Covington’s Residence – 28 Quondola Street


Members of the Behl family in front of the Forest Oak Inn, Pambula. Image courtesy of the George Family Collection.

What heritage tour would be complete without a ghost story? A number of former residents of this property are convinced that a ghostly presence watches over the building, most of them of believing it is the original owner, Syms Covington, who died here in 1861.

Prior to arriving in the Colony, Englishman Syms Covington was employed on the HMS Beagle’s second voyage between 1831 and 1836. Also on board was naturalist Charles Darwin, the two becoming firm friends over time. Two years into the voyage, Darwin engaged Syms as his assistant to undertake jobs such as collector, hunter and taxidermist, as well as writing up much of Darwin’s research. Darwin noted: “Covington has shot and prepared nearly all the specimens I brought home.” As well as his work with Darwin, Syms also kept his own personal journal of the voyage, recording written and pictorial accounts of the places and people he encountered. This journal is now held in the Mitchell Library’s collection of the State Library of NSW.

After arriving back in England Syms remained in Darwin’s employ, helping to sort and label the extensive specimen collection.

In 1839 Covington emigrated to Australia. After marrying Eliza Twyford in 1841, and following the birth of their fourth child, the Covington family moved from Sydney to Pambula in 1848. Six short years later Covington had established himself as a store owner, licensed publican and post master. He purchased land in Quondola Street and in 1855 constructed the stone and brick house you see before you today – the Forest Oak Inn. The last five children of Syms and Eliza Covington were born here between 1850 and 1858. 

Even after arriving in Australia, Syms remained in close contact with Darwin, sending specimens of local plant and sea life for his former employer’s research. Syms’ health eventually deteriorated until, in 1861, he passed away. Eliza soon remarried and continued to run the Forest Oak Inn.

In 1866 John Behl (there he is again) took over as publican, by which time the Forest Oak was the only licensed premises in Pambula. In 1884 Behl who had been living there with his family purchased the property.

28 Quondola Street side view Rosstherne Covingtons 1936 - 1945 image courtesy of the family of the late Dr. Keith Jones

28 Quondola Street side view Rosstherne Covingtons 1936 - 1945 image courtesy of the family of the late Dr. Keith Jones

Recognised for its outstanding heritage significance, Covington’s has, in its lifetime, been used as a general store, post office, hotel, doctor’s surgery, as well as a court room, police barracks, and, in more recent years, a restaurant and gallery. It says a lot about the appeal of Pambula that a man as well-travelled as Syms Covington chose to settle here!