White Horse effigy and the Box Hill pub

white horse box hill

The White Horse Inn, Box Hill, showing the “effigy” above the front door.


When the White Horse Hotel was built at Box Hill (Vic.) in 1851, a wooden facsimile of a white steed was placed on top of the main entrance. The old building is being demolished, but the owner of the premises has presented the effigy to the Box Hill Municipal Council. It is to be freshly enamelled, and placed inside the council chambers.

– The Muswellbrook Chronicle (NSW) Tuesday 1 August 1933.

white horse replica box hill

In 1852 Patrick Trainer built a coaching inn, the first change for Cobb and Coaches on the south east corner of Whitehorse and Elgar Roads in Box Hill, Victoria. It was burnt down and rebuilt, and endured until it was demolished in 1933. Above its doorway was a carved white horse, which became a landmark. After the pub’s demolition it was placed on a grass verge on White Horse Road in the main shopping strip until it was again moved to the Box Hill Town Hall in 1986. A replica (pictured) of the statue was placed on the median strip in Whitehorse Road in 1986. The original horse (25cm by 20cm) is kept in the Box Hill Town Hall.

White Horse Inn



white horse inn Box Hill

The timber horse above the door of the White Horse Hotel, Box Hill, shortly before demolition.

The White Horse Inn, on the north-east corner of Elgar road and White horse road, just before entering the town of Box Hill, is about to be demolished. The inn is a familiar sight to motorists, with its effigy of a white horse standing boldly over the porch. It lies nine miles from the city and in the old coaching days it was the first change for the stage horses on the run to Lilydale. The original hotel was a two-storey brick building of 18 rooms with stabling accommodation for 30 horses There was no stone handy to the site and the bricks cost Patrick Trainor, the builder and first licensee £11 a thousand. Today bricks could probably be delivered on the spot for less than a third of that price. In addition to its importance as a changing place for the mail coach team, the White Horse was a popular place of call for visitors from Melbourne at the weekends. On the opposite side of the main road may still be seen the remains of the old hitching rail to which hacks and harness horses were made fast while their owners relaxed in the long, cool barroom. In those days there was no statutory radius of 20 miles within the meaning of the Licensing Act. Indeed, there was no such act, all licensing being in the hands of the local governing authorities.

The alteration of the first stage on the Lilydale trip from the White Horse Hotel to the Coach and Horses Hotel more than six miles farther on, near Ringwood was the first on the many vicissitudes through which the house passed. It was customary for the mail coach horses which brought the stage from the Albion Hotel in Bourke street which was about midway between Elizabeth street and Swanston street on the north side to be stabled at the White Horse on the arrival of the coach from Melbourne after their nine mile dash mostly uphill until later in the afternoon, when they replace the team which brought the coach from Lilydale on the return journey.

The most serious setback to the old place was the coming of the railway. In 1880 the line from Melbourne ran only to Hawthorn It was decided to extend it to Lilydale As soon as the Camberwell section was complete it was used, but the remainder of the line was not operated until the whole job had been completed On Friday, December 1, 1882, the first passenger train steamed into Box Hill. The train consisted of one coach divided into three and a half compartments – first non-smoking and first smoking, second non-smoking and second smoking. The half compartment was the second smoking, the guard being installed behind a partition in the other half. On the previous day, November 30, the coaches had run for the last time on the Lilydale route. The advent of the train to Box Hill was celebrated on the day following the opening of the line by a land sale, for which a special train was engaged. On its return journey to Melbourne the special train collided head-on with another train on the single track line between Hawthorn and the Yarra. The accident is known as the Hawthorn smash. One man was killed and more than 160 were injured.

The old White Horse Inn stood on a block of land 60 acres in area. On this estate was the Box Hill racecourse. The course might be distinguished by following a line of flags through the scrub. The judge’s box, set picturesquely in a small clearing, stood where the electric trains now thunder, less than 200 yards from the Box Hill platform. The last race on this course was run on Easter Saturday, 1883, and for the second time a special train was run. On this occasion it was augmented by one additional coach, of the dog-box variety, and two cattle-trucks. It was on the Box Hill racecourse that Bob Ramage, the rider of Carbine in his victorious Melbourne Cup in 1890, rode his first winner as a fully fledged jockey.

The original licensee, Patrick Trainor, did not retain possession of the hotel for many years. He sold to George Cockroft, a Yorkshireman, who conducted a butchery business in Box Hill. One of the early licensees after the original holder was William Byrne, who is now in his nineties, living at Tunstall. Then followed Moton Moss, a Jew, after whom came Thomas Burrows and James England. The last licensee of the hotel was Miss Amelia Holmquist who surrendered the licence after the Nunawading local option poll in 1920 when the district went “dry” on January 1, 1921. Miss Holmquist held the licence for five months only.

In 1898 the original building was destroyed by fire, but it was rebuilt as a single-storey structure almost immediately afterward. Although its business had declined as the result of the construction of the railway, which left the White Horse high, but not dry, it retained much of its attraction as the terminus of an equestrian pleasure jaunt from Melbourne, and it was widely known as one of the most popular road houses in the country near the city. Railway lines had encroached on a few of the stage coach runs, but the horse was still unchallenged on the roads. The steady subdivision of surrounding estates, with a corresponding increase in the population of the district, helped to re-establish the fortunes of the hotel, but gradually, as the horse gave way to the motor-car, custom diminished little by little and the former coach days became a shadow of the past.

The memory of the old inn will be perpetuated by the splendid highway beginning at Burke road and running to Lilydale. White Horse road was named after the hotel, and this arterial route will probably be the only remaining reminder of the original building. Elgar road also is associated with the White Horse Inn. A man named Elgar had procured from the Government by negotiation some 5,000 acres of grazing land extending from where Burke road now lies to Elgar road. Many titles of land lying in that area still bear the words “Elgar’s Special Crown Survey.” Land, in those days, could be purchased direct from the Government Trainor built his hotel on the corner of Elgar’s Estate.

When, within the next few weeks, the inn is demolished, and the familiar white horse disappears, six suburban dwellings will occupy the area.

– Argus (Melbourne), Saturday 15 July 1933.


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Categories: Victoria hotels

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1 reply

  1. There seems to be some conflicting information in the history of the hotel. Was it on the north east or south east corner of Whitehorse Road & Elgar Road?

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