Old Hotels in the Craigieburn Area

In early times the area we know today as Craigieburn was once known as Kinlochewe.  Three hotels stood and thrived in this area in the 1800's sadly, none still stand today.

We know the three hotels existed as early as 1860 or before, the Robert Burns and Craigie Burns Hotel they are marked on a geological survey map dated c1860.  We also know from the Broadmeadows Rate Books (1863 and go to 1901) the hotels existed.  The Robert Burns, Carriers' Arms (Craigieburn Hotel) and the Kinlochewe Inns are to be found in the early publican's licensees records.

    Then gold was discovered in Victoria in the 1850s and thousands of people trekked inland to the 'diggings'. The settlements sprang up almost over night, and the people needed transport and communications, thus Cobb & Co was set up in Melbourne, Victoria in 1853.  Coach routes were set up with inns or change stations at 15 to 30 mile intervals where fresh horses replaced tired ones. A bugle carried on the coach was always blown as the coach approached an inn, changing station or town stopping place.

An early description of Kinlochewe was given in Australian Sketches, The Gold Discovery, Bush Graves by Thomas Combe Esq. from 1850 to 1900.

'I came upon Kinlochewe, and gazed on an open and magnificent county, hill and valley alternating in fanciful and grotesque irregularity.  My eye wandered over this richly diversified country with great delight, resting at last on the deep blue mountain ranges that everywhere abounded the horizon'.

The Old Craigie Burns Inn (Sydney Rd, Craigieburn)

Robert Burns Hotel (Cnr. Sydney Rd & Summerhill Rd)

Kinlochewe Inn (Summerhill Rd, Craigieburn)

In the 1840's there was a lack of public facilities and the Inns and hotels were used in many  of the activities of the day. The larger Inns and hotels often became the venue for public meetings, balls, celebratory dinners, horse races, pigeon shooting, fairs, cricket and raffles. They also provided accommodation and sustenance for the weary traveler.

The early 1840's were a difficult time to be in business.  Added to financial insecurity of the times, innkeepers  were subject to strict regulations via the Licensing Act. They were liable to be taken before the Bench of Magistrates for infringements of the Act and the fines incurred were heavy; enough in some cases perhaps to put the innkeeper out of business.  Heavy fines were imposed for breaches of the Licensing Act. Infringements such as playing cards, selling liquor on the Sabbath or after hours, failure to keep a lantern burning over their door, allowing an unlicensed person to sell liquor were all punished by fines and in some cases resulted in forfeiture of their license.

In 'The Discovery and Settlement of Port Phillip' it states that the first license fee in the colony was ₤25 in 1838 and the next year it was raised to ₤50.  Liquor houses were allowed to be open from 4am in the morning till 9pm at night in summer and from 6am to 9pm in winter.  On Sundays they were to be closed, except during the hours of 1 till 3 when wine and beer could be sold to persons carrying it away but no spirits could be drunk or consumed at the bar. 

No one but publicans were to sell spirits except in Melbourne.  No billiard playing was allowed but by special permission of the magistrates and the payment of an additional ₤10.  A fine of ₤5 was rested on selling or giving drinks to convicts except by his master and with his permission and then only in quantities not more than a gill in 6 hours or one whole gill in 24 hours.

No workman could be paid in a public house under a penalty of ₤5 and a similar penalty was occurred by a publican serving anyone with a drink when it was known that such a person by his drinking habits injured his family!!!   Drunkards were severely dealt with in those times.  The sentence for drunkenness was multiplied depending on the number of convictions.  The first offence got off with a fine and warning or one days turn of the treadmill, the next time double the fine and twice the days turn of the treadmill and so on.

Good liquor was sold at a shilling a glass in those times and to accommodate the ravenous appetites of the Port Phillip customers the publicans had a habit of keeping a cask of salty herrings on the counter, the more herrings they consumed the more the customer drank.   Sticking Plasters or money orders were in vogue in those early Port Phillip days which shepherds and shearers brought down from the country and forthwith placed in the hands of their friends on the tap (publicans) in which the amount was then 'stuck up' or drunk.   When the amount on the order was drunk and the poor person was suitably legless, the poor intoxicated person was evicted from the premises into the street to make room for the next person with a money order or sticking plaster.

Even in those times Temperance Societies were in existence and public lectures were delivered from the pulpit of the Port Phillip churches.  A great meeting of the Temperance Friends took place in  Port Phillip on the 30th of October 1838, were interesting and effective addresses were given on the evil of drink.

In 1841 country applications could be rejected on the grounds the houses were not being required or situated off the main road, where bullock drivers have no business to resort, save for the purpose of intoxication; those who did obtain country licenses were directed to erect Stock Yards for the public.  Some old Licenses in Town were refused renewal, arose from the parties being persons of bad character, or such characters were in the habit of resorting to their houses; or, as in one instance the applicant was living in a disreputable state.

In the 1850s, the sale of spirits was restricted to licensed premises and Licensing sessions were held once a year at the magistrates court and an annual license could be obtained on payment of 100 for a year's license to sell wine and spirituous liquors.  The regulations were quite strict the licensee had to provide two sitting and two sleeping rooms for overnight guests, the innkeeper's sign must be lit at all times, they must keep the premises clean and orderly, and they must not serve intoxicated persons.  Above all, they must not harbor convicts nor sell them liquor.

From early to the late 1800's the hotels along Sydney Road grew and prospered but things changed over the coming years and we are not exactly sure why some of the hotels in the area closed but we can put it down to a few factors over a period of years.  The decline in the popularity of hotels in the late 1880's due to the Temperance Movement where hotels were considered to be places of 'excessive drinking', and they contributed to nothing but  'social evils' saw the employment of women in hotels banned in 1916 following a royal commission in 1884, all contributed to many people staying away from hotels which caused a decline in custom and income.

The coming of the North-Eastern Railway to Craigieburn in 1872 saw the reduction of traffic and had a huge impact on the hotels along Sydney Road.  The coaches ceased after the railway was built which meant no more need for staging posts to change horses, people no longer needed accommodation and a lot less people traversed Sydney Road and sadly the mail now arrived and left by rail, hence the hotel was no longer needed for a post office, all contributing to their eventual demise.

The Kinlochewe Inn at Kinlochewe was a victim of the 1851 bushfires.  The Robert Burns Hotel took the Kinlochewe Inn's business, the fires and the new opposition both contributing to its eventual demise before 1851.  15 years later in 1869 was the last year of the Robert Burns Hotel's licensing and went out of business itself, any remainders of the hotel are now long buried under the Craigieburn Bypass.

After the de-licensing of some hotels around 1911,  like the Somerton Hotel and the Royal Mail Hotel on the Sydney Road at Somerton which both lost their licenses after 1911, the hotels would have served their last alcohol, closed their doors and become residences such as the Somerton Inn which was known later as Somerton House.

The only hotel that survived the ravages of time is the Parnells Inn which was the home of the Parnell and Harman family for many years, then became a post office in 1902 then a private residence and still stands today on Mickleham Rd.

Other hotel buildings stood empty and in ruin for many years as a constant reminder of the past, busy, early pioneering days along Sydney Rd when in those times Cobb and Co coaches could have been seen, filled with passengers, roaring along to the next staging post along the road, but now long gone.  The hotels buildings then became victims of the first widening in 1943 of Sydney Road like the Craigieburn, Somerton and Royal Mail Hotel, which were all pulled down for road widening.  The 1963 second road widening (the year of the construction of the dual carriageway and overpass) again saw more road frontage being taken and probably after 1963 any last vestiges of the old hotels along Sydney Road would have been gone forever.

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