28 May 2023

160 years on, the surviving pub in Wombat is back on the market

| Edwina Mason
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The historic Wombat Hotel is back on the market and with it, 160 years of history harking back to the riotous gold mining days on the Burrangong goldfields. Photo: Wombat Hotel.

Anyone who lives in the Hilltops region knows they’re not local until they’ve notched up a couple of generations and knocked back a few beers at the Wombat Hotel.

This popular watering hole, which now sits just off the Olympic Highway linking the towns of Young, Cootamundra and Harden-Murrumburrah, is an institution in its own right, having borne witness to (and hosted) a vast and eclectic passing parade of transport and folk during its colourful history.

Here meetings, musings, mumbles, melees, memorials, marriages, celebrations, christenings, baptisms, bikies, initiations and blessed hearty wakes have reverberated within and outside the pub cradled at the intersection of Young Street and Wombat Road for nearly 160 years.

Established in 1877, it has distinguished itself for holding the longest continuous liquor licence in NSW, bar the decade from 1885 when it traded as an unlicensed inn, servicing Cobb & Co coaches.

But it is the last hotel standing in a village that once was a thriving commercial centre.

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The Royal Hotel at Wombat first sprang to life as a general store in 1863, thanks to an enterprising Meyer Solomon, who saw promise in this heavily populated (some 5000 people) southern section of the Burrangong and Lambing Flat goldfields.

At the time, six hotels, or thereabouts, had set up business in and around Wombat, which consisted of two distinct town centres: “Big Wombat” and “Little Wombat”.

Little Wombat seems to have been mostly populated by Chinese and was near “Nubba”, closer to Murrumburrah, while Big Wombat was seemingly the commercial centre, with its post office bark-hut public school, two churches and a general store.

In the same year it was set up, the Solomons’ store was held up by bushrangers including Frank Gardiner, John O’Meally and Johnny Gilbert dressed in police uniforms. Holding a gun to Mrs Solomon’s head and plying her with gin, they eventually made off with £250 worth of goods including horses, bridles, corduroy trousers, rations and ammunition.

The bushrangers were eventually caught and either shot dead by police or spent long terms behind bars.

Three years later, the general store had morphed into a licensed premises selling wine and spirits and, even in 2023, remains peerless in sustaining, succouring and bonding the small, strong community of 225 that remains around it.

The Solomons sold the pub in 1880 and returned to Sydney, where they continued a successful trading company.

The Royal Hotel was hosted by Abraham Dowell from 1880 before its closure as licensed premises in 1885.

The unlicensed weatherboard pub, sitting on an acre (4000 sqm) of land surrounded by a three-acre vineyard, also consisted of a blacksmith’s shop, stables and a cottage when it was purchased by George Anderson in 1888.

old photo of a pub

Back when it was still made of timber and owned by the Anderson family, the Wombat Hotel was known as the Royal Hotel. Photo: Kylie Parish.

Anderson, with business partner and childhood friend James Barnes, had been successful on the goldfields around Harden.

Then the halfway house for the coach journey on the Young to Murrumburrah, Wallendbeen and Cootamundra roads, the Royal Hotel was re-licensed in 1896 and by 1903 a single-storey brick pub replaced the original timber structure.

The Andersons ran the pub until 1905 before taking the licence of the Commercial Hotel at Harden. Anderson went on to become president of the local turf club, and a council alderman, before he died in 1925.

After Anderson’s death, owners of the hotel included John Crawford, Sylvester Minehan, and William and Moya Lawler.

READ ALSO Images from Young’s historic Burrangong Inn restoration

Today it is history for the taking, the village centrepiece on a spot eked out on gold mining, small-acre farming, cherries and stone fruit, a lovely 10-minute commute to the town of Young that offers residents a rural vista among the gum tree-clustered hills.

Those wishing to take on what is now simply named the Wombat Hotel, either freehold or with a 25-year lease, must know that within lies a main bar with five taps, two dining rooms, a dedicated Anzac room, a beer garden and an outdoor dining area.

Home to the Wombat Cricket Club and a living history gold mining display, its dedicated Anzac room is just downhill from the town’s war memorial and offers a backdrop to annual springtime long-table lunches on Young Street.

Aside from its loyal social group and fishing club, online it has a Facebook following of 5000, almost eclipsing the village’s foundational days.

And aside from the annual New Year’s Eve B&S, not a day or event passes notice from those verandas providing shelter to the thirsty.

It even keeps watch over the village’s namesake wombat sculpture, which sits on a rock across the road, defiled only once by enthusiastic local high school students who got heavy with a spray can. But the wombat got over that and is known to dress up on occasion, whether that be St Patrick’s Day or Christmas.

Wombat itself is known for its Australia Day Tractor Pull and markets, and most recently, the Wombat Swap Meet on the long weekend in June.

Other than the pub, the village also has a coffee shop, a secondhand store, local art and crafts and wine, and its reputation as a tourist destination doubles, if not triples, population numbers during summer.

According to Ian Wilson, the hotel is on the market and will be sold. Interested parties should contact him here.

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