Alice of Anglesea House by Merrill O’Donnell and Stephen Brooks

 

 

When the Anglesea Hotel was destroyed in a bushfire in 1898, it was yet another hurdle licensee Alice Jackson had to overcome. Just as she had prevailed before, this strong woman from early pioneering stock “rose from the ashes”, negotiated temporary premises and was granted a special licence until the new hotel was built. The original hotel had been insured for £600 and the new building, which she decided to locate closer to the beach, required a further £400 investment.ahotel1928ahotelsign

Alice Victoria Parker, daughter of a former mayor of Geelong, married John Stewart Jackson, entrepreneur, architect and talented artist, on 22nd January 1884 at St Paul’s Church in Geelong. Alice’s first child was born before the year ended and early the following year her husband was sued for non-payment of a debt. It was the first of several times he would front the court on money related matters.

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By April 1886, an advertisement appeared in the Geelong Advertiser for J S Jackson’s “newly-built establishment… Anglesea House”.  A grand opening took place the following November and described a “rather impressive weatherboard construction … three-storeyed with two large balconies around it” and it contained 20 rooms. In the centre of the building was a 75ft tower which provided extensive views of Bass Strait. Within months of the opening, Alice gave birth to her second child, while John was working as an architect and also as an agent bringing entertainment to Geelong. In 1890, Alice applied for a licence for the premises and indicated that the name would be changed to the Anglesea Hotel. From then on, all advertising carried the name of A V Jackson.

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John’s fortunes continued to plummet and it seems the marriage disintegrated. Early in 1892, with the financial support of some Geelong friends, John left Geelong with hopes of a new start in Western Australia. Prior to leaving, he had drawn a panoramic historical portrait of Geelong measuring 2.5 metres in length, which is now held at the Geelong Heritage Centre. Upon his arrival in Perth, he drew a cyclorama of that town, which is in the State Library of Western Australia. John made an initial impact in Perth but soon fell out of favour and two lines in The Argus in 1903 informed of his death in that town.

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By 1898, Anglesea had become a popular coastal resort and, in the height of the summer season on the morning of Tuesday 8th February, a fire that had been burning in the bush swept down unexpectedly and destroyed the hotel. Guests tried desperately to beat out the flames, but once the fire took hold, the heat became too intense and the timber building was burnt to the ground within fifteen minutes. The Anglican Church nearby suffered the same fate. Despite having lost both her home and her business, the very next day Alice was making plans to establish a temporary place of business and to rebuild. Ten months later, Alice celebrated the reopening of the hotel with a “sumptuous banquet” for 70 to 80 ladies and gentlemen from Melbourne and Geelong. During the toasts she was “highly eulogised for the determinedness with which she had stuck to the place in the face of many difficulties and losses with which she had been confronted”.

 

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Alice remained at the helm of the hotel until 1920 when she sold it for £3000 to Elizabeth Fraser. She was 62 years old and had spent more than 30 years raising her two children there and catering for the needs of guests. After selling the hotel, Alice moved to Yea with her daughter’s family where she remained until her death in 1934. She is buried in the Yea cemetery, yet her history shall be forever inextricably linked to Anglesea, the town she helped to develop.

 

 

 

 

 

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