Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

Thomas Stobo's Store

With the opening of the Strathfield to Hornsby railway in 1886 and the growth of the farming community, it was inevitable that soon, some enterprising soul would open a store to supply the needs of the local families of Beecroft and Cheltenham.

A general store was usually the first shop to open and as the name implies, was expected to stock a diverse range of items from pins to pickaxes, household fare to horse fodder. Sacks of flour, sugar and porridge oats lay on the floor alongside of demijohns of vinegar. Boxes of tea and candles sat on the counter, competing for space with other staples for the home and farm. The stock of the general store created an aroma all of its own.

The first person to open a store in Beecroft was Thomas Stobo, who in 1893 came with his family to Beecroft to start life again after suffering financial loss in the economic depression of the 1890s. A small timber building opposite the present Beecroft railway station became their home as well as their shop. Assisted by his wife Charlotte and on occasions his children, Thomas provided a much needed service to the nearby families. Their daughter Elizabeth took the mail bags to the station. Their son assisted with the fortnightly trips to Sydney to buy provisions for the shop. Meat and dairy produce was delivered by horse drawn cart by other tradesmen. The Stobos endeavoured to provide whatever else was needed. Major household items and clothing could be ordered from store catalogues or purchased on a day trip to the city stores. The Stobos prospered and soon the family had not only purchased the land on which the store stood, but also built extensions.

The store became the hub of life for the community by day. By night it served as the meeting place for the Beecroft Progress Association. The local newspaper, the Cumberland Argus published accounts of lively meetings attended only by local landowners who formed the association to lobby for improvements to roads and local facilities .One evening when a contentious issue of whether to admit women members was being discussed there was a noisy disturbance outside by those opposing the matter. The newspaper also hinted that Thomas Stobo had at the rear of his store, an illicit still. If this was true it was the first source of anything alcoholic in the otherwise straight-laced community. It would be eighty years before a legal liquor supply (apart from sporting clubs) would be available to residents and that was a bitterly fought issue. Interestingly, this first retail liquor store was commenced in what had once been Higgins Store near Beecroft Public School.

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