The first references we have to the Preston Arms Hotel was in September 1855 when Edward Sheldrake Plummer’s attempt to gain a license for the hotel failed due to his non-attendance at the hearing. In December Plummer appeared at the Bourke Licensing Session and this time was granted a license for the hotel. This was reaffirmed in April the following year.
During the late 1850s the Preston Arms Hotel frequently appeared in the papers due to the wide range of activities appearing in and around the hotel. These including meetings of the East Bourke Association for the Suppression of Horse & Cattle Stealing, various candidates seeking electoral support of forthcoming elections and even various auctions, including one for a cottage and land where Preston was described as a “delightful and salubrious village.” The hotel was part of a small but successful little community which including Wood’s General Store and the Preston Uniting Church.
On Thursday 2nd September 1858 the hotel was offered for auction. The property had a frontage of 6 chains (120 metres) along Government Road (i.e. High Street) and a depth of around six acres stretching back to St. Georges Road. A description of the hotel stated that it was mainly brick and contained a
“bar, (with cellar underneath), Three sitting-rooms, on ground floor, and six bedrooms on first floor.
Brick kitchen and store, or servants’ room attached
Stable (five stalls), with loft over, detached and made of weatherboard.”
It was described as a good business for a married couple wishing to establish themselves in a roadside inn. The hotel might not have sold at auction as in November of that year there was a land auction at “Mr Plummer’s Preston Arms Hotel.” However in July 1859 Charles Lomax applied for a beer license for the Preston Arms Hotel and in September there was a meeting at Plummer’s Junction Hotel so presumably Plummer moved to the slightly larger hotel in late 1858 or early 1859.
By June 1860 Lomax had the hotel on the market again. Presumably trade was not as good as he hoped. In March 1861 the hotel was again offered for sale.
In September 1861 The Age reported that John Wilson had stolen twenty five ducks from Abraham Motherwell of Northcote. The ducks were later discovered in the yard of Grahame Muirhead’s Preston Arms Hotel. Muirhead told the Magistrate that Wilson had requested permission to keep the ducks in the hotel’s yard for a brief time and even sold Muirhead a few of the ducks. Wilson was convicted and sentenced to four months hard labour.
On 2nd December 1863 the license for the hotel was transferred from L. Lawrenson to James Jamieson. Two months previously Graham Muirhead had been declared insolvent with debts of £227. Muirhead claimed a falling off of business and illness in the family for the decline in his fortunes. Things must have got dire for Muirhead as he was charged in the Fitzroy Court for attempted suicide. Muirhead was able to get discharged from insolvency by February 1864. He died in 1882 aged only 56.
On the 20 March 1866 the hotel and assets were offered for sale at auction and again in March the following year. On the 26th September 1871, Robert House, publican of the Preston Arms Hotel died. He was aged 54. In December his widow, Charlotte, applied for the license.
In 1871 Edward H. Gregory became the new publican and he changed the name of the hotel to Gregory’s Hotel. Once he left the hotel reverted to its original name.
During 1873-1874 the licensee was David Hood.
In April and then again in December 1873 the hotel was offered for lease or sale. In what was now a familiar pattern the hotel was again offered for sale in 1878 with advertisement stating that the unnamed owner wished to sell up and travel around Europe. Later that year George H. Webb applied for a license for the hotel, having already had a temporary license granted. In January 1879 the hotel was again on the market. The lease for the hotel was valued at £130 and enquiries to be directed to Mrs Hood of Hotham-Hill. It was stated that the owner wished to return to England. It is highly likely that Mrs Hood was the widow of David Hood and that from 1873 to 1879 that the hotel had been regularly offered for sale but without anyone placing a satisfactory offer.
In December 1886 the Victualler’s license for the hotel transferred from Jerome Dowling to David Long. Jerome Dowling had formerly been a yardsman for the Melbourne Corporation Cattleyards at New Market. In 1890 The Age mentioned that the licensee for the Preston Arms Hotel was Mrs David Long.
The next mention of the hotel came in September 1902 when the publican, Mary O’Callaghan was fined £2 10s for failing to cancel her beer stamps on her hogshead of ale. A number of other local hotels were also fined including W. Jones of the Gowerville, M. Jones of the Commercial Hotel, and Catherine Plant of the Peacock. Mary O’Callaghan had arrived at the Preston Arms Hotel in 1893 and remained there until 1905, making the longest serving publican up until that point.
In July 1908 the license was transferred from Mary Fallon to Alice M. Wright and in December 1910 from Mrs Julie Hogan to Mrs Margaret Dunlop. Mrs Dunlop was robbed in February 1915 when thieves mad off with £60 in cash and £15 in silver. The following month Michael McGuirk became the first male publican at the hotel since David Long in 1886. Ronald Shearing had the license in March 1917 but by July Mrs Reeves of the Preston Arms Hotel was fined for illegal trading.
In 1921 Margaret Dunlop returned to the hotel briefly before passing the license onto Catherine Mulqueeny. In 1924 the old Preston Arms Hotel was demolished and a new hotel constructed on the site.
On January 25 1925 Mulqueeny was in the local magistrate’s court requesting that a second bar be installed for the sale of bottled alcohol for women. Magistrate Lock commented that a bar solely for the sale of alcohol was “novel” and Magistrate Barr stated that the court had “…no desire to facilitate trade in intoxicating liquor among women.” From Gippsland to Shepparton, and from McKay to Bundaberg (Qld), all the papers covered the story. Rev. Cain of the Wesley Church expressed satisfaction that the Chairman of the Licensing Court was not inclined to permit the construction of the bar.
In June 1925 Joseph Trainor became the next licensee at the Preston Arms Hotel. He stayed there on and off until 1938. In 1931 the hotel was renamed the Preston Hotel. J. Webster replaced Trainor in 1938 and remained there until the end of World War Two.
John Costello was the licensee from 1945 to 1958 and K.P. O’Brien was there from 1958 to at least 1974.
During the 1970s the hotel was very popular with Melbourne’s TV personalities who used to travel to Preston after work. It was during this time that the hotel advertised that it has haunted by a ghost called George, who was often seen walking the halls at night.
List of known publicans
1856 Edward Sheldrake
1859 Charles Lomax
1861 Graham Muirhead
1864 James Jamieson
1865 Robert House
1871 Charlotte House
1871 Edward H. Gregory
1873 David Hood
1874 Thomas Muller
1877 David Hood
1878 George H. Webb
1878 Jerome Dowling
1888 Mrs David Long
1892 Mrs Jane Moore
1893 Mrs Mary A. Callaghan
1905 Mrs Mary Fallon
1908 Mrs Alice M. Wright
1910 Mrs Julie Hogan
1914 Mrs Margaret Dunlop
1915 Michael McGuirk
1917 Ronald Shearing
1917 Mrs Reeves
1921 Mrs Margaret Dunlop
1921 C. Mulqueeny
1925 Joseph F. Trainor
1938 J. Webster
1945 John Costello
1958 K.P. O’Brien f known publicans
Cole, Robert K. Index of Hotels 1841 – 1949. Unpublished manuscript.
Darebin Libraries. Local History File: Hotels.
Edge, Gary (2004). Surviving the six o’clock swill: a history of Darebin’s hotels. Melbourne: Darebin Libraries.
Northcote Leader (Melbourne, Vic. 1888 - ) October 1939
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 5 September 1956
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 16 April 1856
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 6 December 1856
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 1 November 1856
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 11 June 1857
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 2 September 1858
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 26 August 1858
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 18 April 1860
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 26 June 1860
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 4 March 1861
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 28 September 1861
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 2 December 1863
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 5 October 1863
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 26 October 1864
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 20 March 1866
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 27 September 1871
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 12 August 1878
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 28 March 1878
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 29 Janury 1879
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 3 August 1867
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 9 December 1867
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 11 January 1868
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 30 March 1869
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 21 July 1908
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 7 July 1914
The Age (Melbourne, Vic. 1854 - ), 21 November 1917
The Age (Melbourne, Vic. 1854 -), 25 February 1925