In the early 1860s, Irish immigrants John Cullen and William Vance took up selections on the Wingecarribee district’s eastern side.
John moved to Burrawang with his wife Anna Maria, and William with his wife Jane, who was John’s sister. Both families had young children. John and Jane’s parents, Robert and Rebecca Cullen, also came to Burrawang with two young daughters and 17 year-old James, having arrived in NSW from County Fermanagh, Ireland, in 1861.
John was soon a prominent Burrawang landowner and William a successful dairy farmer. The area prospered after the railway opened in 1867, with Moss Vale being the nearest station.
In 1872 young James Cullen married Matilda Millar of Goulburn. They would have eight children. In 1873 James became proprietor and first licensee of the Commercial Hotel at Burrawang. The single-storey, timber building in Barrett Street (now Hoddle Street) had nine rooms and outbuildings, stable, coach house and a well of pure water, on 69 acres. James re-named it the Burrawang Hotel in 1876.
In 1875, John Cullen purchased the Terminus Hotel at Moss Vale, along with an adjoining railway store, meeting hall and land at the rear. The hotel had been built in the 1860s by Martin Larkin who moved to the district in anticipation of the railway.
On the site of the present-day Moss Vale Hotel he built a brick inn, its first official opening date being July 1, 1866, and in 1868 named it the Terminus. He sold it to John Cullen who in 1880 renamed it the Royal Hotel and was both proprietor and licensee until 1888, when he was elected to the first Moss Vale Municipal Council, and Edward Goodridge took over as licensee.
In 1893, Goodridge, by then also an alderman, paid John Cullen an estimated £6,700 for the hotel, store, hall and land, and subsequently enlarged the hotel.
In its 20th year publication in April 1894, the Scrutineer provided a retrospective. “The first of this journal was issued on 9 April 1874, when Moss Vale was only a little settlement. It was compiled and printed in a small building near the then Terminus Hotel – a squat weatherboard building kept by Mr Larkin. The property was afterwards sold to John Cullen and on the site now stands Goodridge’s Royal Hotel, which for its general appearance, comfort and convenience cannot be surpassed by any country hotel in NSW. Some of our readers can recollect a dim outline of the old Terminus Hotel with its landlord Cullen bustling about, and predicted as he did that Moss Vale would grow steadily but surely.”
Meanwhile, John Cullen’s brother James had, in April 1879, sold the Burrawang Hotel and relinquished its licence, having secured a lengthy lease at Moss Vale on a town block owned by the Throsby family. At the corner of Argyle and Valetta Streets, James erected a two-storey, brick building of 21 rooms with first floor verandahs. It had a 16-stall horse stable and coach house with room for nine coaches. The premises opened in late 1879, James being proprietor and licensee. He advertised it in Sydney papers as the “Family Hotel, opposite the Goods-shed, Moss Vale. Ample accommodation for families and visitors. Best brands of wines and spirits. Horses and buggies on hire at all times. Charges strictly moderate.”
A notice in the Town & Country Journal of August 1879 reveals James had other interests: “To Studmasters – for private sale, the thoroughbred stallion Talisman, a bright bay, five years old, and over 16 hands high, showing great bone and muscle. The horse can be inspected and further particulars obtained from the owner, James Cullen.”
His hotel was more commonly known as Cullen’s Family Hotel and became the booking office in 1881 for a new coach line that ran between Moss Vale and Nowra. James was ready to retire in 1890 and advertised the hotel for sale, separately from a wooden wing at the rear in which a cordial factory operated. When the hotel did not sell he was declared bankrupt in 1890 and moved to Sydney. He died in September 1911, at 63, and is buried in Waverley Cemetery.
Others ran the Family Hotel until, due to structural problems, its licence was revoked in 1911. After renovations it served as the Buena Vista Guest House, and was demolished in 1940.
- Berrima District Historical & Family History Society – compiled by PD Morton. Part 2 of a 3-part series.