In 1851, gold was discovered in Castlemaine, kickstarting a population boom and a wave of development in the area, including the grand Albion Hotel.
This grand old property has lived many lives since as a residential hotel (most recently ‘Empyre Hotel’), a brothel, and a guesthouse, until its recent revival as Temperance House owned by Sally Roxon and Christian Gattermayr.
Sally and Christian are hospitality veterans who have owned several Melbourne cafes past and present including Hausfrau and Austro.
Temperance House marks a new phase in Sally and Christian’s life: a part-time treechange to Castlemaine, and their first foray into boutique accommodation.
Sally and Christian were attracted to the Castlemaine property for its history, grandeur, and potential. The building was constructed in 1855, and is listed on the National Trust Heritage Register.
‘As hospitality people, we could see a future in running a small guesthouse in the already established building,’ says Sally.
‘Notably, there was once a tunnel that ran underground between the hotel and the neighbouring Theatre Royal, enabling secret liaisons between miners and “ladies of the night.”
The building was in immaculate condition, it was just waiting for Sally and Christian’s stamp. ‘Our vision was to re-decorate, keeping as much as possible, mixing old and new features, and using as much local retail and as many local artisans as possible,’ Sally says.
Christian and Sally turned to the book New Rural by Ingrid Weir — that features an image of the hotel — for inspiration. The book documents the distinctive allure of Australia’s regional towns in the form of timeless, romantic, and eclectic interiors.
Sally says the most challenging part of the ongoing restoration has been exercising restraint — retaining the soul of the place without being tempted to update. ‘Why change what is good already? It is a new rural way of thinking,’ Sally says.
Guests can experience the ornate interiors of the Temperance House themselves in one of four newly-opened guesthouses: The Corner Room, La Petite Chambre, Long Room, and Balcony Room. Each room has its own en suite and is decorated with antique furniture that complements high ceilings, open fireplaces, chandeliers, and elaborate window treatments.
Perhaps the biggest undertaking of Sally and Christian’s occupancy so far has been transforming the garden. ‘We realised we had too much asphalt at the rear of the building and we had a fabulous space to create a kind of “secret garden,” says Sally. ‘Not only did we have the opportunity to cool down the space, but also to plant a sizeable edible garden.’
Working with central Victoria local Tim Pilgrim, they’ve created an enchanting setting of circular concrete planters (filled with fig trees, tomatoes, lettuce, and zucchini), olive trees, an existing elderflower tree, and grasses before an ivy-clad brick wall.
The garden was planted in August 2022, and has been thriving ever since. ‘We had no idea about gardening, all our time had been spent running cafes, but we have learnt, mostly by trial and error,’ Sally says.
Early guests at Temperance House say they appreciate the intimacy of a small hotel with a host on the premises, the lack of overwhelming technology, the proximity to central Castlemaine, and the laid back country speed.
There’s also the occasional dining event to enjoy, such as the pop-up A Table Bistro and Bar à Vin currently taking up residence in the Temperance House dining room.