21 August, 2016

The Junction Hotel

During my childhood we lived on a property about half way between Geelong and Ballarat. A drive to town meant a trip to Geelong via the Midland Hwy, however our entry to Geelong was always via Fyansford rather than via Batesford. At the corner of the Hamilton Hwy and the Fyansford-Gheringhap Rd as we approached Fyansford, we would pass a small, derelict, bluestone building. I always wondered about it.
Somewhere along the line I heard that it was once a hotel. Recently, whilst doing some Fyansford research, I came across an article about the Junction Hotel near Fyansford. Finally! Some information! Time to do a little digging.
Derelict bluestone building at the junction of the Fyansford-Gheringhap Rd and
Hamilton Hwy. The latter can be seen to the left of the building
The earliest newspaper references I found to the Junction Hotel under that name were from 1872. By contrast, several later accounts of the property indicated that the hotel dated back to the gold rush era of the 1850s, however I'm not sure that this is really true. In the first years after European settlement, the land on which the hotel was to be built formed part of the holdings of the Port Phillip Association and according to The Stepping Stone: a History of the Shire of Bannockburn (Beaurepaire, 1995) Section 6 on which the hotel was later built, was owned by Captain Charles Swanston. The intersection at which the hotel was built is an old one, but possibly not as old as the gold rush. The Great Western Rd (now Hamilton Hwy) is one of the earliest roads in the colony and appears on most early maps. The road connecting it to the track to Buninyong (today's Fyansford-Gheringhap Rd) does not appear on any of the maps I have seen prior to the 1861 geological survey series of maps. It may however have been under construction by November, 1856, when I found a notice in The Age awarding a contract for the construction of over a mile of the "Ballaarat road near Fyansford".  It does seem likely however, that an informal track may well have existed - as was usually the case - before the formal road was constructed.
Perhaps it is also telling that I can find no mention of the junction itself or of a building there during the 1850s or most of the 1860s. The earliest mention I did find was the following excerpt from the Geelong Advertiser of 26th September, 1869 which indicates that the premises first operated as a hotel in that year, well after the initial gold rush years of the 1850s:
Samuel Hasell applied for a certificate authorising the issue of a beer license and colonial wine license for a house at the junction of Lower Western and Geelong and Ballarat roads, near Fyansford. Mr Martyr supported the application. Mr Charles Wyatt of Frogmore, lodged an objection to the opening of the house, against which Mr Hasell placed a memorial signed by a large majority of the inhabitants in favor of the license. Application granted.
I can find no further mention of Samuel Has(s)all in connection with the Junction Hotel, however it appears that some time earlier, in 1862 he was the proprietor of the Swan Hotel - also on Mercer land - on the banks of the Moorabool River at Fyansford (Victorian Government Gazette, 88, 25th July, 1862, p1291).
The hotel itself, was a single-storey, weatherboard structure built on stone footings, although whether built by Hassall or another I do not know. Regardless, Hassall did not remain long and by 1871, the Junction Hotel had a new owner; Mrs Elizabeth Wensor (nee Hooton), a widow whose husband had died some two years earlier. Elizabeth and her husband Joseph had arrived from England some time prior to 1854 with their sons Joseph and Eliada. Four more children were born to the couple in the Barrabool/Modewarre area. Two boys - both named Charles - do not appear to have survived infancy. The two youngest children - daughters named Elizabeth and Christiana - would not have been more than 9 and 7 years old at the time of their father's death.
Within a year of moving to the Junction Hotel, Elizabeth married again. Her second husband was Charles Keen, a widower whose wife of only four years - Charlotte - had died the previous year. Between them, Charles and Elizabeth ran the Junction Hotel for the next twenty-six years, however from this time forward it was Charles whose name appeared as the licensee for the hotel.
The Junction Hotel, Fyansford-Gheringhap Rd. Image held by the Geelong
Historical Records Centre
I can find little detail about Charles' life prior to his marriage to Elizabeth, although his obituary indicated that he served with the Royal Navy and he may have been the Charles Keen - occupation stated as 'groom' - at Duck Ponds (Lara) during the latter half of the 1860s. In 1872, soon after becoming the licensee for the Junction Hotel, he was advertised as the contact point for details of a local stallion being put up for stud.
From 1883-1894 Charles served on the Bannockburn Shire Council, often concerning himself with the state of the bridges in his immediate neighbourhood at Fyansford, Pollocksford and Baker's Bridge along with other issues pertaining to Fyansford and surrounds.
Finally, in November, 1898 after twenty-six years, the Keens called it a day. The following month, a clearing sale was held on the property and the license - but not the ownership of the hotel - passed to the Tyers family who held the lease until 1910. At this time, the hotel was situated on 250 acres of land.
After retiring,  Charles and Elizabeth lived at 79 Lloyd St (now Clarence St), Geelong West in a house known as 'Brighton Cottage', however Charles did not have long to enjoy his retirement. He died at his Lloyd St home on 19th March, 1899 and was buried in the "new general cemetery" (Western Cemetery) with his first wife. He was 69. His will, made out only five days before his death, appointed Elizabeth his executrix and with the exception of two bequests of £100 to be made to his brother and sister in England, his sole beneficiary.
The Keen family graves, Geelong Western Public Cemetery, Church of
England section, Row 1, Graves 0908 and 0909. August, 2016
Elizabeth lived a further fourteen years, deriving income from the rent on the various properties she owned outright or in consequence of her inheritance from her husband. She died on 15th August, 1913 at the age of 90. Under the terms of her own will, her sons Joseph and Eliada and daughter Elizabeth were to inherit the Junction Hotel, whilst her grand daughter Elizabeth Eaton was to maintain her grandmother's grave and in return would inherit 'Brighton Cottage'. Her remaining daughter Christiana was to inherit one shilling.
Elizabeth was buried on the 18th August, in a plot adjoining that of Charles and his first wife Charlotte. Not long after her death, the hotel itself was lucky to survive a grass fire which burnt out much of the surrounding land. The hotel and a cottage on the neighbouring Frogmore Estate were only saved from burning after a significant effort by locals.
Following the expiration of the Tyers' lease on the property, it was next leased by members of the Gugger family. The Gugger name has a long association with the Fyansford district. The family were amongst the earliest of the Swiss vignerons to arrive in the area from the Canton of Neuchatel, encouraged to settle in the district by Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe whose wife was Swiss. Their tenure as licensees however lasted only until 31st December, 1917 when the Junction Hotel was was de-licensed after a decision of the licensing board to reduce the number of hotels in the district (Public Records Office of Victoria, Index to Defunct Hotel Licenses (1847 - 1932)).
Entry for the Junction Hotel, PROV, Index to Defunct Hotel Licenses (1847-1932)
As a result of the closure, Joseph Wensor as trustee to his mother's estate was awarded £250 and Frederick Gugger as licensee was awarded £65. After the hotel's closure, it became a private residence known as 'Junction House' and at some point the Guggers took ownership of the property where they remained until 1922. At this time, the property was advertised for sale as the Gugger brothers were leaving the farming game.
The Geelong Historical Records Centre holds a letter written about the Junction Hotel by Norm Gugger, a descendant of the Gugger family who occupied the hotel. In it he indicates that the hotel was built c1850, that it closed in 1922 and that Charles Keen was a councillor in Geelong however I suspect that the passage of time has somewhat blurred the truth.
The Junction Hotel, Fyansford-Gheringhap Rd. Early 1900s with various
members of the Gugger family standing in front of the hotel. Image held by
the Geelong Historical Records Centre
Of Mrs Wensor he said that she was the first person in Fyansford to have conducted Sunday School classes, which she took in her parlour and attributed to her the following words of wisdom "Land lords advice to his customers. Drink moderately, act wisely, be good company, use good language, go home quietly."
She is also claimed to have lived by these words of advice:
When some people ask for credit
To refuse them gives me pain
But when they owe a sixpence
They never come in again
So the rule I have adopted
And enforce this rule I must
for cash I give good measure
But find I cannot trust.
From the 1920s onward, I can find no further mention of 'Junction House', other than noting that it remained in private hands until 1980 when the main hotel building was demolished by order of the Bannockburn Shire Council following a ruling by the Housing Commission. There was some objection at the time, however the then Shire Engineer Ken Middleton indicated that the building was in such bad condition, it was not worth saving.
Following the 1980 demolition of the original hotel building, a new house was built on the premises and all that remains today is the little bluestone outbuilding about which I had always wondered and some of the stone foundations of the main building.
Derelict bluestone outbuilding at the site of the former Junction Hotel, August 2016
I still do not know what the function of the building was, however it was not part of the main hotel building and may instead have been a stable or other outbuilding. The four pairs of large horseshoes still attached to the outer walls making a miss-aligned "S" shape may also be an indication of function and perhaps may also give an indication of Charles Keen's interest in horses.