Warwick Farm Hotel’s roustabout found dead on rail lines after £30,000 inheritance

The Warwick Farm Hotel in the 1890s. Picture: Supplied


A drifter, William Price did most odd jobs around the pubs where he worked in return for boarding and lodgings. He tapped beer barrels, collected glasses, cleaned toilets, and emptied ashtrays. His job was often labelled as ‘pub roustabout’ or ‘boots’.

Most pubs had a boots. The description originated in the 1860s when hotels employed boys or young men to collect, clean and polish guests’ boots, left outside their rooms in the hall. The boots’ job grew in responsibility over the decades, which eventually meant boys were no longer suitable. The job of boots became more suited to retired or older men.

Old Bill, as he was known, worked in pubs on the NSW South Coast during the early 1880s before drifting to Liverpool after injuring his back at Bulli while moving beer barrels. Unable to do heavy work, he eventually found himself in the Liverpool Asylum for the Poor and Aged, before making the nearby Warwick Farm Racecourse Hotel his local watering hole.

The pub was named after the Warwick Farm Racecourse, which was estbalished by William Forrester, one of the most successful horse trainers of his time. He and Edwin Oatley were the principals in the formation of the Warwick Farm Racing Club in 1889.

Warwick Farm Hotel LIverpool 1924 ANU
The Warwick Farm Racecourse Hotel, Liverpool, 1924. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

Christian Stumpf, who had a vineyard near the Lansdowne Bridge, on the Liverpool Road, also established the Warwick Farm Racecourse Hotel 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 the Warwick Farm Racecourse Hotel on the north/west corner of Moore and George streets Liverpool.

The Warwick Farm Racecourse Hotel traded for just over 50 years before its license was transferred to the corner of Moore and Macquarie Streets Liverpool and a new art deco pub built in 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 the rather unimaginative name of ‘The Corner Pub’ (2018).

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 it closed. He also had the first drink at the replacement pub, the Hotel Liverpool, to which the license was transferred.

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

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

Liverpool Hotel 1939 ANU
The replacement Liverpool Hotel, 1939. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University. 

Meanwhile, Warwick Farm Racecourse Hotel regular, ‘Old Bill’ met a tragic end in 1890. He 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 Old Bill’s 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 accidently 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 the system in Parramatta Hospital. It was surmised he was returning from Sydney when the accident happened on Monday May 26.

© Copyright Mick Roberts 2018

corner pub liverpool nsw google
The Corner Pub, once known as the Hotel Liverpool in 2018. Picture: Google Streetview.


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