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The History of The Victoria Hotel, Woodend

Researched & Written by Jannyse Williams from ‘ Time Gentlemen, Please!

Hotels of Woodend and the Surrounding district. Thanks to the Woodend Historical Society for their assistance.

Extract from letter to the Editor Woodend Star, 28 August 1897

Rules and Regulations for Running a Hotel

In 1841 The Colony of Victoria enacted ‘ Conditions under which a Building may be a Licenced as a Hotel’

‘Every licensed hotel shall contain two sittings rooms and two sleeping rooms independent of the apartments occupied by the family of the publican.

There shall also be a place of accommodation on or near the premises for the use of customers in order to prevent offences against decency.

There shall also be stabling for at least 6 horses with a sufficient supply of hay, corn of other wholesome and usual provender for the horses of travellers.

History of The Victoria Hotel Woodend

The Victoria Hotel 1861 – present

On the northwest corner of Urquhart and High Streets, Woodend

Robert Hogg Thorburn was born in Edinburgh in 1827 and after his marriage to Sarah Ann Baldwin in 1852, came to Victoria gripped with “gold fever”.

He soon decided that Woodend provided great opportunities, situated as it was on the road, often choked with fortune seekers, that led to Forest Creek and Bendigo.

He bought land from P A O’Farrell where he and Sarah lived in a tent while he built a blacksmith’s shop and store in which Woodend’s first Post Office and Newsagency operated. He let out leases for the rest of the land with the consequence that when he decided to build an hotel, even after demolishing his own store, he only had land enough to build half the hotel. He had to wait some time until the lease ran out and then he was able to remove Gillespie’s Hay and Corn Store to build the rest of the hotel. The finished hotel was a two- storied one of brick and stone and boasted 18 rooms. including 9 bed chambers and 2 sitting rooms.

Thorburn leased the hotel to W T Sampson for some years before taking up the licence himself. Sampson advertised that:

“Families from the metropolis can be accommodated with private apartments and be waited upon either by their own, or the hotel servants.”

Sampson constantly provided entertainments, many of them free, to entice patrons to his hotel including one particular concert featuring Mr William Robson, listed as the greatest Clog, Juba and Ballet Dancer in the Colonies, who performed his celebrated Rattle Snake jig.

Robert Hogg Thorburn took over the licence in 1868 and held it until his death in 1912. His nephew, known as “Wild George” Thorburn, who with his widowed mother and five siblings had lived with Robert and Sara in Woodend for a time, was the family “black sheep.” A known associate of the Kelly Gang, “Wild George” was said to have assisted the escape of stolen horses being held as evidence against them by giving the guard a bottle of whisky and helping him to become drunk. When in his 60s, he had a reputation of being able to race cable trams between stops up the Collins Street hill. According to family recollections, during visits to his brother at Ascot Vale, his language was so bad that the children were ushered out of the house.

Robert’s son, William Thorburn, followed as a Publican in 1912 but died in 1914 aged 58; the Thorburn family then sold the hotel for £1.850 and Elizabeth Ann Hemmings became the new licensee. In lanuary1921 the Woodend Star reported the sensational events that had occurred on New Year’s Eve when Edward Allison shot George Bowen, apparently with intent to murder after an altercation at the Victoria Hotel. That same year Isabella Ames sold up her Collins Street and Collingwood hotels to buy the Victoria Hotel which she and her family owned for 58 years, sometimes with other licensees operating it.

In 1928 saw another sensation when eight excited Italians were involved in smashing in doors, breaking windows and knifing Harper, the licensee. When Constable Earnshaw intervened more knives were produced and the Constable had to call for witnesses to grab lengths of firewood as cudgels to help him beat back the attackers and arrest them. At least one assailant went to prison and the others faced heavy fines.

lohnny Marcroft, Isabella’s grandson, sold the hotel in 1978 and since then under various licensees the Victoria Hotel, complete with a little old grey-haired lady who appears occasionally in an upstairs bedroom, has continued to operate until the present day.


  • 1861-1862 William Thomas Sampson Thomas Trattle
  • 1862 1862-1868 William Thomas Sampson
  • 1868-1912 Robert Hogg Thorburn
  • 1912-1914 William Thorburn (son of Robert Hogg Thorburn) Sarah Ann Thorburn (widow of Robert Hogg Thorburn) Elizabeth Ann Hemming(s)
  • 1914 1914-1915 1915-1920 Sarah Hann
  • 1920-1924 Mr Hussey P J Dalton H L Robinson
  • 1928-1929 William H Harper
  • 1930-1931 Stanley Thomas Ransom
  • 1931-1936 Frank Emmett & Florence Emmett
  • 1936-1944 Isabel Ames
  • 1924-1927 1927 Dolly Ames Marcroft (daughter of Isabella Ames)
  • 1955-1957 Cyril C Philp (husband of Isabel Ames) & Elsie Ada Marcroft
  • 1957-1978 E A Marcroft & Johnny Marcroft (grandson of Isabella Ames)
  • 1978-1998 Darryl & Trina Herrod
  • 1988-1990 Mick Traynor, manager
  • 1990-1998 Henry Gobylinski, manager 1944-1955 Riddell District Hotels Pty Ltd from 1998 08/02/1998 to (records missing) R.C Corporations Pty Ltd (Denis Kelly & Robyn Bestwick) James & Shirley Maher Lock Investments Pty Ltd, Creina & Don Lock)
  • 2003-2004 TKM Hotels Pty Ltd
  • 2004-2006 A Chaid Pty Ltd
  • 2006-2013 Mallanbool Pty Ltd 1998-2002 2002 2002-2003 (Darryl Davidson, nominee) = —
  • 2013-2018 Christine Testa and Maxine Doe
  • 2018- Present Emily Blades & Carl Middleton