The Somerton Hotel

The Somerton Hotel with owner John Kernan and his wife pictured out front.

The Somerton Hotel existed as early as 1845 on the right hand side of Sydney Road at Somerton.  It is said to have been situated on the corner of 13 Mile Lane (Pattulos Lane) and Sydney Road and next to the old Somerton School.  One of the descriptions of the actual school site is given in The Little Book of Somerton and Craigieburn Schools and was 'in brief, where the site of the Somerton Depot of the Road Construction Authority was situated on the Hume Highway'.  John Kernan a long time and local resident of the Craigieburn and Somerton areas recalls the Somerton Hotel as being  'just a little bit south of Pattulo's Lane on the east side of Sydney Road'.

The Somerton Hotel was described in the Cole Hotel Index as "The Somerton Hotel of ten rooms and 60 acre farm on the main Sydney Road, 13 miles from Melbourne and one mile from Craigieburn Station, built of bluestone"

The Cole Hotel Index notes Francis De Sanclois as being granted the first license of the hotel before it was transferred to George Leach on the 27th of September 1845, George continued to run the hotel from 1846 to 1847.  In a Port Philip Colonial Directory of the late 1840's George was noted as Leach, George, Summerton Inn, Sydney Rd.  The inn was known then in its in the very early days as the 'Summerton Inn on Sydney Road' .

George Vinge ran the hotel from 1847 to 1853 (Cole Hotel Index) and was known as 'Vinge's Inn' by the locals in the area. George Vinge obviously must have played a vital role in the small community as he was noted as being at a meeting held at the schoolhouse in October of 1849 near the Somerton Inn and was one of the local patrons of the school. (The Little Book of Somerton and Craigieburn Schools).

Another small description of the Somerton Hotel can be found in "Bulla Bulla a History of the Shire" Where it says, 'taking the Somerton Rd and proceeding eastwards towards the present Hume Highway the 1860 traveler would meet with another small wayside stop, set amidst the sparsely timbered plains and well grassed hills.  Refreshments
could be obtained at either the Royal Mail Hotel or the Somerton Hotel
before they both lost their licenses after 1911'

Like the other hotels in the area the Somerton Hotel obviously became an important stopping place for travellers, including postal services, drays and herds of livestock and it is said they were generally spaced a days walk apart and near fresh water.

By 1863 the hotel was being run by the Hill brothers of Somerton, John and Joseph. (Cole Hotel Index and Broadmeadows Rate Books).  The two brothers owned land and farmed at Somerton for many years besides running the hotel and in 1873 Mary Hill was an applicant for a license at the Somerton Hotel, possibly the wife of John or Joseph Hill.

In 1883 the Somerton Hotel was up for auction by order of the executors of the late John Hill and Campbell, Pratt and Co were instructed to sell the property by auction at Kirks Bazaar on Tuesday 27th at half past one o’clock.

The property was described on the day as the well known SOMERTON HOTEL and 64 acres of rich farming land, every acre fit for ploughing and producing heavy crops.  The property was 13˝ miles from Melbourne on the main Sydney Rd to which there is a large frontage running back to Merri Creek.  The hotel was a two storey stone and brick building with 14 rooms with out-houses and other useful conveniences.

As well as On FRIDAY 30TH MARCH At SOMERTON

Will be sold the-Hotel furniture and household effects, large stack of well mowed hay, 5 head cows, draught and light horses, sets of harnesses, implements, (first class and in great variety). Drays, carts open buggy and sundries. To be sold without reserve according to the will of John Hill.

The amount of land with the hotel seems to increase and decrease over the coming years.  In 1883 at the auction it is described as hotel and a 64 acre farm.  According to the Broadmeadows Rate Books in 1877 it described at hotel and 67 acres and in 1882 is a hotel and 120 acres, then decreases to 38 acres in 1884 and 1885.

In 1899 the hotel seems to again have changed hands to John Kernan (pictured at the Somerton Hotel with his wife) and is stated to be the Somerton Hotel and 8 acres the owner being John Kernan but the publican being George Santer.  The Hill brothers and John Kernan must have had some business dealings together as they are noted in the rate books as co-leasing a few properties in Somerton.

The Kernan family were large landowners in the Craigieburn and Somerton areas as well as living at the Somerton Inn for some time, it is possible John Kernan may have had some sort of partnership with the Hill brothers in the Somerton Hotel. It is interesting to note John and Joseph Hill kept on farming at Somerton during this period and were given as John owning thirty acres and Joseph one hundred and eleven acres at Somerton.

John Kernan son of Edward or Ted Kernan and nephew to John Kernan the owner of the Somerton Hotel remembers the hotel was de-licensed in the early twenties, his Uncle had the hotel for about twenty years and ran it as a hotel until he died, then it was sold to the Mr. Cockerill who was a blacksmith and opened up a blacksmith shop at the site.  Mr. Cockerill's wife used to take in borders and would always have four or five people who worked on the railways boarding there as well as local teachers from the area.  The hotel was in fact de-licensed sometime after 1911.  From this time on it did become a private residence and blacksmiths shop and was known as Somerton House.

Unfortunately the Broadmeadows Rate Books only go to 1900 so we can't follow the journey of the hotel from that time on.   John Kernan recalls that the Somerton Hotel was pulled down after the war for the widening of Sydney Road suffering the similar fate to the other hotels along Sydney Road.  The 1943 and 1963 road widening (the year of the construction of the dual carriageway and overpass) took land on the road frontage and probably by this time any vestiges of the hotel had been removed.

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