Unlucky pub roustabout was killed by a train while on his way to collect a £30,000 inheritance

Warwick Farm Hotel, Liverpool, 1892. Picture: Supplied. Inset: William Price was a drifter, like the ‘sundowner’ pictured here in the Pictorial Australian in May, 1885.


A drifter, William Price did most odd jobs around the pubs where he worked in return for boarding and lodgings. He did jobs like tapping beer kegs or barrels, to collecting glasses, cleaning toilets, and emptying ashtrays.

Old Bill, as he was known, worked in pubs around Bulli on the NSW South Coast before drifting to Liverpool, south-west of Sydney, in the late 1880s. While at Bulli he had injured his back while moving beer barrels.

Unable to do heavy work, William Price eventually found himself in the Liverpool Asylum for the Poor and Aged. Bill made the nearby Warwick Farm Racecourse Hotel his local watering hole, and was a regular at its bar, before tragedy struck. But more on the unlucky roustabout later.

Old Bill’s pub was named after the Warwick Farm Racecourse, which was established in 1889 by horse trainer, William Forrester. Christian Stumpf, who had a vineyard near the Lansdowne Bridge on the Liverpool Road, established the Warwick Farm Racecourse Hotel on the north/west corner of Moore and George streets Liverpool in 1889.

Stumpf had a four acres vineyard, which produced 19 tons of Black Hambro’ grapes he sold to the wholesale market the year he opened his pub.

The Warwick Farm Racecourse Hotel traded for just over 50 years before its license was transferred to a new art-deco building on the corner of Moore and Macquarie Streets Liverpool in late 1935. The new hotel, built at a cost of  £8000, was given the sign, Liverpool Hotel, and it continues to trade at the same site under a rather unimaginative name of ‘The Corner Pub’.

The Cumberland Argus reported on Thursday 2 January 1936 that 95-year-old William Orr was given the privilege of having the last drink at the Warwick Farm Hotel before its closure. He also was given the honour of downing the first drink at the replacement establishment, to which the license was transferred.

The bars were rushed when the new Liverpool Hotel opened its doors, and the licensee, Charles Fearn, was showered with congratulations. The Liverpool Mayor, Alderman de Mayrick presided at an inaugural dinner given by the licensee.

The owners of the hotel at the time were Mrs. C. Chrystal, Mrs. L. M. Long, and Miss K. Trautwain.

The Warwick Farm Hotel, Liverpool, 1920s. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.
Liverpool Hotel 1939 ANU
The replacement Liverpool Hotel, 1939. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University. 
The Corner Pub in 2021, once known as the Hotel Liverpool. Picture: Dundedoo, Flickr

Getting back to the fate of Warwick Farm Racecourse Hotel regular, ‘Old Bill’… The old roustabout met a tragic end in 1890. William Price was killed by a train near Canley Vale Railway Station, while arranging to collect £30,000 left to him in a will by a dead relative.

Bill was taking a popular short-cut over the Canley Vale Rail Viaduct when tragedy struck. Lady luck just wasn’t on his side. The Australian Town and Country Journal reported his tragic story in 1890:

“Old Bill,” a Strange Story

A correspondent writes:-While waiting for the train to Liverpool at Granville on Thursday afternoon, a nervous-looking, modest young man who sat beside me similarly employed, asked whether I had seen a paragraph in the Evening News about an accident at Canley Vale. I replied I had, and had actually picked up at the scene of the accident a portion of the body of “Old Bill,” the victim of the accident.

“That was my father,” quietly said he. Vexed that I had spoken in a manner that the young man under his circumstances might think savored of levity, I did not feel comfortable, and set myself to efface any ill impression my reply had created. I soon acquired his confidence by showing him how to get the information ho was in search of, and learned from him that which added to what I already knew, and subsequently learned from another source, enables me to tell what follows.

William Price had been a prosperous farmer in the Taralga district, but preferred dealing in cattle and stock, in a way that enabled him to spend much of his time on horseback, to the drudgery of agricultural pursuits. He sold his farm at Taralga, and started a hay, corn, and produce store at Botany, which was combined with a market garden. William was not a domesticated person, nor a pattern for dutiful husbands; for eleven years since he realised on his belongings at Botany, pocketed the proceeds – £1100- and cleared out; leaving his wife penniless as to cash, but well provided with a family of eight healthy children.

The wife’s energy overcame the difficulties of the situation, and after a struggle her circumstances became more comfortable than they were under the tyrannous rule of an erratic husband. Sometimes she heard of, but never from, her husband. Cattle dealing and droving in Queensland one year, at another time he would be in Victoria on the same lay; but things did not thrive with William, for he eventually became a rouseabout in a public house, and this occupation he appears to have followed in the Ulladulla and Bulli districts for eight years past, for it was in that capacity Mr Collings, of the Warwick Farm Racecourse Hotel, Liverpool, first made his acquaintance eight years ago in Bulli.

While plying his avocations as cellarman, &c, he had some two years since the misfortune to have his shoulder permanently injured through a cask of ale slipping off the skid while it was being lowered into the cellar. Unable to work, he drifted into tho Liverpool Asylum, and so was lost from all knowledge of the outside world. In the days when domestic bliss was appreciated by him he imparted to his wife the knowledge of his being next of kin to an old and rich relation, and that when he died he, as such, would inherit all his wealth.

The death of the rich man came to the knowledge of Mrs. Price many months since; but she knew nothing of where her husband was, until a fortnight since, when she caused a letter to be written communicating the information to the heir. The letter reached the asylum right enough, but it did not reach Old Bill. The reason for this was that in Mr. Collings, who some three months since took possession of the Warwick Farm Racecourse Hotel, Old Bill recognised an ancient acquaintance of his rouseabout days, and as that house of call is the nearest to the asylum, there is where Old Bill went for his daily glass of beer.

A month ago, as near as Mr. Collings can remember, Old Bill reached the asylum gate just as it was being shut, and as the matron gave the order “Let no more in”. “Very well,” said Bill, “I’ll go back to where I came from,” which he did, and stayed there till last Monday, on the morning of which day it was he got the letter.

A messenger from the poorhouse was passing, and seeing Old Bill sunning himself in front of his hotel, asked him whether he had got his letter yet. Bill didn’t know there was a letter for him, and was now told he would get it at the post-office. Bill went and got the letter, came back, said to Mr. Collings, “Good news at last” and borrowed a small sum of money to enable him to take the information to Mr. Bull, solicitor. Bill left Liverpool by the 12.65 train, and his mangled frame was picked up at Canley Vale at 6.30 same evening.

At the Parramatta Coroner’s Court on Tuesday May 27 an inquest on the body of Old Bill found he had died accidentally after returning from Sydney.  His shoulder bone was smashed, and his arm was hanging by a piece of skin.

There were no signs of alcohol on Old Bill, and his death resulted from a shock to while in Parramatta Hospital. It was surmised he was returning from Sydney when the accident happened on Monday May 26.

Do you have an interesting story related to this pub? Scroll down to the comments sections to share your memories.

First published 2013. Updated 2021

© Copyright Mick Roberts 2021

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Categories: Illawarra Hotels, NSW hotels, Sydney hotels

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4 replies

  1. The Liverpool hotel and Warwick farm racecourse Hotel were located on two different corners. The licence was transferred from one to the other.

  2. Hi Mick, I see that you have written about the Victoria Hotel cnr Young and Collins Street North Annandale and in an Historical Leichhardt Journal there is reference to this Hotel as being the first in North Annandale being opened in 1884 and run by a George Bennett. I would like to put the record straight, I have been researching my family tree and have found records confirming that my Gt Grandfather was the first owner of this Hotel and it was called “Colwell’s Hotel” 1878-79 and was run by a James Colwell who transferred the License to George Bennett, who later went on to run the “Cumberland Arms Hotel” cnr of Gipps and Mary Streets Surry Hills in 1881, who was robbed in 1881 and transferred the License in 1882 . I have been able to follow the Licensee’s of the Cumberland Arms Hotel up until 1885 when there was a court case with a William Black and William Shepherd (Shepherd & Co Hotel Brokers) from then I can’t find anything. I can provide you with all the newspaper articles if you are interested. I have tried to find a picture of the “Cumberland Arms Hotel” but to no avail. I believe Gipps Street is now Reservoir Street Surry Hills, so I guess a trip to the archives is in order after lockdown. I hope this is of interest. Cheers Margaret

    • Hi Mick, sorry James Colwell transferred the Licence of Colwell’s Hotel to a Robert Gow… the George Bennett was one of the Licensees of the Cumberland Arms Hotel. Margaret

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