Diane Hickey cannot remember being woken one night in 2022 by her excited husband who wanted to look over an 1866 hotel on the market in Tuena.
The next day driving to the village 85 kilometres south of Bathurst on the road to Goulburn her husband reminded her he had been looking online the night before to buy farm machinery when he spotted the Goldfields Inn advertised for sale.
After an inspection tour through the inn that has been closed since about 2012 the couple asked for five minutes alone, walked over to the nearby park and together resolved to buy it.
“We never intended to be owners of a pub, but we have a great love of buildings and history and felt that it was a building crying out to be restored,” Diane said. “We did get home that day and say, ‘What have we done?’ because we are already super busy,” Diane, who is Binda Primary School principal, said. The couple also breed cattle on their farm.
“We really didn’t have time to do this, but having said that we are loving it,” she said. “We have a great love of people and know that a pub in the small community is so important because it is a place of connection.”
Owning the historic Gunning Post Office and having restored another 1920s building at Dalton, the couple have learned plenty of restoration skills along the way. “I’m not afraid of having a crack at fixing things,” she said. “I am repairing the wattle and daub myself,” she said, referring to the small section of the old inn that distinguishes it as the last remaining wattle and daub hotel in Australia. (Wattle and daub consists of woven saplings covered in mud and plaster.)
Well before the inn opened, record prices for gold triggered 50-feet deep shafts in the early 1830s in the Tuena district and by the 1850s the settlement’s population grew to 500. Miners clashed with Chinese miners. Bushrangers and cattle and horse stealing were rife, and court sittings became regular.
In the 1860s people used any material they could find to build which is why this unique pub has sections made of tin, wood and the historically significant wattle and daub. It also has remnants of those roaring days.
In a little room near the inn’s bar a smoking room was set aside for card playing. “There is a hand-painted mural that goes around the outside of that room; I wish it was able to be moved out where the public can see it because it is sensational,” Diane said. “That would have been painted sometime during the gold rush.” At one end of the inn is a small window, originally for ticket selling for people needing a coach ride.
Taking out three ceilings, the inn’s latest owners exposed original stringy bark poles, a feature which continues throughout the old pub. They called in specialists for asbestos removal, reframing windows, electrical wiring and replacing the old roof with a new one. They’re doing the rest of the restoration themselves.
Stripping out old carpet has uncovered three or four layers of linoleum in one of the rooms. “I have kept pieces for display because they tell a story as well, of different tastes over the years,” Diane said.
“I have repaired a dining room and kitchen, I have re-pointed the bricks and repainted that section – not before I scraped all the paint off it. That was weeks of scraping paint,” she said.
They have stabilised worn bricks outside a chimney for the kitchen, demolished the kitchen and bought appliances from the Hard Rock Cafe in Sydney to be repurposed in their pub. So far they have filled four large hopper bins with accumulated waste.
Having secured a liquor licence they had planned to reopen the famous watering hole at the end of 2024, until three months ago when Diane fell off her young horse Cardinal, sustaining three spiral fractures in her ankle. Worse was to come when she caught a golden staph infection.
So they’re three months behind their schedule but have exciting plans for the reopening when they will team up with their fellow members of the Australian Light Horse. They will re-enact those rip-roaring gold rush days at Tuena with bushrangers, horses and carriages and colourful characters like those who carved the Goldfields Inn into the pages of history.
Original Article published by John Thistleton on About Regional.