01 November, 2016

The Clyde Hotel

My previous posts looked at the Railway Hotel at Bannockburn and the Separation Inn which stood on the road from Geelong to the Ballarat diggings during the gold rush. The picture would not be complete however, without also taking a look at the Clyde Hotel.
According to early survey maps from 1856 and 1865, the Clyde was located on the south east corner of what is today the Midland Hwy and Maude Rd leading to Russell's Bridge. Some more recent sources place the hotel diagonally opposite on the north west corner. As far as I can tell, this is incorrect.
The hotel of course derives its name from the Clyde Company, whose representatives - chiefly George Russell - were amongst earliest settlers on the Moorabool River.
George Russell, c1852. Image held by he State Library of Victoria
Initially the company leased vast amounts of land between the Moorabool and Leigh Rivers from the government and then from 1839 onward began purchasing sections of that land in the names of various shareholders. In 1853 (title deed dated 15th August, 1853, Victorian Government Gazette, 12th October, 1853), George Russell purchased section 15 B in the parish of Wabdallah. This 522 acre block was adjacent to a further three blocks (allotments A, B and C of section 16) which he had purchased the previous year and made a substantial addition to several thousand more acres in the Parish of Gherineghap, purchased mostly in the 1840s and including the site upon which the Separation Inn was built.
Russell's interest in these land purchases was to a large extent speculative. Within a year of having purchased section 15 B, Parish of Wabdallah he hired a surveyor - Matthew Biddle - who subdivided much of the land and laid out two "new townships", one in either parish. Each town was to be named after the parish in which it was situated and both were arranged as a series of one acre allotments along the Geelong-Ballarat Rd, with increasingly larger blocks stretching away to the banks of the Moorabool River.
The site of Wabdallah Township had been carved out of the southernmost portion of section 15 B and included the future site of the Clyde Hotel. As per my last post, late in 1853, George Williamson had taken on the license of the Separation Inn, a little over 3.5 miles closer to Geelong, however I suspect this was never intended to be a long term arrangement. A message from Williamson to George Russell, penned on 15th May, 1854 and reproduced in the Clyde Company Papers states the following:
I may mention that the House I was expecting from Germany, & which I spoke to you of, has now arrived and lies piled up on the Beach at Geelong. I should wish to see you about it, as you will recollect promising me a site for it; and if you will be good enough to let me know what day you are likely to be at home I shall make a point of meeting you.
[Endorsed by G.R.: 'G. Williamson, Separation Inn, May 15th/54….answd; no wethers at present; site can be bought by auction']
Clearly it had been Williamson's intention to build his own hotel for some time, although perhaps he had not envisaged having to purchase the land to do so, however, buy the land he did.
In a series of advertisements, the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer first promoted the sale of what it termed "that well-known lovely spot Russell's Rich Flat", noting that there would be no private sale before auction (25th March, 1854). This it seems however, was merely media hype as was the declaration by the same newspaper on 29th May, that some blocks had already been sold at the exorbitant price of £230 per acre.
An insert on the survey map produced by Surveyor Matthew Biddle c1854 for
George Russell (Clyde Company Papers), with the blocks purchased by
Williamson highlighted in yellow.
The rest of the allotments would definitely have to go to auction the following day it claimed, however the records of sale in the Clyde Company Papers show that only purchases at auction were made (no private sales) and the record shows that the largest single purchaser of town allotments at Wabdallah was George Williamson who paid £372 for his 11 allotments - a figure closer to £34 per acre! With his land now purchased, Williamson wasted no time in erecting his new hotel (although whether this was the pre-fabricated building referred to in his letter to Russell is not clear). By 7th November, 1854, the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer proudly announced the opening of Williamson's new premises with the following advertisement:
CLYDE HOTEL–CLYDE HOTEL–To Travellers on the Ballarat Road – GEORGE WILLIAMSON, late of the Separation Inn, begs to inform all persons visiting Ballarat, that he has opened that commodious and elegant Hotel, known as the Clyde Hotel. It is situate on the Government Road, at a more convenient distance from Geelong, being five miles from the old Separation Inn, and about half way between that place and the Muddy Water Holes.The long experience of Mr Williamson on this road, enables him to guarantee all the comforts of a first-class English Hotel. No expense has or will be spared in making the culinary department second to none in the colony. The proprietor flatters himself that one trial of the wines, spirits and other liquors will induce the traveller to remember the Clyde Hotel with satisfaction..The Stabling is large and commodious and being under the immediate superintendence of the proprietor will be found to combine perfect safety coupled with the most reasonable charges.

Once again however, it is necessary to untangle a little truth from advertising fiction. Whilst the Clyde Hotel was certainly more commodious than the Separation Inn, to say that it was 5 miles further up the road is somewhat of a stretch as my measurements put its distance closer to 3.5 miles beyond the Separation Inn and some 5 miles distant from the Muddy Water Holes (aka Lethbridge).
Despite the claims of "perfect safety", the Clyde was not immune to some of those problems which routinely plagued public houses - especially those houses frequented by travellers.
Barely a month after the above advertisement, it was reported that William Buckley, a passing traveller had arrived at the Clyde and, under the influence of alcohol had retired to bed after complaining of being ill. The following morning he was found dead. In September, 1855 a horse was advertised as stolen from the hotel, with a £2 reward offered for its return. So much for safety!
The Clyde also hosted its share of inquests. In April, 1858 John Stacy, a teamster left the Clyde perfectly sober - after only three small glasses of liquor - but was fatally injured after falling from his dray and being run over. His fellow teamster took him to the Clyde where he died the next morning (The Age, 10th April, 1858). In November, 1867 a similar incident occurred when Walter Bolger, who had stopped at the Clyde was run over by his dray which was loaded with flour from the nearby Clyde Mill.
Regardless of such unpleasant events, the Clyde Hotel does seem to have been considered the hotel of choice in the region for public events. On New Years Day, 1856, Williamson was responsible for hosting a race meeting, with a variety of events to suit most horses. Meetings in relation to the Wabdallah Farmers' Common were held at the hotel along with public rallies at which political candidates for the region put their case. On 27th June, 1857 according to the Ballarat Star, the hotel was even favoured with the presence of Sir Henry Barkly, Governor of the Colony of Victoria, who stayed two nights whilst on his way to and from a visit to the goldfields at Creswick.
By the beginning of 1858 however, Williamson had had enough and he put the Clyde on the market with the following extensive advertisement appearing in both the Ballarat Star and The Argus on 25th February:

There is no doubt that by comparison with the Separation Inn, the Clyde Hotel was a cut above. In addition to the high-profile patronage, it had taken less than four years for the Clyde to have cornered the coaching market if its bold claim can be believed. Certainly, the famous Cobb & Co. service changed its horses at the Clyde, although whether other carriers such as Estaffette, Criterion or the Washington Express (aka Little Go) did likewise is less clear.
Regardless of which line of coaches was chosen, travelling to the goldfields could be a risky prospect. Accidents were common and not even Cobb & Co. were immune. On 3rd March, 1858, The Argus reported on a coaching accident in which a Cobb & Co. coach leaving the Clyde Hotel, tipped down an awkward embankment after the horses were spooked by a bullock dray. A woman was injured, requiring treatment in Geelong and the driver hurt his wrist. The coach's arrival in Ballarat was delayed until 10pm.
Whilst the flow of traffic to the goldfields continued unabated throughout the 1850s, by the end of the decade, things were about to change. Perhaps it was the anticipated arrival of the Geelong-Ballarat Railway which encouraged George Williamson to put his property on the market. From 1862 onward, the line would pass less than 3/4 of a mile to the west of his hotel with a station built at Leigh Road the following year; a circumstance which would significantly affect the level of traffic on the road passing his hotel.
Bannockburn Station (originally the Leigh Road Station), built in 1863 after
the opening of Geelong-Ballarat Railway in April, 1862. Photo taken April,
2012 at the 150th anniversary celebrations of the line's opening
A quick sale however, was not forthcoming for Williamson and by March, 1859 a tenant - Benjamin Hall - was found to run the hotel. A mere two months later however, the Clyde was once again advertised for sale, this time for sale by private contract (Geelong Advertiser, 13th May, 1859). Eventually, a purchaser was found and by September, Williamson was holding a clearing sale.
Despite the change of proprietors, Hall remained as the publican for several more years before finally moving to Ballarat to run the Farmer's Hotel in September, 1862 (The Ballarat Star, 6th September, 1862). From this point, until April, 1864, I could find no mention of a licensee for the Clyde, however there were various references to James Thomas Bushell of the Clyde Hotel throughout 1863, before a publican's license was granted to Thomas Howe in April, 1864.
On 11th September, 1865 however a sale of all the goods, stock, furniture and livestock associated with the Clyde was announced in the Geelong Advertiser, the entire inventory itemised room by room, item by item. The reason given was the insolvency of James Bushell. (Who incidentally had made a number of land purchases in the parish the previous year.) Then, on 7th December 1865, Thomas Howe published his intention to transfer his publican's license for the hotel to John Henry Jones. From this, I am led to suspect that whilst I found no mention of the sale of the hotel itself, Bushell was the property owner and Howe his tenant. Consequently, when Bushell became insolvent, Howe had to go.
From 1865 onward, John Henry Jones - familiar to those who read my post about the Railway Hotel in Bannockburn - became the licensee and at some point, the owner of the Clyde. In December of the same year, he also purchased two blocks of land from the government. The blocks were allotments 5 and 7 of section D, Parish of Wabdallah. Both were situated on the Ballarat Rd with allotment 7 located on the south west corner of the Ballarat Rd-Clyde Rd intersection - the site said by some recent sources to be the location of the hotel. Could this land purchase by Jones be the reason for the apparent confusion as to the location of the hotel?

A section of an 1865 survey map of the Parish of Wabdallah, showing the
location of the Clyde Hotel and the blocks of land (not marked) purchased by
John Henry Jones. Image held by the State Library of Victoria

Over the next several years, Jones' name appeared in the newspapers in relation to the usual array of thefts, untimely deaths and community events hosted by Jones and his wife. I am led to suspect however, that Bushell may not actually have left the Clyde. On 23rd April, 1870 the Geelong Advertiser published a death notice, stating that James Bushel(sic) had died on 21st of the month of pleurisy at the Clyde Hotel. He was 37 years of age.
Another issue of note, concerns a legal wrangle between Jones and the Bannockburn Shire Council over the erection of a tollgate on the Geelong-Ballarat Rd in 1868. Whilst he appears to have had no issue with the erection of the gate, Jones took exception to a proposed fence which his lawyers claimed risked debarring him from parts of his property. His proposed solution was a gate, which he felt the council should pay for. The council for their part decided he should have his gate, but that they would not be paying for it, and that it seems was the end of the matter.
By 1871, as I described previously, Jones was in the process of renovating the Eureka Hotel at Bannockburn which he re-branded the Railway Hotel. After some issues sorting the transfer of licenses, he then became the licensee of the Railway Hotel. Whether he also retained a separate license for the Clyde I am unsure, however in June, 1871 the hotel was the venue for the meeting of the Moorabool Ploughing Match Committee. The following year at the April licensing meeting, a new license was issued for the Clyde. This time the licensee was Charlotte Upjohn - John's mother-in-law, the mother of his wife Emma.
Sketch of an 1875 ploughing match near Kyneton, similar to those held in
the Moorabool Valley and other locations across the district. Image held
by the State Library of Victoria
This arrangement lasted only a year or so and by May, 1873, the Clyde was advertised to let. I found no further mention of a license, however Jones was indicated as the landlord during 1874 when Emma and Charlotte were witnesses in court to a case of concealing the birth of a child. The case was dismissed based on medical evidence, but reading between the lines could perhaps have been a miscarriage or an abortion.
On a somewhat lighter note, in July, 1875, Jones and his wife hosted a sumptuous dinner for about 70 locals at the Clyde, following a staging of the Moorabool Ploughing Match. The repast, which by all accounts exceeded the excellence of previous years, was served in the "spacious dining-room", with guests treated to a meal of "viands, fowl, vegetables, and pastries". Many toasts were drunk, speeches made and the festivities concluded with a ball which saw the guests dancing until daybreak (Geelong Advertiser, 22nd July, 1875).
It is at this point however, that the trail goes cold. I found no further licenses for the Clyde nor mention of it trading beyond 1875. Whilst no longer in business, the building did remain standing and was occupied by the Jones family as a farmhouse. Disaster struck however some time before 9am on 19th July, 1883 when the timber hotel building caught fire. By the time it was discovered, the building was so well alight that no attempt could be made to save it and it was completely destroyed. Fortunately perhaps for the family, they were away at the time - Mrs Jones in Queenscliff and Henry and their son in Melbourne (Geelong Advertiser, 21st July, 1883).
The site of the former Clyde Hotel, October, 2016
The building was insured and by early August, the claim had been settled, however this was the beginning of a difficult period for John Henry Jones. By 1885 he was insolvent and by the end of the year, his wife Emma had died. Consequently, as described in my post on the Railway Hotel (see link above), he was unable to obtain a license for that hotel.
Despite these trials, by April, 1887 he had been cleared of his insolvency and was again the licensee of the Railway Hotel. According to his will, at the time of his death on 11th May, 1891, John was a gentleman, living with his son Willie Herbert at Leigh Road. William Flahive - by then the proprietor of the Railway Hotel - had mortgaged the property to Jones who had little in the way of assets having sold most of his goods and chattels after selling the hotel. There was no mention of the land on which the Clyde had stood, from which I presume it had passed from Jones' ownership some time after his declared insolvency in 1885.
Today, the site is an empty field, overgrown with weeds and grass. There is no sign that one of the most popular hotels on the Geelong-Ballarat Rd was built there at the height of the gold rush. The township of Wabdallah, drawn up by surveyor Biddle never eventuated. Its proximity to Leigh Road (Bannockburn) and the arrival of the railway taking travellers off the road, coupled with the fact that the largest source of fresh water was the Moorabool River over a mile away, probably helped to seal its fate.
Google Earth image showing the site of the intended town of Wabdallah. Faint
lines still denote the boundaries of some of the surveyed blocks.
For the sake of clarity, it is worth mentioning that a second attempt was made to establish a township named Wabdallah. In 1863, only a year after the opening of the railway line, changes began to occur at Bannockburn. The original town had been gazetted and built on the west bank of Bruce's Creek, in the Parish of Murgheboluc. From 1862 the train line passed a little less than a mile to the east, across the creek - in the Parish of Wabdallah. Naturally, settlement began to drift towards the train line. New land adjoining the line and directly opposite the station was surveyed. The name given to this "new" township was Wabdallah. The original settlement on Bruce's Creek became known South Bannockburn. Today the blocks surveyed as Wabdallah form part of central Bannockburn, including the site of the Railway Hotel.  In 1872, more town blocks were surveyed on the opposite side of the line, close to the station at Leigh Road. There was no mention of Wabdallah, instead the township took on the name of the station around which it now clustered, a moniker which was used until the beginning of the 20th century when the town took on the name always used by the shire: Bannockburn.

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