Fire at The Raglan Hotel


The Raglan Hotel still exists today and is situated on the main intersection in Axedale. Today it is a home and also home of The Axedale Gallery.

The hotel was built in the mid 19th Century. In February 1877, there was a very serious fire, with devastating consequences for the owner:

“The village of Axedale, situated on the Campaspe, about fifteen miles from Sandhurst, was on Monday evening the scene of a very serious disaster. The Raglan Hotel at that place will be well-known to old as well as modern travellers on the McIvor road. It was built, we believe, somewhere about the year ’55, and was a substantial little structure, the main portion of which was formed of 14-inch walls of stone and brick.

This portion of it contained six rooms, but a wooden addition at the rear, of considerable size, intended for the purposes of a dancing room, on the occasion of the local races and other gala days, was divided into three apartments by means of shifting wooden and calico partitions. It was in this part of the hotel that a fire, which has reduced the whole fabric to ruins, broke out about six o’clock the night before last. No satisfactory explanation can be given of the origin of the conflagration. But we may here state that neither the house, which was the property of Mr. Doak, nor the furniture and stock belonging to the licensee, Mrs. Tierney, were insured.

The fire, therefore, was the work either of a malicious incendiary, or of some of those mysterious agencies which form the grand chapter of accidents. From inquiries instituted yesterday on the ground, it appeared that the people of Axedale believe firmly that the fire occurred accidentally. Mrs.Tierney, with her son and daughter-in-law, had visited Sandhurst on Monday, leaving a man in charge, who was the only person on the premises, and as his duties confined him to the bar or front part of the building, he has no knowledge whatever of the cause of’ the unfortunate occurrence.

There was not a fire in any room on the premises during the day. The fire was first discovered by a little girl, the daughter of Mr.Drake, of the Campaspe Hotel, which is situated immediately opposite to the old Raglan. She was crossing the street on some errand when she saw flames issuing from the back, wooden building, and she immediately gave the alarm. Mr. Drake, with several persons who happened to be in his house, rushed across the road, and the whole population of Axedale quickly gathered, on the spot.

Every endeavor was made to save some of the property, but so rapidly did the flames extend that only some articles of small value, such as bedding and clothing, could be saved.

Naturally, the first rush was made to the burning dancing-room, but the fire had taken such a hold of it that all attempts in that direction had quickly to be abandoned, and attention was directed to the saving of property in the front part of the hotel. But the heat and smoke were so intense and suffocating that the people were driven back without effecting any great good.

The spread, of the fire was so rapid, we were assured by eye-witnesses, that from the time of its discovery barely ten minutes had elapsed when all hope of extinguishing it or rescuing the stock and furniture was at an end. The main portion of the building was in the form of a half square, the dancing-room forming a third part of the square. The flames from the latter were driven by a smart breeze which was blowing at the time through the somewhat narrow second side facing the Campaspe, and thence into the bar and parlor side fronting the main road.

It is to be understood that although the chief portion of the house was composed of solid walls of brick and stone, yet at the end to which the dancing-room adjoined the gable was formed of calico and wood, through which the fire rushed with great fury. But it is a little extraordinary that, although it had immediately to encounter a stone brick partition, it swept over it and another of the same description also, consuming the ceiling and roof. In these partitions there were no doors nor openings of any kind, but in a third one there was a door leading into the bar.

It can be imagined with what force the devouring element swept through the narrow building and its partitions, when it is remembered that scarcely ten minutes had elapsed before every part of the house was one mass of flames. Within three-quarters of an hour the work of destruction was complete; the wooden dancing room levelled with the ground, the rest of the building completely gutted, the solid walls cracked and crumbling with the intense heat, the iron roof entirely collapsed, and the wooden part of the roof utterly consumed. There was a good dam of water close at hand, but it was found utterly impossible to make any effectual use of it.

The hotel had been erected in a hollow, and the floors were raised very high from the ground, consequently the fire raged both above and below, and being confined within the solid walls of the somewhat narrow building, obtained tremendous force. How the accident could have been occasioned is a mystery which it is difficult to solve. The dancing-room in which it originated was almost empty, there being only a tarpaulin lying on one part of the floor, and a bag or two of wheat on another.

As we have said above, although every possible exertion was made by the people of the town ship, nothing whatever of value was saved. Mrs. Tierney had only been in possession of the house a few weeks, her license having been issued on the 1st January. By this calamity she and her son and daughter-in-law have been bereft of all their worldly goods, and the loss is all the greater since a full stock had only very recently been laid in. They are, therefore, placed in very distressed circumstances, and when we visited Axedale yesterday, an old out-house had been fitted up in order to afford them a temporary dwelling. This time last year they met with a misfortune which reduced them to utter poverty, and just as they were struggling hard to retrieve their fortunes they have been met with this second and crushing disaster. A large fire, we were informed, was raging at some miles distance, in the direction of Emu Creek at the time the Raglan was burned down”
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http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88271512

A little about Axedale

The discovery of gold in Bendigo, in the 1850s brought many travellers through Axedale, as they were on the search for  their fortune. They would have found Axedale to be a pretty spot, on the banks of the Campaspe River. Some of those travellers, rested by the river and continued on. Some settled in Axedale.

Axedale soon became a thriving community, with many hotels, a bakery, store, post office and churches. There were also industries such as a blacksmith, coach service to Bendigo, brick kilns, sawmills, along with mining of gold, sandstone and bluestone.

Today Axedale is a thriving rural hamlet, offering a relaxed and peaceful lifestyle. Being only about 20 kilometers from Bendigo, many have settled in Axedale and commute daily to Bendigo for work.

Axedale Update from The Correspondent 1887

newspaper article

transcription:

Axedale. From Our Correspondent. Friday     

The hotels and business places here are doing a rather brisk trade at present, on account of the large number of extra stomachs – the owners of which are at work on the railway – that require to be filled and satisfied with liquids and solids, chiefly the former, I am sorry to say. The railway is progressing here, but not so satisfactorily to the contractor as he might expect, it being very difficult to obtain steady men.

They have started driving the piles of the bridge of 99 arches, each 20 feet span, over the Campaspe, and are cutting through the hill on the Rodney side of the river adjoining Mr. Heffernan’s estate. The hill is composed principally of bluestone, which has to be blasted, and it appears strange that, with an immense quantity of such material at hand, the bridge should rest upon wooden tiles. It is impossible to deny that at the end of twenty or twenty-five years, “the bridge will have become unsafe, whereas the bluestone would have stood for generations. It certainly seems a “penny wise and pound foolish’ policy.

A new policeman is about to appear on the scene here, that office having been satisfactorily but temporarily filled by Mr. Myers. The newcomer, poor fellow – l beg your pardon, ladies -had to enter the bonds of wedlock before he could accept the position, as the station can only be occupied by married men. The happy pair   will spend their honeymoon here, so we wish them a pleasant one.

There is a a local industry being carried on here, which is capable of being largely developed, namely the bluestone quarry, the proprietor of which, Mr. J.Ingham, deserves credit for the perserving manner in which he has worked the quarry under discouraging circumstances. He has raised some immense blocks of stone, one some time back measuring 16ft 6 in. by 12ft by 2ft. There is one at present lying in the quarry measuring 9 by 6 by 2   feet, which is without a flaw, and when struck, rings like a bell. There are many more of the same size and quality in sight. Mr. Ingham, has purchased the engine and stone sawing machine which were used for cutting the stone at the new public buildlings at Sandhurst, and he, therefore, in future intends to supply stone in the finished state. When the railway is completed, he intends to have a tramway connected with the line above Mr. Heffernan’s estate, from the quarry, it having been surveyed and found possible. He will then be able to deliver the stone with expedition, in any quantity, and at a cheap rate, to any part of the colonies. The stone is harder, and of better quality than that found, at Malmsbury, and there is an inexhaustible supply sufficient, as Mr. Ingham, tersely puts it, ‘ to build a city.” ‘The rain which fell last Monday was very much required by the farmers, but hardly sufficient fell to enable them to carry on ploughing operations. The cry is still for more.

 

Axedale Bridge on Fire

from Bendigo Advertiser, September 1, 1890

THE AXEDALE BRIDGE 0N FIRE

VEHICULAR TRAFFIC SUSPENDED

 At about five o’clock on Saturday morning, a farmer named John McNeill, residing at Weston  was on his way into Sandhurst, and when crossing the bridge which spans the Campaspe, on the main road from Heathcote to Sandhurst, he noticed that  the structure was on fire. He at once roused up Mounted-Constable Hayden, who is in charge ofthe Axedale police station, and informed him of the matter. The constable. hastily dressing himself, ran over to the spot, and taking in at a glance  the position of affairs, and seeing that the fire had obtained a good hold on the woodwork, he sped  away to the township, a few hundred yards distant, and called up the residents, ordering them to  bring as many buckets and axes as they could lay hands on. Mr. J. Minter, of the Raglan Hotel took down his dray and two water tanks, and by this means a supply of water was obtained from the river. The volunteers with their buckets set to work to try and extinguish the flames, but their efforts were altogether futile as the fire had got in between the boards of which the floor of the bridge was composed.

While this work was proceeding, several narrow escapes from serious  accidents occurred. Several volunteers, in their eagerness to cope with the fire, rushed down the embankment under the bridge where the ashes of the debris which had accumulated there were some two or three feet deep. On top they were quite cold, but below the surface, the ashes were quite hot, and before the men could get out again their boots were somewhat scorched. While trying to get out of the ashes one of the men ran further under the bridge, when one of the burning boards from the flooring fell away, almost alongside him. Seeing that it was utterly useless to try and  extinguish the fire by means of water, the men set to work and cut the timber away so as to stop the further progress of the flames. In this they were more successful, and after considerable labor they managed to keep the fire confined to about thirty or forty feet of the bridge.

This portion however, was completely destroyed, as even yesterday afternoon the beams were burning away fiercely. On Saturday morning Mr. J. D. Bywater,who is a member of the M’lvor Shire Council  was on his way into Sandhurst when he heard of the fire. He at once engaged a number of gangers employed on the railway to try and put the fire out, and also to place timber across the roadway so as to prevent persons with vehicles passing along there.  

 On Saturday afternoon Mr.H. Robinson, the engineer of the shire, visited the scene of conflagration,and he expressed the opinion that it would be at least a month before any traffic could go across the bridge again, and it would be about three months before the necessary repairs could be completed. He roughly estimated the damage done at about £100. 

Before referring to the origin of the fire it is necessary to explain that the bridge is built of bluestone and timber. It is about 400 feet in length by 22 feet wide. There are about a dozen spans in the bridge, the abutments and piers being substantially built of bluestone, obtained at Mr. Ingham’s quarry in the vicinity. The girder, beams and supports are of red gum timber, while the hand-rails were made of softwood. The flooring consisted of two layers of thick red gum boards, covered with a coating of road metal. The bridge had to be made so long because the river at this point in time of flood is very wide; in fact, even long as the bridge is there have been times when the flood waters have risen over it. At the present time, however, the river, although pretty high, does not occupy more than four or five of the spans, leaving seven or eight spans on the McIvor side of the river, the embankment gradually descending from the  eastern end of the bridge, until it reaches the water.

An enormous quantity of debris has been brought down by the floods, and after the waters have receded the debris is left deposited on the embankment against the piers. This is a favorite camping ground for tramps and swagmen, and it is surmised that the fire was caused by some person who had camped there and left without  putting out the ashes after him.        

The debris soon ignited, and the flames  spread to the timber in the floor of the bridge,with the result described above. At any rate, that appears to be the popular belief amongst the  residents in the locality, and it was a noticeable fact that not one even suggested the thought that it had been caused maliciously.

The bridge was built by the Government some twenty-seven or more years ago, and was regarded as one of the best bridges in this part of the colony. It cost some thousands of pounds, and  it was on the main road from Heathcote to Sandhurst.It was extensively used by the travelling public, particularly farmers and woodcarters  doing business with this market.

The loss to these people through the traffic over the bridge being stopped—as there was a large quantity of timber and produce sent in here daily—will be something considerable, and no time should be lost before a temporary bridge is erected. It would be absurd to think of cutting off the traffic at that point for two or three months. Persons living in the vicinity are naturally very anxious to have the bridge replaced as soon as possible. With the river running at its present height, it is impossible for anyone to ford it.  

It is rather a curious circumstance that even so early as five o’clock on Friday night different persons saw  smoke coming from under the bridge, but they did not take any particular notice of the fact, surmising that, as usual some swagmen had camped there..    

On Saturday morning a number of people passed over it on their way to Sandhurst, and although they noticed the smoke they did not think anything serious was the matter. Their surprise may be better imagined than described. When making their return journey home, they found the bridge was impassable. They had to either stay in the township that night or make a detour of about 10miles over bad roads to Russell’s bridge, which is about 5 miles further along the river.  

There is no doubt the fire, whether caused wilfully orthrough accident or negligence, originated in the debris, and the McIvor council have comein for some pretty warm expressions of condemnation for having allowed the debris to accumulate  there to such an extent. At the Railway bridge, ashort distance away, men are engaged, after every flood to remove and burn the debris.  Had the council adopted the same plan the present trouble would not have arisen.

An investigation will probably be made to ascertain, if possible, the actual cause of the outbreak.

The burning bridge was inspected by a large number of people yesterday afternoon, some of them having driven many miles.

 

Valedictory gathering at Axedale 1899

from Bendigo Advertiser, Monday 19 June 1899, page 3

Quite a large gathering of children and others connected with the Axedale state School assembled on Friday evening in the schoolroom at the invitation of the head teacher (Mr. S.E. Adams) to do honour to Miss Balmer who is giving up her position as workmistress in the school.  Soon after dark, the little ones gathered,, and games, mostly of a novel kind, were heartily indulged in by the youngsters.  Cake-eating contests and an elephant ride caused much amusement.

At 8 O’Clock a capital programme of music etc was initiated. The state school, assisted by a few scholars from St. Mary’s Roman Catholic School, with the kind acquiescence of Miss Kennedy, the teacher, gave a most attractive performance.  every item was rendered with evident enjoyment by the little ones, whose sweet singing and graceful actions reflected the greatest credit on all concerned in their training.  Among the soloists were Daisy Cundall who sang “Who’ll be my Valentine”, and had to repeat it by special request.

Mary Jones who gave “Katie Farrell” very acceptably, and Tensie Connell who sang “Robin Redbreast” with much sweetness. “Sally Horner was rendered with notable expression by Daisy Cundill and Eileen Hanson both very little ones, and the last mentioned little lady sang “I’m going to write to Papa”, and performed a step dance very gracefully.

Mr. T. Drake gave a very interesting musical interlude with flageolet, bellows, glasses, etc.

The children’s choruses were “When the soldiers beat their drum” and “Four Jolly Smiths” (with anvil accompaniment). A concerted piece, “Railway Trains” caused a deal of amusement, and the children who took the parts of guard (W. Winzar), porter (L. Allen), obstreperous passengers etc deserve special mengion.

Class recitations, “Which Love Best”, and “The Crusaders Motto”, were effectively rendered and very amusing action rhymes, (written by the head teacher) were given as follows: “The girl and the mudlark”, “Lollipops”, “Washing Day”, “The Birdie’s song”, “Swing song”, and nursery rhymes re-written.

Almost all items on the programme were given in character.  a special treat was the rendition of song’s dialogues, andinstrumental selections on the gramaphone, very kindly lent and manipulated by Mr. John Heffernan.

At the conclusion of this part of the programme, an enjoyable supper was partaken of, after which Mr. W.S. Cahill (chairman of the Board of Advice), who had kindly consented to take the chair for the evening, referred in appreciatory tersm, to the good work Miss Balmer had done during the five or six years she had been connected with the school.

Mr. Adams  also spoke of his lady assistant in highly complimentary terms, making reference to her schokastic abilities, and amiability. Mr. Cahill then, on behalf of the children, presented her with a very nice gold bracelet, bearing a suitable inscription, loud cheers being given for Miss Balmer

Cheers were also given for the head teacher and votes of thanks too Mr. Cahill (on the motion of Mr. Kerr), to Mr. Drake, who lent piano and lamps, to Miss Kennedy, who also gave assistance in several ways, and to the many other ladies and gentlemen who had assisted, brought to a conclusion a most enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Axedale Map 1858

Axedale Map.

Victorian Department of Crown Lands and Survey. The Township of Axedale, and suburban allotments, Parish of Axedale, County unnamed 1858. Map RM3359

This map can be found in the Digital Maps Collection, at the National Library of Australia. The map which was surveyed in 1858 is mounted on linen and measures 44.9cm X 28.4cm and shows land holdings and newly subdivided land.

Source: http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-rm3359

(To see detail more clearly, click on the map)

Can you see where you live today. I’d love to hear in the comments below, if you can see your block.