Sometimes you can forget how beautiful Sydney is at this time of the year. That is, until you take a walk along the coastline near Bondi, Bronte and Tamarama. The sandstone cliffs, the blue-green colour of the water, and the gentleness of the walk are both relaxing and hypnotic. The walk wasn’t overly busy, though, as most people were down on the beach.
My reason for a visit today wasn’t to relax: I went in search of the gravestone of one of my ancestors, Ann Hoare. I’ve known for a number of years she was buried at Waverley Cemetery under the name Ann Phibbs, but until today have never really had the motivation to go looking for the grave. Others, like Joye Walsh have been there before and have taken photographs of the gravesite which are available online. But with a revitalised interest in family history lately, I figured I’d pay a visit to find the grave myself to help fill in this part of the story in my own mind.
Granny Hoare, as I choose to call her from now on, was only fourteen years old when she married William Rixon, the eldest son of early convicts James Rixon and Amelia Goodwin in 1826. For many years after their marriage, William and Ann lived and farmed in various parts of what is now Western Sydney, around places like Marsfield, Campbelltown, Airds and Appin. From farming, they diversified into hotels, being the manager or licensee of a number of hotels in a number of locations between Wollongong and Appin.
Author Mick Roberts has documented their interests oin his website…
William Rixon licensed The Travellers Rest along the old coach road, between Mount Keira and Appin at the Wollongong court house during 1842. The location was known as ‘Stringy Bark’ or on some maps as ‘Lachlan Forest’. Licensing records state Rixon’s inn was located 18 miles (29 kilomtres) from Wollongong and 10 miles (17 kilomtres) from Appin. The license was described as a “wine and beer license” and not a “publican’s License” which indicates the inn was merely a refreshment stop for travellers and offered no accommodation.
Documents reveal the inn was under construction along the Appin to Mt Keira Road in May 1839. However, no records of the inn receiving a license can be found for another three years.
Lady Franklin reveals in her journal, while travelling from Appin to Wollongong and crossing the Cataract River, that she ascended the other side of Broughton’s Pass, and seen a hut and stable “where a man and horses for mail are”. She states the coach’s horses were changed there, while further along the track, the horses were stationed at a clearing where an inn was under construction. This building was no doubt The Travellers Rest and although Rixon moved onto another public house later that year, the inn probably continued in operation for several years as an unlicensed wayside stop for coaches and travellers until 1848 when Mt Keira was replaced by Rixon’s Pass at Woonona as the preferred mail route over the escarpment.
William Rixon became the licensee of the Union Revived Hotel at Appin later in 1842. The sandstone inn, still in existence as a private home, is located opposite Saint Bede’s Roman Catholic Church, on the main road through Appin village. Appin had two licensed inns at this time – the Union Revived Hotel and the Bourke Hotel – both had been in existence since 1826. Appin was the first large settlement reached after leaving Wollongong for Sydney.
William Rixon died on May 28, 1847 at Campbelltown and is buried at St Peter’s Church of England. After William’s death, Ann married twice more. On June 11, 1848, she married Owen Dunlaghan who died in January 1851. A year later, on January 24, 1852, Ann married William Henry Phibbs with whom she had one child, William Jordan Phibbs. Phibbs died on November 24, 1863. Ann lived on for many years after that, including at 362 Castlereagh Street, Sydney on the east side between Goulburn and Campbell Street. At the time of her death on August 8, 1895, she was living at “Adderborough” at 19 Denison St Woollahra, Sydney.
Finding her grave was no easy task. The office at Waverley Cemetery where they keep all the records is closed on a Sunday. So I had a copy of the photograph taken by Joye Walsh on my phone and walked around looking for it. Interestingly, it does quite stand out amongst the other graves, as it’s a reasonably simple crucifix, although it is quite large. Many of the other headstones are very very simple, or equally quite ornate. The best way to locate it, if you’re interested in finding it, is to go along the coastal walk, and when you see the main road which roughly equally divides the cemetery, take a walk up there about 100 metres. When you come to the next main “intersection”, take a left and you’ll see her grave there.
It was a lovely day and I’m so pleased I found the grave. It’s interesting for me and my sense of identity – as someone raised in the country, and having had ancestors in the country for several generations – to explore this more “urban” part of my family history.