08 October, 2016

The "other" Eureka Hotel

Most locals have heard of the Eureka Hotel in Geelong, but not so many would be aware that for a time during the gold rush, there was a second Eureka Hotel. This second public house was located about nine miles from the centre of Geelong on the Ballarat Road, in the point of land formed by the junction of the Batesford and Fyansford roads.
Following the discovery of gold in Victoria, land along the main routes of travel suddenly became appealing to those wanting to profit from the passing trade. As a result, the government and some shrewd landowners looking to make a profit, began selling allotments along the roads leading to the goldfields. On 17th July, 1853 section 19 in the Parish of Gherineghap was put up for auction presumably by the original purchaser John Learmonth (Victorian Government Gazette, 13th July, 1853), a member of the Learmonth family who succeeded the Port Phillip Association (later Derwent Company) as major landholders in the area in 1839. It was they who built 'Laurence Park' on the Moorabool River about a mile from the site of the proposed town.
There is no mention of the new owner's name or whether the block even sold, but less than two months after the auction date, on the 1st September, a 420 acre chunk of the original 611 acre block was again up for sale either as one lot or subdivided into town allotments, (Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 1st September, 1853). In his book The Stepping Stone: a history of the Shire of Bannockburn (1995), Derek Beaurepaire indicated that it was John Learmonth himself, who offered up the land as a prospective new town, bearing the name of Eureka:

Auction of the Township of Eureka (Geelong Advertiser
and Intelligencer
, 21st December, 1853)
The town would have, it was claimed, a reliable supply of fresh water and was more conveniently located (close to Geelong) than Meredith where blocks in that recently established township had been snapped up at prices well above the odds. The superior Eureka township it was claimed, was perfect for those wanting to establish stores, eating houses, workshops, farms - situated as close to the Moorabool River as it was - and even inns. The Ballarat Rd past the township was - if not quite yet - the advert claimed, soon to become the best made road in the colony by virtue of its being the busiest in the Western District.
Despite all the hype however, the sale was not a great success and no town developed at the junction. This may have been at least in part due to the fact that a significant proportion of the land in question was a swamp which was probably the main source of that "permanent" water, and whilst the Moorabool River was nearby, there was no access to it from the township. The area is labelled on the 1863 geological survey map as Learmouth's(sic) Swamp. The subdivided portions of land were situated to the north of the Ballarat Rd, opposite its intersection with the road from Fyansford and the non-existent township was labelled on the map as Learmouth (not Eureka).
Whilst a settlement may not have developed as planned, one establishment, built south of the Ballarat Rd in the point of the intersection with the road from Fyansford did: the Eureka Hotel. The first mention I can find of the hotel's existence is in the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer of 31st July, 1854 when James Wallace "begged to inform" the public that he had taken over as the proprietor of the "Eureka Inn". The implication of course, is that it was not Wallace who built the hotel and I have not so far been able to trace the original proprietor.
Small section of the 1863 geological survey map, showing subdivisions in the
"Township of Learmouth" and the Eureka Hotel, Image held by the State
Library of Victoria
Over the following years, Wallace's name appears in connection with the hotel on numerous occasions and on Wednesday 28th February, 1855, the block of land on which the hotel stood - being Portion 1 of Section 19 in the parish of Gherineghap - was put up for auction. It was described as "containing 179 acres, having a frontage of 4300 feet on the main road from Geelong to Ballarat via Fyansford, on the S.W., and 3790 feet fronting to the main road to Ballarat via Batesford, on the north". It would be auctioned "together with all the buildings and other improvements thereon" (Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 19th February, 1855). A second block of 233 acres immediately to the east was also for sale. Interestingly, there is no mention of the hotel itself in the advertisement.
Meanwhile, business at the Eureka continued, often it seems, in the rough and ready fashion of the day. On 19th February, 1856 according to the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, Wallace was in court having charged four of his patrons with brawling in his hotel. The men were, he stated, travellers whom he had served a small amount of alcohol. Also at the bar having a drink was a carrier returning from a delivery at Meredith. All seemingly normal for an hotel on a public highway - except that the carrier (John Gilloghan) was mounted on his horse which, being of a quiet nature, he had chosen to ride into the premises. After sharing a drink, or perhaps two, a fight broke out with the four travellers wielding fence palings and glass bottles as Wallace attempted to eject them. In the affray, Gilloghan was hit over the head with a bottle, receiving lacerations.
Upon hearing Gilloghan's evidence, the Mayor who was presiding at court that day, observed that "it appeared rather extraordinary that [Gilloghan] should visit public houses on Sundays in this manner, by exhibiting his horsemanship within the rooms of the hotel." Sunday trading was of course, not permitted, unless the publican was serving those travelling long distances, hence no doubt Wallace's desire to show that he had only served small amounts of alcohol to permitted patrons.
Image of Dr Alexander Thomson taken from Wikipedia
In their defence, the lawyer for the travellers argued that the travellers wanted to fine Gilloghan for entering the bar on horseback and observed in any case, that he had been drinking with them before the fight occurred.
In making his judgement, the Mayor observed that "it was nowise attributable to forbearance on the part of Ross [one of the four] that he had not murdered the man [Gilloghan]." He also noted that "they had all been engaged on a Sunday afternoon in a most disgraceful disturbance, and he should fine them each 40s, with instructions to the Inspector of Police to take out a summons against Mr Wallis(sic), to answer for breach of the Licensing Regulations." Case dismissed!
On a more sombre note, the Eureka Hotel - or more properly its proprietor - was once again in the news when, on a dark, July night in 1856 the evening coach from the diggings in Ballarat arrived to make its final change of horses for the journey. The Eureka was a regular stopping place for the Estaffette line of coaches. Either the first or last stop on the road, depending on the direction of travel. While the horses were changed for fresh ones, passengers could take a break and perhaps have a meal or a drink before continuing their journey. On the night of the 26th July, the coach arrived as usual, changed horses and prepared to depart after only a short stop. At least one of the passengers went inside for a  "negus of wine" (a spiced, sweetened wine served hot), no doubt to keep out the chill of a July night on the Ballarat Rd.
Knowing that the track ahead was none too good, the publican Wallace, offered to lead the way on his own mount, carrying a lantern to light their path.
An Estaffette coach attempting a creek crossing on its way to the diggings, in
1854. Image by Charles Lyall, held by the State Library of Victoria
Despite this precaution, when the coach was between half a mile and a mile beyond the Eureka (probably somewhere near today's Buchter Rd), it struck a stump and before anything could be done, it overturned. Of the 13 passengers inside the coach, none suffered serious injury. A 14th passenger, riding on the box beside the driver was not so lucky. As the company sorted themselves out, it became apparent that Thomas Robinson was seriously hurt. Whilst Wallace went on to Batesford for a doctor (Robert C. Hope from nearby 'Lynnburn' was summoned), the patient was made comfortable with cushions from the beleaguered vehicle, however within an hour, and before Wallace returned with Dr Hope, Robinson died. His body was returned to the Eureka, the site of his final drink, on a dray along with the others from the coach. The coroner was quickly summoned and the following day, an inquest was held before a jury of 12 where it was deemed that Robinson had died as a result of internal injuries sustained in the accident. No blame was attributed to the driver of the coach.
By August the following year and with business still reportedly booming, Wallace decided to sell up. This time, along with the land which now totalled 200 acres, the hotel itself was advertised:
Advertisement for the Eureka Hotel,
Ballarat Star, 3rd August, 1857
With coaches stopping night and day, not to mention those travelling on horseback or by dray, adequate stabling and a water supply for stock was as important as beds for the travellers so it is not surprising that the Eureka boasted such a large stable in addition to the hotel itself.
By November, the property had been sold and whilst I found no mention him in the newspapers, according to the publication Hotels, Pubs & Inns of the Geelong Country Districts (Pam Jennings, 2009), the new owner was Joseph Haughton who held the license from December, 1856 possibly until April, 1858 when the inn changed hands once again. By this time however, the hotel may have been becoming a little rundown. A traveller on the road in December, 1858 described the hotel as "a forlorn looking place" (Ballarat Star, 2nd December, 1858). Business however, continued and the next mention of the "Eureka Inn" in the media shows that Dennis Powell was granted a liquor license for the premises at the April, 1859 meeting of the licensing board.
Powell was an Irishman and a noted athlete amongst the local Celtic community. In January, 1859 after both competed successfully at the third grand annual gathering of the Comunn na Feinne, Powell accepted a a bet to face down a local Scotsman in a caber tossing competition at South Geelong. So confident was he of his ability that he claimed that he would "turn the caber better than any McIntyre!"
Finally, after a no-show on Powell's part and significant amounts of bragging and bluster on the parts of both men and their supporters, a date was set for the match up and the stakes raised to £20. One shilling entry was charged at the venue and a variety of activities occupied the assembled crowd. Powell won the toss of the coin and elected to throw second. McIntyre's first attempt was a no-throw as was Powell's. After some quick tweaking, the caber was trimmed to 13ft, 5in and the men threw again. This time, Powell managed a respectable 27ft, 11in throw, a target which could not be bettered by McIntyre after several throws and Purcell was declared the winner.  So impressed were his supporters that the following month, they purchased a chased silver cup which was presented to Powell at his hotel on 23rd February.
The 1863 Highland Gathering at the Comunn na Fienne reserve, South Geelong
(located on Swanston Street between Balliang and Foster Streets) only four
years after the competition between Powell and McIntyre
In contrast to his athletic prowess, Powell's success in business does not seem to have been so great. By May he was advertising the land surrounding the hotel to let as the "Eureka Estate" consisting of between 400 and 500 acres, 200 of which were fenced. In July, the hotel itself was put up for auction, described this time as containing 20 rooms and standing on a little over 10 acres of land. It did not sell however, and in February, 1860 Purcell again put it up for sale.
By August, things were becoming desperate for Powell, as his estate - including the hotel - was placed under sequestration. Finally, in September, a new proprietor was found and Thomas Newby took over the license for the hotel.
In what was becoming an all too familiar pattern however, Newby was offering the Eureka up for lease by September, 1861 and by December, the license had been taken up by Thomas Harris. In November, 1862 it was once again up for auction with the furniture and other goods and chattels to be auctioned off in January the following year.
The purchaser this time was James Appleton, a furniture broker and valuator from Little Ryrie St, Geelong who promptly put the hotel back on the market in March, 1863 looking for a "cheap sale". I suspect he may have purchased the furniture to sell through his business, hoping to make a quick sale on the property as well, since at the same time as he was attempting to sell the Eureka he was also selling the Royal Charter Hotel (now the Carrington/Centra Hotel) in Geelong.
If so, he was not immediately successful in selling the Eureka or he had a change of heart and at the April liquor licensing board meeting, he applied for a license for the hotel. After an adjournment of a fortnight however, his application was "Refused, the house not being in good repair."
And this it seems, marked the end of the road for the Eureka Hotel on the Ballarat Rd. From 1865 the property was advertised as "Eureka Paddock" and as quoted in my previous post on the Friend in Hand Hotel located a short distance up the road to Fyansford, a contributor to the Geelong Advertiser of 22nd March, 1866 observed sadly that "the old landmarks on the Ballarat road are gradually disappearing. The old Friend-in-Hand is closed up; where the Eureka used to stand is now a mere waste, honored now and again by being made the camping place of a solitary teamster."
Looking south east from the intersection of the Fyansford-Gheringhap Rd and
the Midland Highway, October, 2016. No visible sign of the hotel remains
This would seem to suggest that perhaps the buildings were no longer standing, however there is no mention of a sale of building materials which usually occurred with a demolition. Additionally, there was one mention in 1868 at an inquest that the deceased had "also had a drink at the Eureka" (after previously stopping at Batesford), so maybe the hotel lingered on for a few years longer, although perhaps without a license.
Throughout the 1870s, the "Eureka Paddock" (now 225 acres) passed to James Connolly who sold it in September, 1878. In August, 1879 it was for sale with inquiries to be directed to Mr J.L. Price of Geelong and then, on 25th June, 1880 a final auction notice appeared in the Geelong Advertiser indicating that the "Eureka Paddock" consisting of 225 acres, 2 roods of "first class grazing land" was for sale, along with a "substantial well-built six-roomed house, a three-roomed cottage, a three-stalled stable, harness room, coach-house and hay-house". The land boasted a permanent water supply and was contained within a post-and-rail fence and a stone wall. Who built the house, when or why it was built or what became of it, I do not know, however today, there is no sign that any structure stood upon the block, let alone a 20 room hotel, with a 20 stall stable and numerous outbuildings.


  1. Now that would be an interesting place to go metal detecting, or use ground penetrating radar on. All those secrets hidden under that paddock!

    1. Indeed! But only after I'd finished using it up the road, looking for the body of Thomas Brock as per my previous post. It's funny how often I've had conversations about ground penetrating radars in the last couple of weeks!