About Elizabeth Jane (Bessie) Robinson
Elizabeth Jane (‘Bessie’) Robinson was a businesswoman who drove the development of the central west town of Canowindra and advocated for quality public education.
Bessie’s land stretched from present-day Gaskill Street to Clyburn Street. The Old Vic Inn now stands on the site of The Victoria Hotel built on Bessie’s land, which she ran from 1868 until the early 1900s. In the early 1870s Bessie began campaigning for better education in Canowindra. In 1875, the government agreed to set up a state school. Bessie was also instrumental in building modern-day Canowindra, developing her land for residential and commercial purposes.
- Street address:The Old Vic Inn 56 Gaskill St, Canowindra 2804
- Wheelchair accessible
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Bessie soon turned the hotel into a friendly place where local residents gathered for town meetings. She always maintained her own medicine chest, being described as having 'played the role of doctor and nurse' in the district for over 20 years. She became an enthusiastic advocate for establishing a new district school. By 1872 Bessie had already set up a small, privately run school in Canowindra, open to all, but it had limited resources. Bessie proposed that the community apply for government aid to set up a state school. The initial application was not successful.
In 1873, Bessie remarried. Her new husband, civil engineer Thomas Clyburn, had arrived in Canowindra during a brief gold mining rush in the late 1860s. After their marriage, Thomas became the licensee of Bessie’s hotel and they had six children.
Throughout this time, Bessie continued to campaign for a new school in Canowindra. Thomas supported her efforts, and in 1875 her application for a ‘provisional school’ was approved. The school grew quickly and was upgraded to public school status by 1877.
In 1878 the couple developed a second (‘Clyburn’) subdivision. They also built several shops opposite the hotel on the village’s main street, now Gaskill Street.
In 1891 Thomas passed away. Eight years later, Bessie married James Marshall. In 1904, the large orchard near the hotel’s rear into a residential area was developed – the third (‘Marshall’) subdivision – running north from what is now Ferguson Street.
Bessie and James continued to live at the hotel until Bessie sold it in the early 1900s. A fourth subdivision followed in 1922.
Bessie died in Canowindra in 1922 and is remembered to this day as the ‘mother’ of Canowindra.