CHEERS AND BEERS by Wendy Lowry and John Waghorn
The origins of Pubs and Hotels are often a forgotten aspect of local History. It seems strange because the hotel is looked upon as a hub venue in any town. People congregate there to gossip, to bet and certainly to relax and tell stories.
The City of Whittlesea has many old Pubs and Hotels within its boundaries, some dating back to the 1840’s. Nearly all the original hotels were made of wood and have suffered from time to time with fires. These hotels were mostly single storey and probably had the hitching posts out the front.
One old establishment is the Bridge Inn Hotel on the corner of Bridge Inn Road and Plenty Road, Mernda.
The first Bridge Inn was a small building which stood beside the Plenty River. In about 1870 it was relocated to its present site but it was not until 1891 that the hotel was clad in brick and the second storey added.
Another old hotel is the Commercial on the corner of Plenty and Gorge Roads. This was built in 1890 replacing an earlier wooden building. The new second storied brick building contained 18 rooms and was well furnished. The licensee at the time, Mr Alexander Armstrong also was granted a gold buyers licence by the Epping Court possibly to assist goldminers along the Plenty River.
The old wooden building which served as the Railway Hotel at Donnybrook was destroyed by fire on 5th July 1937. It was very fortunate that a pet Galah had a loud squawk and woke up the two men who were asleep there. They found the rooms full of smoke and escaped with very few possessions. The Galah was also saved. The new concrete building replaced it the following year and is the one still in use today as the Donnybrook Hotel.
The Public Records Office has archives of all the licences granted to all Liquor establishments within Victoria. This can be quite a useful tool in family research if anyone finds a hotel owner amongst their ancestors.
I’ll drink to that!