Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

Thomas Stobo

Thomas Stobo, born in 1858, was the third child of Scottish-born Captain Robert Stobo, a master mariner, and his wife Mary (née Spears), who had come to Australia in 1851. Thomas became an insurance company clerk and in 1879 married Harriet Wren, daughter of Thomas Wren, lightkeeper of Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour. Thomas and Harriet were married on the island and their first child, Minnie, was born there in 1879. A second child, Thomas, was born in 1882. Harriet died in 1884 at the age of 26 years.

In 1890, Thomas remarried and his new wife Charlotte brought up Harriet’s two young children. In 1892 a daughter Elizabeth was born to Charlotte and because of the widespread bank crash in that year Thomas lost his job and his savings. With three children to bring up, Thomas decided to open a general store in the growing village of Beecroft despite opposition from the Stobo family to his going into ‘trade’.

In September 1893 Thomas leased a block of land on Railway Crescent opposite the recently relocated platform and by February 1894 he had built a small weatherboard shop and residence. Although building on land he did not own because of lack of capital, his business sense was accurate and in three years he was able to buy the land. In 1898 the business had expanded greatly and a brick shop was built with a galvanised iron roof. The residence with its steep gable and half-front veranda was separated from the store by a passageway. In 1900 Thomas Stobo purchased the adjoining block of land at the rear of the shop and facing Beecroft Parade. Here he kept his horses and carts and stored produce. Before the School of Arts was built, Stobo’s store was a favourite venue for Progress Association meetings and any special community or political meetings.[1]

After 17 years as storekeeper Thomas sold the business in 1910; possibly the opening of Higgins store on the main road earlier influenced his decision. The family spent 12 months at Bondi Junction and then returned to Beecroft with Thomas starting an Estate Agency in a tiny office on the corner next to the shop. In 1916 he retired and was able to take a more active part in the Progress Association and the Bowling Club. He was also on the committee of the School of Arts and an elder of the Presbyterian Church. After their return to Beecroft the family lived at ‘Glenesk’ on the corner of Copeland Road and York Street.[2]

In 1916 his son Thomas who had worked on the delivery carts for the store, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and served overseas, and during those war years Charlotte Stobo was treasurer of the local Red Cross branch.[3]

Charlotte, well-educated and from a family ‘comfortably off'’ had a talent for business which would have gone unused if circumstances had not forced Thomas to Beecroft. Charlotte was the business head and she worked in the store and had help in the house. Her daughter Elizabeth first attended Miss Ogden’s school but was not happy there, so that her parents transferred to the Public School. After leaving school Elizabeth worked in the store with its wide variety of goods, and in the Post Office, which entailed the transfer of mailbags to and from the station six days a week, giving both mother and daughter a busy life.

After Thomas retired, Charlotte had time to play croquet and bridge and to be involved in Presbyterian Church activities. She died in 1927 and Thomas went to live in Malton Road with Elizabeth and her husband James Fleming.

In 1929 Thomas married for the third time, this time to a lady aged about 60 years, Mary Greig, and they moved to Epping to live. He died in 1930 aged 73




[1] LTO 1108/31, 1108/30; Cumberland Argus, 3 February 1894, 17 September 1898, 22 October 1898, 15 October 1898, 28 January 1899.
[2] Sands Directory, 1915; Cumberland Argus, 22 October 1910, 31 January 1914, 26 May 1907, 22 May 1912, 18 October 1913, 23 January 1915, 16 August 1913, 13 March 1915.
[3] Cumberland Argus, 15 January 1916, 26 August 1916, 6 October 1917, 11 October 1919.
[4] Information from Keith Fleming of Eastwood and Mrs Janet Liddell of Dundas.
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