Bega Pioneers Museum

Ann White’s Cross Stitch

The Story

Location of Object:

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

Accessibility of Object:

This object 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 the item featured in this dossier will be on public display at any given time.

History and Provenance of Object:

This needlework cross stitch was made by Ann White, early Bega business woman and original licensee of the Victoria Inn from 1855 to 1880. It was donated to the Bega Pioneers’ Museum, probably around 1977.

Ann White had a lengthy association with inn keeping in the township and district. She and her husband Isaac operated what was referred to variously as a "shanty inn" and “...a roughly built inn…” near the huts on the Brogo River bank at Yarranung in the early 1850s. According to the Government Gazette of 1851, this was "...the first public house between Moruya and Pambula..." and it was there that “...the first glass of liquor in Bega…” was reputedly sold legally.

By 1853, the couple had moved their commercial activities to the present Bega township where they licensed their business under the name of the Victoria Inn. Their rented premises in Bega was described as a commodious building consisting of three parlours, ten bedrooms, kitchen, stables and coach-house. In 1854, Isaac's license was renewed by the Eden Bench, but in March the following year he was killed in a tragic and highly unusual manner, a report noting that "While standing in the Bar of his Inn, with two of his children in his company and another child which he was supporting...lightning came through the jamb of the door and knocked the head out of a cask of spirits, without breaking any other particle of the cask and knocked down the whole of the four persons, and killed Mr. White on the spot..." Long time local resident Patrick McNamara’s memories of the event were later recounted by a writer calling himself Begaite: “Ike White afterwards met with a tragic death, being killed by lightning one summer day while in the act of placing a cask of rum in position. The spirits caught alight, and the blaze threatened to destroy the primitive hotel, until ‘Scrammy-handed Ned’ extinguished it by the use of blankets and bedding.”

Isaac had arrived in New South Wales in 1832, one of 224 convicts on board the Isabella. Sentenced to life at the Somerset Assizes, he departed England in November 1831, leaving behind his wife Ann and their two children.

Ann had been born in Widcombe, Wiltshire, England in August 1807 to Ann and William Stevenson. She was baptised at Calne Parish Church the following month and married Isaac White at St. James Parish Church, Bath, England in February 1829. Prior to her arrival in Australia, she had been in service to Lady Louisa Fitzmorris, a position that probably accounted for her experience in running a domestic household and business to a high standard. Ann and Isaac's two eldest children were born in England, William Isaac in about 1829 and Jane Rebecca in 1833 and after Isaac's transportation, Ann followed with the pair, landing in Sydney on the Eweretta on 24 December, 1846.

On the recommendation of the Berrima Bench, Isaac was granted Tickets of Leave in 1842, 1846 and 1847, before finally securing his Conditional Pardon in 1848. After Ann's arrival in the colony, the couple had two more children, Mary Ann, born in September 1847, and John James, born in 1849, both at Greenland, a station near Nimmitabel on the Monaro, New South Wales.

In the wake of her husband's unexpected passing, Ann took over the Victoria Inn, maintaining the license until 1857 when the Bench of Magistrates refused to renew both hers and that of fellow Bega innkeeper Samuel Mead "...on the grounds of their having supplied Aboriginal natives with rum." Sparking outrage amongst residents, the local newspaper correspondent commented "One thing is certain, if we have no licensed houses in our neighbourhood (which are indispensable and of easy access to the police), it is to be feared we shall have a much worse infliction in the shape of sly-grog shops for, unfortunately, human nature is on much the same footing here as elsewhere in the colony."

When the Eden Bench met in May that year, the majority of the magistrates again refused to grant the licenses, this time based on "...the absence of police protection." Soon after, however, Legislative Council member Mr. Egan took up the case, making a motion in parliament that the Governor-General be presented with an address regarding the reasoning behind the refusal and making particular note that Mrs. White's "...sole means of supporting herself had been taken from her by her license being refused..." Soon afterwards, two constables from the Eden Police were sent to Bega, the Eden Bench reinstated Ann White’s license for the Victoria Inn in September 1857 and on 7 January 1858, the Government Gazette proclaimed Bega as a " where a Court of Petty Sessions might be holden."

Ann moved to have her own premises constructed by 1858 and in August it was noted that her " public house, which is being built of brick, is progressing fast..." A week later it was reported that she “...intends making application for the transfer of her license from her present residence to the new house now in the course of erect [sic] in Auckland Street…” Ann took out a £1000 mortgage from George Barclay the same month, suggesting that she required some financial assistance to complete her new hotel building.

Reportedly the first brick building erected in the present Bega township, the premises "...on the line of road from Eden to the Clyde at present doing a good paying business..." was advertised for sale in 1860. According to reports, it was "...very substantially built of brick and contains three parlours, five bedrooms and servants' rooms, tap-room and spacious bar, store room and pantry, with detached kitchen." The property also boasted a six-stall stable, wash-houses, stockyard, cow bails, calf pens, sties and "...every convenience required..." Ann had also opened a billiard room opposite in 1865; and made liberal use of temporary licensing permits for off sitefunctions.

With few public buildings then located in Bega, the Victoria Inn effectively become the town's civic centre. Public meetings, gatherings, church services, auctions and other community events were all held there. When Bega's original court house became too small, cases were heard at the Victoria Inn; and a room was utilised by the Commercial Bank while their new building was being constructed. Mrs. White's Victoria Inn was mentioned in the 1866 Bailliere's Gazetteer, and local print media carried advertisements during 1867 and 1868.

In 1876, the property was again placed on the market and around this time Bernard McCabe purchased it. In 1879, Ann White was operating the Tathra Hotel and by 1880 Agnes McPhee, formerly of Pambula’s Roan Hotel Hotel, had taken over as licensee of the Victoria Inn. After being put up for sale in 1882, Mr. Meares of Candelo purchased it the following year, changing the name to the Queen’s Hotel.

Ann White passed away from “...inflammation of the lungs…” in August 1888, aged 81. Described as one of Bega’s oldest inhabitants, she was renowned for her kindness, so much so that the "...good lady's legitimate income was often overdrawn in consequence of years of open-handed hospitality to the poor and needy." She was “...noted for her benevolent and charitable qualities, and it is well-known that no poor wayfarer was ever turned away from the door by the kind old lady who now lies at rest in the silent grave, after a good yet hard life.”

Her son William Isaac and his wife Jane followed Ann into the local hotel keeping trade.

The former Victoria Inn was purchased by James Cochrane in 1901 for conversion into a private residence and around 1915, part of the building became the Mumbulla Shire Chambers. It continues to stand today (2019), next to the Bega Pioneers’ Museum, and is believed to be the earliest building extant in the Bega township.


Coming from the Latin "exemplum", meaning "an example to be followed”, the sampler evolved quite literally as a reference for stitches and patterns, with designs being passed on from generation to generation and country to country. Before the availability of pattern books, they served as a reference or portable compendia of embroidery techniques and designs, an important way of recording and learning stitches. Over the years, the complexity of patterns and range of stitches diminished greatly, but nonetheless, the sampler retained its importance, albeit in differing ways.

In the 16th century, as embroidery became an increasingly desirable accomplishment for young ladies, samplers became primarily a display of the skill and inventiveness of their makers. By the 17th century, their layout had become more ordered, and often included the name of the embroiderer and date of production; and from the mid-18th century through to the early 20th century, they were an important part of the standard education curriculum for young ladies, often providing needlework practice as well as lessons in the alphabet, numbers and multiplication tables. They also increasingly featured a biblical quote, edifying verse or saying. By the 19th century, the use of cross stitch (also known as the sampler stitch) was typical, and houses were a common feature.

Examples of handmade needlework could be found in most Australian homes. It was an affordable way for women to personalise and add aesthetic appeal to their family residence; it provided a creative outlet for some; and a restful leisure activity for others; it was a way to commemorate significant events; or even to supplement the family income.

In Colonial Australia, sewing and needlework epitomised the very essence of femininity - images of domesticity frequently showed women sitting quietly and stitching on their latest project. Indeed, it was noted that it brought together the basic dichotomies in Australian women's lives: pictured at work, but peaceful; productive yet removed from any suggestion of commercial activity; a quiet observer of the family, yet contributing to it. As Mrs. Warren and Mrs. Pullen declared in Treasures of Needlework (1855), it "...brings daily blessings to every home, unnoticed, perhaps, because of its hourly silent application; for in a household each stitch is one for comfort to some person or other and without its watchful care home would be a scene of discomfort indeed."

Fabric, design, manufacture and condition:

Linen open weave fabric with cross stitch embroidered in woollen thread with selvage right hand side and hemmed lower edge. Top and left hand side cut down. Depicts a red brick Georgian-style building representing Bega's Victoria Inn (Auckland Street) with three chimneys, four doors (one with fan light? above) and three windows. A sign on the roof of the building reads "Ann White . Licens'd To Retail / Fermented & Spirituous Liquors". Above, the maker's details "Victoria / Inn / by A. White" are embroidered in a red banner.

Made in Bega, New South Wales, Australia.


Probably Ann White.


Ann White.

Used by:

Ann White.


"Victoria / Inn / by A. White" embroidered at top centre; "Ann White . Licens'd To Retail / Fermented & Spirituous Liquors" embroidered at centre.

Production / manufacturing date:

C. 1858


Framed and glazed (not original). Conservation treatment on this item was undertaken by Conservatrix as part of the Bega Pioneer Museum's textiles collection conservation project (2001 - 2002), for which funding was secured in 2001 through the Mumbulla Foundation and NSW Ministry of Arts.

Comparative examples:


Powerhouse Museum


A7504 – Cross stitch sampler depicting Carcoar Court House, made by Mary Anne Gorringe, 1851

Information source:


The particular significance of this Object:

The Ann White cross-stitch is an important, attractive and rare part of the Bega Valley Historical Society’s collection and is an outstanding extant example of local women's heritage.

This cross-stitch is valuable for its associations with successful early local business woman Ann White, who had commenced inn keeping at Yarranung with her husband Isaac by 1851. After his tragic 1855 death, she continued operating the business on her own account, undertaking to have the Victoria Inn in Auckland Street constructed around 1858. This was reputedly the first brick built structure in Bega and is believed to be the oldest extant building in the township today. Ann White and her Victoria Inn were integrally connected with the development of the social and cultural life of the township and were intimately associated with many of the commercial, governmental and community undertakings in the area from the mid-19th century.

This cross-stitch is indicative of the female skills and traditions brought to New South Wales by European settlers in the early- to mid-19th century; and of the role that needlework played in the lives of colonial Australian women. It is a significant illustration of the value placed on the traditional female skills of needlework production and provides an important window into the cultural and social life of 19th century Australian women.

Forming an integral part of the Bega Pioneers’ Museum's extensive textiles collection, it is an aesthetically important representative example of traditional female decorative needlework, demonstrating the methods and techniques used during the mid-19th century and indicating the continued value placed on needlework as a domestic decor element. Like most samplers of its era, it includes the name of the maker, but unlike many others, this information has been incorporated in a banner at the top centre, above the Victoria Inn. This placement is evocative of triumph and success and tends to indicate the pride that Ann White must have felt at the construction and opening of her own purpose-built hotel premises so early in Bega's history. The piece is symmetrical in design, features a local structure and includes few, of any, typical 19th century components. This unusual subject matter, pattern and style suggests that the unique design was substantially, if not entirely, Ann White's own.

Depicting Ann White's Victoria Inn, the cross stitch is a rare surviving example of colonial era needlework depicting a contemporary building, only one other extant example in a NSW public cultural collection being identified to date (2019). This rarity is reinforced in that this is one of only two examples currently identified where both the building represented and the sampler itself are both extant, and the only identified example that maintains both a geographic and historic link with the building depicted.

Although records for the item are incomplete, the maker's details included on the cross stitch indicate provenance and although suffering some fabric loss and damage, the piece has undergone conservation treatment and is in a stable condition.

The Ann White cross-stitch has a high level of interpretative value. It is complementary to and forms an integral part of the museum's extensive textiles collection and helps to communicate the roles and responsibilities of women in and beyond Bega during the colonial period. Together with a number of other moveable cultural heritage items in the museum’s collection, it provides an important extant link with the presence and contribution of Ann White to the Bega community. It highlights the many competing roles of and demands on women in rural Australia during the colonial era, including those of raising and caring for a family while running a business; illustrates the significant value of hotels and inns in rural and regional Australian communities; and is indicative of commercial, community and government development in Bega. It is also linked with and has the potential to highlight a number of important themes and storylines including women's contribution to the community; women’s and domestic history; domestic arts and crafts; commercial and business development; labour, working and employment; convict heritage; immigration, migrant groups and migration journeys; changing settlement and land use patterns; developing settlements, villages and towns; law and order; the impact of natural disasters on settlement and building patterns; shifting transport routes; construction and technological development; building history; housing and accommodation; and the availability and utilisation of available natural resources by early Australian settlers.


Main theme:




Creative endeavour


Creative endeavour in Bega Valley Shire

Other themes:











Ethnic influences



Towns, suburbs and villages

Land tenure




Domestic life




Settler heritage in Bega Valley Shire

Coming to live in the Bega Valley Shire

Economic survival in Bega Valley Shire

Constructing townships within Bega Valley Shire

Constructing boundaries within Bega Valley Shire

Housing locals and visitors to the shire

Working in Bega Valley Shire

Caring for the needs of others in Bega Valley Shire

Domestic life in Bega Valley Shire

Having fun in Bega Valley Shire

Remembering and honouringthe people of Bega Valley Shire

Thematic storylines:



Land use patterns

Settling, developing and building the region

Developing the settlements, villages and towns


Migration, migrant groups and migration journeys

Migration, migrant groups and migration journeys – Anglo British

Business and commercial development

Business and commercial development – Hotels and inns

Housing and accommodation:

Women’s and domestic history

Domestic arts and crafts

Law and order

Social institutions

Community organisations

Entertainment and social life

Domestic arts and crafts

Labour, working and employment

Notable people and families

Geographically associated places / sites:

Bega Pioneers’ Museum premises

Victoria Inn premises

Associated / linked places / sites / items / people:

Ann White

Issac White

Former Victoria Inn, 38-40 Auckland Street, Bega

Bega township

Tathra Hotel

Ann White's bible, Bega Valley Historical Society Inc.’s collection (accession number X2326.)

Photographic portrait of Ann White - Bega Valley Historical Society Inc.’s collection (accession number D215)

Watercolour painting, Victoria Inn, by J. Kirkland, 1957 - Bega Valley Historical Society Inc.’s collection (accession number D215).

“A. White” research file and photographs, Bega Valley Historical Society Inc.’s collection

Heritage listings (statutory and non-statutory):

Further information:

House (former Victoria Inn), NSW Environment and Heritage,

Hotels of Bega,

Museum of the South East

Contributors to this ‘library’:

Angela George and Pat Raymond, February 2019. 21.2.2019

Acknowledgements, Rights and Permissions:

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

© Angela George and Pat Raymond. All rights reserved.

References and bibliography:

Australian Town and Country Journal

• Bayley, William. A., The Story of the Settlement and Development Bega, Bega Intermediate High School, 1942

Bega Budget

• Bega Courthouse Burial Index, 1871-1918

Bega District News

Bega Gazette

Bega Gazette and County of Auckland Advertiser

Bega Gazette and Eden District or Southern Cost Advertiser

Bega Standard

• Bell, Gary, Historic Pubs of South-East NSW, Gary Bell, 2001

• Bench of Magistrates Books, Eden / Bega, 7 April 1847 - 5 April 1870

Candelo and Eden Union

• Church of England Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn, Parish Register Index

• Eden Courthouse Burial Index, 1856-1918

Eden Magnet

Eden Observer and South Coast Advocate

Evening News

• Florence, Sandra, Unpublished research notes, Hotels of Bega

Greville's Post Office Directory 1872

Illawarra Mercury

Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser

Manaro Mercury and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser

• NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages

NSW Government Gazette

• Bench of Magistrates, Pambula, Bench Book, 1858 - 1858, private ownership

Pambula Voice

Perkins papers, NLA MS 936 1/2

• Smith, Bernice, Pioneering Days in Bega, Bega Valley Historical Society, March 1975

Southern Star

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

Sydney Morning Herald

Town and Country Journal

Twofold Bay and Maneroo Telegraph

• Twyford, Joseph and Robert, Unpublished notebook July 1845 - March 1893

• Warren, E. and Pullan, O., Treasures in Needlework: Comprising Instructions in Knitting, Netting, Crochet, Point Lace, Tatting, Braiding and Embroidery: Illustrated with Useful and Ornamental Designs, Patterns, &c.,Ward and Lock, London, 1855.

• White family bible, Bega Valley Historical Society Inc.

• White, Isaac, Convict Records,

• Whitworth, Robt. P. (com.) Bailliere’s NSW Gazetteer & Road Guide, 1866, Sydney, 1866.

© Angela George and Pat Raymond. All rights reserved.

From the collection of the Bega Valley Historical Society Inc. Image by Angi High for Museum of the South East, © South East Arts (NSW) Inc.

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 object 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.