Monday, 3 May 2010

Beaconsfield and the Royal Connection

One of the things that I love best about history are the connections that pop up between people and places and events. I do love a Royal connection so that's why I was happy to find out that the Dovetons (after whom Doveton was named) are both descendants of King Edward 1 (1239-1307) and his wife Eleanor of Castille (1241-1290) and now I am going to tell you about Beaconsfield and it's Royal connection.

In 1855, David and Janet Bowman who held the lease on the Panty Gurn Gurn Station, were granted a licence for the Gippsland Hotel, near the Cardinia Creek on the Gippsland Road. It was known as the Gippsland Hotel as the Cardinia Creek was the border of the Port Phillip district and the Gippsland district. David Bowman died in 1860 aged 54 and Janet Bowman continued running the Hotel and put it up for sale in May 1866.

An Advertisment for the Gippsland Hotel
The Argus, June 6, 1866

It was still for sale a year later but by 1869 the Souter family were the licensees. In that same year, Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh (1844 - 1900)  stayed at the hotel for several days. The Prince had taken over the Inn and staffed it with members of his ship, the H.M.S Galatea. The Government had built and furnished two extra rooms to accommodate the Prince. These rooms were made of brick, with a slate roof as opposed to the rest of the Inn which was of wattle and daub. Prince Alfred, was the second son of Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert and he had the distinction of undertaking the first ever Royal tour to Australia from October 1867 to June 1868. During this time, he was seriously wounded by an Irishman, Henry James O’Farrell (who was hung for the crime) at a picnic in Sydney in March 1868. However he recovered and made a private visit to Australia from January to April 1869 and it was during this time he visited Beaconsfield. In 1874, he married the Grand Duchess Marie of Russia, the daughter Tsar Alexander II and in honour of this marriage, an English bakery made the Marie biscuit, with her name imprinted on it. So next time you eat a Marie biscuit or use them to make chocolate hedgehog or lemon slice, remember the Grand Duchess and her husband, Prince Alfred.

Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, stayed at the Gippsland Hotel

Getting back to Mrs Bowman, who was described as enterprising, courageous and a devout Presbyterian, in 1861-62 she paid to have a 50 mile track cut from her Hotel to the Hughes Track which went to to the Jordan Goldfields (around Wood's Point). The track was said to have cost £1500. Some said that Mrs Bowman cut the track so miners would go past her door however she maintained that she did it because the Government had announced that it would compensate people who provided tracks to the Goldfields. After much fighting, in 1878, the Government awarded her £300 (or £500 depending on sources) as compensation. Janet Bowman died in 1904 aged 93 having outlived six of her eight children. Bowman's Hotel, later called Souter's Hotel is now known as the Central Hotel. The current Mediterranean style building was in 1928.

The Gippsland Hotel, 1860. 
This illustration comes from the book The Early Days of Berwick.


Anonymous said...

Hi Heather,
I didn't know about the Maire biscuit connection,will remember it next time i make hedgehog.


Heather said...

Thanks AT. The Marie biscuit is such a plain biscuit and if I was a Grand Duchess I would prefer to have a fancier buscuit named after me, someting like an iced vo vo.