Look at the top of the arched roof in this lovely old inn near Cathcart on the wind-swept Monaro plains, two hours south of Canberra.
Built in 1838, the timber and iron ridge puts many of the shiny new apartment towers rising into the Canberra skyline to shame. “The ridgepole (main spine of the roof) is as straight as it was on the day it was made,” says Bombala historian Pam Thompson.
The inn once held a library of 400 books and sold spirits to slake the thirst of bullock drivers hauling salt, sugar and flower from the wharves of Eden, Tathra and Merimbula. Landmark Harcourts will auction the property on site on the Creewah Road, Cathcart, at 11 am on June 29.
Selling agent Stewart Lee expects the building and the three acres on which it stands will fetch between $50,000 to $70,000, a fraction of what it will cost to fix the poorly constructed buildings in the national capital.
While it has no power, sewer or water services, Mr Lee says the old inn is quite sound, with an easterly aspect. “It was built well, someone said, ‘Well they had the choice of all the good timber too’. The floors are in good condition, there is no bounce in the boards.”
The inn has three brick chimneys, solid doors and windows, two water tanks and is packed full of Australia’s early European history, when Cathcart boomed as a staging outpost for wool bales and grain. Teams of bullocks hauled the produce down winding dirt tracks to the wharves along the coast. “In the 1840s sheep were boiled down for tallow which got to Sydney in drums. Flour, sugar and tea would come back (on the same ships)” Mr Lee says.
Once in the middle of a thriving dairy industry, Cathcart was first known as Taylor’s Flat when James Taylor moved his stock there. According to author Laurie Platts, the village can mainly be attributed to William Hibburd who was issued with a license to sell alcohol at a house known as “The George and the Dragon”. It was a welcome refuge for tired travellers seeking refreshments and perhaps spending the night in the inn. Later it became the Dragon Inn. As well as the library it housed a school of arts, according to a plaque erected by historians.
Hibburd held an extensive area in the district. By 1847 he held the pastoral leases of Archer’s Flat 8000 acres and Bibbenluke of 25,600 acres, with a carrying capacity estimated at 1400 head of cattle.
According to a 2001 edition of the Bombala Times, Andrew and Margaret Stewart on arriving at Twofold Bay in 1839 walked to Taylor’s Flat which must have been a daunting experience for a father and mother with a baby only months old and small children. The first few weeks in this strange land must have been a harrowing ordeal and little did Margaret Stewart realise, when she first saw Taylor’s Flat, that through her foresight and able management that in the future she would own over 9000 acres of its best country and establish the name of Stewart throughout Monaro as respected farmers and graziers.
Original Article published by John Thistleton on The RiotACT.