The Vine Tree Hotel opened on Heidelberg Road in Alphington in 1868. It was probably located in a small building adjoining the Alphington Hotel. The only publican of the Vine Tree Hotel was Roger Croker who had been in the area since at least 1854.
Croker had been born in Bideford, Devonshire in 1801 and was an early arrival in the colony, being established in Alphington by 1854. In April 1857 he appeared as a steward in the Ivanhoe Races, held at the Ivanhoe Hotel. Croker was also active in the local community, taking on the position of valuator for the Heidelberg Road Board. He had previously served as a trustee for the building of the Ivanhoe School.
A land sale in 1859 held by auctioneers Symons and Perry reveals that Croker owned Portion 1 of the Keelbundooora land subdivisions, and was selling off assorted allotments. Originally purchased by Thomas Walker in 1847, this land ran along the east bank of the Darebin Creek from the Yarra River. Much of the land was sown with oats and turnips.
In 1868 Croker sold 50 cows, one bull and a mare at auction at Alphington Farm. Clearly he was a farmer of some substance in the area. Furthermore he was already growing grapes as in March 1867 he was awarded an honorary certificate for his grapes by the Agricultural Society at their annual show.
It was in 1868 that Croker sought a vine licence from the Heidleberg Courts and, renting a billiard hall near the Alphington Hotel, opened the Vine Tree Hotel. An advert for the hotel in 1871 boasted that they held four thousand gallons of first class red and white whites, presumably from Croker’s own vineyards.
On 31 July 1872 Croker died. In November of the following year his estate was sold at auction. It included.
“…blue stone cottage of four rooms, and four acres grass paddocks…20 acres or more of land, adjoining Lot 1, having most picturesque and valuable frontages to the Heidelberg Road and Darebin Creek, the banks of which are planted vines and oranges.”
Other properties for auction at the time included another three bluestone cottages, and several other lots planted with fruit trees and vines.
The Vine Tree Hotel closed after the death of Croker.
Argus newspaper, 25 September 1854
Argus newspaper, 26 September 1863
Argus newspaper, 22 March 1867
Argus newspaper, 24 January 1871
Argus newspaper, 3 August 1872
Argus newspaper, 15 November 1873
Cole, Robert K. Index of Hotels 1841 – 1949. (Manuscript)
Edge, Gary. Surviving the six o’clock swill: a history of Darebin’s hotels. Melbourne. Darebin Libraries. 2004.