Two hotels, each built about 10 miles (16 kilometres) out of Horsham, catered to travellers between Horsham and outlying settlements.
The Nine Mile Hotel, dating from 1873, was built nine miles north of Horsham on the road to Pimpinio.
Vectis Bridge Hotel, built in 1875, was ten miles west of Horsham near the Wimmera River on Natimuk road.
In the early days of Horsham many people travelled by foot.
The roads were little better than cart tracks and in winter could become impassable for wagons or buggies.
A coach service existed from the late 1870s but was prohibitively expensive.
In 1885 a return ticket between Horsham and Natimuk was twelve shillings and sixpence, equivalent to about $500 today.
So, small hotels, a day's walk apart, became commonplace.
Nine Mile Hotel (later, Railway Hotel), Pimpinio
About 1870 Thomas Hodby, a blacksmith, selected Allotments 136 and 137 about a kilometre south of Pimpinio.
He built his house and a smithy on allotment 137 facing the main road from Horsham.
He soon realised that the huge influx of selectors into the region created an opportunity to provide accommodation for the people he saw passing every day.
In June 1873 he was granted a publican's licence.
In 1876 he hosted a ploughing contest at his hotel, providing his own land as the contest site.
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Such events were common in the early days as the selectors streaming into the region sought the best implements for the difficult ground, with its "crabholes" and stumps.
Hotels were convenient meeting places for technical discussion afterwards.
In about 1881, the construction of the railway from Horsham to Pimpinio cut off the road containing the hotel (this section is now named Nine Mile Hotel Road).
Losing trade, Hodby purchased two allotments in the township of Pimpinio in December 1881 and moved his hotel to the eastern corner of Miller and Station Streets. He renamed it the "Railway Hotel". After 1892 Hodby leased his hotel to a succession of licensees until his death in 1908.
His widow sold the hotel to Elizabeth Bourdoff (later, House), who owned it until 6 o'clock closing became law in 1915.
From this date onwards ownership changed every two or three years, suggesting it became a marginal business once the closing time was reduced from 11.30pm to 6.00pm.
In 1952 the licensee, Erma O'Connell, was given a stiff fine of 25 pounds for serving beer out of hours.
During the court case she stated that she had to do so, implying it was the only way she could make a living.
In the early hours of Sunday, July 6, 1958, when Ray Newton was licensee, a fierce fire completely destroyed the Railway Hotel.
It was never rebuilt and lost its licence on December 2, 1958.
Vectis Bridge Hotel, East Natimuk
Brothers Henry and Peter Scott were early selectors in the Natimuk area, taking up land on the western bank of the Wimmera River, which included Allotment 77.
The brothers cleared and farmed the land and probably noted that they were ideally placed to provide accommodation for travellers between the main town of Horsham and the developing town of Natimuk.
A small hotel was constructed on a slight rise on the south side of the road and just west of the Wimmera River crossing.
Peter Scott became the first licensee on June 17, 1875.
Between 1875 and 1878 Vectis State School (No 1623) was run from a log building leased from Vectis Station, which was about 2km north of the hotel.
In late 1878 the lease was terminated and the head teacher used a room in the Vectis Bridge Hotel to conduct lessons.
In early 1879 the school inspector found few children attending because parents objected to school lessons being conducted in a hotel.
So, a new school building was established on Allotment 78A on the western bank of the Wimmera River, about a kilometre south of the hotel.
Fire destroyed the Vectis Bridge Hotel on October 19, 1879.
Peter Scott was granted permission to conduct the hotel business from an adjoining house while the hotel was rebuilt.
Henry Scott purchased the hotel and the surrounding Allotment 77 from his brother.
The hotel licence was transferred from Peter to his brother on October 9, 1880.
Henry conducted the hotel business and also successfully farmed the land.
In 1887 the railway line from Horsham to East Natimuk was completed allowing passengers to travel to Natimuk quickly, in comfort and much more cheaply.
Consequently, business from passing foot traffic fell off considerably.
Later the same year Henry Scott was ordered to carry out repairs and improvements to the hotel by the licensing inspector but elected instead to surrender the licence.
He was paid compensation of 100 pounds.
It is believed that after the hotel was closed the building was moved to Jeparit or Kenmare.
The land once occupied by the hotel has long been disturbed by cropping but occasional brick fragments can still turn up.
Due to health rules governing the COVID-19 pandemic, the Horsham Historical Society is closed. Requests for historical information can be made via the research tab at our website: www.vicnet.net.au/~hhs.
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