Did you know Bega used to have nine pubs?
For residents and visitors to the NSW South Coast town, this little-known gem of the past is one of many facts and stories they can learn with the launch of guided walking tours along its main street.
A walking tour of Carp Street in Bega that focuses on local history has been launched by the South Coast History Society and Bega Valley Historical Society.
It will take in the business section of Carp Street, but walkers will also wander into parts of Gipps Street, Canning Street and Church Street.
“What’s happening is people come along on walks such as this and they know probably more than I do so you get all these extra stories added,” says South Coast History Society president Peter Lacey.
“Carp Street has an unusually rich history for an Australian country town, and it’s really interesting to discover what has changed, why it changed, and what has not changed during the past 100-or-so years.”
The Commercial Hotel in Bega was built in 1868. Photo: Supplied.One interesting fact is how Bega used to have a plethora of pubs until just before World War I, when the town held a plebiscite on the subject.
“The good citizens of Bega decided they had too many pubs and they closed down four of them,” says Peter.
Built in 1868, the still-standing Commercial Hotel was where horse-drawn coaches would start before travelling out to Tathra or Merimbula.
Another story Peter has to share is about the small laneway between what is currently the Commonwealth Bank and the newsagency.
He says the newsagency used to have a window that opened into the laneway and people would queue outside the window to collect their weekend newspapers.
If the people delivering the papers were late, those queuing would get bored and there are lots of initials of these people carved into the laneway.
The tour will also take in the Kings Theatre, designed by a Sydney-based company that also designed the Enmore Theatre and Valhalla Theatre in Sydney.
Peter says that while the theatre is now a furniture store, the upstairs section still has its seats, there is still the stage and there are even Egyptian-type motifs inside.
The South Coast History Society plans to start similar guided walks in other NSW South Coast towns in 2022.
“Pambula, Candelo and Bodalla seem to be the most immediately attractive, but who knows where else we might ultimately end up,” says Peter.
The walk through Bega takes 90 minutes, after which participants can enjoy a cup of tea of coffee, and the introductory cost is a $10 donation to Australian Rotary Health.
This donation will help fund a mental health research project that Australian Rotary Clubs, including Bega’s, are supporting.
The first walk will be on Saturday, 23 October, and another is planned for Saturday, 6 November.
“If demand warrants it, we will organise additional walks and then schedule more walks during the Christmas holiday period because the absolutely fascinating history of our town deserves to be shared as widely as possible,” says Peter.
“History is for everybody to share, but we have a feeling it’s not being shared as widely as it should be.”
To book a place on a Bega walking tour, call 0448 160 852.