Bridge Hotel 1871 - 1921

1 High Street Northcote

In December 1871 John Brown applied for a license for a hotel in Northcote which was described as not yet completed.   By 1873 Brown's hotel was up and running.   It was described as a a seven roomed building on the west side of High Street more or less opposite All Saints Church.   It may have been built on the site of the original Roscrea Hotel which was also described as having been built opposite the All Saints Church.

In December 1875 the Melbourne General Sessions Court heard an application from Catherine Phelan, a barmaid at the Bridge Hotel, who had been sentenced to three months prison for assault.   The charge arose after an incident where a man named Kenny entered the hotel and verbally abused her.   Phelan threw a jug of water at the man, the jug hitting the man in the forehead and causing a nasty injury.   Phelan explained that she had only intended to throw water at the man but the jug had slipped from her grasp.   The judges agree and laid aside the conviction.   The hotel was mentioned as “Cox’s Bridge Hotel.”

There seems some confusion about Cox.   The Sands and McDougall directory for 1876 lists the publican as John Cox, whilst the Argus in December 1877 mentions that Henry F. Cose (Cox?) was charged with three liquor offenses; having the hotel open outside hours, having a drunk and disorderly person on the premises and a similar third offense.   The latter two offenses were dismissed and Cose (Cox) was fined £5 for the first offense.   Cose’s lawyer argued that Cose had

“incurred the displeasure of the police”

and that they were inventing offenses as a means of blocking his liquor license.  Whatever the truth of these allegations, it was Charles F. Cox who requested a license for the hotel in December of that year.   The police opposed the application but the magistrates sided with Cox.

It appears that the next publican was William Rough who is listed as having a hotel in Northcote in 1878/1879.  In 1884 the Bridge Hotel’s publican Alex Hopkinson was caught selling inferior schnapps and gin in up market brand bottles.  A 10s fine was imposed for each offense.  Three months later he transferred the license to Mrs Emma Beer. 

 Emma and Gustave Beer were to be involved in hotels in and around Northcote for many years.   At the Magistrates hearing for the license transfer, Emma stated that the license was to be paid out of her own savings and that if the license was issued in her husband’s name it would become part of his private business dealings.

The hotel was the site of a tragic scene in September 1886 when the coroner Mr. Chandler conducted an inquest into the death of a new born boy found dead in Northcote.  The verdict was death by suffocation by person or persons unknown.

After Emma Beer left the Bridge Hotel the license passed on to Louisa Dean.  She was there from 1887 to 1889 before Captain Joseph Webster took over in August 1889.  In October Webster found himself in front of the magistrate, charging with not having the hotel doors shut outside hours.

The defense lawyer, Mrs. Fookes, argued that the hotel was in the process of being rebuilt, only two or three rooms being still standing.  At the time of the offense Captain Webster had been showing friends the plans of the new hotel.  The building was in such disarray that even the bar was only partially roofed.  There was no alcohol being served.  Despite that, Webster still had to pay a small fine.

The hotel attracted attention to itself in March 1893 when well known farmer and former Councillor John O’Keefe died of head injuries.   O’Keefe had arrived home sporting a black eye and bruising to his temple.  He claimed he had been assaulted in or near the Bridge Hotel.   He collapsed at his home later that night and died two days later.  After investigation by the police it was determined that O’Keefe had been drinking at a nearby hotel (although not intoxicated) and had fallen and hit his head whilst attempting to disembark from a tram at Clifton Hill.  When passersby attempted to help him O’Keefe stated he was ok but gave his name as “Robinson Crusoe”.  Death was ruled an accident.

Another death occurred around the hotel in February 1895 when John Gallagher died from a fall near the railway embankment after a night of drinking at the hotel.

In 1907 Gustave Beer, husband of an earlier publican, Emma, took over the license of the Bridge Hotel.  In an angry letter to Council the following year he complained about the state of the road outside his hotel.

“You have done a very necessary thing in metalling the west side of High
Street from the bridge to Walker Street, but to leave it without rolling for
all that time is out of all reason and enough to make a saint swear.   It is
the right side for all vehicles to go  into  Northcote but no driver with a human
heart and respect for his  animal would attempt it, and consequently goes on
the wrong side of the road, which means a loss to my business and the
blacksmiths next door.   And to prove I am not exaggerating you may often
see the brewers wagon stop near the bridge and roll his hoggs head along
the footpath.  If I have forgotten to  pay my rates please let me know as I can
see no other reason for being punished this way.”

Council responded by saying that they were awaiting a steam roller from Collingwood as the Northcote roller was horse driven and lacked the power to roll the metal properly.

After Beer left the Bridge Hotel in 1911 the hotel changed licensees on a regular basis.  Between May 1913 and December 1915 no less than four licensees were to hold court at the Bridge Hotel.

On May 11 1918 Edwin Cockrell’s funeral left the Bridge Hotel.  Cockrell had been the publican of the hotel since December 1915.  His death was the result of a fall down the embankment of the Merri Creek behind the hotel.  His wife was granted the license on 2 September 1918 but only held it for a fortnight before Laura Regan became the last publican of the hotel.

In September 1919, Peter Regan, described as the Manager of the Bridge Hotel, found himself in court accused of inflicting grievous bodily harm to Alfred Charles Pott, a tram conductor.   The police case was that Potts was walking along the roadside when he was struck by a car driven by Regan.  A witness stated that Potts was struck by a green two seater car driven by

“…a thickset man, wearing a boxed hat.”

Regan admitted driving the car, which was found at the hotel, but denied knowledge of hitting the man.  Regan admitted he had been drinking but denied being drunk.   Regan further stated that
“…he did not consider a man was drunk…until he could not walk”.

The defense lawyer argued that Pott may have had a seizure and subsequently run over by Regan who did not see him lying on the road.

Regan was convicted with a jury recommendation for mercy.  It is unknown what sentence was given but he was not in jail in January 1920 when Charles Miller and Charles Hynes were charged with assaulting Regan.   Both men had been drinking at the hotel when the fight broke out.  One witness claimed Miller had been struck by Regan who was seen with a bottle in his hand, apparently about to strike Miller.   Both Hynes and Miller were fined for assault.

Regan was again in the thick of it in November 1920.  He had boarded the Northcote tram towards Clifton Hill with a “lady”.  The tram conductor approached Regan and Regan paid his fare.  The woman then stated her husband would pay for her.  The conductor then asked Regan who responded with

“I’ve paid one fare, isn’t that enough?”

The lady then paid the fare.   As they disembarked at Clifton Hill Regan struck the conductor in the mouth and as witnesses attempted to separate them, proceeded to kick the conductor in the head.
Witnesses stated that Regan had been drinking from a bottle prior to the incident and was in an “excited” state.   He was subsequently fined £10.

In 1921 the License Reduction Board determined that the Bridge Hotel was no longer required and its license was withdrawn.   A sum of £1,000 was paid in compensation for the closure of the hotel.
Under the ownership of Timothy and Lena Brock the hotel was converted into restrooms (ie. a cafe).   Clearly business was poor as the building was converted into a private home by 1925.

In the 1930s the old hotel became the home of the Sansom family.   They lived there until 1958 when the hotel was demolished to make way for Housing Commission flats.

 List of known publicans

  1873  John Brown
  1875 Henry Cox
  1877  John Cox
  1878  William Cutler
  1878  William Rough
  1882  Alex Hopkinson
  1884  Emma Beer
  1886  Louisa Dean
  1889  Captain Joseph Webster
  1897  Kate Maher
  1901  Harriet Weaver
  1908  Eleanor Weaver
  1907  Gustave Beer
  1911  James Dwyer
  1913  William J. Delaney
  1913  Alice K. Drewer
  1914  Daniel Maughan
  1915  Edwin William Cockrell
  1918  Susan Cockrell
  1918  Laura Regan


Carroll, Brian and Rule, Ian (1985). Preston: an Illustrated History. Preston: City of Preston.
Cole, Robert K. Index of Hotels 1841 – 1949. Unpublished manuscript.
Edge, Gary (2004). Surviving the six o’clock swill: a history of Darebin’s hotels. Melbourne. Darebin Libraries.
Lemon, Andrew (1983). The Northcote Side of the River. North Melbourne: Hargreen.