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Not Just Dark Chocolate


Some mirth can be found even in stories of near misses, accidents and incidents; here we explore some of the more unusual and amusing stories from across the district involving confectioners and chocolatiers…

For Afternoon Tea - from the Bendigo Advertiser 1903:

Chocolate sandwiches are delicious for afternoon tea. To make, grate some best chocolate finely and make it into a stiff paste with whipped cream. Add a few drops of vanilla and when this is well mixed in spread on thin brown bread and butter, and cut into fancy shapes.

What's Worse Than a Bull in a China Shop?

The Wirth Bros’ World-Famed Circus & Menagerie was arguably the greatest travelling show in the country in 1908, and in October of that year, their renown, eight-car special train arrived at Bendigo Station for a week of performances in the Upper Reserve. Their set in Sydney the previous month had endured bad luck, with the big top coming down on top of a full house, leaving some patrons with head injuries. This didn’t deter Bendigonians who turned out in large crowds to see ‘the only living giraffe ever seen in Australia’, zebras, camels, a leopard, wolves, and an Arctic polar bear, along with new international acts in acrobatics, equestrian and stunts [i]. The advertisement claimed to have ‘the greatest collection of wild animals since the Ark’ [ii].


Due to the belief that giraffes were liable to take fright or cause an accident, no company would insure it, despite the animal having been purchased by Wirth’s from Hamburg Zoo for £1,100. As it transpired, the giraffe did not compare to the elephants for trouble that year in Bendigo. Wirth’s had collected their first elephant of what would become a famous herd on their way home from a seven-year world tour, which included the UK, India and South Africa, in 1900. They formed part of the ‘Durbar of Delhi’ pageant in the performance, carrying significant decorations along with camels, cattle, buffaloes, horses and performers [iii].


They were also rather useful when it came to transporting the great amounts of infrastructure required by the circus, pulling drays with animal enclosures, tent segments and other equipment to and from the train station. One of the larger elephants was pulling a shaftless jinker with tent tarps and other baggage down View Street but when he reached the ANA Hall – where the current Art Gallery gardens sit – the decline gave the cart enough momentum to bump into the back of the animal.


The attending mahout tried to pull the elephant up but it refused to stop, becoming irritated by the bumping of the cart and eventually taking off ‘at a gallop’ [iv]. The attendant lost all control and the elephant veered onto the other side of the road, trumpeting all the way, and eventually mounted the footpath in front of the Randell’s lolly shop, collecting the guttering and sending the cart through the front window of one of Atkinson’s buildings next door.


Confectioner, Henry Randell, heard the crash and came running out, quite amazed to see his doorway occupied by an elephant, which had somehow escaped any injury. It was quickly unhitched from the runaway cart while circus staff tried to pull the vehicle from the building but due to a snapped axle, it was still blocking the footpath at the time the Bendigo Independent went to press that evening. The damage was estimated to have been around £9 but was thought the costs would have been far greater if Randall’s shop, with its ‘fine show of all the best lollies, mirror and plate glass door’, hadn’t been avoided [v].


Entry for Randall's of View Street, Bendigo

Public Record Office Victoria, VA 2389 City of Bendigo, VPRS 16267 Rate Books, P1, Unit 53 1907-1908 

A Beastly Sweet Tooth


“Women must not be terrorised by men in this beastly state,” declared Arthur Barlow, police magistrate at Castlemaine, to Robert Baker in June 1912. The cause of Baker’s woes, so the Mount Alexander Mail reported, was ‘a fondness for lollies, stimulated beyond control by two glasses of gin’ [vi].


Baker was a blacksmith who lived alone at Sutton Grange and had recently announced he was leaving the district, but still had reason to visit Castlemaine on business. Before returning, he stopped for a drink and unlike ‘most married men, who have a liking for peppermint lollies after a liquor’, the Mail reported that Baker ‘wanted a confectioner’s shop’ [vii]. He sent the three women working in the nearby lolly shop scrambling after bursting into the store, leaving him to inspect and eat the sweets inside at will.


A local policeman arrived, and after receiving a mouthful of abuse from Baker, threw the man down, and then out of the shop before taking him down to the lock up, eventually going quietly.


“I am very sorry such a thing happened, your worship,’ said a flushed Baker to the bench, “It is my first offence” [viii]


The Court heard that Baker was a very respectable man who had never been in trouble before. Barlow PM declared that Barker was a very dangerous man when in that state and that he had gone beyond the bounds of decency, handing down a five shilling fine (in lieu of twelve hours imprisonment). Baker looks to have stayed in the district, not selling his smithy until two years later.

Toddling Down For Sweets


Mechanic Lionel Maddick lived in Francis Street Echuca with his wife Jane and sons David and John, the boys having an interest in their dad’s work. One evening in 1947, the Maddick family were about to sit for dinner, when they noticed young John, or Jack as they called him, was missing. They had barely had the chance to start looking when a neighbour drove Lionel’s truck into the driveway, the boy in the passenger seat.


The man had clocked Lionel’s vehicle travelling slowly down High Street – without a driver – and so pulled over himself to try and arrest its journey. He was very surprised to find, when opening the door to apply the brakes, that the ute was being piloted by three-year-old Jack Maddick. The toddler explained that he had taken the truck to ‘go down the street for lollies’ [ix].


The truck had been reversed into the driveway, and Lionel explained that the boy was almost always with him in the vehicle so must have watched his movements very carefully and been able to start it and move off into the road without any trouble.ctor Webb, was born.

The Reverend’s Solution


In early summer of 1908, the Anglican Diocese of Bendigo – formed just a few years earlier in 1902 – met at All Saint’s Cathedral on the corner of Mackenzie and Forest streets for their annual synod.  Along with the topic of cigarettes, the American prohibition movement came up. While discussing a teetotal-style pledge for smoking, the Reverend Francis Vanston presented his solution for heavy drinkers, inspired by observations shared with him by an army surgeon:


“Those men who drank… did not usually like sweets, and those who ate lollies freely, did not usually drink. Therefore, if the committee knew anyone who drank too freely, they should advise him to eat lollies”. His caveat, though, was that they be ‘good lollies’ [x].

Common Knowledge


“When a woman is in a certain condition, there is an impulse for certain things and that impulse could not be resisted,” stated the Police Magistrate in stating the facts of the theft case before him, “Any medical authority knows that” [xi]. The condition of which he was referring to in July of 1902 was pregnancy, and the impulse, cravings – in this case for sugar at two o’clock on a Saturday morning.


George Webb, 21, and Annie Wade, 19, were married in February that year, and were expecting their first child. They lived in Bridge Street, next door to Catherine Musgrove’s store and in the middle of a winter’s night, Annie had a desperate craving for sugar. She crept out of the house while George was asleep, and removing a brick from the Musgrove’s garden, smashed the window of their store and stole three jars of lollies, two boxes of chocolates and two dozen oranges, valued at ten shillings.


When Mrs Musgrove arrived at her shop early Saturday morning, she noted the broken window and missing goods, and went next door to ask her neighbours, the Webbs, if they had noticed anything. Seeing a piece of broken brick in their yard however, she instead contacted Constable Killury. Killury, along with Detective Wilson and Plainclothes constable Taylor, attended the Webb house but were initially refused entry.


Eventually, the police were admitted and at first, the young couple denied any knowledge of the events; however once confronted with the brick fragment, Annie confessed to the theft and handed over the goods remaining from her binge. As she had told George about the incident, both were charged with robbery and removed to the watchhouse but admitted to bail shortly after.


Once in court, Inspector Hehir requested consent from the bench to submit a lesser charge of simply larceny which they gave. Luke Murphy, in their defence, asked the bench to also refrain from a prison sentence, on account of Annie being ‘enciente’ which had caused her to ‘act peculiarly of late’ and experience great cravings, though in not returning the goods or admitting to the drama, they had been foolish [xii]. Both, he argued, had always borne good character, and George’s uncle Charles, attended to give a character reference and offered to pay for the repair of the Musgrove’s window.


Mrs Webb was identified as the primary perpetrator, with her husband an accessory after the fact, but the judge believed that it was a case of ‘extraordinary character and a painful nature’ and so didn’t call for imprisonment, instead insisting on a £20 bond after which they were allowed to leave the court. Later that year, the couple’s first child, George Hector Webb, was born.



[i] 'Wirth’s circus', Bendigo Advertiser, 12 Oct 1908, p7

[ii] 'Advertising', Bendigo Independent, 13 Oct 1908, p1

[iii] 'Wirth Brothers’ circus', Bendigo Independent, 7 Oct 1908, p3

[iv] 'An elephant in trouble', Bendigo Independent, 16 Oct 1908, p3

[v] Ibid

[vi] 'A fondness for lollies', Mount Alexander Mail, 29 Jun 1912, p2

[vii] Ibid

[viii] Ibid

[ix] 'Strange event', Riverine Herald, 27 Sep 1947, p4

[x] 'Easy chair jottings', Advocate, 28 Nov 1908, p28

[xi] 'Burglary of lollies and oranges', Bendigo Independent, 15 Jul 1902, p1

[xii] Ibid

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