Old Hotels in the Craigieburn Area
In the 1800's in an area that stretched from Somerton in the south to Kinlochewe in the north and Mickleham in the west, taking in Craigieburn as well, there were six hotels of which only one stands today. These pages try to inform the reader about some of these hotels that once existed in the our area. In the coming weeks we are hoping to be able to have the information about all the hotels on this page.
The Old Craigie Burns Inn (Craigieburn)
The Somerton Hotel (Somerton)
Royal Mail Hotel (Somerton)
Robert Burns Hotel (Kinlochewe)
Kinlochewe Inn (Kinlochewe)
The Parnells Inn (Mickleham)
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.
Licensing sessions were held once a year at the magistrates court and £25 for a year's license to sell wine and spirituous liquors would have been a fortune. 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, he must not harbor convicts nor sell them liquor.
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.
When gold was discovered in Victoria in the 1850s, 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.
We don't know some of the fates of the different hotels in the area and why they closed but we can put it down to a few factors. 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 many people stay away from the hotels.
The coming of the north-eastern railway to Craigieburn in 1872 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 destroyed by 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 became a post office in 1902 then a private residence.
Others stood in ruin for many years as a bleak reminder of days gone by and became victims of the widening of Sydney Road suffering the similar fate to the other hotels along Sydney Road, like the Craigieburn, Somerton and Royal Mail Hotel. 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.