Bega Pioneers Museum

Thatcher Collection

The Story

Location of collection:

Bega Pioneers’ Museum, 87 Bega St, Bega, NSW, 2550.

Accessibility of collection:

This collection belongs to the Bega Valley Historical Society Inc., the organisation responsible for managing the Bega Pioneers’ Museum.

The museum is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday 10.00 am - 4.00 pm; Saturday 10.00 am - 2.00 pm. Closed public holidays.

In line with standard best practice long term preservation procedures, the museum maintains a regular rotating exhibition schedule, so there can be no guarantee that any of the items included in this collection will be on public display at any given time.

History and provenance of collection:

The Thatcher collection is a large mixed material collection of moveable cultural heritage items associated with the Thatchers, a pre-eminent family of architects, designers, builders and contractors who were active not only throughout the Bega Valley but also along the broader Far South Coast area, on the Monaro, Southern Highlands and in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.

Of the many builders and designers that have played a part in the development of the area since European settlement, none could be said to have had the influence on the built environment locally and beyond than the Thatcher family. Three generations were involved over a period extending from the 1880s through to around the 1960s, and having been in business for such a lengthy period, there can be little surprise that they left behind a precious, substantial and significant tangible legacy. Renowned for the quality of their craftsmanship, family members contributed to a wide variety of ecclesiastical, commercial, governmental, residential and community structures, a large number of which survive through to the present day as a built document of their work.

Robert Wallis Thatcher, a ship builder by trade, was born in Manchester, England, in 1861 to Robert, a mechanical fitter, and Charlotte (nee Wallis). After serving his apprenticeship, he emigrated to Australia via America, landing in Sydney on board the Orient in 1883 when he was 22.

Eleven months later, he arrived in Bega and quickly established himself in the building and construction industry. His first job was supervising the latter stages of the Bank of NSW on the corner of Gipps and Carp Streets, which was being built by contractor George Chidgey. In 1886, Robert undertook the architectural work for Tathra’s Ocean View Hotel, J. Tang and E. Zingelerecting the building the following year. Robert also constructed a residence in Bemboka for Dennis O’Neill in 1887.

While his ship building skills would have been easily transferable to land-based construction, the architectural side of Robert’s activities may have been self-taught. To him, however, belongs the credit for designing an extensive array of buildings and monuments throughout and beyond the district.

In March 1885 Robert married Emmeline Shorter at St. David’s Church, Surry Hills (Sydney) and eight children followed, four of whom sadly did not live to see old age. The eldest, Eunice, was only about three years old when she passed away in 1889. Sidney Rupert, born in 1894, enlisted in the AIF in August 1915 and was killed in action in France in April 1917 at the age of 22. Robert R. was born in 1905 and died in 1932 at the age of 27; and Alice was 35 when she died in 1931. Robert’s wife passed away in Bega in 1922 after a long illness.

In 1888, Robert Wallis joined with Robert Underhill to form the longstanding and well-known Underhill and Thatcher firm of builders and contractors. A prolific pairing, the partnership was responsible for a whole host of design, construction, renovation, alteration and extension work across and beyond the local area. Among the many projects undertaken during this early period of the partnership, they built the Cobargo Post Office (1890), the two-storey Bega Convent in Parker Street, designed by Sydney architect Mr. Despointes (1890-91), the Presbyterian Manse in Bega (1892) and the Bega Racecourse Grandstand (1896).

Robert and his family moved to Cobargo in 1890, remaining there until 1900. In October that year, a clearance sale of household furniture and effects was held on account of their relocation to Braidwood where the firm had secured the contract for construction of a new courthouse (1900-1902). While there, Robert also designed a new grandstand for the Braidwood Turf Club, basing it on those used some years earlier in Bega but with a few modifications. During this period R. W. Thatcher also designed the Bega Methodist Parsonage, with construction being carried out in 1902 by W. Manning.

November 1902 saw the Thatcher family relocate back to Bega from Braidwood and the following year, R. W. Thatcher erected a new home for himself in Parker Street, Bega. In 1903, the Underhill and Thatcher firm undertook alterations and additions to the Bega Post and Telegraph Office and the following year completed new wings for the Bega Hospital. Robert Wallis also prepared the plans and specifications for Bega A. H. and P Society’s magnificent show pavilion in 1903, with W. Manning responsible for its construction.

Suffering from ongoing health problems, Robert was advised by medical professionals that returning to his English homeland may help. To that end, the Underhill and Thatcher partnership was dissolved in November 1905 and the same month, the family boarded a steamer at TathraWharf. Departing Sydney on board the Omrah, they arrived in the "old country" on 27 December, 1905 and by February 1906 Robert Wallis was contracting in Manchester. June found him working in London.

After just two years, however, Robert decided to return to Australia. Departing England in December 1907 on board Ormuz, he landed in Sydney in January the following year. The same month, he made his way back to Bega where “…the good old firm…” of Underhill and Thatcher was quickly re-established. Shortly afterwards, they secured a major contract for additions to Tathra Wharf, a job which they completed in March 1909.

For some unknown reason, his family remained in England until August 1909, when his wife and five of their children landed back in Sydney on board the Orsova, daughter Lottie remaining in England at this time.

Never one to shy away from incorporating unique design elements in his projects, Robert’s improvements to the Bega Picture Palace in 1911 included an unusual roof fitted with pulleys, enabling it to be raised for open air showings or lowered when weather conditions dictated. The same year, the firm also secured the contract to build local M. P. Austin Chapman’s new residence in Mosman (Sydney) - quite a compliment given that Chapman was in a position to award the contract to only the best of builders and contractors.

Soon after, with a growing Sydney clientele, the firm made the decision to relocate. In June 1912, Underhill and Thatcher sold up their carpentering equipment in Bega and moved north, complete with their staff. Ties with the region weren’t broken though, with local tradesmen often travelling to Sydney to work on their various projects.

By late 1914 Robert Thatcher had returned to Bega, while Robert Underhill and his son Garnet remained in the city, continuing with construction projects there until 1917. After retiring from the building industry, they went into poultry farming.

Shortly after arriving back in Bega, Robert Wallis commenced the design and construction of the Kameruka Hostel. Reportedly modelled on the Brighton Pavilion in England, this is considered one of the earliest tourism initiatives in the region.

In April 1917, the Thatcher family moved back to Cobargo, remaining there until March 1919, when they relocated back to Bega.

In 1917, R. W. Thatcher built the Cobargo Convent, followed in 1918 by Harry Tarlinton’s WilgoHomestead, also at Cobargo. By this time, three of his sons were working with him in the design and construction industry and in 1923, when he took a lease on the Drill Hall in Gipps Street, Bega, for his workshop and offices, he was trading as Thatcher and Sons. He later went into partnership with his second youngest son, Arthur Cecil, forming R. W. Thatcher and Son.

Robert remained active in the firm virtually up until his death at Tathra in May 1948. He is buried in the Bega Cemetery. One son, Harry Wallis, passed away just four years later in July 1952, and Arthur took over the family business, establishing A. C. Thatcher Pty Ltd. The firm was responsible for some of the largest building and construction projects on the Far South Coast. He passed away in September 1964 at the age of 65. Robert’s grandson, also named Robert, was the third generation to enter the family’s building and construction business. He passed away in August 2007.

The Thatcher family’s industry has left many valuable tangible relics throughout the region today, but perhaps one of the most outstanding examples is the Bega Soldiers’ Memorial Gates. Designed by Robert Wallis, Thatcher and Sons’ £1,897 tender for its construction was accepted in 1923. Completed and unveiled in May 1924, it has become one of the most recognisable and identifiable symbols of Bega. Reportedly based on either Rome’s Arch of Constantine or Sir Reginald Blomfield’s 1921 design of the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing’s triumphal arch in Belgium, comparisons between the three structures would tend to suggest the latter.

In conjunction with the extensive built document, Bega Valley Historical Society holds a significant material culture collection relating to this outstanding firm. Known, unsurprisingly, as the Thatcher collection, it is comprised of objects, furnishings and fixtures, archives, publications, photographic material, illustrations and artwork, including around ninety hand drawn and coloured floor plans, elevations and positive and negative building blueprints. The collection, which has been amassed over a period of at least a decade, has been assembled exclusively through donation from members of the community, including the Thatcher family (particularly Mr. Doug Thatcher). Like most local history collections, it has evolved in an ad hoc manner, but despite this, is surprisingly comprehensive in terms of scope and content.

The most extensive collection relating to this preeminent family firm in existence, it is probably also one of the largest mixed material collections associated with a single building and design firm in a New South Wales public institution.

Timeline of Thatcher building projects:

• 1884 – Bank of N.S.W. on the corner of Gipp and Carp Sts, Bega, built by George Chidgey with the latter stages of the building supervised by R.W. Thatcher

• 1886 / 87 – Tenders called for the Ocean View Hotel, Tathra. Architect R.W. Thatcher (1886), builders J. Tang and E. Zingel (1887).

• 1887 - Dennis O’Neill’s Bemboka residence of 8 rooms built by R.W. Thatcher .

• 1888 - Colombo School of Arts opened. Architect R. W. Thatcher, builder Peter Manning.

• 1890 - Substantial additions (second storey) made to the Cobargo Post Office Hotel by Underhill and Thatcher

• 1890 – Cobargo Post Office built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1891 - Underhill and Thatcher built Bega Convent to the design of Sydney architect Mr. Despointes.

• 1892 - Presbyterian Manse, Bega, built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1893 - Wesleyan Church Pambula designed by Underhill and Thatcher and built by Mr. A. Wright.

• 1894 – Repairs to St. John’s Vicarage, Bega undertaken by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1894/95 - Central Hotel, Bega designed by R.W. Thatcher and built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1895 – Improvements and additions to the School of Arts, Bega, undertaken by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1895 - Improvements and repairs to Eden Public School by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1895 - Dry River Creamery built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1895 - Contract to construct Candelo Commercial Banking Company building awarded to Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1896 - Improvements and repairs to the Candelo Post Office undertaken by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1896 - Bega’s Racecourse Grandstand erected by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1896/97 - St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Cobargo, built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1897 – Gothic style St. John’s Anglican Church School Hall, Bega, designed and built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1897 - Pambula Court House built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1897/98 - Wyndham Court House and Lock Up built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1898 - Homestead for Chirnside at Inglewood Station on the Monaro built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1899 - St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Convent, Candelo, built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1899-1900 - additions to Family Hotel, Bega, done by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1900 - Joseph Rheinberger’s residence at Fairview built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1900 – Major renovations to Central Hotel, Bega, undertaken by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1900/1901 - Braidwood Courthouse built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1901 – Moruya’s Roman Catholic Presbytery designed by architect R.W. Thatcher.

• 1901 - Braidwood Turf Club new grandstand designed by R.W. Thatcher using the same plans as those for Bega’s 1896 grandstand with a few modifications.

• 1902 – Bega’s Methodist Parsonage designed by R.W. Thatcher and built by W. Manning.

• 1903 - Bega Show Pavilion designed by R. W. Thatcher and built by W. Manning.

• 1903 – Home erected in Parker Street, Bega, by Mr. R.W. Thatcher for himself.

• 1903 - Mr. Thomas Rixon’s substantial residence built at ‘The Corner’ by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1903 - Mrs. P. Rheinberger’s brick residence at Meringlo built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1903 – Alterations and additions to the Bega Post and Telegraph Office by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1904 – Additions to the first Bega Hospital by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1904 - Bank of Australasia built by Underhill and Thatcher using bricks from part of Commercial Hotel, Bega, which they dismantled.

• 1904 - Old Belfry at St. John’s Church, Bega, dismantled by Underhill and Thatcher who rebuilt a new one.

• 1904 - Large brick house built Mr. Bligh of Bunga by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1905 – Balcony erected in the Metropolitan Hotel, Bega, by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1905 - New residence named ‘Cavan’ built in Upper Carp Street, Bega, for J.J. Ormiston by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1905 - Dental surgery in Carp Street Bega built for Mr. Ormiston by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1905 Commercial Banking Company building in Vulcan St. Moruya designed by architect R.W. Thatcher and built by Watson and Stubbs.

• 1905 - H. Jardine’s brick cottage built at Tathra by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1908/9 – Additions to Tathra Wharf undertaken by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1909 - W. Manning the building contractor for further additions to Bega Hospital with R. W. Thatcher the Clerk of Works.

• 1909 - J. F. Ziegler’s new residence in Carp St. built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1909 - J.H. Henderson residence at Newtown built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1909 - T. D’Arcy’s brick house on Chapel Hill built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1909 - Mrs. Connor’s residence on the Hibburd subdivision in East Street built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1909 - Mr. J.H. Tarlinton’s residence adjacent to Roman Catholic Church, Cobargo, built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1909 – Improvements made to the Family Hotel, Bega, by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1909 - Pearce’s Coach Building in Church Street, Bega, built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1909 - Demolition of the Club Hotel Bega undertaken by Underhill and Thatcher; with the firm also building new store for Rodd and Chegwidden in its place.

• 1910 – Bega Motor Garage erected in Carp Street for Peterson and Gjerstrup.

• 1910 - Science and manual training rooms at Bega Public School constructed by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1910 – Motor and buggy sheds built for Mrs. Hume of the Commercial Hotel in Bega by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1910 – Modifications to Lyceum Hall in Auckland Street by Underhill and Thatcher to create a motor garage for Balmain and Heyde.

• 1910 - Demolition of the Commercial Hotel billiard room to be rebuilt in brick by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1910 - Shop, residence and produce store erected in Carp Street, Bega, for Mr. Gowing

• 1911 - Star Picture Theatre in Carp Street, Bega, designed by Thatcher and built by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1911 - Two double-storey brick shops constructed in Bega for the Gowing Estate

• 1911 – Underhill and Thatcher contracted to build local MP Austin Chapman’s residence at Mosman. Quite a compliment to them as he was in a position to let the contract to only the best of builders.

• 1911 - Mr. Sam Johnston’s new brick residence at Meringlo built by Underhill and Thatcher’s staff.

• 1911 - Shop, residence and produce store erected in Carp Street, Bega for Mr. Gowing by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1911 - Brick additions to the Metropolitan Hotel, Bega, by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1911 - Bega Picture Palace roofing and alterations by Underhill and Thatcher.

• 1914/15 – Kameruka Hostel designed and constructed by R. W. Thatcher.

• 1915 - Kameruka Memorial Hall built by R.W. Thatcher.

• 1917/18 - Kameruka Store and Offices rebuilt by R.W. Thatcher after the originals were destroyed by fire.

• 1917 – Roman Catholic Convent, Cobargo, built by R. W. Thatcher.

• 1918 - Harry Tarlinton’s Wilgo Homestead at Cobargo designed by architect R.W. Thatcher who was also the contractor.

• 1918 – Extensions to the Commercial Bank building in Candelo, including the erection of a strong room by R. W. Thatcher.

• 1919 – New cottage in Parker Street, Bega, erected for Mr. Innes by R.W. Thatcher.

• 1919/1920 - Band Rotunda in Bega Park erected by returned soldiers and supervised by R.W. Thatcher.

• 1921 - Improvements to Mr. T. A. Starr’s store in Gipps Street, Bega undertaken by R. W. Thatcher

• 1921 – Narooma Hostel designed and built by R. W. Thatcher.

• 1921 – Brick shop adjoining the Star Theatre, Bega, constructed for George R. W. Thatcher.

• 1921 – Additions to B.J. Smith’s “Eureka”, Wolumla undertaken by R.W. Thatcher.

• 1921 – Brick residence at Buckejo erected for V. Bateman by R.W. Thatcher.

• 1921 - Brick residence at Deepdale, Candelo, erected for H.P. Collins by R.W. Thatcher.

• 1921 – Residence at Rockbrook near Candelo erected for Walter Collins by R.W. Thatcher.

• 1921 - Homestead erected for Mr. S.W. Bate at Central Tilba by R.W. Thatcher.

• 1921 - St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Wolumla designed by R.W. Thatcher and built by R.E. Midson in 1925.

• 1922 – Manager’s residence at the Island Factory, Kameruka built by R.W. Thatcher, replacing the building destroyed by fire.

• 1922 - Brick motor shop opposite the Bega Post Office constructed for Mr. E. Ryan by R. W. Thatcher.

• 1922-23 - New Lyric Picture Theatre, Bega built by Thatcher and Sons.

• 1923 - Four concrete shops constructed for the Gowing Estate in Bega.

• 1923 – Balcony and additional bedrooms added to Bank Hotel, Bega by Mr. Thatcher.

• 1923/24 - Christ Church in Cobargo designed by R. W. Thatcher.

• 1923/24 - Bega War Memorial and gates designed by and built by R.W. Thatcher.

• 1923 – Additional bedrooms added to the Bank Hotel, Bega by Mr. Thatcher.

• 1923-1924 - Christ Church, Cobargo, designed and built by R.W. Thatcher.

• 1924 - Bega Butter Co-operative Factory remodelled by R.W. Thatcher.

• 1925 - Horseshoe Bay Hotel in Bermagui remodelled by the erection of a two-storeyaddition. R. W. Thatcher the architect and builder.

• 1925 - St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Wolumla designed by R. W. Thatcher and built by R. E. Midson

• 1925/26 – New residence erected for Mr. Percy Collins, Greenmount, by Mr. Thatcher.

• 1926 – Residence for Mr. W.E. Collins at Candelo designed by R.W. Thatcher and built by Mr. Midson.

• 1926 - State Electric Lighting Company’s powerhouse in Auckland Street, Bega constructed by R.W. Thatcher.

• 1926/27 - Delegate Hotel was demolished and rebuilt by R. W. Thatcher.

• 1927 - Bakery for Holzhauser Brothers constructed in William Street, Candelo, by Thatcher.

• 1927 - Cobargo Butter Factory rebuilt by R.W. Thatcher after it was destroyed by fire the previous year.

• 1927 – Building at Mr. Crisp’s Jimenbuen property out from Cooma built by Thatcher and Sons.

• 1927 - Mr. Arthur Thatcher’s residence at the corner of Parker and Upper Streets, Bega built by him.

• 1927/28 - Substantial additions to the Delegate branch of the Commercial Bank, R. W. Thatcher contractor and H. Thatcher foreman.

• 1928 - Garage and residence erected for E.W. Whalan in Carp Street, Bega by R.W. Thatcher.

• 1928 - Brick shop constructed by R. W. Thatcher for J. A Lawson in Carp Street.

• 1928 – Residence built in High Street, Bega, for H. H. Branson by R. W. Thatcher and Son.

• 1928 - Thatcher’s tender accepted for construction of the Christ Church Church of England, Bemboka.

• 1928 – Residence built for Mr. Roy Gourlay at Cobargo by R.W. Thatcher and Son.

• 1929 - Christ Church Church of England at Bemboka built by Thatcher.

• 1929 - Globe Hotel in Bombala remodelled by R. W. Thatcher for the sum of £7,000.

• 1929 – Residence for Ruby Moore constructed at Bemboka by Thatchers.

• 1930 - Addition of two rooms to the St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Convent in Candelo by Thatcher.

• 1930 – R. W. Thatcher supervised the Evershed Memorial Clock project which was designed by Sir John Sulman and constructed by R. E. Midson.

• 1932 - Mr. T.A. Britten of ‘Fairview’ Bemboka had his residence ‘Kenya’ erected by Arthur Thatcher.

• 1932 – Residence erected for Mr. I. Game on Tathra Rd. by Arthur Thatcher.

• 1932 – Residence at Merimbula erected for Mr. R. Grayson by Thatcher.

• 1932 - Alterations to two double-fronted shops in Carp Street, Bega

• 1933 – New Bega Racecourse grandstand erected by A. Thatcher.

• 1934 - Three shops of reinforced concrete constructed for F. B. Benny at Cobargo by Arthur Thatcher.

• 1934 - Lych Gates and fence at St. John’s Anglican Church, Bega, designed by R. W. Thatcher and built by K. McGregor

• 1935 - Two shops and a billiard room constructed for A. P. Beresford in Church Street, Bega, by A. Thatcher.

• 1935 - Two cottages in Gordon St. Bega erected for Mr. Jas Reeve by A. Thatcher.

• 1936 – Contract for extensions to Tathra Surf Club awarded to A.C. Thatcher.

• 1936 – Contract for C.W.A. Rooms in Bega awarded to A.C. Thatcher.

• 1936/37 - Candelo School of Arts erected by A. Thatcher.

• 1937 – Brick service station for Godfrey’s Motors Pambula designed and built by R. W. Thatcher.

• 1937/38 - New brick Cobargo Hotel for Herb Turner designed by R. W. Thatcher and built by Thatcher Brothers

• 1937/38 – Brick garage and shops for Mr. W. Whitby at Pambula designed by R. W. Thatcher and built by Arthur Thatcher.

• 1937/38 – Star of the Sea Roman Church, Tathra, designed by R. W. Thatcher and constructed by A. C. Thatcher.

• 1937 - Broadcasting Station and offices erected over portion of Gowing Estate premises in Carp Street, Bega, by Thatcher.

• 1938 - Mrs. Fred Rixon, ten room Guest House ‘Harbor House’ at Tathra built by Thatcher.

• 1938 - Major alterations to the shop frontage of Thomas Brothers’ Federal Stores in Pambula undertaken by Thatcher.

• 1938 - Three brick lavatories at Bega Showground erected by Thatcher.

• 1938 - Cottage in Rawlinson Street, Bega, erected for Mr. Frank Elliott by A. Thatcher.

• 1940 – C.V. Henderson’s Store, Tathra, destroyed by fire earlier that year, rebuilt by Thatcher

• 1942 - Alterations to the Catholic Presbytery at Cobargo by A. Thatcher.

• 1946 – Cottage erected for Mrs. Greenwood in Dilkera Road, Tathra by A. Thatcher. This was R.W. Thatcher’s daughter and he lived with her in his retirement.

• 1946 - Ladies Club House at Tathra – A.C. Thatcher was the contractor.

• 1947 - Mr. J. Plumb new cottage erected in Dilkera Road, Tathra by A.C. Thatcher.

• 1947 - Miss G.E. Myers residence in Main Street, Merimbula erected by A.C. Thatcher.

• 1947 – Plans and specifications for the Twyford Hall memorial wing supplied by R. Thatcher and constructed by Jack Pike in 1962.

• 1965 – Tender for renovations to Tathra Surf Club awarded to A. C. Thatcher for £3,994 to commence in March 1966 and to take 12 weeks to complete.

Fabric, design, manufacture and condition:

The Thatcher collection is a mixed material collection is comprised of:

• Objects - an extensive collection of carpentry, joinery and woodworking tools, as used by the construction firm of Underhill and Thatcher; the timber chest in which the tools were originally kept; a traveling trunk, made by Goldsmith and Sons, Newark, New Jersey (in which loose plans, business documents, etc. were stored when donated to the museum); assorted personal items; assorted souvenir ware items, including tea pots, egg cups, tea cups, saucers, display plates, breakfast bowls, jugs, lidded trinket bowls, pin dishes, and carafe and wine glass sets, featuring Thatcher built and /or designed structures;

• Furnishings and fixtures - a free standing timber ticket box, constructed by R. W. Thatcher and formerly part of the Bega School of Arts; a timber (cedar?) counter constructed by R. W. Thatcher and originally in the Bega Post Office;

• Archives - assorted documents; business records; quotations, specifications and accounts; newspaper clippings; product advertising and promotional material; correspondence; maps, plans and posters; certificates; Thatcher family research file; ephemera;

• Illustrations and art works - paintings, prints, drawings, sketches and reproductions, including: approximately 90 loose hand drawn and coloured floor plans, elevations and positive and negative blueprints (including unsuccessful alternative designs for the Dr. Evershed Memorial Clock Tower); 19 framed original hand drawn and colouredarchitectural plans; sketch of Thatcher's carpentry shop in England, by an unidentified artist; pencil sketch of an unidentified member of the Thatcher family, by an unidentified artist; sketch of Bega Soldiers' Memorial Gates, by A. McNeil; print of St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Bega, by Ann Brosnan; reproduction of sketch of Bega Primary School, by Shirley Hannan;

• Photographic material - family portraits; postcards; images of assorted individual structures designed and / or built and / or worked on by Underhill and Thatcher or members of the Thatcher family; including both originals and reproductions;

• Publications - reference and research books; newspapers;

• Bega Pioneers Museum building - formerly the Family Hotel, Underhill and Thatcher completed improvements to the structure in 1909. It is indicative of the many extant properties associated with the family.

The individual items in the collection combine to create a rich snapshot of the contribution made by members of the Thatcher family to the building and design industry in and beyond the Bega district.



Used by:

Various generations of the Thatcher family.


The items that comprise the Thatcher collection are generally in good, stable condition, with no major signs of deterioration or pest damage. Although some items do have minor stains and marking, most retain their original fabric and finish, although the Bega Post Office Counter has been modified.

One pane of glass in the Bega School of Arts ticket box is also damaged with missing portions; and some of the veneer panelling shows evidence of blistering and lifting (water damage?). Although the museum building itself has also undergone several alterations and additions over its life and in in need of conservation work, it retains significant original fabric and a high level of integrity.


Production / manufacturing date:

<C. 1880s – C. 1960s.

Comparative examples: (similar items in collections outside the Bega Valley Shire)

The architectural plan aspect of the Thatcher Collection is comparable to important paper-based collections held in a number of universities, institutions, organisations and government departments. However, few of these are specific to a single firm or family and none have thus far been identified with scope of the Thatcher collection, particularly the supporting moveable cultural heritage artefacts that form part of this collection.


Maffra Sugar Beet Museum


The Ashton architectural collection is an extensive

collection of architectural plans dating between 1950s to 1980s.


Goulburn and District Historical Society


Manfred Collection, from the architectural practice

of E. C. Manfred and Manfred and Son, including hand-drawn elevations, floor plans, detail drawings and sections, specifications, contracts and correspondence.

Works depicting/highlighting this object:

Thatcher-related structures have appeared on an extensive range of souvenir ware items. The Bega Pioneers’ Museum’s collection features a good selection.

The particular significance of this Object:

The Bega Valley Historical Society Inc.'s Thatcher Collection is a unique, extensive mixed material collection closely associated with the highly important contributions of the architecture and construction family of the same name.

A trained ship builder, Robert Wallis Thatcher immigrated to Australia from Manchester,

England, via America, in 1883. Arriving in Bega the following year to work on the Bank of New South Wales, he quickly established himself in the architecture and building industries. Partnering with Robert Underhill to form the Underhill and Thatcher business, he was active in design and construction throughout and beyond the local government area. He also traded at various times as R. W. Thatcher and Sons and later, with his son Arthur, as R. W. Thatcher and Son. A. C. Thatcher Pty Ltd was later established and was responsible for some of the biggest building and construction projects on the Far South Coast. Robert Wallis's grandson Robert (Bob) was the third generation to be involved in the industry.

The most prolific of the design and construction firms that operated in the region, the Thatcher family are recognised as having had a substantial influence on the built environment of the Bega Valley Shire and beyond over a lengthy period from the 1880s through to the C. 1960s. The story of the Thatcher family is embedded within this collection, which, combined, creates a rich snapshot of their contribution to the industry.

Intimately involved in the design, construction, maintenance and / or alteration of a considerable number of commercial, governmental, residential and community structures throughout the Bega Valley, Far South Coast, Monaro, Southern Highlands and Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, this collection is a valuable tangible reminder of the extent of the Thatcher family's contribution to the industry and the built document of the state, a fact that is strengthened by the fact that so many examples of their buildings and monuments have survived.

The most extensive collection of material relating to this pre-eminent architectural and construction family in existence and probably the largest mixed material collection associated with a single building and design firm in a New South Wales public institution, the Thatcher

Collection constitutes highly significant evidence of the architecture, design and construction industries, particularly in rural and regional New South Wales, in the period between the

1880s and the C. 1960s.

Providing important insight into the growth and development of the building and design industry over an extensive time period, the collection illustrates changes in technology, contributing to our understanding and appreciation of the trade. It has the ability to demonstrate evolution in Australian architecture in general and the "Thatcher style" in particular.

Indicative of the processes, practices, skills and tools used in the industry, the comprehensive nature of the collection provides a unique and important window into the various phases of the industry, encouraging understanding and appreciation of the construction process from initial planning through the design and building to the finished product. The existence of many Thatcher designed and / or built structures supports this.

Aspects of the collection, in particular the hand drawn and coloured architectural plans and elevations, have considerable charm, evoking the historic period of their creation. They are aesthetically appealing to look at, demonstrate artistic value, and are indicative of earlier practices when function did not preclude items also being decorative and visually pleasing.

Covering an extensive time period, the collection is an important record of the European occupation and development of the built environment in the areas where the Thatcher family operated. It is indicative of the industrial, commercial, governmental, community and residential development and growth in and beyond the Bega district and provides substantial evidence of civic development in those areas.

An excellent representative illustration of the diverse range of materials and equipment once commonly used in and produced by the architectural and building industries, the Thatcher

Collection is evocative of the skills and traditions of a manual rather than automated era.

No other collection of this size, scope and range relating to a single family or firm have been yet identified in the New South Wales or Australian cultural collecting landscape. Thus the Thatcher Collection must be considered a rare surviving example of its type and age.

Specific aspects of the collection, in particular the hand drawn plans and elevations, are important as increasingly rare examples of a once common industry practice. Architectural plans were not commonly kept in archives until about the mid-1960s, and then focus tended towards ecclesiastical and governmental structures, while their commercial and residential counterparts were largely ignored. Thus the extent of such buildings represented in the Thatcher Collection adds to its unique value.

The rise in Computer Aided Drawing (CAD) has also largely superseded hand drawn plans, thus the skills required are diminishing and the existing stock is unlikely to be added to in any major way.

The rare ability to link tools in the collection with the construction of specific extant structures adds to their value and rarity.

Despite documentation for some items being incomplete, many have details recorded as part of their fabric, reliably indicating provenance.

The Thatcher Collection is a well preserved example of its type, with a generally high level of integrity and featuring many important elements absent from other public architectural and construction collections.

The comprehensive nature of the collection offers outstanding value as a primary research resource for the analysis of industry change, development and evolution over the late-19th to mid-20th centuries; and also in built heritage identification, research, interpretation and restoration. It is an invaluable repository of information for architects, builders, planners, engineers, heritage consultants, property owners, historians and those interested in the study of the built document.

The Thatcher Collection has tremendous interpretive potential. It is an integral part of the Bega Valley Historical Society's extensive local history collections and helps communicate the role that the built document can play in fleshing out the heritage of the local region and beyond. It provides opportunities to communicate traditional late-19th to mid-20th century design and construction techniques. It offers significant potential in the area of built heritage research, conservation and interpretation and provides important opportunities to link with the extant built document in and beyond the Bega district to expand the chain of interpretation. It is associated with and has the potential to highlight a number of important heritage themes including architectural, construction and technological development; building history; commercial and industrial histories; changing settlement and land use patterns; civic development; and social history.

The fact that so many examples of their work survive today as a built document of the history and heritage of the region and state only strengthens this importance.


Main theme:




Towns, suburbs and villages


Constructing townships within Bega Valley Shire

Other themes:











Ethnic influences



Environment – cultural landscapes


Land tenure





Government and administration

Law and order

Domestic life

Creative endeavour


Social institutions



Settler heritage in Bega Valley Shire

Coming to live in the Bega Valley Shire

Economic survival in Bega Valley Shire

Cultural landscapes within Bega Valley Shire

Building and industrial development within Bega Valley Shire

Constructing boundaries within Bega Valley Shire

Housing locals and visitors to the shire

Working in Bega Valley Shire

Educating and learning institutions within Bega Valley Shire

Wartime in Bega Valley Shire

Self-government and democracy in Bega Valley Shire

Keeping the peace in Bega Valley Shire

Domestic life in Bega Valley Shire

Creative endeavour in Bega Valley Shire

Religious life in Bega Valley Shire

Sociality in Bega Valley Shire

Remembering and honouringthe people of Bega Valley Shire

Thematic storylines:

The Thatcher Collection represents an extensive range of thematic storylines, including:

• Industry and commerce;

• Civic development;

• Building and construction;

• Agriculture;

• Communication;

• Built environment;

• Events

• Health;

• Technology;

• Transport;

• Towns, Suburbs and Villages;

• Utilities;

• Accommodation;

• Education;

• Labour;

• Government and Administration;

• Law and Order;

• Domestic Life;

• Creative Endeavour;

• Social institutions;

• Leisure;

• Persons;

• Public Services;

• Economy;

• Urbanisation;

• Settling, developing and building the region;

• Developing the settlements, villages and towns;

• Land use patterns;

• Transport - Wharves and landing places;

• Business and commercial development;

• Housing and accommodation;

• Churches and religion;

• Education;

• War and defence;

• Labour, working and employment;

• Notable people and families;

Geographically associated places / sites:

Associated / linked places / sites / items / people:

Having been in business over such a lengthy period, there is an extensive number of places, sites, items and people associated with the Thatcher collection. This rich tangible document includes but is not limited to:

• Tathra Wharf, Tathra;

• Former Godfrey's Garage, Quondola Street, Pambula;

• Former Whitby's Garage complex, Quondola Street, Pambula;

• St. John's Church of England, Bega;

• St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Bega;

• Cobargo Hotel, Cobargo;

• Bega Soldiers' Memorial, Bega;

• Former Bega Gas Works gates, Upper Bega Street, Bega;

• Bega A. P. and H. Society pavilion, Bega;

• Bega Cheese Factory, Bega;

• Various buildings on Kameruka Estate, Kameruka;

• Christ Church, Church of England, Cobargo;

• Former Federal Stores building, Quondola Street, Pambula;

• Central Hotel, Bega;

• Bank Hotel, Bega;

• Commercial Hotel, Bega;

• St. John the Evangelist Anglican Parish Hall, Bega;

• Roman Catholic Church, Bega;

• Catholic presbytery, Cobargo;

• Convent and school, Cobargo;

• Convent, Bega;

• Courthouse, Braidwood;

• Courthouse, Wyndham;

• Courthouse, Pambula;

• Commercial Bank, Candelo;

• Candelo School of Arts, Candelo;

• Numerous residential properties throughout the district.

Extant Thatcher structures such as the Bega Soldiers Memorial have also been popular with the local visual arts community with artists such as Shirley Hannan, Liam Ryan and Ann Brosnanusing extant edifices as their subject matter. In addition to the works already in the Bega and District Historical Society's own collection, other works exist in the wider community, both in private and public collections.

The Bega Soldiers’ Memorial and Gates has also been a popular subject for commercially-

produced souvenir ware. Once again, the Bega District Historical Society has an excellent collection of such pieces, while others exist out in the wider community.

Heritage listings (statutory and non-statutory):

Further information:

Contributors to this ‘library’:

Angela George and Pat Raymond, March 2019.

Acknowledgements, Rights and Permissions:

Acknowledgement of Bega Historical Society Inc., Angela George and Pat Raymond.

© Angela George and Pat Raymond. All rights reserved.

References and bibliography:

• Apperly, Richard, Irving, Robert, and Reynolds, Peter, A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture: Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present, 3rd ed., Angus and Robertson, 1989.

• Australian Institute of Architects, Register of Significant Architecture in NSW,

Australian Town and Country Journal

Bega Budget

Bega District News

Bega Gazette

Bega Standard

• Bega Valley Genealogy Society (Comp.) Bega, Pambula, NSW: Bega Valley Genealogy Society Inc., 2002

Bombala Times

Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal

Braidwood Review and District Advocate

Canberra Times

Candelo and Eden Union

Cobargo Chronicle

Construction and Local Government Journal

• Cottee, Don, and Boleyn, Doug, Nomination of Tathra Wharf and Cargo Shed as a National Engineering Landmark, Engineering Heritage Committee, Sydney Division Engineers Australia, October 2006.

• Couzens, Vanessa, Take a Walking Tour of Goulburn's Victorian Architecture, Australian Architecture Association,

Historic Engineering Marker, Engineering Heritage Committee, Sydney Division, Engineers Australia, October 2006.

Eden Magnet

Eden Magnet and Pambula Voice

Evening News

• Farram, Graham, pers. comm., Bega Valley Historical Society

• Florance, Sandra, pers. comm., Bega Valley Historical Society

• Florance, Sandra, and Pryor, Diane, They Made This Valley Home, Bega Valley Historical Society Inc. 2012.

Freeman's Journal

• Gaha, Ron, and Hearn, Judy, Bermagui - A Century of Features and Families, R. T. Gaha, 1994

Goulburn Post

Magnet Voice

Maitland Weekly Mercury

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate

Northern Star

Pambula Voice

Shoalhaven News and South Coast Districts Advertiser

Shoalhaven Telegraph

South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus

Southern Record and Advertiser

Southern Star

St. John's Church - Bega, 1856 – 1956, n.d. (unpublished history)

• Swinbourne, Helen, and Winters, Judy, Pictorial History Bega Valley Shire, KingsclearBooks, 2001

Sydney Morning Herald

• Thatcher, Doug, Building Designer - Mr. Robert Wallis Thatcher, 2000

• Thatcher, Doug and Beth, Snow, River and Sea, D. and B. Thatcher, 2000

© 2019 Angela George and Pat Raymond. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of and © Angela George. All rights reserved, the State Library of New South Wales. and the National Museum of Australia.

This Bega Shire Hidden Heritage project has been made possible by the NSW Government through its Heritage Near Me program.

Any further information relating to this collection or to associated topics will be GREATLY welcomed and will be added to the above library of information. Please email your contribution to


87 Bega Street, Bega, NSW, 2550.