23 October, 2016

The old Separation Inn

While I was already in the district - so to speak - I thought I would stop by another couple of inns along the way. Both located close to the Moorabool River on the route to the goldfields, and both interwoven with the Eureka Hotel, Leigh Road; subject of my last blog post. First: the Separation Inn.
As I alluded to previously, the hospitality industry of the 19th century, was a volatile scene. Hotel owners often came and went within a few years, licensees even more frequently. Depending on the behaviour of the clientele, the number of hotels in the district, the state of the buildings, the financial situation or reputation of the licensee and a host of other reasons, publicans' licenses could be granted or denied on an annual basis. This was also the case for the less expensive beer, and colonial wine licenses which restricted what the licensee could serve (usually a cheaper product) and often attracted a less than salubrious class of patron.
An example of a publican's license from the 19th century. Image taken from
Victorian Collections
The end result it seems, was that insolvencies were relatively common and that licensees switched venues on a regular basis, often holding more than one license at a time. This was certainly the case for the Separation and the Clyde Inns on the road to Buninyong and Ballarat.
The older of the two, the Separation Inn was amongst the few public houses to be found between Geelong and Buninyong prior to the beginning of the gold rush in 1851. As I have found with other hotels, there seems to be some uncertainty as to when the hotel first opened. The publication Hotels, Pubs & Inns of the Geelong Country Districts (Jennings, 2009) indicates that the hotel was first mentioned in the Port Phillip Herald on 27th March, 1843 and was owned by George Russell of the Clyde Company. At this time, I am uncertain exactly where Russell's hotel was located and my (admittedly somewhat cursory) examination of the Clyde Company papers for 1843 showed no correspondence regarding the hotel.
Another reference to the hotel was made by Henry Mundy who passed that way with his family in October, 1844. Writing many years later in the early 20th century, he recalled that they "reached a swamp, near where the old Separation Inn used to be on the road to Ballarat" however, whether this refers to the hotel owned by George Russell, or to a later structure is debatable as Mundy passed that way many times over the following years and may have been referring to a newer building.
Regardless, it seems any original hotel owned by Russell, was not around for long. On 28th October, 1850, the Geelong Advertiser published the following notice:

What is clear, is that towards the end of 1850, Michael O'Meara (previously the landlord of the Shamrock Inn, Geelong) erected the building which by 1851 was known as the Separation Inn. It was located on Clyde Company land near the intersection of what was then the road to The Leigh (Shelford) and the Buninyong Track. Today, the intersection of Russell's Rd with the Midland Hwy lies about 350m north west of where the hotel stood.
Surprisingly perhaps, having gone to the effort of building his own hotel and with the gold rush by now in full swing, O'Meara remained as landlord only until about June, 1852. Some time between that date and October the same year, Thomas Dunlop became the new license holder for the Separation Inn, although  O'Meara retained ownership until at least July, 1854 when he advertised the property for sale. During the intervening time, the license passed briefly from Dunlop to William Rae who in turn transferred it to George Williamson in December, 1853.
Whilst O'Meara may have owned the hotel, he did not own the land surrounding it which, by 1854, formed part of the Clyde Company's purchased holdings. Section 23 of the Parish of Gherineghap on which the hotel was situated was originally sold to John Hosking and John Terry Hughes - land speculators from Sydney - in 1837. The pair borrowed heavily to finance their purchases across the country however, and in 1843 with recession beginning to bite, the company of Hughes and Hosking as well as the men themselves were forced into insolvency bringing down the Bank of Australia with them. Their fall from grace was one of the biggest financial scandals the colony of New South Wales had seen.
The fallout from their financial collapse however, proved a boon for the Clyde Company who in 1847 were able to purchase sections 12, 23 and 27 in the parish of Gherineghap which of course, included the land on which the Separation Inn stood. By May, 1854 however, George Russell had made the decision to subdivide and sell some 2,000 acres of land along the Moorabool River, including much of sections 23, 26 and 27. As part of the survey and subdivision carried out by surveyor Matthew Biddle, and in addition to an array of blocks ranging in size from 10 to 60 acres, a further 63 allotments of one acre in size were also laid out in a grid format fronting the Ballarat Rd. This new township was to be known as Gheringhap and the Separation Inn was located on allotment number 1.
Part of the survey map produced for the Clyde Company's subdivision of
sections 23, 25 and 27 of the Parish of Gherineghap. Showing the intended
township of Gheringhap. Image taken from the Clyde Company Papers
History shows that the township of Gheringhap, did not develop where or when George Russell's surveyor planned. Instead, settlement occurred later at the railway crossing about a mile closer to Geelong and a mere half a mile from the Eureka Hotel, situated at the turn off to Fyansford.
The post office opened at Gheringhap in 1869, however the railway station was not opened until December, 1877, nearly 16 years after the opening of the Geelong-Ballarat Railway. It was the settlement around the railway crossing which eventually became the little town of Gheringhap.
The Gheringhap post office, 1967. Image taken from the National Archives
of Australia, Image number B5919, 745
The Clyde Company Papers show that of the 63 one acre blocks surveyed by Biddle and laid out in a township grid, only 20 were sold, to four separate purchasers. The block on which the Separation Inn stood, was not amongst the land sold. Perhaps sensing that development of the surveyed township might not prove successful, O'Meara put the hotel on the market in July of that year. I could find no record of a purchaser, however by June, 1854 Henry Edward Hunter was behind the bar at the Separation Inn with George Russell as his landlord (Clyde Company Papers). Williamson meanwhile had moved up the road a short distance to open his own public house: the Clyde Hotel (more of which in my next post). Hunter and his business partner Lillie, signed a three year lease for the inn to commence from 1st July, 1855 at a rate of £125 per annum, however by January, 1856 he had already moved on, leaving behind their effects which were under distraint to be sold by the Bailiff to recoup costs on behalf of Russell.
The Williamson family however, were not quite finished with the Separation Inn and the departure of Hunter and Lillie, cleared the way on 1st March, 1856, for John R Williamson - brother of George - to take over the license from Hunter.
By February, 1857 however, Russell was looking for a purchaser for the inn.  His agent John Carr informed him by letter on 26th February, that whilst he had not been able to procure a purchaser, he had found a tenant willing to take on a five year lease at a rate of £150 per annum - Patrick Hawkins. Upon looking at the property however, Hawkins realised that a substantial amount of work needed to be done and reduced his offer of £150 rent to £100. This was accepted at the lower rate - for the first year (Clyde Company Papers).
Despite having a new tenant for the hotel, Russell continued to look for purchasers for the hotel and the land surrounding. After the underwhelming response to his initial attempts to subdivide and sell the land around the Separation Inn, he once again made an attempt to sell, early in 1858 (Ballarat Star, 23rd January, 1858). This time, the blocks for sale were larger, with no suggestion of a township subdivision, and a four acre block, including the inn itself was on offer to the public. This time, the Clyde Company Papers show that the Separation Inn and the 4 acres on which it stood were sold in June, 1858 to Frederick Locke.
Despite this, the April, 1859 sitting of the licensing court, shows Patrick Hawkins renewing his license and by the following year, the hotel was once again beginning to show its age. At the 1860 licensing day, Hawkins' renewal was postponed pending repairs, but was granted in May. The following month, Hawkins was implicated in a case of embezzlement when he is said to have purchased alcohol destined for someone else, however no blame appears to have been attributed to him directly when the case came to trial (Geelong Advertiser, 9th June, 1860). He was however, in trouble with the law himself later that year when he was convicted of breaching the publicans' act by repeatedly serving alcohol to an intoxicated patron over the course of several days, leaving him in what was colloquially known as the "dead room" to recover his wits before continuing his bender, allowing Hawkins to pocket the profit. Hawkins was fined 40s and ordered to pay costs (Geelong Advertiser, 12th December, 1860). Nor did Hawkins' business practises improve. By December, 1861 he was insolvent and no longer the licensee at the Separation Inn.
The new licensee was Frederick Locke who, after a delay in his application lodged in April, pending more repairs on the property, had himself taken up the license of what was by that time described as the "Old Separation Inn". Despite various financial and legal difficulties - as described in my previous post - Locke retained the license for the inn until July, 1870, however by December, 1865 and with financial pressure mounting, he downgraded his "spirit license" for the inn to a cheaper "beer license" (Geelong Advertiser, 10th May, 1865), a fact which was noted the following year when a correspondent to the Advertiser wrote on 22nd March that "the old Separation Inn, where so much money was made in the golden days, is in a sad state of repair, and is merely a beer shop."
By the end of 1869, Locke had moved to his new premises - the Eureka Hotel - at Leigh Road (Bannockburn) having earlier installed a tenant - John Johnstone - at the Separation Inn. In July, 1869 however, Johnstone in turn transferred his beer and colonial wine licenses to David Ross, an absentee tenant whose agent Frederick Stanley, ran the business for several months before applying for a beer license in his own name. It was to take effect as of the 1st January, 1870. Locke's financial failings however, meant that by July, 1870 the hotel was on the market and from this time on I found no further license applications.
Site of the Separation Inn, October, 2016
The last direct mention of the Separation Inn appeared in March, 1875 when it was announced that "the well known and old-established hotel, known as the Separation Inn, together with about 4 acres land" was for sale (Geelong Advertiser, 15th March, 1875). What became of the hotel buildings I have not discovered and despite its popularity during the early days of the gold rush, at no point in its 24 year history did I find a description of the inn or its outbuildings. Nor do I know of an image of the hotel.
Like most public houses however, the Separation Inn had a chequered career. Originally established to serve those travelling between Geelong and the grazing properties of the Western District, it later did a roaring trade in the early days of the gold rush as one of the few public houses on the road from Geelong to Ballarat. As the years passed however, increasing competition from the many new hotels which sprang up along the road and the arrival in 1862 of the Geelong-Ballarat Railway, saw business begin to decline, the hotel began to show its age and the clientele likewise may also have changed.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, the inn and its proprietors began to appear more regularly in the pages of the local papers. From suicides in the vicinity to thefts, assaults, accidental deaths, murders and even one charge of bestiality, the road to the diggings could be a dangerous one.
One such example was the accidental death in April, 1854 of John Sansom, a 40 year old digger returning from the goldfields who was brought to the inn critically injured after accidentally shooting himself as he and his travelling companions passed Lethbridge, then known as the Muddy Water Holes (Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 5th April, 1854). Sansom died and an inquest was held at the inn.
A second inquest was held, in June, 1868 on the body of David Corbett, a drayman on his way to Ballarat. Having stopped for a pint at Batesford and then another at the Eureka, he fell asleep on the shafts of his wagon after crossing the railway line at Gheringhap, toppled off and fell beneath his dray which was loaded with three tons of goods. The wheel of the dray passed over his lower chest causing severe injuries. By the time the other teamster travelling with him realised his friend was missing and returned to find him, Corbett was dead. As the law directed, his body was taken to the nearest public house - the Separation Inn - where an inquest was held two days later (The Argus, 11th June, 1868). Following the inquest, Corbett's remains were taken to Geelong where he was buried at the Western Cemetery.
An interesting if somewhat macabre consequence of holding a publican's license in the 19th century was the requirement that any person holding such a license must make their premises available for the purpose of holding a coronial inquest if required to do so as outlined in an "Act to consolidate and amend the Laws relating to the Licensing of Public Houses and the Sale of Fermented and Spirituous Liquors. [2nd June, 1864]". The act stated that:
Every holder of a publican's license shall at the request of any officer or constable of police receive into the house mentioned in such license or upon the premises occupied therewith any dead body that may be brought to such house for the purpose of an inquest being held thereon and for every dead body so received he shall be paid the sum of one pound out of any money which may be appropriated for such purpose and if he shall refuse to receive such dead body for the purpose aforesaid he shall on conviction thereof before any justice forfeit and pay any sum not exceeding five pounds.
Today, this requirement is no doubt obsolete and any sign of the Separation Inn is also long gone. The land on which the inn stood is now occupied by a farmhouse which fronts onto the Midland Highway and which is the home of a local fencing company. The old road to the Leigh has been realigned to meet the highway almost 2km to the north west and travellers no longer stop for a drink or a meal at the Separation Inn.
Looking along the line of the the old Leigh Road towards Bannockburn, October, 2016

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!

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.

01 October, 2016

What really happened at the Friend in Hand Hotel

In my previous post, I looked at some of the stories surrounding the ghost which supposedly haunts the site of the old Friend in Hand Hotel which stood for a time during the 19th century on the corner of the Fyansford-Gheringhap and the Friend in Hand Roads. Now I will look for some truth amidst the fiction of the Friend in Hand ghost - Thomas Brock.
Immigration records show that in December, 1849 Thomas - a 24 year old Englishman - arrived at Port Phillip on the Andromache, along with his mother Mary Ann and three younger sisters. The following year, his mother married Thomas Solomon Crabtree, a local builder whilst her son Thomas entered into the butchering trade.
Next, on 3rd August, 1854 the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer reported the purchase of allotment 2, section 9 of the Parish of Gheringhap. The block consisted of 108 acres, 1 rood, 28 perches of land located on the Ballarat Rd (Fyansford-Gheringhap Rd). The purchaser as recorded in both the newspaper and the Victorian Government Gazette, was Thomas Brock* (see note below). It was here, on the north western corner of the Friend in Hand and Fyansford-Gheringhap Roads that Brock decided to build a hotel.
Section of the 1891 Gherineghap Survey map overlaid on Google Earth, showing
Brock's land but with the purchaser's name as Thomas Brook
Within months of the date of purchase, construction was underway on the new establishment. I can find no call for tenders to build the hotel, so suspect that it was his step-father who undertook the building work with the assistance of subcontractors. The hotel is described in John W Pescott's Children's book The Ghost at Friend-in-hand as a two-storey, solid-brick construction with a slate roof and a later newspaper advertisement described it has having a sitting room, bar parlor, five bedrooms and a bachelors' hall. Also from the context of those reports, it did have a second storey, this was not a small establishment. Sadly, I have not been able to find a picture of the hotel.
Whether or not Crabtree had any financial interest in the building is not clear, however with the hotel still under construction in May, 1855, he was declared insolvent. Despite this, building appears to have continued and in any case, the extent of Crabtree's financial difficulties may not have been extensive. After the usual round of meetings to establish debt and creditors' claims throughout May and June, Crabtree gave notice in the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer of 8th October, 1855 of his intention to apply to the Commissioner of the Insolvent Court for his "certificate, free from all debts and liabilities after this date". In other words, he would be cleared of his insolvency.
By late October, the hotel was nearing completion and Brock along with his mother and step-father was living in the building itself. Tents used by sub-contractors also working on the site had been erected near the main building. Things should have been coming together for the family, however Crabtree it seems was a regular drinker, who became aggressive, even violent when drunk and Brock probably knew how to stand up for himself. Perhaps the stresses involved in organising the construction coupled with his insolvency put strain on the relationship between Crabtree and his step-son and this, when combined with a night spent drinking, had fatal results for Brock.
The first report of Brock's death appeared in the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer on 29th October, 1855 when a short article reported on a murder "committed in a tent, on the Ballarat road, between Fyans' Ford and the Eureka Inn" on the night of the 27th-28th of October. It (erroneously) gave the name of the deceased as Brooke and indicated that his father-in-law had been arrested on suspicion of murder. (The misconception of the exact relationship between Brock and Crabtree it seems, has carried through from the earliest newspaper reports to the present-day folklore about Brock's murder.)
On the same day that news of the murder broke and with the post mortem still being conducted in the tent where he died, a coroner's inquest was held at Brock's hotel, only metres from where his body lay.
Brock's mother Mary Ann, gave evidence that she had retired to bed at about 11pm. Her son had arrived home shortly afterwards. He was sober. Crabtree arrived home drunk about half an hour after that. Brock told his mother that he had endeavoured to bring his step-father home, but to no avail.
The keeper of the toll gate they passed on the way home [presumably Fyansford] gave evidence that the pair had approached his gate and that Crabtree was drunk and "making a great noise about his carpenters". He sent them on their way, after which they must have separated.
Some time later, Crabtree arrived home and demanded to be let in (Brock having arrived earlier). Not long after, both Mary Ann and Richard "Dick" Dibley - a bricklayer living in one of the tents at the building site - heard a noise "like something falling on the floor" or "like the kettle [being] overturned". This no doubt was the sound of Crabtree hitting his sleeping step-son over the head with the saucepan.
Cast iron pot probably similar to that used to hit Brock. Image from Wikipedia
Mary came downstairs to find her husband sitting within a yard of her son who was conscious on the sofa with a "cut on his eye". During the course of discussion about Brock's injury Crabtree told his wife "it's only gammon, see how I am hurt!" meaning that Brock's injury was "nonsense" i.e. not serious and referring instead to a cut on his own face, received from Brock in an earlier altercation, perhaps when Brock had attempted to bring his step-father home.
Dibley stated that Mary Ann had then called out "Dick, do come, for I think that Thomas is Murdered". Dibley spoke to Crabtree and when asked what he had done, Crabtree replied "not half so bad as he has done to me", referring again to his own injury. He also admitted to striking Brock with the flat part of the saucepan which was tendered as evidence still in its bloodied state. Inside the house, Dibley found Brock sitting on the sofa and bleeding profusely from what he described as a "great wound on his right eye". This was no small cut.
He and Mary Ann washed the wound whilst -Dibley claimed - an agitated Crabtree swore at his wife and called his step-son expletive-laden names (an employee of Brock's also present claimed not to have seen Crabtree at that time or heard his bad language, however Dibley reaffirmed his own evidence). At Brock's request, he was removed to a tent outside where he lost consciousness at around 5am Sunday morning. Prior to this and still able to speak, Brock told his mother when asked, that he did not remember being hit and said to Dibley "Oh! Dick, I think I'll never get over this--never!"
Between 8 and 9am Dr John Gordon was called to attend to the now unconscious Brock. Once again Crabtree was keen to stress the severity of his own injury, telling the doctor "he has not got half so much as I have got". Dr Gordon then bled the patient and applied mustard plasters, but to no avail. Brock died at around 1pm that afternoon from significant head injuries, described in detail at the inquiry and in the media. His age was given as 28 years.
When asked about the relationship between Brock and Crabtree, Mary Ann - as might be expected - claimed the two got on well and that there was no conflict between them, either over Crabtree's insolvency or the property. Dibley on the other hand deposed that he had heard the pair arguing over the insolvency and stated that Crabtree had said "this property had been bought for him" suggesting perhaps that the family's financial arrangements were intertwined.
Upon learning that Brock had died on the Sunday afternoon, Dibley said that Crabtree claimed he "was very sorry for what had happened, and if he had thought it would have killed him he would never have done it...he jumped up...and said, "O! good God! Dick don't say so, I never thought that he would die".  On the Sunday afternoon, Crabtree went to Batesford to hand himself in to the police.
The inquest concluded and the jury returned a verdict of willful murder (Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 30th October, 1855). Subsequently on 2nd February, 1856 Thomas Crabtree pleaded not guilty to a charge of willful murder and after direction by the judge, a jury instead found him guilty of manslaughter and sentenced him to seven years hard labour on the roads (The Argus, 6th February, 1856).
The judge and jury of the Geelong Circuit Court sitting at Thomas Crabtree's
murder trial, Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 4th February, 1856
I have found no subsequent record of sale for Brock's hotel, but do know that it was operating as a public house by late 1857 under the name of the Friend in Hand, although where this name came from I do not know. In April 1859 William Roberts took over as the licensee and, I believe owner. Then, after another bizarre display of behaviour by Crabtree - who it can only be assumed did not serve his full sentence for the murder of Brock - on 7th August 1860 Roberts had him charged  with having "attempted to take forcible possession of the Friend-in-Hand Inn, Ballarat road". Crabtree it was stated, had arrived at the hotel during the afternoon of the 5th August, "used grossly insulting language" towards Roberts, before attempting to physically throw him out. Crabtree claimed that "the Friend-in-Hand premises were his lawful property. He bought them years ago. Had never willingly parted with them and went to take possession". He was ordered to pay a fine of 40s and to keep the peace for the next six months (Geelong Advertiser, 8th August, 1860).
The following month, Roberts appears to have struck financial difficulties, with the two-storey brick hotel listed for sale by the mortgagee. With no buyer forthcoming, Roberts renewed his liquor license in April, 1861, however this did not stop him once again putting the hotel on the market barely a month later, the advertisement stating that he was intending to leave the district. The furniture and stock-in-trade was to be auctioned on 25th June.
In September, 1861 the license for the premises was transferred to Thomas Lloyd Poole, who I suspect was only leasing the property. Poole however, was no more successful in his endeavours than Roberts and by the end of June, 1863 the hotel's stock, household furniture and stock-in-trade were being auctioned off as the tenant (presumably still Poole) was "under distraint for rent". The name of the owner seeking arrears on the rent is not stated.
Auction notice for the Friend in Hand Hotel, Geelong Advertiser, 29th June, 1863
By 1866, barely 11 years after its construction and the death of Brock, the Friend in Hand Hotel was no longer trading. An article in the Geelong Advertiser from March that year noted that "the old landmarks of the Ballarat road are gradually disappearing, the old Friend-in-Hand is closed up...to one who can remember the coaching days, when one could not go from Geelong to Ballarat without meeting four or five hundred drays laden with merchandise the road, one half of which is only used, presents a most dreary and uninviting prospect".
And it was this, perhaps far more than "Brock's ghost" which was responsible for the ill fortune of the Friend in Hand Hotel. By 1855 when Crabtree and Brock set about building their hotel, there were already several licensed establishments in the area to service those heading to the goldfields. At Fyansford the Fyansford and Balmoral Hotels had recently opened, whilst at the top of Fyansford Hill the Fair View Hotel had also opened its doors. By 1856 the Swan Inn was once again trading as a public house, or for those wishing to stop further out of town, the Eureka Hotel at the corner of the Ballarat and Buninyong Roads (Fyansford-Gheringhap Rd and Midland Hwy) had been catering to the passing trade since 1853. Thus the opening of the Friend in Hand made six hotels along a seven mile stretch of road from the top of Fyansford Hill to Gheringhap, all competing for the patronage of those heading to the gold fields.
To make matters worse, by the 1860s, many of the alluvial gold deposits at Ballarat had been worked out and gold extraction was shifting towards company-based, deep lead mining. The days of the hopeful digger toting his swag to Ballarat had passed. Then, in 1862 the Geelong-Ballarat railway line opened, meaning a further decline of road traffic between Geelong and Ballarat. As the traffic along the Ballarat road from Fyansford declined, so did business at the Friend in Hand Hotel.
At some point the hotel and the land were sold once again. The next owner - John Rock (aka Rook) - already owned land in the area. He was not a publican and instead, used the hotel land to run stock, before leasing it out in 1866. By 1870 he had also leased the hotel building to Daniel Butler Watson who in March, 1870 gave notice that he intended to apply for a "beer license".
Whether or not such a license was granted, Watson was living at the hotel by 1871 where he was operating a small store from the site. In July however, he was arrested on charges of forgery, uttering a false cheque and obtaining goods and money using a valueless cheque. The only witness for the defence was Jane Nichols, a married woman was described as Watson's "paramour" who was living at the hotel with Watson and her children who were described as being "badly clothed, and bearing the stamp of wretchedness an want". Jane made a poor witness and Watson was committed to stand trial.
Could this be the period in which the hotel became the home to passing tramps (and criminals) suggested in Roy Holden's notes on the hotel? If this was the case, it is perhaps not surprising that in early 1876, Rock decided to demolish the building, auctioning off the building materials therefrom on 24th February. Today, the site is an empty field, ploughed and waiting for a crop.
Panoramic view of the site where the Friend in Hand Hotel stood, looking north
west across the block, September, 2016 (click to enlarge)
As for Thomas Brock, he is said to have been buried in a plot of land just behind his hotel. According to Pescott's version of the tale, Brock's overactive ghost was the reason for the hotel's lack of success and it was claimed that no-one would buy the goods and chattels from the hotel when auctioned, for fear of upsetting the ghost. It also tells that Brock's grave was eventually ploughed over and lost, leaving his spirit wandering the nearby paddocks and lane ways, looking for his final resting place - a location I would also like to find!
And on a final cautionary note, the records for Geelong's Eastern Cemetery show that Thomas Brock (aged 28) was buried in an unknown grave at the cemetery on 29th October, 1855, however local sources inform me that this was probably a modern record of a lone grave taken from details in the Geelong Advertiser and recorded with the cemetery for cataloguing purposes. Brock's true resting place most likely lies under a ploughed field beside the "Ballarat road from Fyansford", lost more than a century ago.

*NOTE: Whilst the 1891 survey map for the parish of Gherinegap indicates that the purchaser was Thomas Brook, the Victorian Government Gazette and Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer both give the name as Thomas Brock.