David Bowman was granted a licence for a hotel, to be called Darebin Bridge Hotel on 27 April 1844. The original hotel was an unsatisfactory building and in 1850 the licence was revoked.
Walter Thompson took over the licence and built a fine, two storey bluestone hotel which still exists today. One of the ironies of the Darebin Bridge Hotel is that it was not originally next to the bridge. The original Darebin Bridge passed to the right of the current Tower Hotel about 100 metres south of the current bridge.
The hotel prospered, receiving much trade from gold prospectors moving up to the Plenty goldfields and teamsters moving along the Heidelberg Road. In 1860 the hotel was nearly burnt down in a fire and then in 1866 the publican, William Young became insolvent.
James Cunningham took over in July 1866 and was there until 1880. the hotel had a dubious history. There are references to two murders and two suicides at the hotel, as well as the accidental death of one publican from a horse fall. One publican was known for his tempestuous relationship with his wife, which often ended with the publican throwing his wife’s jewellery into the hotel’s well.
But the hotel’s history was not always violent. It was a centre of social life in the early history of Alphington and as such played host to several significant meetings. One, in 1853, resulted in the building of a school on the corner of Heidelberg Road and Waterdale Road.
The hotel closed in 1922 when Emma Dight surrendered her licence to the Licences Reduction Board. The hotel then passed through several hands including serving as an artists retreat and an office for the Australian Paper Mills before being bought by the Sick Erwin Corporation.
The Darebin Bridge Hotel is one of the earliest surviving hotels from pioneer Victoria.
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 Unpublished manuscript.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.
Heidelberg Historical Society. Historical files.