jun

Newspaper advertisement for Beechworth’sFederal Theatre’ – June 8th 1935 (the title of the first American film is spelt incorrectly – see poster below)

The 1865-built St. George’s Hall / Oddfellows Hall on Loch Street – now renamed the Federal Theatre – continues to draw weekend crowds as it moves from screening silent films to “Talkies”, including the first Australian “Talkies”.

The first Australian “talkie” feature film to begin production is “Out of the Shadows” in March 1930. A five-reel ‘society’ romance, the film is produced in Melbourne by Alexander Roy ‘Dick’ Harwood (as A.R. Howard) using a makeshift sound-on-disc recording system. Though the film is completed, the only set of wax discs buckle in a heat wave before the film can be shown and it is never released. However, Harwood’s next two talkies, “Isle of Intrigue” and “Spur of the Moment” (see image below) are made between July and August 1931 and released in September. They are both about 50 minutes long and often shown together on the same program. They become the first two Australia “talking films” to be shown in the country. Alexander Roy ‘Dick’ Harwood dies in Beechworth in 1980 at the age of 83 and is buried in the Beechworth Cemetery.

1935 – Jun 15             

Tom Parkinson with Tony ‘Sid’ Evans in the wheelbarrow on Ford Street outside ‘Parkinson’s Garage’

A public holiday is declared in Beechworth on the day Tom Parkinson begins pushing Tony ‘Sid’ Evans in a wheelbarrow the 78km from the front of Parkinson’s Garage (71-73 Ford Street Beechworth) to the Mount Buffalo Chalet for a wager of £20. The trial of strength and endurance results from a bet made on Anzac Day 1935 – between local garage proprietor Parkinson and Evans, the licensee of the Post Office Hotel – that Parkinson would not be able to push Evans in a wheelbarrow for 78 kms. Given a time limit of 9 days from start to finish, the men take their bet seriously, with both putting in three weeks training before the event – Parkinson pushes a training load of fifteen stone in a makeshift barrow around Beechworth’s sporting ground, while Evans – who weighs in at 13 stone (83 kilos) – plays lots of golf and practises sitting for long periods in a barrow! Much excitement is generated in the lead-up to the race and 2,000 people surround the “barrowmen” in front of the Beechworth Post Office at the start of marathon race at 1.00pm – sponsored by Dunlop Tyres – where the President of the Shire, Councillor Humphries, breaks a bottle of champagne over the barrow which is christened – ‘The Pride of Beechworth’. The event draws major press coverage.

1935 – Jun 22

Route of the 1935 Wheelbarrow Challenge from Beechworth (at top) to Mt. Buffalo.

The eighth day of the “Wheelbarrow Challenge” – from Beechworth to Mt Buffalo – is one of the most demanding for the ‘pusher’ Tom Parkinson and his ‘passenger’ Tony ‘Sid’ Evans. As they depart at 10am for the final push up Mt Buffalo, six inches of snow covers the ground, and a snow plough has to brought in to clear a path.  Parkinson falls several times and Evans takes a number of spills from the wheelbarrow. The day ends after 5 hours and 9 minutes when the ‘barrowmen” have covered just over three miles and Parkinson has taken 128 breaks!

The snow covered road up to Mt Buffalo is cleared for the wheelbarrow
The daunting prospect of the challenge – and the subsequent hours of physical strain as Parkinson pushes the barrow and its 13 stone burden through rain, mud, sleet and snow over eight gruelling days – captures the imagination of hundreds of thousands of Australians. As each day of the contest passes, public enthusiasm grows, until at the end of the marathon, interest had spread beyond Australia to overseas. Although Parkinson has difficulty keeping to the planned schedule and develops blisters and sore shins, he refuses to call off the bet and insists on continuing. There is plenty of encouragement – crowds line the roads, school children are let out of class to give a cheer as they pass and motorists drive from nearby towns to catch a glimpse of the Beechworth pair. Hospitality abounds as the “barrowmen” are bombarded with more social invitations than they can possibly accept, although they manage to attend a succession of official receptions and dances, and ‘Parky’ dances, in spite of his bandages. When the “barrowmen” reach Mount Buffalo, snow starts to fall heavily and the grade is so steep that stops must be made every twenty yards for Parkinson to rest. A tremendous crowd begin to assemble at the ‘Mt. Buffalo Chalet’ on the final day to see if ‘Parky’ can reach the finishing line in time.

1935 – Jun 23

The end of the “Wheelbarrow Marathon”. Cheered on by a cold but enthusiastic crowd, at 12.30pm Tom Parkinson and Tony ‘Sid’ Evans, sitting in the wheelbarrow, finally cross the finish line on top of Mt Buffalo – with 40 minutes to spare! The end of the 9-day marathon and the official welcome is broadcast all over Australia from the balcony of the Mt Buffalo Chalet. The following week Parkinson, Evans and ‘The Pride of Beechworth’ wheelbarrow will make a number of celebrity appearances at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne. Introduced to the audiences every night by George Wallace, who is currently starring in a show at the Princess, they are played on to the strains of the band playing ‘Shuffle off to Buffalo’. The “Wheelbarrow Marathon” has helped put Beechworth ‘back on the map”! On the last Friday night of the engagement, the £20 wager is ceremonially paid. The cheque, signed by Sid Evans (below), is never cashed, and now resides at the Burke Museum.  

1935 – Jul

Robert Vandenberg’s Dental Rooms and Residence on Ford Street as they look in 2023

Dentist Robert Vandenberg moves into his new Dental Rooms and Residence at 88-90 Ford Street next door to the Lands Office (formerly the Telegraph Station). The building still stands today.

Advertisement from ‘The Ovens and Murray Advertiser’ – July 10 1935

1935 – Sep 1                

The introduction of the 44-hour working week in Victoria. Even with this drop in employable hours, Zwar Bros Pty Ltd rapidly return to pre-depression levels and by 1938 – under the management of Albert Zwar’s sons Keith, Raymond and Bernard – there are 200 staff employed at the Tannery.

Despite pressure from many Australian employers to return to the 48-hour week, the unions fight to keep the 44-hour working week as standard (see picture above). In 1947 the working week will be reduced to 40 hours, with the 38-hour working week introduced in 1983.

1935 – Sep 5

Following the successful and highly publicised Parkinson-Evans “Wheelbarrow Marathon” from Beechworth to Mount Buffalo in June, a husband-and-wife team from Toowoomba in Queensland arrive by train in Beechworth to make an attempt to beat their record. 42-year-old Alfred Williamson and his 40-year-old wife will gather much publicity before they embark on “the test of endurance” a few days later, with Mr Williamson (who weighs only 9 stone, 2 pounds) pushing his wife (who weighs 11 stone, 7 pounds) in their wheelbarrow. They will successfully complete the marathon in just 2 days and 22.5 hours! Flushed with their success, they quickly go on to tackle the Albury to Melbourne wheelbarrow challenge, smashing yet another record – 9 days! Williamson confesses that the days of the wheelbarrow craze are numbered – “People … are fed up with them,” he admitted. But a ‘Wheelbarrow Challenge’ will return to Beechworth in 2015 with the first of a number of “Barrowthons”.

1935 – Nov

The new home of ‘Pemberton’s Store’ in the former ‘Star Hotel’ at 59 Ford Street (as it looks in 1950 – photo: Colin Caldwell)

William Joseph Pemberton moves his Beechworth grocery business a few doors up Ford Street to the former Star Hotel at 59 Ford Street, purchasing the much larger two-storey building for £500 from the Vandenberg family. Also selling second-hand furniture, drapery items and running a real estate agency from the new location, Pemberton will run the businesses from the former Star Hotel until his death in December 1953 at the age of 69. His wife Bertha Pemberton and their two sons, Maxwell and Robert take over the business and continue to run the Pemberton Store.

The former ‘Star Hotel’ had long since passed its “glory days” and the knock-down price of £500 that Pemberton pays for the site is in stark contrast to the £5,000 that the land alone – at its prime central address on Ford Street – is said to have been worth in 1856.

1936 – Apr

The massive seven-cylinder Crossley QVD7 diesel engine in 2014.

At a cost of £6,000, Zwar’s Tannery import an English-built seven-cylinder Crossley QVD7 (350 horsepower) diesel engine to provide electricity to the tannery, and the street lights of Beechworth, replacing its two 1926 Ruston crude-oil engines.


Public Works Department architect Percy Everett designs a nurses’ home/hostel at the Mayday Hills Hospital. Completed in 1937, the three-storey ‘Nurses’ Quarters’ is constructed in the ‘art deco’ style.  Seventy-six years later it will be converted into the Linaker Art Deco Motel.

Prior to the opening of the Nurses’ Quarters, provision is made for nurses to sleep in their own private room located within each ward. Nurses at the asylum are required to live onsite unless they can show sufficient reason not to. The top floor of the nurses’ quarters is later converted for use as classrooms for nursing training. 

1936 – Nov 21

The Hume Dam under construction in 1927

After 15 years of construction and 2 years of water filling, the Hume Dam near Albury is officially opened by the Governor-General Lord Gowrie. It becomes the largest dam in the Southern Hemisphere and a great feat of Australian engineering. Its completion will create the Hume Reservoir, the main water supply on the Murray River system. The official opening is on almost the same day – and near the same spot – that Hume and Hovell had crossed the Murray River (which they named as Hume’s River) 112 years earlier.

Construction workers on the Hum Dam photographed in 1925
The ‘Federation Drought’ – from 1895 to 1903, including the record dry year of 1902 – is one of the worst in Australia’s history. The drought reinforces the need for water storage to capture the high flows in the winter and spring months for distribution during the warmer, drier months. A further drought in 1914 is the final catalyst for the construction of the Hume Dam, with work commencing in 1919. The final cost of the project is £5,550,000 (about $64 million in today’s decimal currency).

1936 – Dec                   

The Most Reverend John McCarthy – Bishop of Sandhurst

Reverend John McCarthy, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst, arrives in Beechworth to celebrate the golden jubilee (50 years) of the Brigidine Convent.


The completed art deco style Nurses’ Quarters.

With the completion on the Nurses’ Quarters at the Beechworth Hospital for the Insane, construction commences on a new female patients ward.


Cyclists gather in the centre of Beechworth in 1937.

Cycling around the Beechworth area continues to grow in popularity.

1937 – Sep

The Beechworth Football Club wins the Premierhip, defeating Myrtleford by 36 points. It is the Bombers first Grand Final win since 1914. It also kicks the highest score in a single match during the year with 26 goals, 15 behinds (171) against King Valley who only score 7 behinds!

In 1937 Beechworth forms a ‘seconds’ football team – the ‘Beechworth Stars’ – who play in the Myrtleford-Bright League.

1937 – Nov 3

Group photo of the ‘Back to Childhood Ball’ (photo by Mr N. R. McGeehan of St Kilda)

Beechworth citizens gather – dressed in an array of clever costumes – for a night of fun and frivolity at the Town Hall for the Back to Childhood Ball. Joining them in the front row in the photograph above is the Balls’ mascot – a small goat!


A 1940 newspaper advertisement for Roy Harvey’s Stationery and Newsagents next to the Post Office.

34-year-old Roy Collington Harvey takes over the Beechworth Newsagency at 26 Camp Street from previous owner James Sloan. Harvey and his wife May will run the business next door to the Beechworth Post Office for the next 28 years, beating James Ingram’s record of 27 years (1855-1882).


Michael Freeman’s store in Myrtleford, managed by his sister Bronia Brezezinski

After establishing Drapery and Manchester shops in Leeton, Cobram, Bright, Wangaratta and Myrtleford (above), 44-year-old Michael ‘Mickey’ Isaac Freeman now moves to Beechworth and establishes a Freeman’s Bargain Draper store at 48 Ford Street, living above the premises.  His sister Helen works alongside him at the Beechworth store.

Michael Freeman’s residence above his shop at 44 Ford Street
Born Michael Friejman in Lodz, Poland in 1894, he had arrived in Australia in 1928 with just 1/6d (15c) in his pocket. Speaking a number of languages, Freeman starts his selling career with a single suitcase full of socks and handkerchiefs, and ‘door knocks’ his way around country towns selling his wares. His natural ability to spot and sell a bargain leads him to a life of business in drapery, furniture and manchester.


Desmond ‘Bill’ Taylor – with his right arm missing – during World War Two.

15-year-old Desmond ‘Bill’ Thomas has left the Beechworth Higher Elementary School and just started working at the Zwar Brother’s Beechworth Tannery alongside his father (who has been employed by the Zwars for some time) when his hand gets caught in a piece of machinery and poor young Bill loses his entire right arm. He will later receive £600 compensation from the Zwars for the industrial accident.

He and his family move to Melbourne shortly afterwards and, despite now only having one arm, Bill applies to join the Australian Army in 1941, hoping to be sent to overseas to be a ‘runner’ between the lines in the war. He is accepted but, because of his work injury, he is instead put to work in the office at the Victoria Barracks throughout the remainder of the war.

1938 – Sep

The Beechworth Football Club are again victorious in the Grand Final – making it back-to-back Premierships – when they beat Myrtleford (again), this time by 21 points. Throughout the entire 1938 season, the Beechworth Bombers are only beaten in one match!

1939 – Jan 13              

Black Friday in Victoria

Black Friday. Much of Victoria is covered with bushfires and 70 lives are lost. This fire, along with a devastating fire near Wangaratta at Christmas 1943 will result in the state government passing an act to form the Country Fire Authority in 1944, which is officially launched in 1946.

1939 – Jul 7                 

Beechworth’s Infancy Welfare Centre is officially opened, as a Sister-in-Charge is employed to supervise two rooms within the Beechworth Town Hall on Ford Street specifically for Beechworth’s new mothers and their babies.


A section of the ‘sealed’ Hume Highway in 1940

The majority of the Hume Highway between Melbourne and Sydney has now been sealed with a bitumen surface. The Hume Highway stretches for 547 miles (880 km).

By 1955 numerous ‘Route 31’ signs have been erected over the full length of the Hume Highway as part of a national numbering scheme for Australia’s major roads.


Proud Paul Voglis in front of his enticing store, specialising in confectionery

Greek-born Paul Voglis is running The Splendid Café, a beautifully stocked, well maintained and popular Milk Bar business at 68 Ford Street. He has been running the business since the beginning of the 1930s and will continue well into the 1940s.

1939 – Sep

The Bombers make it three-in-a-row, when the Beechworth Football Club wins the Premiership, defeating the Waratahs by over 7 goals. Once again, the Bombers are only defeated in one match throughout the entire season!

In an intersting coincidence, the Beechworth Football Club won three premierships in a row – 1912, 1913 and 1914 – just before the outbreak of the First World War. Now they repeat the triple feat again – 1937, 1938 and 1939 – just before the outbreak of the Second World War.


Interior of ‘Downes’ Pharmacy’ in 1941

John Gilmer Downes Jnr establishes Downes’ Pharmacy at 82 Ford Street, where the PharmaSave Beechworth Pharmacy stands today.

The ‘Downes’ Pharmacy’ will become known as ‘Downes Chemist’ and have the new name added in concrete in front of the shop in the 1960s.


Ovens District Hospital in Church Street Beechworth (photographed in 1910).

Having first opened in February 1857, the importance of Beechworth’s Ovens Goldfields Hospital in Church Street is diminished with the construction of new and more modern hospitals in nearby towns like Wangaratta and Albury. It is now officially closed, to be replaced by a smaller but more modern Ovens District Hospital on Sydney Road.

By 1910, the Wangaratta Hospital is receiving more patients than the hospital in Beechworth and by 1940 has replaced Beechworth as the district’s base hospital.


The Hospital & Charities Commission call for tenders for the removal of the now-closed Ovens Goldfields Hospital buildings in Church Street. John James Alfred Arthur Clements is successful in the bid, but the Commission enforces the condition that removal must be completed within 18 months. This proves difficult for Clements who does not have the full resources and manpower (as most men are away at the war) so, after removing most of the buildings, he must leave the large stone façade in place which is why the hospital façade still stands proudly today.

The former hospital gardens will later be renamed ‘Centennial Park‘ and the 1st Beechworth Scout Hall will be built in the grounds in 1962. In 1964 restoration work will be undertaken on the historic hospital façade.

1942 – May 23

The Beechworth Branch of the Country Women’s Association is established, with the first official meeting held on June 5.

The ‘Country Women’s Association of Victoria’ is founded in March 1928 as a philanthropic organisation of women supporting women, children and families across Victoria. Today, Victoria’s ‘CWA’ has approximately 5,000 members.


After being briefly discontinued between 1931 and 1933, ‘County Court’, ‘Court of Mines’ and ‘Court of General Sessions’ cases at the Beechworth Courthouse are now permanently discontinued, with ‘County Court’ hearings moved to bigger township of Wangaratta. All of Beechworth’s ‘County Court’ records are also directed to be moved to Wangaratta.

In 1917 the ‘Wangaratta Court of Petty Sessions’ had assumed responsibility for hearing all Beechworth district liquor licensing proceedings, and sittings of the Supreme Court had been moved from Beechworth to Wangaratta in 1918.


Members of the Price family outside their “Buffalo View” cottage next to the Black Springs Bakery.

After nearly 65 years in business, the Black Springs Bakery closes. Three miles from Beechworth, on the road to Wangaratta, the Black Springs Bakery had been established by William James Price in 1875. After his death in September 1913, his widow Elizabeth Price, along with her son-in-law, George Croom (who has been connected with the bakery for 40 years, having learned the trade from William Price) continue running the business, supplying bread to Beechworth and surrounds. However, after George Croom’s death in September 1942, Elizabeth Price decides to close the bakery, selling the business and goodwill to Mr. P. A. Taylor. Elizabeth passes away a year later, on 2 July 1943, aged in her late 80s. The family cottage – “Buffalo View” – will be dismantled and rebuilt in Beechworth some time later.

The hard-working Elizabeth Price with one of her 13 children.

1943 – Feb 6

Beechworth’s 1856 built ‘Bank of Victoria’ building in 1930

Beechworth’s Bank of Victoria – part of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney (CBC) since 1927 – closes its doors, with the CBC moving its banking operations to Wangaratta, citing a lack of manpower due to the war.

In 1982 ‘CBC’ will merge with the ‘National Bank of Australasia’ to form the ‘National Australia Bank’ (NAB).

1943 – Dec 22

The official monument dedication and memorial service on December 22, 1944, 12 months after the Tarrawingee fire tragedy.

At 4.30pm on an extremely hot and windy afternoon, a fire breaks out beside Bowser Railway Station (formerly Beechworth Junction Station) caused either by tree branches coming into contact with power lines, sparks from a train, or from embers from a gravel truck powered by a charcoal burner. The fire soon gains momentum, heading for the Wangaratta-Eldorado Road. Amongst those who rush to the site as the fire spreads is a fire truck from the Wangaratta Rural Fire Brigade, but as the driver tries to turn the truck around amid the smoke and ash that has engulfed them, he fails to see a roadside drain and the truck’s front wheels become embedded in the drain, leaving the truck unable to move. Confused and disorientated, the men panic, some trying to shelter behind trees, while others run towards the Ovens River. Unfortunately, a few are caught in fences and a number are badly burnt. Ten lives are lost, some at the scene, others dying from their severe burns later in hospital. A monument in their memory stands near Tarrawingee on the way to Beechworth (below). As a result of the fire and loss of life, the state government passes an act to form the Country Fire Authority (CFA) in 1944, which is officially launched in 1946.


Arthur A. Niemann is running his popular Hardware and Furniture store at 24 Camp Street. Niemann also stocks sports equipment including a “range of tennis paraphernalia”.


The two experimental satellite dishes on top of Mt. Stanley. The 1931-built Mt. Stanley tower can be clearly seen in the background on the left.

Two large, round satellite dishes are installed next to the tower at Mt. Stanley, 11km from Beechworth.  The experimental micro-wave radio station is established on the site by the Army Signal Detachment Unit as part of an highly classified Ultra High Frequency (UHF) link between Melbourne and Sydney during World War Two. It intends to determine the hitherto unexplored concept of the transmission of micro-waves; that is, radio signals which can only be transmitted by line of sight, requiring “hill-top to hill-top” locations.


Vin Capriotti establishes the first new vineyard in the Beechworth area in decades, planting 5 acres of mixed grape varieties at Everton Hills, sourced from Chateau Tahbilk.

Capriotti’s vineyard is purchased by ‘Brown Brothers’ of Milawa in 1950, who increase plantings to 40 acres. The last vintage produced by ‘Brown Brothers’ at this vineyard is in 1978 after which it is sold due to low yields and the vines fall into neglect and virtually none remain.

1945 – Nov

45 shops and businesses in Beechworth are connected to the electricity network – known as the ‘White Way System’ – now being provided to Beechworth by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (established in 1921).

1945 – Jul 20

George Henry Farley passes away at the age of 86. Born in Collingwood in Melbourne in 1857, he arrived in Beechworth with his parents as a 6-year-old. Learning the carpentry trade from his father, George Farley Snr, he will become a respected Beechworth builder and undertaker, after taking over the undertaking business from James Kyle at 39 Ford Street. George Henry Farley is very involved in the Beechworth community and is bandmaster of the ‘Beechworth Town Band’ for 16 years and a member of the ‘Ancient Order of Foresters’ for an impressive 68 years! In 1878 he married Elizabeth Jane Crouch, and they have 9 children, 28 grand-children and 15 great-grand-children! George will outlive his wife by 15 years.


Chain store titan Oliver Gilpin

Following the death of millionaire chain store operator Oliver Gilpin in 1942, Frank Jarvis, who has run his popular general store at 73 Ford Street since 1905, purchases the adjoining ‘O. Gilpin’ branch store which had, for many years, been owned and operated by Gilpin as one of his numerous Australia-wide clothing and haberdashery chain stores. Frank’s new acquisition becomes the grocery store while his old shop now houses his large range of hardware products, which had previously been located in a small area of the original shop. The very large storeroom behind the old grocery shop remains the storeroom for foodstuff and fodder. Frank’s son Max had been managing the business for some years before World War II (when he was a member of the R.A.A.F) and on his return continues to do so until 1956 when Frank sells the grocery business to Max and his wife Jean.

The ‘Jarvis Grocery Store’ is not Frank’s only business venture; he also owns the adjoining shop on the Camp Street side, which he purchased soon after the first World War. This is known as ‘The Bike Shop’ where he sells new bicycles and baby’s perambulators, as well as rebuilding and repairing others. Always artistic, Frank regularly adorns bicycles and prams with finely painted designs. He hires bicycles to the local lads for three pence per half-hour or sixpence per hour. For many years, at the rear of ‘The Bike Shop’ stands a penny-farthing bicycle which, in his younger years Frank, rides in town processions. When he sells the grocery shop to his son Max in 1956, he retains ‘The Bike Shop’, which he continues to operate until his death in 1964.


Wong Hur – aka ‘Blind Tommy’photographed in 1941

Well known local identity Wong Hor – ‘Blind Tommy’ – passes away at the age of 89. Wong Hur is one of the last Chinese miners to arrive in Beechworth in search of gold in the 1860s and remains in Beechworth after the closure of the Chinese township. He lives on the outskirts of Beechworth on Dingle Road at Silver Creek in a house built for him by the Shannan family. (They will build two huts for him … a second after the first hut burns down.) He gains the affectionate nickname ‘Blind Tommy’ after he loses his sight in the 1890s. By the mid-1920s Beechworth’s originally huge Chinese population has dwindled to just 6 men, including ‘Henry’ Ah Yett. Over the years ‘Blind Tommy’ supplements his diet by growing vegetables, selling the surplus to locals for a few shillings, making his way into town with the use of a ‘blindman’s stick’. In December 1940 he is admitted to the Ovens Benevolent Asylum as he has become unable to properly look after himself. He will remain there until his death six years later. He becomes the last Chinese person to be buried in the Chinese section of the Beechworth Cemetery, after ‘Henry’ Ah Yett in July 1932.

Blind Tommy’s house on ‘Chinaman’s Flat’, Dingle Road, Silver Creek
Blind Tommy’s vegetable garden at ‘Chinaman’s Flat’, Silver Creek


Canadian company Bruck Textiles – founded by Isaac Ignace Bruck in 1921 – establishes Bruck Mills Australia Limited and takes over the disused aluminium factory established in Wangaratta in 1942 (as part of the war-time industry) and opens the Bruck Fabrics Mill in the large buildings. This will accelerate Wangaratta’s population growth, outpacing Beechworth substantially. At one time the Bruck Fabrics Wangaratta mill will employ more than 1,000 people.

1947 – Jul 1                            

Women busy at work at the ‘Pitman’s Shoe Factory’ on Ford Streeet in Beechworth.

Footrest Shoes and Pitman’s Shoes both open factories in Beechworth, a boost for post-war employment in town. Mr. T. Nagle Pitman, managing director of parent company Elgin Shoes in Melbourne, selects Beechworth as a suitable location for his new factory due to the availability of labour in the town, particularly girls under sixteen years of age. At its peak, the shoe factory employs 36 women and girls, which include post-war migrants. The factory on Ford Street will close in August 1961 as increased centralisation of both populations and industry in nearby Wangaratta and Wodonga lead to the closure of many factories in small towns in the 1960s and 1970s.

Beechworth-born Nola ‘Nettie’ Maher works at the Pitman’s Shoe Factory for 10 years and fondly recalls the camaraderie amongst the staff and managers
After the Second World War, Australia admits increasing numbers of immigrants in order to fulfil labour requirements for the rapidly increasing demand of consumer goods. These migrants are largely from European Countries in line with the ‘White Australia Policy’. By 1954 Beechworth will have 170 migrants from the UK, 102 from Hungary, and 63 from Germany.


A two-foot gauge tramway line is built at the Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum to carry wood down the hill from the wood-stacking yard, across a water race, through a gate in the surrounding brick ha-ha wall, and along an internal road, then past the store to the engineer’s workshop, where the asylum’s main boilers are located. A little railway siding is then completed to the firewood stack beside the laundry boiler house, and another is built to run to the male accommodation wing at the other end of the main building. Three open-air railway trucks run on the line, pushed by an asylum attendant, with two patients selected to assist him. The little railway trucks have no brakes and coast freely along the tracks. This little tramway will transport wood (and sometimes other heavy materials) around the vast asylum for almost 20 years until a decision is made in the early 1960s to replace the wood-burning boilers with oil-fired units, negating the need for large and regular amounts of firewood, and some of the railway tracks are removed.

The route of the 1947 ‘tramline’ tracks which run around Mayday Hills Asylum. (image courtesy of the Light Railway Research Society of Australia)
Don Hayes, who works at the asylum, along with Rex Norman, appeal to the Minster of Health to let them carefully remove the remaining rails. He agrees, provided they restore the roadway to its original condition, which they do. Don and Rex have a vision of restoring the little railway line and constructing it as a tourist attraction around the ‘Beechworth Caravan Park’ at Lake Sambell … which they will do … and ‘The Golden Pioneer Railway’ will be ready to roll in 1967! (below).
Rex Norman proudly runs ‘The Golden Pioneer Railway’ around the ‘Beechworth Caravan Park’ at Lake Sambell in the 1970s. (photo: Jeanette McCulloch)


Arthur A. Niemann – who has been running his popular Hardware, Drapery and Furniture store on Camp Street for many years – moves the entire business to 52-58 Ford Street after purchasing the much larger Clements Store premises from the estate of John James Alfred Arthur Clements, who had passed away in 1942.


The supermarket at 22 Junction Road in the 1980s.

Danny and Betty Dingwall open a general store (later a supermarket) at 22 Junction Road, opposite the Beechworth Higher Elementary School. It becomes known locally as the ‘Dingle Shop’.

1948 – Nov 29

Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley is on hand to see the first Holden cars roll off the production line at the General Motors-Holden factory at Fisherman’s Bend in Melbourne. The Holden 48-215 (better known as the Holden FX) is a 6 cylinder, four-door sedan that sells for around $733 (roughly $24,000 today). Interest is huge, and by the time of its 1948 launch, 18,000 Australians have already paid a deposit for the Holden FX! The Holden motor car proves instantly popular, with over 120,00 of the vehicles manufactured between 1948 and 1953. A bonus for Beechworth is that from the very first Holden car, Zwar Bros Pty Ltd is one of only three tanneries supplying General Motors-Holden with leather trim for the FX (and then the FJ model). By the 1950s, one in ten Australians own a car, and car travel will have a noticeable impact on Beechworth, as more and more people take driving trips to the historic town.

Chifley had issued a challenge in 1944 to the emerging Australian automotive industry to produce a motor car that would be entirely manufactured in Australia. The Holden FX is the result.

1949 – Aug 27

After providing local gas supplies to Beechworth for 70 years, the Beechworth Gas Works on the corner of Albert Road and Harper Avenue closes for business. Gas will now be provided by the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria, a newly created government-owned monopoly supplier of household gas.

1949 – Sep 6

The art-deco Orana Cinema is now the Strand Arcade in Reid Street, Wangaratta.

33km from Beechworth, the Orana Cinema opens at 21 Reid Street, Wangaratta, featuring 1,308 seats. Village Cinemas build the Wangaratta Drive-In Cinema in 1958. The Orana Cinema closes in October 1980 and is converted into the Skatescene skating rink, followed by an indoor cricket pavilion from 1984. In 2010 the art-deco cinema is converted into an arcade with offices and renamed Strand Arcade.


With the release of the first Australian-built motor car – the Holden FX – a year earlier, the number of cars in Beechworth increases – both with new cars owned by locals, and visitors arriving to tour the town in the new motor cars. Beechworth is now home to a growing number of car dealerships, mechanics, and petrol stations including Parkinson’s Garage, the Reynold’s Beechworth Garage and the Reliance Garage – selling Plume petrol – next door to Well’s Bakery on Ford Street.

Parkinson’s Garage.
The ‘Parkinson’s Garage’ site in 2023
In the early part of the 20th century, before ‘Parkinson’s Garage’ is built, the vacant land is often used for outdoor film screenings.

1950 – Jan

The famous ‘Foy & Gibson’ logo used in their Beechworth Department Store on Ford Street

Arthur A. Niemann’s popular drapery store at 52-58 Ford Street is bought out by Foy & Gibson of Melbourne who have been expanding their ownership of department stores all over Victoria. Foy & Gibson will own the large Beechworth store for just two years before it decides to ‘downsize’ and sell their Beechworth branch to Michael Freeman in 1952.


Zwar Bros new steam generating plant and 100ft chimney stack.

At a cost of £25,000, a new steam generating plant is built at Zwar Bros Pty Ltd with a 100ft brick chimney stack, consisting of 33,000 bricks from Chiltern and fueled by over 2,000 cords of wood annually. (A ‘cord’ is 128 cubic feet of wood.) This chimney stack still stands proud and tall today, on Boyd Lane, off Old Tannery Road, although most of the other buildings have gone.

From 1948 Zwar Bros Pty Ltd is one of only three tanneries supplying General Motors Holden with leather trim for their famous FX and then FJ model motor vehicles. 


Patients at the Beechworth Mental Hospital increase to 785 (from about 300 in 1870).

1950 – Sep

Playing in the Ovens & King Football League, the Beechworth Football Club win the Premiership, defeating Whorouly by 29 points. It is their first Grand Final victory since 1939. The Beechworth Bombers will win the flag again the following year … be beaten in the 1955 Grand Final by just two points … before claiming victory again in 1956.


Beechworth Gaol is converted into a training prison – with the addition of a full-time Education Officer in

1951 – Aug 17             

A fire breaks out in the male wing of the Beechworth Hospital for the Insane and sweeps through the wing in the space of just 15 minutes. Fortunately, all the doors of the 100 rooms and dormitories are locked by identical keys and the five male attendants are able to rush along the corridors and and unlock all the doors with their 5 matching keys to release all of the male patients within 10 minutes. Around 370 male patients, many naked, are evacuated just minutes before the fire causes the blazing top story of the male wing to collapse. However, in the confusion surrounding rescue operations by the attendants and the quickly-on-the-scene firemen, eleven of the inmates escape – terrified – into the surrounding hilly country. Seven are later recaptured, but four – described as “not dangerous” – remain at large. No lives are lost, but the blaze completely guts the accommodation of the male patient’s wing, with damage estimated at around at £500,000.

An aerial view of the 1951 fire damage (foreground)
Interior of the Male Wing after the fire.
The burnt-out parts of the two-storey male wing are left unrestored until 1954 when work begins to bring the wards back into use. While the lower section beside the Administration Office is renovated and rebuilt, the top storey of the rest of burnt out section is removed. The lower section is rebuilt to provide a new occupational therapy wing. A new prefabricated hospital and a larger male ward are added to the complex by 1957.

1951- Sep

The Beechworth Bombers – red-hot favourites for the flag after thirteen wins during the season – win the nail-biting Grand Final, defeating Whorouly … by just one point! The Beechworth Football Club will end the season as Premiership winners again in 1956, 1961, 1974 and 1979.

1952 – Mar

As the European settlement of Beechworth reaches its 100th year, the Beechworth Centenary Publicity Committee publishes the book ‘Background to Beechworth 1852 – 1952‘ compiled by Roy Collington Harvey.

1952 – Apr

Advertisement from the ‘Ovens and Murray Advertiser’ – Wednesday April 9 1952

Alan Douglas ‘Sandy’ Burridge runs the popular School Shop on Junction Road, opposite the Beechworth Higher Elementary School. Providing lunches and treats for the children, it also has a small range of groceries and school books.

Alan ‘Sandy’ Burridge and Freddie Jensen become well known in Beechworth and the surrounding district for their work as builders in the 1960s.

1952 – Jun 13

Bright Railway Station in 1894

The passenger train – that runs the service along the Ovens Valley Railway to Bright Railway Station – makes its final journey. The trip to Bright, while exceedingly picturesque, has become slow and dangerous because of the state of the track. The Ovens Valley Railway can no longer compete with highway and the continued rise of the motor car.

The Bright Railway Station – no longer taking passengers


John A. Clement’s ‘The Big Store’ Shopping Centre at 52-58 Ford Street in the late 1940s.

After running his popular Beechworth Freeman’s Bargain Draper store at 48 Ford Street since 1938, Michael ‘Mickey’ Isaac Freeman purchases the largest shop in Beechworth at 52-58 Ford Street, which has been operating as a Foy & Gibson branch store since 1950. Before that it had been run by Arthur A. Niemann and previous to that it was well known as John A. Clement’s The Big Store. Freeman makes some alterations to the building and opens “Freeman – the Bargain Draper”.

The large new Freeman store has four departments – 1) Women’s, children’s and baby wear, haberdashery cloth and wool, 2) Men’s and boy’s wear and shoes, 3) linoleum, carpets, furniture, kitchenware, suitcases, and 4) bedding and mattresses. Freeman’s wife Herta instigates seven-days-a-week trading at the store, decades before it is widely practiced.

1952 – Dec

Regent Theatre advertisement from ‘The Ovens and Murray Advertiser’ Dec 3 1952

Beechworth’s St. George’s Hall / Oddfellows Hall on Loch Street has been operating as the Federal Hall and the Federal Theatre since the turn of the century, but is rebranded as the Regent Theatre in the 1940s. The films screened at the theatre will prove popular with locals for many years until the arrival of television in the area in the 1960s when the theatre becomes reception centre and dance venue known as The Regency Room.

Interior of the ‘Regent Theatre’ with small Proscenium Arch & Stage and Dance Floor
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Small Mezzanine Level above Theatre Entrance

1953 – Jun 2

Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Day in Beechworth – a procession down Ford Street, passing under a specially erected “Floral Gateway”

Beechworth residents turn out in big numbers to celebrate ‘Coronation Day’ as 27 year old Elizabeth Windsor is crowned the new Queen, becoming the sixth Queen to be crowned at Westminster Abbey.


The Government purchases the late Donald Fletcher’s beautiful home and property Myrla – built in 1875 – to be used by the Mayday Hills Mental Asylum. The acreage on Fletcher’s Hill is used to run dry cows for the farm, and the grand residence is used as private accommodation for senior staff.

1954 – Apr 18

A commemorative plaque is unveiled in memory of Beechworth’s Methodist Pioneers at the centenary of Beechworth’s first Methodist Church (the Wesleyan Chapel) which opened in December 1854. The “basic, dark wood building with a high-pitched roof and relatively squat walls and windows” (below) stood at 26 Ford Street, where the current 1857-built Methodist Church now stands.  

Beechworth’s first Christian Church – The Wesleyan Chapel (photographed by Walter Woodbury in 1855)


Graeme Smart with one of his Beechworth Taxis.

After purchasing Tom Parkinson’s Taxi Licence, 20-year-old Graeme Smart starts his own taxi service in Beechworth, using his own car – a classic 1948 Chevrolet. He soon adds a 1954 FJ Holden (above) which will become one of the six taxis servicing Beechworth. In 1957, Graeme will purchase three more taxi licences from Leo Kavanagh, giving him a total of four licences in the area. Graeme and his wife Lesley will go on to run their taxi business in the town for the next 20 years, juggling their other Beechworth businesses including (from the late 1960s) the Esso Service Station and petrol depot on Ford Street along with their transport and taxi services.  

Two of Graeme Smart’s cars – Mercedes private hire car on the left and Holden taxi on the right – parked on Camp Street. In the background are the Milk Bar run by Eb Barnes and Charlie Bates Grocery Store

1954 – Jul

After raising almost £700 during Beechworth’s Centenary Celebrations in 1952, the Beechworth Centenary Celebrations Committee holds its final meeting where it states that any profits must be spent on suitable memorial to the town’s pioneers and agrees to hand the funds to the Beechworth and District Progress Association who will use the money to erect three ‘Centenary Memorial Monuments’ in the town.

The ‘Beechworth Centenary Celebrations Committee’ and its president A.J Wallace, initially discuss using the money raised to restore of the Old Hospital frontage in Church Street as a memorial, but the estimated cost of restoration – £1,625 – is beyond their finances. There are other proposals considered – the Public Works Department’s engineer favours restoring the Old Swimming Baths, while the both the ‘Beechworth Brass Band’ and the ‘Beechworth Boy Scouts’ are keen for the money to be used to build halls for their organisations.


Following migration from Europe to Australia after the Second World War, many have made their way to Beechworth. In keeping with the ‘White Australia Policy’, nearly all are from European countries and by this year, Beechworth has 170 migrants from the UK, 102 from Hungary, and 63 from Germany.

The ‘Immigration Restriction Bill’ – better known as the ‘White Australia Policy’ – introduced in June 1901 by Australia’s first Prime Minister Edmund Barton, will finally be dismantled by Gough Whitlam’s Labor government in 1973.


The Golden Horseshoe monument at the entrance to the Gorge Road

The Beechworth and District Progress Association build and unveil three monuments celebrating Beechworth’s goldrush era. A ‘Golden Horseshoe Monument’ – featuring gilt horseshoes on top of a cairn – is erected on the perimeter of Beechworth, at the entrance to the Gorge Road on the road that leads north to Yackandandah, Wodonga and Albury. A second is erected in the middle of town in front of the Post Office “in memory and in honor of the pioneers who founded this town”. This monument is topped by a gilt gold pan, shovel and pick. The third monument stands just over the Newtown Bridge at the entrance to Beechworth just 80 yards from the spot where gold is first discovered on Spring Creek.


The Ovens Benevolent Asylum renamed the Ovens and Murray Home

The ‘Ovens Benevolent Asylum’ (opened in 1863) – which had become the ‘Ovens Benevolent Home’ in 1935 – is now renamed again, to be known as the ‘Ovens and Murray Home’.

1954 – Jul 2                             

D-Class locomotive hauling up goods across Commissioners Creek Bridge just out of Yackandandah (1953)

Due to a gradual decline in freight and passengers, and damage caused by a recent bushfire to a railway bridge near Yackandandah, the Victorian Government makes the decision to close the Beechworth to Yackandandah section of the railway line after 63 years in operation, and Yackandandah Railway Station (below) ceases business.

Yackandandah Railway Station (top right) and Goods Shed in 1901.

1955 – Jun 30             

On the railway line between Everton and Beechworth, the Baarmutha Railway Siding is finally closed. The Baarmutha Post Office will close 13 years later in 1968.

A sign located close to the site of the original Baarmutha Railway Siding today (on the Rail Trail)


Ernest W. Warner’s Hardware Store, two doors down from the Post Office (photo from 1964)

34-year-old Ernest ‘Ernie’ Wellington Warner purchases the former Niemann’s Hardware Store at 24 Camp Street, in the building that had once been the Post Office Hotel (delicensed in May 1941). He will run Warner’s Hardware Store for the next 24 years, retiring after the death of his wife Eileen in 1979.

‘Warner’s Hardware Store’ (above left, with new orange verandah sign) at 24 Camp Street in the 1970s.
As a 16-year-old in 1936, Ernie began working at the ‘Andrews & Son Hardware Store‘ at 21 Camp Street (where the ‘Beechworth Bakery’ now stands) gaining his knowledge of the hardware business. He is a third-generation inhabitant of Beechworth. His grandfather arrived as a prospector, and his parents, Charlie and Ethel, married in Beechworth and established a sheep/wool farm, which passed to Ernie’s brother Hubert and his wife Dorothy.


The “High School” style buildings at the May Day Hills Asylum, brought in to replace the Male Ward, destroyed by fire in 1951. (Note the ‘Farm Piggery’ in the background)

An aluminum ‘relocatable’ building – initially destined for the town of Mt Beauty – is diverted to the Mayday Hills Mental Asylum to provide urgently needed hospital facilities. It will be fitted out as a well equipped operating theatre, along with a dental suite. The building is bolted together on site in Beechworth and becomes affectionately known as ‘The Bristol’ building, having been manufactured in Bristol in England. Patient accommodation at the Asylum is also dramatically improved and increased when six new “High School” style buildings are erected to replace the fire damaged Male Ward.

An aerial view of the May Hils complex in 1958 (photo courtesy: Peter Anderson)

1955 – Nov                   

The Regal Theatre opens at 121 Bridge Street, Benalla. It will close as a cinema in October 1980 and converted into the Benalla Skating Rink.


Beechworth Gaol’s swimming pool (photo by Leanne Cole)

Further extensions are made to the original cellblock at Beechworth Gaol and a swimming pool is added (in the area formerly known as the ‘airing yard’ or exercise yard).


Beechworth Railway Station and Railway Crossing in 1957, looking south.

While the Yackandandah Railway Station has closed, along with other stops on the way between Wangaratta and Beechworth, the railway station at Beechworth continues to provide regular travel and freight business.

1957 – Jul 1                  

Zwar Bros. Tannery in Beechworth

Michaelis Hallenstein and Company of Footscray (below), and their subsidiary Associated Leathers Ltd, take control of operations at Zwar Bros Pty Ltd as Keith Zwar’s health continues to fail. He sells them the Tannery with a moral condition of sale that the operation continue in Beechworth. Keith Zwar passes away 4 months after the sale on November 7th 1957.

1957 – Jul 23               

The Beechworth Servicemen’s Memorial Hall on Ford Street as it looks in the 1970s with the addition of the RSL Clubroom on the left

To much excitement, the Beechworth Servicemen’s Memorial Hall opens, with local press reporting “the crowd was so dense that dancing was almost impossible.” The building on Ford Street had formally been the Beechworth Technical School but has been converted after the Beechworth RSL Women’s Auxiliary raise £20,000 for designs, alterations and improvements of the old wooden building. Changes include extending the building further east, the addition of a new kitchen, and a ‘Committee Room’ added to the west side. The Beechworth Servicemen’s Memorial Hall is originally managed by the Beechworth Sub-Branch of the RSL who are officially the owners of the Hall and the land surrounding it.

The following year, Corowa architect Charles MacKnight is engaged to design the addition of a separate RSL clubroom next door, and a greatly extended stage will be created in the hall, with a suite of dressing rooms below. In the 1990s, as the RSL membership is now small and they are not making enough money, they will relinquish control of the Memorial Hall to the Beechworth Council to be used for community events.  


Now in his mid-70s, Frank Jarvis sells his Beechworth Taxi Company to Noel Collie. Jarvis had started running taxis around Beechworth and surrounds in his original ‘Flint’ automobile (above) in 1922!

Frank Jarvis pictured at a family picnic at Lake Kerferd.
Frank Jarvis possesses a very deep rich bass voice and during most of his married life he sings regularly in Beechworth’s Methodist Church choir. Every Sunday night he sets off for church in a dark suit, his fob watch in the pocket of his waistcoat and a flower in his button hole (a very tiny rose whenever he could find one to pick). He is also a very good whistler for which reason his commercial competitors refer to him as “Birdie” in their advertisements in the local paper.


Additional cells are built at Beechworth Gaol increasing the capacity of prisoners from 75 to 105, with the average daily number of prisoners sitting at 70.  



The Royal Oak Hotel at the top of the Buckland Gap

The Royal Oak Hotel is destroyed by fire. Built in the 1880s to service miners in the Three Mile District, it is originally known as The Gap Hotel as it sits at the top of Buckland Gap (on the road from Beechworth to Myrtleford).

A view of the ‘Royal Oak’ Hotel in the 1930s


A Holden driving around Lake Sambell in the 1960s, with another parked in the foreground

The popularity of Lake Sambell continues to grow. Named after Leslie Herbert Sambell, the lake is now a prominent feature of the town and tourist drawcard.

Officially opened in 1928, Lake Sambell is further developed in the late 1930s, raising the banks by six feet to double its present area and to make the water cleaner. Another redevelopment in the late 1940s is made possible by the ‘Beechworth and District Progress Association’. It involves raising the banks a further five feet to provide swimming facilities and a paddling pool. 


The ‘Beechworth Caravan Park’ in 1960

Due to the rising car ownership in Australia and the growing popularity of caravanning, the Beechworth Caravan Park is established on the old Beechworth Tip site at one end of Lake Sambell, and new shade trees are planted to beautify the area.

Lake Sambell with Caravan Park in foreground – 1959 (aerial view)
Lake Sambell with Caravan Park in foreground – 2021 (aerial view)
Beechworth Shire engineer R.E. Carter advocates for improvements to the lake and the surrounding area in order to encourage tourism in Beechworth. Financed mainly by grants from the Tourist Development Authority, the Caravan Park is developed and in 1961 Lake Sambell is enlarged and a small section of the lake is cordoned off to create a freshwater swimming pool. In 1964 the lake embankment is raised to increase the surface water area from 28 to 37 acres while at the other end of the lake, fronting Albert Road, the reserve will eventually feature a Chinese garden which includes several ponds honouring the district’s Chinese gold rush pioneers. An artificial sandy beach, barbecue/picnic area, floating diving platform and a small jetty will also be added around the lake.


Wangaratta Showgrounds – ‘Proclamation Day’ 1959

Wangaratta, with its population now at 13,500, is officially proclaimed a ‘city’. By the mid-1970s Wangaratta’s population exceeds 17,000 and by the 2000s it has reached 28,000.

Centre of Wangaratta – Corner of Reid and Murphy Streets- in the summer of 1960


The Lions Club of Beechworth is established, as part of Lions Clubs of District 201V6 – Australia. One of the foundation members is Kevin Costello, Principal of Beechworth High School. The Lions Club of Beechworth will go on to instigate projects like upgrading the Wangaratta Road rest area (to transform it into an attractive stop for locals and travellers), a Junior Public Speaking program for local primary school students, and improvements along the Lions Memorial Walk. The first Lions Club is formed in Lismore, NSW in September 1947, with the club growing into Australia’s largest service club organisation.

The ‘Lions Club of Beechworth’ is instrumental in organising a series of annual parades – known as the ‘Golden Hills Festival’ – between Christmas and New Year (from 1960 until 1966), which will grow into the modern ‘Golden Horseshoes Festival’ (see entry further below).

1959 – Sep 16

Crowds gather to watch the official opening of the ‘Pollard Arch’ on the causeway over the lowland between Albury and Wodonga originally known as ‘The Wodonga Flats’.

35 km from Beechworth, Princess Alexandra of Kent – first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II – is in Wodonga to officially open the Pollard Arch on the causeway over the Wodonga Creek between Wodonga and Albury. The two boomerang shaped sides of the structure come together to form the arch, which is named in honour of Charles Pollard, former President of the Wodonga Shire Council and a foundation member of the Wodonga Show Society. The arch stands on the spot that marks the border between New South Wales and Victoria, and will later feature an illuminated sign where the two boomerangs join, stating “Wodonga, Victoria” (below). It stands 29 metres wide and 15 metres high and is constructed by Doug Delarue at a cost of £1,230. When plans are later made to widen and duplicate the road, the Pollard Arch is removed from the causeway and rebuilt at the Wodonga Racecourse and Showgrounds in 1983.

In 1961 the causeway will be officially named the ‘Lincoln Causeway’ in honour of Wodonga-raised athlete Merv Lincoln who represented Australia three times – at the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956, the Commonwealth Games in Cardiff in 1958 and the Rome Olympics in 1960.

1960 – Dec 26             

On Boxing Day, the first ‘Golden Hills Festival’ is held, organised and promoted by shire engineer R.E. Carter, with major support from the newly formed Beechworth Lions Club. From 1966 it becomes known as the ‘Golden Horseshoe Festival’.