The History of
The Victoria Hotel, Woodend
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 sitting rooms and two sleeping rooms independent of the apartments occupied by the family of the
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.”
The Victoria Hotel 1861 – present
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 News agency operated.
He let out leases for the rest of the land with the consequence that when he decided to build a 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 nine bed chambers and two sitting rooms.
WT Sampson leased the Victoria Hotel from Robert Hogg Thorburn. Sampson advertised that families from the metropolis can be accommodated with private apartments and be waited upon by their own, or the hotel servants. WT Sampson also provided entertainments, many of them free to entice patrons to his hotel. One particular concert featured Mr William Robson who was listed as the Greatest Clog, Jub and Ballet Dancer in the Colonies. He also performed his celebrated Rattle Snake Jig.
'Wild George' Thorburn was the nephew of Robert Hogg Thorburn and Sara Thorburn and he lived with them for a time in Woodend. 'Wild George' was the black sheep of the family and often found himself in trouble with the law. "Wild George" was a known associate of the Kelly Gang and was said to have helped the Kelly Gang evade jail time by assisting them with the escape of stolen horses which were being held as evidence against the gang.
New Year's Eve, 1921 at the Victoria Hotel was definitely a night to remember. The Woodend Star reported the sensational events that occurred on that night. (15-1-1921) "New Year Sensation in Woodend: Edward Allison was charged on remand that he shot at George Bowen, wounding him in the arm at The Victoria Hotel, with the intent to murder!" 2 months later, Edward Allison was found guilty by the court of shooting with the intent to murder. It is now known what punishment Mr Allison received, but it was most likely jail time.
In 1928, The Victoria Hotel saw another sensation when 8 excited Italians were involved in smashing doors, breaking windows and knifing William H Harper, the licensee of The Victoria Hotel. When local Constable Earnshaw intervened, more knives were produced and the Constable had to ask several civilians for help. They grabbed lengths of firewood as weapons to beat the attackers and finally arrested the excited Italians. At least one Italian went to prison for 3 months and the others faced heavy fines.
During the 1920's, Isabella Ames sold her Collins Street and Collingwood hotels to buy the Victoria Hotel. Which she and her family owned for 58 years. During this time, Isabella had many licensees operating the pub. The hotel stayed in the family until 1978, when Isabella's grandson, Johnny Marcroft finally sold the hotel. There have been numerous sightings and strange goings-on in the upstairs rooms of the pub. It is believed that, to this day Isabella is still floating around the pub and making sure that things are exactly the way she likes them.