Notable People of Collingwood

Collingwood Notables Database

Theodore Sabelberg

1844 - 1910

Hotel proprietor, publican, mining engineer, quartz crusher

Personal Photo 1
United Kingdom Hotel 1887

Prussian-born Theodore Sabelberg lived and worked in Clifton Hill from 1882 until 1910, and members of his family would continue their association with the district for several decades longer. He owned the United Kingdom Hotel (rebuilt in the 1930s and now housing Macdonald’s). His house at 10 North Terrace which he named Coblenz,after the town in Prussia, still stands, although much altered.

Theodore was born in Dusseldorf, now in Germany but then in the region known as Prussia. With his parents John Henry and Catherine and his elder brother Joseph, he set sail from Liverpool around the age of ten, landing in Melbourne in December 1854. Like many immigrants, they first headed for the goldfields.  They settled in the Caledonian Diggings (now St Andrew’s and surrounding area) where gold had been discovered some 12 months earlier. John Sabelberg ran a store as well as two quartz crushing mills. The quantity of gold in the Caledonia diggings began to diminish in the mid 1860s. While Joseph studied for the law in Melbourne (and would go on to be the legal representative of the family in various cases), Theodore, hearing of the discovery of gold in Alexandra in June 1866, headed in October for the suddenly bustling town; his doings were reported on as follows. 

Mr Sabelberg jun., an experienced quartz miner, visited the reef and was induced from the rich appearance of the stone to purchase an eighth share in the No. 1 North Claim, coupled with the condition that he was to erect within three months a substantial crushing plant. By the end of December the machine commenced operations, and money was at once plentiful in Alexandra. It is confidently expected that the quartz from this portion of the claim will go about thirty-five ounces per ton … Mr Sabelberg is the lucky holder of nearly half the prospecting claim, and I have since been informed, sold one-sixteenth this week for the sum of £260.

The Age 19 May 1868, p 7

In April of that same year he had married Mary Ann Walsh and taken his bride to the Caledonian Diggings, and thence to Alexandra. Mary Ann was the daughter of Irish-born immigrants Thomas Walsh and Eliza Campion who resided at 374 (then 318) Smith Street, Collingwood. While the Walsh family developed close associations with St Joseph’s church in Otter St, at this date the church consisted of only one nave, and the young couple married at St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Theodore’s association with Alexandra was short-lived but very successful. In July 1868 he disposed of his crushing machine, land, shares in claims, etc. for the princely sum of £3300. He and his associate Mr J Walsh (possibly Mary Ann’s brother John) were given a complimentary banquet where ‘their friends [expressed] the high esteem and respect in which they have been held’. In 1869 Theodore was naturalized.  Then aged 25, he described his occupation as mining engineer. 

In 1873 Theodore and Mary Ann were living at York Cottage in North Fitzroy when Theodore Thomas was born, but still spent much of this period in Queenstown (as St Andrew’s was then known), where children were born in 1870 and 1875. The union would eventually produce eleven children, of whom only one, Arthur, died of croup in infancy, a notable survival rate for the time. In the same year as Arthur’s death their last child, Lucy, was born. Theodore’s parents remained in Queenstown after the gold petered out, turning their attention to farming, and he maintained his connection with the area as a grazier into the twentieth century, as did his son Theodore Thomas.

In 1878 Theodore switched his business investments to hotelkeeping when he became licensee and owner of the Sir Walter Scott Hotel, in Elizabeth Street Melbourne. By early in 1882 he was the owner and licensed victualler of the United Kingdom Hotel, built in 1878 and rated by the City of Collingwood at a Net Annual Value of £200. It was well situated at the intersection of Heidelberg Road and Queens Parade, and Theodore took out an advertisement in the Evelyn Observer and South and East Bourke Record proclaiming:

T. Sabelberg, having taken the above Commodious House, 
will be glad to see his Old friends and Country Customers.

The Best Brands of Liquors kept.

Ample accommodation and Good Stabling

He remained the owner although from 1883 he employed other publicans, including his son Henry who took the reins in 1891. Presumably Theodore and his family lived in the United Kingdom Hotel until 1888 when he purchased a house in North Terrace, Clifton Hill. After this date Theodore was the licensee of several other hotels: the Conference Hotel in Flinders Street in 1886, the Woolpack Hotel in Coburg (of which he was also the owner) in 1889 and the Yarra Family Hotel in Flinders Street in 1903.

Two sons, John Henry (known as Henry) and Frederick, took advantage of the cycling craze of the 1890s and became bicycle makers; Frederick conducted a cycle business at 265 Queens Parade from the 1890s. In 1904 Theodore built a two-storey shop at 376 Queens Parade and Frederick transferred his business there. The brothers worked in partnership until Frederick’s death in 1929.

In 1907 Theodore suffered a stroke but in 1908 was well enough to book a passage to England in May with Mary Ann and daughters Emilie, Catherine and Lucy, planning a visit to their married daughter Lydia Meredith in London and a tour of the continent. The trip was cancelled at the last minute; Theodore had another stroke and had to spend some time in care, before being allowed home provided he had an attendant.

Shortly before his death at the end of 1910 Sabelberg moved from Clifton Hill to Preston, where he once again honoured his home country by naming his house after a Prussian town: Marienfels.  He suffered a third stroke in 1909, and a final one late in 1910. The mourning period, which should have been consoled by fond memories of the successful life of an astute businessman and paterfamilias, was unfortunately marred by issues to do with the probate of his 1908 will which turned out to be a disputatious and drawn-out process. This resulted from a caveat lodged by son Theodore Thomas alleging concerns about his testamentary capacity due to his ill health for the last few years of his life. At the court hearing his doctors,  Dr George Horne of Clifton Hill and Dr Henderson, attested to his mental incapacity during the period when he made the will.

The legal wrangles would have brought back unpleasant memories for Mary Ann, as her father’s will had also resulted in court disputes in 1892 due to an argument that he had been subject to undue pressure from the priest at St Joseph’s to leave to various church bodies most of his not inconsiderable fortune (as well as houses he owned the Robert Burns and the Highbury Barn hotels).

Mary Ann would hold a life interest in the United Kingdom Hotel but upon her death in 1925 there was yet again a legal wrangle when her children disputed the seven-year lease she had granted to a Mr Boyd.

Frederick’s bicycle shop at 376 Queens Parade was left to him in a codicil to his father’s will, and would remain a bicycle shop until the 1980s after which it housed a succession of restaurants, but still proudly displaying the name Kingdom Cycle Works on the facade. Family members lived in North Fitzroy, Clifton Hill, and Alphington for many decades

Work Photo 1

Sabelberg's crushing mill on the Ultima Thule Creek, Alexandra

Work Photo 2

Former Kingdom Cycle Works, 2023

Life Summary

Birth Date Birth Place
1844 Dusseldorf
Spouse Name Date of Marriage Children
Mary Anne Josephine Walsh, died 11 June 1925 9 April 1866 at St Patrick’s Cathedral John Henry Alexander 13 July 1867; Joseph Thomas 1869 - 1934; Emilie Josephine 1870 – 1915; Theodore Thomas 2 September 1873 – 1948; Lydia Florence 1875 – 1955; Frederick Ernest 1877 – 1929; Catherine Elizabeth 1879 – 1962; Herbert Percival 1880 – 1936; Arthur Leslie 1882 – 1884; Lucy Caroline 1884 – 1929.
Home Addresses
Home Street Home City Status of Building
York Cottage Queens Parade North Fitzroy
United Kingdom Hotel 199 Queens Parade Clifton Hill Rebuilt 1930s
Coblenz 10 North Terrace Clifton Hill Extant
Marianfels Queen Street Preston
Work Addresses
Work Street Work City Status of Building
United Kingdom Hotel 199 Queens Parade Clifton Hill Rebuilt 1930s
Church Lodge
St Patrick's Cathedral
Death Date Death Place Cemetery
30 November 1910 Preston Melbourne General

EmpireThe ArgusThe AgeAlexandra TimesThe HeraldThe Mercury and Weekly Courier, Evelyn Observer and South and East Bourke Record, Fitzroy City PressWeekly TimesPunchThe Ballarat StarGeelong Advertiser.

Trove List: “Theodore Sabelberg”:

C R Long ‘A history of Alexandra. Part 1. – The beginnings’ The Victorian Historical Magazine Vol 17(2) 1938

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