Elisha Evans, publican of the Bird in the Hand Hotel, first comes to our attention on 21 April 1867 when the Argus newspaper reported that land situated at the junction of
“…the Heidelberg and Pentridge Roads (Bell Street) with the upper and lower Plenty roads (High Street)….let to Mr Elisha Evans on lease.”
was for sale. Evans purchased the land and in October 1868 he was able to announce that he was running a hotel named the Bird in Hand Hotel. The exact location of the hotel is still not confirmed; however it was probably located between the Preston Tram depot and David Street on Plenty Road. Various descriptions of the hotel all mention “old” or “established”, indicating that it was probably an older farm house converted for use as a hotel rather than a new building.
On the morning of Sunday 26th September 1869 Elisha’s wife Ellen died during childbirth, the baby being born dead. At an inquest three days later, the coroner, Mr.Chandler laid the blame on Elisha for his delays in calling out a doctor to attend to his wife during a difficult labour.
In February Evans was in court having made a complaint against John O’Neill, John McGilly and Michael Maddington for using obscene language against his dauighter. They were found guilty and fined 20s. Maddington was also convicted of stealing tumblers from Evans.
Later that year the Epping District Road Board allocated £14 14s for the construction of a covered drain 98ft long across the Bird in Hand Hotel.
March 1871 was to prove a rough month for Evans. On the 8th March, “25-30 unruly youths” appeared at the hotel about 11 pm, demanding drinks. Several were armed with guns and during the incident broke windows and doors as well as smashing crockery in the middle of Plenty Road. Less than a week later Evans was assaulted in his hotel as attested to in the Victorian Police Gazette.
"JAMES BURNS, John Cowell , William Dickins , William Flynn, and Edward Holloway, alias Galway , John James , and John Lail, are charged , on warrant , with riot and assaulting Elisha Evans at Preston , on the 4th instant. Descriptions cannot be given , but they can be identified , and are supposed to live in Fitzroy. 14th March 1871."
In December 1872 Evans attempted to sell the hotel by auction, noting that the hotel was
“…that much frequented and old established house called the Bird in Hand Hotel, a house of call for all travellers on the Yan Yean or South Preston Road.”
The hotel did not sell and in June 1874 there was a large auction of cattle in the land adjoining the Bird in Hand Hotel. But the days of the hotel were numbered and despite real estate claims of being “much frequented” the hotel was sold as a mortgagee sale on 19th January 1875.
We have no record of the hotel continuing business after that date and the directories for 1875 list Elisha Evans as famer, Preston once again. However it was not our last contact with Mr Evans. On 30 April 1881 Elizabeth Evans appeared before the Preston Court requesting that her three small children be sent to the Industrial Schools (these operated like reformatory schools and were for children of “unwholesome environments”). Elizabeth stated that she was the de-facto wife of Elisha Evans who had deserted them and left the colony. The family were starving. The Court decided to provide for the family from the Poor Box and issue a warrant for the arrest of Elisha Evans for desertion.
Argus newspaper, 29 April 1869
Argus newspaper, 12 February 1870
Argus newspaper, 20 July 1870
Argus newspaper, 8 March 1871
Argus newspaper, 21 December 1872
Argus newspaper, 22 June 1874
Argus newspaper, 17 January 1875
Argus newspaper, 30 April 1881
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.
Sands and McDougall’s Melbourne and Suburban Directory 1864- 1974. [Microfiche]. (1974). Melbourne, Australia: Sands & McDougall.
Victorian Police Gazette 1853 - 1870 [CD-ROM]. Mebourne, Australia. 14 March 1871.