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  • BAG History Group

Blackwood Navvies

Blackwood Temperance Hotel - 1916
Blackwood Temperance Hotel - 1916

In Blackwood:

"... A stirring Band of Hope, (organisations which encouraged members to sign a pledge of life-long abstinence from intoxicating liquors) with frequent temperance meetings and band parades, was a prominent feature of the day. Sly grog shops were in considerable evidence ..."

The temperance movement began in Australia in the 1830s and promoted moderation rather than abstinence. It could rely on strong support from Methodists, as was the case in Blackwood, where the behaviour of the navvies building the railway line c1880 likely strengthened the local movement.

“ ... Camps would consist of up to 120 men ... All nationalities were represented ... when work was over for the day ... the only attraction, save for a wine shop hurriedly run up in Blackwood was the old Blackwood Inn - now the Belair Hotel. ... three hogsheads (157 gallons) would be drunk in one day. Beer was two prices, four pence a pint, and one-and-six a gallon. Buying in bulk was the favourite method of purchase. A group of mates would ... buy a kerosene bucket full of beer. ... There were only two lock-ups in Blackwood. When the days and nights were wild these were often full. The troopers would then be forced to chain offenders to the trees outside”.

(The Chronicle 26 Nov, 1936 p50)

“To provide a place of worship for the sudden influx of (navvy) population a wooden chapel was erected by the Methodists (cnr Main Road and Young Street) mainly through the exertion of the Hon. John Carr. This chapel was opened in Feb 1881 ... In connection with the opening services a largely attended tea meeting was held at the rear of the Temperance Hotel"

(The Blackwood Magazine, Oct p217)

In 1917 this Methodist Chapel was moved to the site of today's Uniting Church at the Blackwood Roundabout. Across the road was the Blackwood Temperance Hotel which had opened in 1879 and offered accommodation, hosted meetings by a range of community groups, was the central point for Band of Hope marches and housed a Blackwood Temperance Choral Society. Next door at 16 Coromandel Parade, lived John Carr who agitated against drinking, smoking and gambling. A temperance precinct was created. Further, the fresh air of the hills district had resulted in the area becoming a location for Inebriates Retreats, with Karinya (later Colebrook) at Eden Hills and The Belair Inebriates Retreat (now St John's Grammar School) at Belair.

Just down Coromandel Parade from the Temperance Hotel was The Boys Club whose Literary Committee was producing the Blackwood Magazine. It could be that the magazine was influenced by this movement with it reporting on temperance events but rarely on the Belair Hotel. It is likely that the Temperance Movement curtailed patronage of the Belair Hotel and resulted in Blackwood not having a hotel of its own. An application for the "Hills View Hotel" (to be sited near the NE corner of the Blackwood Roundabout) met with strong public opposition and never progressed.

The Temperance Hotel became a Boarding House then the Magarey family home and was demolished in 1972 to make way for Magnet Court.

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