What has happened to the old horse troughs of Bendigo?

The Bills horse trough in front of the old Turf Club Hotel in Epsom was removed several years ago, one of a number to go missing.
The Bills horse trough in front of the old Turf Club Hotel in Epsom was removed several years ago, one of a number to go missing.

IT’S a mystery that has historical buffs scratching their heads – and left quite a few frustrated.

In the early 20th century Bendigo was blessed with a number of concrete Bills horse troughs, designed to give working animals a place to drink. They were a gift from George and Annis Bills.

There were more than 500 throughout Australia and a contract was signed putting councils in charge of their maintenance.

A century later, and some in Bendigo appear to have been removed.

In 2010, pictures show one of the troughs in front of the old Bulls Head Hotel on McIvor Road in Strathdale. The building is now a medical clinic, and the trough is gone.

Likewise, one was sitting in front of the old Turf Club Hotel in Epsom as late as 2009. The pub is closed, and the trough is nowhere to be seen.

This image from 2010 shows one of the horse troughs in front of the old Bulls Head Hotel on McIvor Road. This trough has also been relocated.

This image from 2010 shows one of the horse troughs in front of the old Bulls Head Hotel on McIvor Road. This trough has also been relocated.

Another appears to have been removed from Eaglehawk Road near the old Rose of Australia Hotel.

Maryborough historian Wayne McKail said many people with an interest in history had tried to get answers, but to no avail.

“We contacted Bendigo council three years ago and they said they needed to get back to us, but we never heard from them again,” he said.

“It was the same thing with Ballarat, where two have gone missing. They told us to try the water authority, who told us to try the RSPCA, who sent us to Heritage Australia.

“None of them were interested.”

Perhaps causing the most concern is the relocation of a Bills horse trough from in front of the One Tree Hill Hotel. The trough now faces the other way and has been moved inside the grounds of the pub, no longer in view from the road.

The Bills horse trough outside the One Tree Hill Hotel. It has since been moved inside the hotel and faces away from the road.

The Bills horse trough outside the One Tree Hill Hotel. It has since been moved inside the hotel and faces away from the road.

City of Greater Bendigo health and wellbeing director Vicky Mason said the council was “in discussions” with the hotel owner to return the trough to public land and turn it back around.

She said the council would attempt to have the remaining Bills horse troughs included in future overlays to prevent their removal.

“The city is aware of the current locations of some of the troughs but not all of them, as they are not currently covered by a heritage overlay,” Ms Mason said.

“However, the city does plan to include the Bills troughs in a future heritage study.”

Bills horse troughs are still located in the Prince of Wales Showgrounds,the corner of Thomas and Speedy streets in California Gully, in Kangaroo Flat Park, outside the Marong Family Hotel and in a private garden in Huntly.