Gowerville Hotel

Content warning: Article contains mention of violence

The first mention we have of the Gowerville Hotel was in January 1876 when an auction of the former Bird in Hand Hotel mentioned its close proximity to the Gowerville. By July of that year the Argus newspaper mentioned that a public meeting was held at “Beale’s Gowerville Hotel” to discuss the water supply along the Yan Yean Road (Plenty Road).

In September 1876 John Thatcher, a resident at the hotel, was violently assaulted whilst returning from the city. He suffered a bite to the cheek and The Argus reported that after the attack witnesses

“…describe his appearance as something shocking.”

By the end of the next year George Leary had become the Gowerville’s next publican. At that time he was convicted of failing to light a lamp outside his hotel and was fined 2s and another 2s. 6d. in costs. This did not stop the magistrates renewing his license the following week.

In June 1882 the hotel was offered up for auction, the hotel being described as

“…consisting of bar and six rooms, with a large cellar, the whole
being built of brick on stone foundations, slate roof
and stabling, outhouses, etc”

It is unsure whether it sold or not but it was placed on the market again the following year. This time with an additional building described as a

“…wooden shop and dwelling at present let to a weekly tenant.”

The advertisement goes on to say that the shop was attached to the hotel and was accompanied by a large plot of undeveloped land.

Regardless of whether the hotel was sold or not, George Leary remained the publican and again came to the attention of the magistrates in December 1886, charged with Sunday trading. He was found guilty and charged £5. Leary complained to the magistrate that the alleged offense had been committed the previous year and it was no longer possible to provide witnesses for his defence.

In 1889 there was a foot race between William Olnay and H. Zevens in the paddocks adjoining the Gowerville Hotel. A crowd of 400 watched Zevens win the race. The Argus reported a large amount of betting occurred.

It was around this time that Leary ceased being the publican, J. Grinlington replacing him. The next year the new publican was Mrs Mary Zeven, possibly a relation to H. Zeven

In 1900 William Jones became the next publican of the Gowerville. In December 1908 he was charged with Sunday trafficking, his wife Mary being charged with trying to block the police accessing the bar. Both were convicted and fined. Mary Jones later took over the license in her own right.

The license now changed on a regular basis; Mrs Farrell had the license in December 1911 before it changed to Mrs Mary Roe in June 1913. Less than four months later Rose Ann Fagan became the new publican.

In January 1915 James Walsh became the publican of the Gowerville. In October 1921 the license was transferred from the widow Annie Walsh to Benjamin Hughes. It appears that although the Walsh’s no longer served as publicans at the Gowerville, they continued to own the business until the early 1930s.

Two years later the license passed on to Ellen Tanner with Hughes moving onto the Rose, Shamrock and Thistle Hotel. Like so many publicans before her, Tanner was fined for selling alcohol outside hours, this time receiving a £5 fine.

The hotel received some unfavourable press in May 1929 when shots were fired outside the hotel during a strike between a builder and his workers. Theodore Cottle, a builder, had been having a beer inside the hotel when he was rushed by several men. He drew a pistol and threatened them, shooting near the foot of one man. The men then rushed him and disarmed him, striking him on the face, body and legs. Cottle was then dragged to safety inside the hotel. Three men were charged with assault and, after conviction were fined £10.

Another assault occurred outside the hotel on 18 October 1935 when Michael Love and Daniel McLoughlin exchanged blows. Both received bloody faces with Love reportedly had

“…his neck and eyes were swollen and black and
his face covered with blood.”

McLoughlin was determined to have been the aggressor and received a small fine.

On 3 June 1939 the license of the Gowerville passed from Colin A. Hill to Edward O’Brien and in 1941 from R. W. Cass to A. V. Angus. Clearly the hotel was still changing hands on a regular basis.

In January 1943 it was the scene of a robbery, when £42 was stolen from the tills in an overnight raid. Two years later bookies were busted taking bets inside the main bar.

During the last few years the Gowerville has undergone several refurbishments and changes in identity. It currently operates under the name of St. Arnou Beer Café.

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(1876, July). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).

(1876, September 11). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).

(1877, December 6). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).

(1877, December 11). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).

(1882, June 9). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).

(1883, October 9). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).

(1876, December 17). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).

(1908, December 3). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).

(1913, October 9). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).

(1921, October 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).

(1923, December 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).

(1925, October 2). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).

(1929, May 17). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).

(1939, June 3). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).

(1941, October 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).

Edge, Gary (2004). Surviving the six o’clock swill: a history of Darebin’s hotels. Melbourne: Darebin Libraries.

(1889, July). Northcote Leader (Northcote, Vic. : 1882 - )

(1939, October 18). Northcote Leader (Northcote, Vic. : 1882 - )