28 August, 2016

A fair view

In addition to its better-known hotels, for several decades during the latter half of the 19th century, Fyansford had another pub: the Fair View (aka Fairview) Hotel. By all accounts, the Fair View was aptly named. Perched atop the highest point of Herne Hill - or Fyans' Ford Hill as it was known in the early days of the colony - it commanded sweeping 360 degree views of the surrounding landscape, however its origins seem - to me at least - to be a bit of a mystery.
It was positioned - according to the 1861 geological survey map - on the north west corner of today's Hyland St and McCurdy Rd on a 30 acre block of land which extended all the way down to the banks of the Moorabool River. The earliest owner of that block of land (allotment 2 of section 14, Parish of Moorpanyal) was one Thomas B Payne, who purchased it at a government land sale on 21st July, 1847 at a cost of 70 shillings per acre, although what Mr Payne may have done with his newly-acquired property, I cannot tell.
A section of the 1953 survey map of Moorpanyal Parish showing the block
purchased by Thomas Payne in 1847. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
I do know however, that by March, 1855 the Fair View Hotel was standing on the south east corner of the allotment, but the listed owner was not Payne, instead it was James Noble Esq. alderman of the Geelong town council and possibly also a wine and spirit merchant in Geelong. It seems that being an alderman had its benefits for when he complained to council that the rates on the property were too high, the council agreed to reduce them from £400 to £300 per year.
Whilst Noble was the owner of the hotel, he was not - by 1855 at least - the occupier. That role was occupied by Mr John McInnes who in April, 1855 went into voluntary bankruptcy and was brought before the insolvency court. In the third hearing of the case on 13th June, it was claimed that McInnes had debts of £1908 2s and assets of only £293 17s. Amongst other creditors, he had refused to pay wages to his gardener/handyman Mr Powsey and was also in arrears on his rent.
Things went from bad to worse for McInnes when he was charged with having removed property - barrels of liquor - from the cellar of the hotel in the small hours of the 4th March, several weeks before he declared bankruptcy. As a result, he was indicted for "committing a fraudulent insolvency, for the purpose of defrauding his creditors" (Geelong Advertiser 31st July, 1855). After initial denials it was established that McInnes had in fact removed the liquor. To achieve this, he had the assistance of his barman and a colleague who helped him to load the barrels onto a dray and take them a short distance to the house of a Mr Steward. All these proceedings were seen or overheard by Powsey and his family who had been locked in the lower part of the hotel by the barmaid and one of the others.
McInnes was found guilty of fraud and sentenced a year's imprisonment with hard labour.
By January, 1859 Noble had decided to sell his public house which was advertised in The Argus on 31st January, 1859 in the following, glowing terms:
WOOD and RIX have received positive instructions from James Noble, Esq., to SELL by AUCTION...on Monday, January 31,
Containing 15 spacious rooms, situate on Fyans Hill, overlooking Fyans Ford and adjacent country. The hotel grounds comprise
30 acres of rich soil,
 partially laid out and cultivated. Planted with choice fruit-trees, shrubs &c., the whole securely fenced.
The property is most delightfully situated, and too much can scarcely be said in its favour. The land extends to the River Moorabool, along which it has an extensive frontage. From the river the land stretches back for some distance, forming a gentle slope, and presenting to the eye a magnificent plateau, only requiring the plough to develop its hidden virtues. The soil is of a rich character which is to be found along almost the whole course of the far-famed Moorabool. At the termination of this most beautiful portion of the estate, the land rises somewhat abruptly, and at the top of the ascent is an extensive and well-stocked fruit garden, so situated as to be nicely sheltered from the cold and unfavourable winds, whilst enjoying the genial warmth of the sun's rays. Near the garden is a building which has been used as a pottery and could be easily made available for a similar purpose. Between the orchard and the hotel is a kitchen-garden covering some acres of fine soil; and on the highest part of the land stands
The hotel, in connection with which is a roomy stable and coach-house, with other outbuildings.
The auctioneers see that it is difficult to convey to the public a correct idea of this most valuable property and would beg any who with to make a really safe and decidedly profitable investment to look a the place for themselves.
As a resort for public recreation this spot is unrivalled and would put Montpellier completely in the shade were the same pains taken to display its advantages as have been expended on that favourite resort.
As a site for villa residences this spot can scarcely be surpassed; the view to the westward is magnificent, whilst the proximity of the estate to Geelong renders it more valuable.
A part of the view overlooking the Moorabool Valley from the grounds of what
was once the Fair View Hotel, August, 2016. Click to enlarge
The outcome of the auction does not appear to have been recorded, however it may well have been purchased by an investor, for only a few months later - in September - the Fair View was once again advertised for sale. This time however, the vendor was R Porter, Esq. and the property was described as having only two acres of land adjoining but with no mention of river frontage (Geelong Advertiser, 6th September, 1859).
Like their earlier counterparts, these agents were also keen to talk up the hotel's position, giving a clear idea of how impressive this location must have been in the mid-19th century:
...and for a Tea Garden is unrivalled, possessing and commanding most extensive views of the Bay, Bass's Straits, Mount Buninyong, the whole of the Barrabool Hills, the You Yangs, the Dandenong ranges, and Bellerine(sic) Hills, with Geelong and the shipping in the bay, in the foreground: and last, though not least, the beautiful valley of Fyans' Ford, with the confluence of the Barwon and Moorabool rivers.

The advert then goes on to describe the building itself as a two-storey, stuccoed brick building with a slate roof. On the ground floor was a large bar-room with cellar, four sitting rooms, kitchen, servants' bedroom, large laundry and pantry. There was also a private entrance - presumably for the benefit of the proprietor. Accommodation in the form of ten bedrooms was located on the upper floor.
In addition to the main building, there was also a 7,000 gallon capacity sealed, brick water tank and a six-horse stable.
The selling agent also made the bold claim that "by far the largest portion of the Ballarat and Western traffic passes it".
Fyansford looking across the Moorabool towards Herne Hill c1866-1880. The
buildings at the top (left) of the hill are most likely the Fair View Hotel. Image
taken by John Norton, held by the State Library of Victoria
The new owners - presumably since the 1859 sale of the property - were William and Margaret Greenwood and the hotel was by that time known as Greenwood's Family Hotel. Margaret Coates (an Edinburgh woman) was a widow whose first husband William Thustain had died two years earlier in 1854 at only 25 years of age. The Thustain's only child - an infant named John - died two months after his father. In 1856 Margaret had married William Greenwood - an immigrant from Yorkshire - and by 1862 the couple had five children.
 By July, 1861 however, the Greenwoods were looking to sell the hotel. This time, a gig-house, piggery and cowsheds were also advertised along with two acres of fruit trees and grape vines. Thorough renovations costing several hundred pounds had been conducted and "Greenwood's Family Hotel" formerly known as the "Fair View Hotel" was for lease or sale as a private gentlemen's residence.
Their attempts to sell the hotel in 1861 however, were unsuccessful and by February, 1863 they had instead, leased the property. The new tenants were the Misses Dawson who had undertaken to move their "ladies' seminary" from Newtown to the more spacious 'Fair View House'. The former hotel was now a school for young ladies. Having operated in Newtown since 1854, the Dawsons were keen to increase the size of their school and were quick to stress the "healthful" location of their new premises as well as their proximity to the centre of town. "No expense whatever" they claimed "will be spared to procure the assistance of the first masters in the colony, and every exertion will be made to ensure the happiness and comfort of the young ladies confided to their care (Geelong Advertiser, 16th February, 1863).
Despite their apparent enthusiasm, the Misses Dawson were soon on the move again. By the middle of 1865 had relocated to 'LaTrobe House' in LaTrobe Tce. On this occasion however, it may not have been a decision of their own making. In July, 1864 William Greenwood had died, leaving Margaret a widow for the second time at the age of just 37. This time, with five children to support.  Only a month before his death on 23rd June, William made out his will. Margaret along with two others was to act as executrix and all three were to be trustees of the estate. One of the two executors immediately renounced his rights leaving Margaret and another to administer the estate without him. Under the terms of the will, Margaret was the sole beneficiary and entitled to all income from the estate until hear death at which time, all incomes were to be divided amongst her children or kept in trust until such time as they reached 21 years of age.
Following William's death and the departure of the ladies' school, I am unsure whether the hotel sat vacant or was once again operating as a hotel. In November, 1867 however 'Fairview House' along with five acres of garden and outbuildings was again for sale and remained on the market until the middle of the following year when Mrs Greenwood was declared insolvent.
Somehow, despite this, she managed to retain ownership of the hotel - her creditors it seems could not complete a sale either - and the pub was again advertised for sale in September, 1868, February, 1869 and April, 1871. Finally, in September 1871 she was able to transfer her publican's license to a tenant - J.C.Mogg.
Despite an advertising campaign aimed at drumming up business, by June, 1873 Mogg had removed to the Geelong Hotel in town and Margaret was once again granted a liquor license for the Fairview Hotel, Fyansford in her own name. By October the property was yet again on the market and in December she was seeking someone willing to take up a three year lease. A tenant however, was not forthcoming until July, 1875 when finally, Margaret advertised the sale of her household furniture and other effects, including a cottage pianoforte sitting, bedroom and dining room furnishings, stating that the hotel had been let.
Then, in 1876 - at the age of only 49 - Margaret also died. She was buried with her second husband William in the old Church of England section of the Eastern Cemetery. Her youngest child would only have been 14 and the eldest 19. After this date there is little mention of the Fair View in the papers. A report in the Geelong Advertiser of 23rd September, 1880 stated that after a severe storm "at the old Fairview Hotel on the Fyansford Hill, several chimneys were blown down and the roof of the building greatly damaged". It seems likely that that the hotel fell vacant after Margaret's death - if it was not already - and was never again occupied.
In July, 1881 however, it was indicated that "...the old Fair View Hotel, at the top of Fyansford Hill after being closed for many years, is about to be utilised again, but not as a public house. Mr Hotchin, the well-known butcher, of Aberdeen-street, lately purchased the building and adjoining premises for a sum of £450. The purchaser intends converting the extensive house into a slaughtering establishment." (Geelong Advertiser, 2nd July, 1881.) It is also likely that the hotel building itself was dismantled at this time as building materials which had been part of the Fair View Hotel were advertised for sale.
Like others before him however, Hotchin's butchery on the site did not last long. On 13th March, 1884, the following advertisement appeared in the Geelong Advertiser: "Part allotment 2, section 14, parish Moorpanyal, Herne Hill, containing 12 acres or thereabouts, on which is erected a new and first-class slaughtering establishment, complete with sheep and cattle pens, piggeries, boiler, water laid on, etc; also a new four-roomed brick cottage, with kitchen and underground tank."
Presumably by this time, the original 30 acre block extending to the Moorabool which had been part of the  Fair View's original grounds had been subdivided and sold, leaving the the butchery and associated buildings on the high ground at the top of the hill.
After 1884, the only other mention of the hotel was an advert two years later in 1886, calling for tenders for paper hanging and painting on the premises, site of the old Fair View Hotel, Herne Hill. Where the paper was to be hung and upon what building was not made clear. I also found no further reference to the butchery.
Looking east towards the site of the Fair View Hotel, August, 2016
Today, the site contains some modern suburban houses but is otherwise vacant. The view to the west, whilst altered by 20th century quarrying and the traffic on the Geelong Ring Road, remains broad. To the north, south and east, modern housing and the now disused Fyansford Cement Works (established 1890) obscure any of the other landmarks which may have been visible, at least from ground level.
Almost 140 years later, it seems somewhat surprising perhaps that a site with so many described natural advantages, on a busy thoroughfare did not become the site of a stately home and appears to have been unable to support a thriving business.


  1. I have included your blog in Interesting Blogs at

    Thank you, Chris

    1. Thanks heaps Chris! Sorry about the slow reply. I've just got back from the Northern Territory.

  2. Hi Jo, I live in Batesford, not far from the Moorabool, and really enjoy your very informative blog. Recently I was driving my mother home via Fyansford and she commented how it was a shame that her Aunt Jean's old house never survived on the corner of McCurdy Road and Hyland Street. I said 'Yes, I remember it as a lovely old rambling farmhouse', and she said, 'No, it wasn't a farmhouse, it was originally a hotel' but she was unable to recall its name. I googled hotels in Fyansford/Herne Hill but was unable to locate any further information. Then, lo and behold, I caught up on your latest blog and there it was: the Fair View! Many thanks for your thorough research and another enjoyable read.
    Kind regards, Deb Peeters

    1. Hi Deb,
      That's a fantastic story! I'm glad you enjoy the blog! Can you tell me more about the time when your mother's aunt owned the property? My impression from the newspaper articles was that the original hotel building was damaged in the 1880 storm and then dismantled. A later photo of the cement works shows what could be the farmhouse you describe, but was the farmhouse the abattoir which was built later?
      I'd love to hear what your mother remembers.

    2. Hi Jo
      I'm trying to find out a bit more info about the house from family.
      My sister and I remember the house as a very old weatherboard with Victorian stained glass windows at each end of front and back verandahs and some internal doors with stained glass inserts. Multiple bedrooms opened off a long corridor that had a big dip in the middle and was great for running along to play hide and seek in the spooky rooms. The hub of the house was the kitchen with a big wood burning stove and a seemingly never-ending pot of soup simmering away.
      However my parents remember the house as being of brick construction, possibly rendered (!)- so that had us all shaking our heads at our different recollections. Possibly the original section was of brick or stone construction with a later weatherboard extension. My mother lived there as a child after her mother died at 29 years of age, leaving a three month old baby boy and four other children under 10. They lived at Pennyroyal with no relatives nearby to help care for the children while my grandfather worked to support the family. Subsequently another family adopted the baby and the other four children were placed in an orphanage. My mother’s maternal aunt and her husband already had five (relatively late in life) children of her own and a relatively meagre income, but arranged for my mother and her sister to leave the orphanage and live with their family. Mum’s two brothers remained at St Augustine’s Orphanage until they turned 16.
      I asked if any photos of the house might have survived but Mum said they were very tough times and a camera would have been a luxury the family would not have been able to afford at the time. This would have been late 1930s and 40s.
      I remember the house and its surroundings as a wondrous place to explore and it seemed there were always kittens in the hayshed and calves in the paddock when we went to visit.
      Hopefully I’ll be back in touch soon with more reliable information from my mother’s cousin.
      Regards, Deb

    3. Hi Deb,
      It is fantastic to hear your family's memories of the place! The memory of a rendered brick building is interesting as the original building was described as a 2 storey stuccoed brick construction, which fits with your mother's memories.
      Between 1880 and 1886 the place was badly damaged and at least partially (if not totally) demolished. From your description I am guessing it was only a single storey when you were there? I wonder perhaps if the removal of building materials and the refit as an abattoir involved the removal of the upper storey, leaving downstairs intact. As you suggest, other weatherboard additions may have been made later.
      Have a look at the following photos on TROVE which were taken c1939 which is the era your family remmeber. The photos were taken of the cement works, but of course, show the house as well.
      They aren't the clearest, but might be helpful.
      Thanks again for sharing these memories. It is great to back my research up with this kind of oral history. I can't wait to hear more!