17 October, 2016

The lost Eureka Hotel

Whilst researching the Eureka Hotel on the Ballarat Road for my last blog post, I came across some confusion, and after a little digging to make sure of my research, I discovered there were not (as one local source suggested) two, but rather three Eureka Hotels in the district: the Eureka Hotel which still stands in Little Malop St, Geelong, the Eureka Hotel/Inn at Gheringhap on the Ballarat Rd and a third Eureka Hotel which is still a trading hotel today, but under a different name.
As I attempted to establish a timeline of who owned the Ballarat Rd hotel and when, I came across several references to the Eureka Hotel, Leigh Road. In the pre-gold rush era, the road leading out of Geelong via Batesford was often referred to as "the road to the Leigh" or the "Leigh Road" which led to Shelford - or as it was then known - the Leigh.
So, it was possible that the address could have referred to the Eureka Hotel I was researching, however the references I found dated to the late 1860s, early 1870s by which time the Eureka Hotel at Gheringhap was (I surmised) no longer trading. It was also well after the beginning of the gold rush by which time the road between Geelong and the goldfields of Ballarat had become the major thoroughfare and was generally known as the Ballarat Rd. The road to The Leigh was now a turn off from the main road and located a little less than 2km from today's Shelford-Bannockburn Rd intersection with the Midland Hwy.
Intersection of Russell's Rd and the Midland Hwy, looking north west towards
Bannockburn along the original alignment of the Upper Leigh Rd
By the 1850s the road to The Leigh was known as the Upper Leigh or Upper Western Rd to distinguish it from today's Hamilton Hwy (aka Lower Leigh, Lower Western or Great Western Rd). It seems unlikely therefore that the Eureka Hotel at Gheringhap would have the address "Leigh Road" by that time.
The use of capital letters in the 19th century newspapers was also important. When giving street names, the word "road" was not capitalised. The Geelong Advertiser however, gave the address as either the "Eureka Hotel, Leigh Road" or the "Eureka Hotel, Leigh Road Station." And therein lay the difference. The town of Bannockburn has had several names, beginning with Bruce's Creek and even Wabdallah after the parish in which it was located. Initially it was situated west of Bruce's Creek (a tributary of the Barwon River) and south of the road to Shelford. With the arrival of the Geelong to Ballarat Railway in 1862, however the focus of the town shifted to its current alignment close to the railway station. From this time onward, the relocated town became known as Leigh Road after the name given to the station situated at the point where the train line crossed the Upper Leigh Rd.
My guess therefore was that the later references to the Eureka were to a hotel located in Bannockburn, not to the hotel at Gheringhap which had ceased trading. Could I find such a hotel? Yes, I could. In addition to the newspaper advertisements I had already discovered, I found the following in the Geelong Advertiser of 8th January, 1869:
Frederick Locke's application for a liquor license at Leigh Road, 1869
Frederick Locke ran the Eureka Hotel at Leigh Road aka Bannockburn which according to the Victorian Government Gazette (5th August, 1870, 1133, p1160) was situated on Allotment 10, Section 6 of the parish of Wabdallah . This is the same block on which the Railway Hotel at Bannockburn sits today.
So who was Frederick Locke and what became of his Eureka Hotel?
The first mention I found of him in the district was at the Separation Inn, located near the intersection of the Upper Leigh Rd with the Ballarat Rd. In 1860 Locke was amongst a group of 35 local land owners and occupiers who met at the hotel with the intention of forming a road district - the precursor to the Bannockburn Shire.
Locke remained at the Separation Inn for a number of years. In April, 1861 he applied for a publican's license, however it was postponed pending repairs to the property. Late the following year, Frederick charged a local woman with breaking into the hotel and burglary. The charges were sustained despite the defense's argument that the charge was payback for litigation instituted by the woman's husband against Locke.
Disturbingly, Locke was himself charged with indecent assault by Harriet Hale (aka Hall) in April, 1867. Harriet was in fact Locke's sister-in-law, sister to his wife Fanny. She was employed by Locke as a house servant and was staying at a house owned by Locke not far from the hotel. On the night in question, his wife was staying at the hotel whilst Locke along with Harriet, and both their children were at a house owned by Locke some distance away. She alleged that he called her and insisted she sleep with him and laid hands upon her. She resisted. The defence claimed she went to his bed without being asked. She threatened to take him to court. He claimed she would be too ashamed and that he would have his revenge. Eventually, Locke was committed to stand trial, however when the case came to trial in October, she retracted the charges, claiming that Locke insulted her by word only and that she was upset because he refused to pay her wages - a claim she had previously brought to court. Harriet was then ordered to face a charge of perjury, however this was later dismissed.
In an odd twist, at the same time as her husband was charged with indecent assault, Fanny Locke charged Daniel Gilchrist (clerk of the court in which the case was to be heard) with indecent assault upon herself. Despite defence allegations that the charges were brought in retaliation for the writ served by Gilchrist in relation to the alleged assault on his sister-in-law, Gilchrist was reprimanded and fined.
The following year, Locke was once again in court, this time defending charges that he, Harriet and various others covered up the birth (and death) of Harriet's child. Medical evidence provided at the trial suggested that the birth was a miscarriage or abortion and fines were issued for failing to properly register the birth and death.
In addition to the turmoil in his personal life, Locke's business dealings began to suffer. In July, 1867 both the hotel and the farmhouse were put up for auction by the mortgagee. Seemingly undeterred however, within about 18 months, Locke was again in business, this time indicating that he was "now residing at Wabdallah" and that he intended to apply for a wine and beer license his property known as the Eureka Inn.
 However, business did not go well for Locke at the Eureka either, and by September, 1869 the hotel was listed for sale as the "Eureka Hotel, Leigh Road Station". A sale it seems was not forthcoming and a publican's license was again issued to Locke in December, 1869. Things went from bad to worse for him in 1870 when, on 6th January the Geelong Advertiser published the following notice:
Death notice, Geelong Advertiser, 6th January, 1870
The problem - although perhaps not for Locke - was that he was not in fact deceased, despite what someone wanted the world to think. No hint is given as to who the perpetrator may have been and the next day the paper published a hasty retraction:
A very malicious hoax was perpetrated yesterday. A notice was brought to this office in the usual form announcing the death of Mr Frederick Lock, of the Eureka Hotel, Leigh Road, and also that the funeral would take place this morning. Fortunately for himself, Mr Lock, so far from being deceased, was able to read the fictitious notice, and to come into Geelong to give notice of its being a fabrication. The punishment to be inflicted on the perpetrator of so heartless a hoax should be severe.
But it was too late. The Ballarat Courier copied the death notice a day after the Advertiser, followed by the retraction, then, a number of other papers across the state also published the death notice over the course of the following month. To this day, the effects of the hoax continue to be felt. Frederick Lock is listed in the Bannockburn burial register with date and place of death as per the Advertiser article, although it is noted that his death does not appear in the Victorian Pioneer Index.
This as it happens, is not quite true. Frederick's death does appear in the index, although not until 1894 and listed as Edward Frederick Locke. According to his will, he died on 14th February, 1894 and cemetery records show he was buried at the Eastern Cemetery the following day. I could not locate a headstone.
But what happened in between? After surviving his own reported death, Frederick was once again in financial difficulty when in October, 1870 and with the Eureka still unsold, he was declared insolvent and a writ of Fieri Facias was issued against him, meaning the sheriff took possession of the hotel and some nearby land also owned by Locke. Not long after, he appears to have left the district, eventually finding his way to Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula. At the time of his death in the Geelong Hospital, his occupation was stated as miner.
As for Locke's hotels, the Separation Inn will be the topic of my next blog post, however it seems that despite the earlier mortgagee's auction, Locke retained the property until July, 1870 when it along with the Eureka and a block of land, were offered for sale when Locke was declared insolvent. On this occasion, a buyer for his Eureka Hotel was forthcoming and John Henry Jones became the new owner, although it does seem to have created a little confusion in the district (which perhaps persisted to recent times) as this extract from the Geelong Advertiser of 6th June, 1871 states:
"An impression prevails at Leigh Road that a third public-house has been erected at Leigh-road. If we are rightly informed this is not correct. The supposed new house is stated to be the old Eureka Hotel purchased by Mr J.H. Jones, in Mr Lock’s estate, and re-christened the Railway Hotel. The mistake has probably arisen out of the fact that Mr Jones has made additions to the premises.
The Railway Hotel, Bannockburn October, 2016
Further renovations and additions were undertaken in 1877 and he continued to run the hotel for another 13 years. However, hospitality during the nineteenth century was a volatile industry in which to work, with publicans often forced into bankruptcy or to sell up after only a couple of years in business and Jones' was no exception. In addition to the Railway, Jones also owned the Clyde Hotel (located on the Ballarat Rd at the Clyde Rd intersection). In July, 1883 it was burnt to the ground, however newspaper reports at the time indicated that it had not operated as a public house for some time and was instead used as a farmhouse.

Things did not improve for Jones when the following year he was declared insolvent and and charged with obtaining money by deception, however the court saw the matter as a misunderstanding by his bank rather than a deliberate attempt at fraud. Regardless of this, as an undischarged bankrupt, the liquor licensing bench refused to renew Jones' publican's license. An attempt to have the license renewed in the name of his daughter was declined as she was an unmarried woman, living with her father, whilst a third attempt was also declined on the grounds that the applicant was merely a dummy for the Jones family who were still living at the hotel. Mrs Jones it was noted was too ill to move.
By December, 1885 Mrs Jones had died as a result of her illness and their daughter Lillias once again applied for a publican's license on the understanding that it would be transferred to her father once his insolvency had been settled. This time she was successful and the license was granted. It was not however, until April, 1887 that Jones received his certificate of discharge. By December, 1888 he was once again the licensee of his own hotel. Finally, in November, 1889 Jones sold out to William Flahive, with a clearing sale being conducted on the premises in January, 1890. Flahive was also the owner of the Exchange Hotel in Geelong.
John Jones died at Clifton Springs the following year on 11th May, 1891 and was buried with his wife Emma at the Bannockburn Cemetery.
Grave of John Jones and his wife Emma at the Bannockburn
Cemetery. Image taken from BillionGraves
William Flahive continued to run the hotel until his own death in November, 1901 at which time, the license was taken over by his widow Mary who after a few years, leased the property out. William was a prominent member of the local racing club and well respected in the local community with the hotel often used to host functions for the Leigh Road Racing Club. When in 1908 the Railway Hotel came before the Licenses Reduction Board, it received favourable reports from a host of locals including the police constable who considered it the best hotel in the district and presumably was spared from closure.
Grave of William and Mary Agnes Flahive and several of their children,
Eastern Cemetery, Geelong, Old Catholic Section 2, grave 109, October, 2016
Mary Flahive died in 1910, after which the hotel underwent successive changes of licensees and presumably owners, with none staying more than ten years. In 1936 with Thomas Norton as the new licensee, a major overhaul of the hotel was approved by the Licensing Court (The Age, 29th September, 1936):
Plans for alterations to the Railway Hotel, Bannockburn, near Geelong, were submitted. These provide for material alterations internally of the present building, which was erected 60 or 70 years ago. Old parts will be renewed, a new roof will be put on, a septic tank, and hot water system will be installed, and generally the building is to be made as good as new. The approximate cost of the work will be £2250, and the alterations will be finished about the middle of January.
As of August, 2012, The Bannockburn Railway Hotel Pty Ltd is a private company servicing a growing population approaching 4,000 people. It is many years since I've been for a meal, but I suspect it it high time I headed back!