Werribee Hunt Hotel

From Hotels of Ballarat
Werribee Hunt Hotel
Picture needed
Town Ballan
Known dates 1851-1854

The Werribee Hunt Hotel was a hotel in Ballan, <1851-1854>.

Site[edit | edit source]

The hotel was in or near Ballan.

Background[edit | edit source]

History[edit | edit source]

A Mr. Densley recalled the early days of the hotel:

The Werribee Hunt was undoubtedly the first hotel here. It faced in the direction of what is now Simpson street, and the sign swinging from two posts in front of the building depicted a hunting meet, with the hounds circling around a mounted huntsman. It was in colors, and had a very striking appearance. Mr T. H Pyke had a pack of hounds at his homestead, and hunted the surrounding country, dingoes chiefly being the game. When he went to England in 1854, the pack was dispersed but Mr Densley is unable to say how.[1]

The hotel was threatened with destruction during the massive bushfires on 6 February 1851, known as Black Thursday. In 1917 an old resident of Ballan recalled the fires near the hotel:

Asked about Black Thursday as it was in this place, Mrs Denholm said she remembered it distinctly. It was a terribly hot day, with a fierce north wind of exceptional violence blowing. The surrounding country was obscured by heavy smoke, and partial darkness prevailed. From early morning, long before the fire reached Ballan, it could be seen approaching, and the few residents were quite prepared for what was to come. Wherever one looked flames met the eye, and the hot gusts of wind could only be compared to the blast caused by the opening of an oven door. The fire reached the township between 2 and 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Mrs Denholm and her husband were living at the time in the hut north of the Werribee Hunt hotel already referred to, and at the fire's approach she picked up her child (afterwards Mrs Warhurst), and, with a little girl from the hotel as a companion, took her stand in the open and comparatively bare ground to the south of the hostelry. All the surrounding country was covered with high and very dry grass. The flames advanced with a roaring noise, throwing out immense volumes of stifling smoke before them, swept over what was afterwards the police paddock, crossed the river, which was then dry and had its bed covered with dry reeds the height of a man, raced up the hill on the southern side of it, and on to where the township now stands. The stables attached to the hotel and a large stack of hay caught fire and were rapidly consumed, but the hotel itself was saved. The heat was intense, and the air was full of burning leaves and pieces of bark, some of which set the child's clothes on fire two or three times, as well as igniting Mrs Denholm's dress. A cup of cold or moderately cool water would have been a luxury, but there was not the remotest chance of obtaining it. As the fire approached the position occupied by Mrs Denholm, the wind fortunately lulled and slowed its progress to some extent, a peal or two of thunder were heard, and a few drops of rain fell, the wind then shifted from the north into the north west, and its course being thus diverted, the conflagration passed on in the direction of Ingliston. With the exception of the burning of the stables and large stack of hay, and the charring of Denholm's timber, previously related, no damage was done within the area now occupied by the township, but a lot of livestock was burned on the surrounding stations. On the night succeeding the fire the trees alight on all sides made a magnificent spectacle, but next morning the country was a blackened and desolate-looking waste. The heat was still intense, and what water could be obtained from holes in the river was quite warm, but a thunderstorm in two or three days time cooled the atmosphere and made conditions more bearable as they gradually returned to normal.[2]

The hotel was an important staging post until a new hotel was built:

After the opening of this hotel, the coaches, which had superseded the mailman and packhorse shortly after the discovery of gold at Ballarat, made it, instead of the Werribee Hunt hotel, their stopping place, and the coach horses were stabled there.[2]

This description of a journey to Ballarat in 1851 by Mr. Egan describes the location of the hotel:

Making for the Werribee river in a south-westerly direction, they passed at the rear of where Mr Joseph Pearpoint's house now stands, and crossing the river below it, turned to the right, and following the valley in what is now Mr W. J. Andrew's paddock, passed below the present new cemetery, and continuing upwards along the rising ground, came out about where Mrs Coker's house now stands, and travelling westward, turned across the western portion of the present Catholic church paddock, and on to the Werribee Hunt inn, which was then kept, Mr Egan thinks, by a man named Roch.[3]

Hunting was a popular activity at the hotel:

T. H. Pyke kept a pack of hounds at his station, The Upper Werribee (now Tregothnan), and their meets were at the Werribee Hunt hotel. Pyke was master of the hounds, and there were huntsmen whose names Mrs Denholm could not recall. She saw the meets frequently, and described the master as a fine, tall, gentlemanly man, who was popularly known as' "Gentleman Pyke," and in every sense right worthily deserved the title. John and Robert Steiglitz, Cowie, and Stead, among others, used to join in the hunts, but some objected to them taking place on their runs and among their sheep. A large area of the surrounding country was hunted over, the game being principally kangaroo and dingo.[2]

The Egan family took over the hotel license in the 1850s:

While the family were on the Serpentine Mr Egan's youngest sister married a Mr John Power, who had come over in the late thirties from the Monaro country in New South Wales with Mr Peter Snodgrass, who had taken up a cattle station near Lal Lal. After leaving Snodgrass, John Power went in for mining successfully, and after his marriage bought the Werribee Hunt Inn so frequently mentioned in these articles from Messrs Brown and Stewart, wine and spirit merchants, of Melbourne, who were then the owners but not the licensees of it. Power and his wife came to the Werribee Hunt Inn towards the end of 1853 or beginning of 1854, and after about six months occupancy of it Mrs Power died. The Egan family, consisting of the father and mother and four sons, then came down from Charlotte plains (near Durham Ox) and Mr Egan, senior, acquired the hotel from Power and obtained a transfer of the license to himself. Such transfers were obtained at the time at Bacchus Marsh, which had the nearest court. The licensing legislation of the day required the support of two bondsmen to applications for licenses or transfers, and the gentlemen who acted in that capacity for Mr Egan's father were the late Messrs Peter Inglis and Charles Hugh Lyon.
When the Egan family arrived at the Werribee Hunt inn, about the end of June or beginning of July, 1854, the house contained twenty three rooms. The portion of it now occupied by Mrs George Flack stood practically as it is at present, and on the northern side wings ran out at either end and the quadranglar space thus created was a paved yard. On the eastern side of the inn stood large stables and loose-boxes, and to the north of it, again, where Roch street now runs, or perhaps partly on the street and partly in what is now Mrs T. Flack's paddock, was the cottage mentioned in Mrs Denholm's narrative, which Mr Egan's father later on converted into an eight-stall stable for the accommodation of the coach horses. The hotel was constructed of sawn timber obtained from some of the neighboring saw-pits, the out buildings of slabs, and the roofs in every case of shingles. A man named Watts, proprietor of the Border inn at Bacchus Marsh, ran a coach at the time between Ballarat and Melbourne. This coach did not stop at Ballan, but had horse changing places at Blow's flat and Bradshaw's creek. Shortly afterwards two Americans named Hewett and Messiditt started a line of coaches in opposition to Watts, and it was in connection with this venture that the coach horses came to the Werribee Hunt inn. Stabling depots were established along the road in the following order — Keilor, Rockbank, Bacchus Marsh, Ballan, Bacchus's creek and Ballarat. The firm arranged with Mr Egan's father for the stabling of eight horses, and employed a large American Jack coach, running on leather springs, drawn by five and sometimes six horses, and capable even in the then bad state of the roads of carrying sixteen passengers with their luggage and the mails. They did not stay more than about six months at the Werribee Hunt inn, and then took up their quarters at Sherritt's Carriers' Arms.[3]

Community Involvement[edit | edit source]

The People[edit | edit source]

  • The publican in 1851 was a man named Roch.[3]
  • In about January 1854, Mr. John Power purchased the hotel from Brown and Stewart, Wine Merchants.[3]
  • In about July 1854, Mr. Egan took over the license from his son-in-law, John Power.[3]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1917 'Early Ballan.', Ballan Times (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), 22 March, p. 3. , viewed 25 Dec 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119552099
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 1917 'Early Ballan.', Ballan Times (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), 25 January, p. 3. , viewed 25 Dec 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119551842
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 1917 'Early Ballan.', Ballan Times (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), 20 December, p. 3. , viewed 25 Dec 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119544185

External Links[edit | edit source]