A prominent feature and the social centre of Antill Ponds (Tasmania) was its Half Way House, a three storey hotel which serviced both travellers and locals with accommodation, meals and liquor.
Adjacent stables were also a changing station where hard-driven coach horses were changed for fresh animals. Only the highway separated the railway station and platform from the front door of the hotel, a distance of about 20m.
The attraction and proximity of warmth and hospitality for train crews, railway staff, the travelling public and the local community resulted in numerous accounts of humorous behaviour, especially so in the earlier years when the hotel was licensed to sell alcoholic refreshments.
The original Half Way House was at Sorell Springs, having been built by John Presnell, a blacksmith by trade, who arrived from England on the Midas on 13 January 1821. He was granted 300 acres of land at Sorell Springs on which he built the White Hart Inn. A licence to sell spirits, wine and beer was granted in 1822 but following the subsequent realignment of the highway through St Peters Pass and the bypassing of Sorell Springs, Presnell acquired land at Antill Ponds in 1830, pulled down the first White Hart Inn and had it re-erected at Antill Ponds so to again catch the travelling public and supply them with refreshments and accommodation.
This building comprised seven rooms, suitable for an inn and valued at £500, together with a six stall stable and other outbuildings. This was also called the White Hart Inn; it bore this name until 1842 when it was changed to the Half Way House. The old inn was delicensed in the 1930s, and eventually demolished in the 1970s.
The Hobart Mercury reported on Saturday 31 December 1932:
ANCIENT INN ON MAIN ROAD DELICENSED
“TIME, GENTLEMEN!” – One of the oldest hostelries in the State, Half-way House, Antill Ponds, so named because of its equal distance between Hobart and Launceston, will closed its doors to the public on December 31, as a result of the decision of the Oatlands Licensing Court that the hotel was not required. Its passing as a public-house awakens indefinable sentiments, in view of its historical associations.
– Story adapted from Antill Ponds and the Half Way House by R. H. Green.
Categories: Tasmania hotels