The Merrilands Hotel was located on the Reservoir - Epping Road just north of Reservoir railway station, possibly near Ruthven station. Information about the hotel is still scant.
On 27th March 1866 the Argus newspaper reported horse races were held successfully at Plant’s hotel, seven miles from the city on Epping Road. The Argus stated it was one of the best run suburban horse races ever, the highlight being the Preston Handicap.
This momentary success for publican Richard Plant was offset when four days later Plant was convicted at the Fitzroy Police Court for selling alcohol from a tent without a licence. He was fined £5 and ordered to pay court costs.
The hotel gained some prominence when it was selected as the meeting place for the Epping District Road Board, the local government authority for the area from the 1850s to 1871.
In August 1867 Plant put his name forward to be a representative of the Epping District Road Board. He appears to have been unsuccessful and the following year found himself in trouble with the law again over an unpaid debt of £17 19s 9d. The magistrate ordered the immediate payment of the debt or one month’s imprisonment. A week later Plant was declared insolvent. His total assets amounted to £53 3s whilst debts were recorded of £387 18s 5d.
In July 1868 an auction was held of the
“…the whole of the furniture and effects, horses and harness, spring carts, cattle, pigs, poultry, dairy and farming utensils.”
One result of this fire sale was a rather uncomfortable meeting for the Epping District Road Board at the hotel. The Shire President was forced to use a kerosene box as a chair whilst the Secretary (John Blackie) made do with a gin box.
At this stage the licence of the hotel appears to have been transferred to Frederick Woods. Plant’s fortunes must have changed quickly because by December of that year Wood was transferring the licence back to Plant.
On 11 January 1869 Plant applied for a beer licence for his hotel, Merrilands. Only two months later on the 18th March 1869 Plant died of consumption. Two days later his five month old son also died.
The hotel does not appear to have survived past Plant’s death.
(1866, March 27). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).
(1866, March 31). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).
(1867, July 16). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).
(1867, August 3). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).
(1867, December 9). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).
(1868, January 11). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).
(1869, March 30). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956).
Carroll, Brian & 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.