Historic Georgian Coaching Inn, built 1860

Prior to European settlement, the Norfolk Plains was home to the Panninher people of the Northern Midlands Nation, known as the Penny Royal Creek Tribe by colonials. The current township of Longford was first explored by Jacob Mountgarrett and Ensign Hugh Piper in 1807, and settled by convicts and free settlers from the abandoned colony on Norfolk Island in 1813, hence the name for the greater area, “The Norfolk Plains”.

This beautiful Georgian coaching inn has been offering refined hospitality to the weary traveller since 1861, when the population of Longford was approximately 1700 people.

The land on which the inn was built had been granted to Michael Whitely, a ticket-of-leave convict, on the 20th October 1858.  Whitel ypassed away the same year, a month after gaining a licence to carry the mail by coach.  At the time of his death Whitely owned four houses and 37 building blocks of land in Longford.  A Ticket of Leave (TOL) was a document given to convicts, granting the freedom to work and live within a given district of the colony before their sentence expired, or they were pardoned. TOL convicts could hire themselves out or be self-employed. They could also acquire property.

The land passed through several owners before William Dean purchased the allotment  from William Wright in 1860 for £35.  

Historic title transfer document

Transfer of title document.

Dean had been granted a conditional pardon in 1858, stipulating that he was never to return to England or Ireland.  The house, named the Northern Hotel,  was purpose built as a coaching inn between November 1860 and  July 1861, at a cost of  several hundred pounds.   Dean (baptised William Joyce), a musician from Cambridge, had been indicted in  London in 1841, at the age of 19, for stealing 1 watch, value 29s; 2 seals, value 36s; 1 chain, value 1s; & 1 ring, value 6s from a house in Regents Park.  With a previous conviction under his belt, Dean was sentenced to 14 years labour for larceny, and transported to Hobart, severing his ties with his family and changing his name.  His mother wrote to her brother in Melbourne:

I am told by a sailor that called to me he (William Joyce) lives at the Golden Castle, Macquarie Street, Hobart Town, William Joyce, musician, and he told me he is one of the first rate fiddlers in Hobart Town and that he is married and got a child and if you see him or write to him give him my dearest love to him and ask him if has forgot his mother.

William Dean and his wife Jane Crawford, also a convict, had six children, and lived at Connorville, Lake River, prior to moving to Longford.  By 1859 Dean was licencee of the Market House Tavern in Longford, and the following year, in November 1860, he set about building his own establishment on the corner of Marlborough and Bulwer Street (at that stage marked on town maps as the “boundary of town and suburbs”).   When the house was nearing completion, Mr Dean fell into a dispute with the builder, Alexander Hill over shoddy workmanship, withholding the final contracted sum of £284.  The matter went to court and the judge found in Hill’s favour.  Dean was keen to finish the house by licensing day 1861, and on the 8th August the Quarterly Meeting of Justices granted the transfer of the licence for the Market Tavern, Longford, from William Dean to C.Bricknell, and granted a licence for the new establishment, The Northern Hotel “considered a great addition to the township, being well fitted up, with commodious yards for stock, and excellent stables.”  At the licensing hearing, one of the justices commented that Mr Dean had received his licence because he had “the second best house in Longford.”

The building was constructed of handmade convict bricks, with lathe and plaster walls and ceilings.  The current dining room was built as a ballroom measuring 38 feet by 11 feet.  Dean advertised that he had “accommodation for upwards of 150 horses, with careful grooms in attendance, and plenty of good horse feed and water.  First rate luncheons and dinners, with the best of wines, spirits and beers at moderate charges.

At the front of the building, Dean installed a 10 tonne Avery weighbridge “for the convenience of persons coming from the Lake River, Cressy, and other places.” In March 1863 “The Wanderer”, a stallion owned by a local man William Doddery, was standing “in the charge of his groom” by the weigh-bridge, when a shepherd called Yates “in a half drunken state started to meddle with him“.  The horse lashed out with its back leg, kicking Mr Yates in the stomach.  The unfortunate man was knocked out on the weigh-bridge, suffering a severe cut to his head.  A doctor was called to attendance but he died the next day.

In 1864, as well as running the hotel, Dean was granted a 12 month licence to carry the mail to and from Longford and Cressy, at a cost of twenty-five pounds.  In 1865, after four years of trading, Dean decided to sell the houseand placed an ad in the Cornwall Chronicle.  The outbuildings included 2 stables with 10 stalls and a large shed, 60 feet long.  The house contents included the whole of the household furniture, consisting of:

    • Telescope table and cover
    • Morocco covered couch
    • 12 hair covered chairs
    • Chiffonier
    • Fenders and irons
    • Carpets and hearth rugs
    • Cedar table and cover
    • Window curtains and blinds
    • Bedheads and hangings
    • Feather bed
    • Bedding and mattresses
    • Washstands
    • Carpets, looking-glasses etc.
    • and a large quantity of sundries including glassware & kitchen utensils.
Northern Hotel Longford, ad for sale

Northern Hotel Longford, ad for sale

The house failed to sell, and in February 1866, Dean advertised the hotel for lease.  Later in 1866 the house was sold, and the Deans moved to “The Horse and Jockey” in Launceston, employing Martha Whitely, daughter of Michael Whitely, the original landowner.  Martha became pregnant at the age of 16, hiding the pregnancy, and giving birth to a stillborn child in secret.  She was charged with concealing the birth of a child and disposing of the body in a water closet, and detained for a week.  William’s wife, Jane Dean, died on childbirth on the 30th March 1870, and the baby girl, Jane Dean, died of suffocation in bed 5 weeks later. 

Later that year, on the 16th November, at the age of 45, William Dean married the then 20 year old Martha Whitely at his house in Longford.  Martha died at the age of 38 after a long illness, at their home “Dudley Farm”, in Warwick, Queensland.

The second licensee, John Clarke, (born in Derbyshire in 1815), was  a former brewer at Cascade in Hobart and licensed distiller.  Mr Clarke changed the name to the Railway Hotel as there was speculation that the proposed railway would be pass down Marlborough Street, however, the 1843 recession had caused the project to be delayed, and when the line was finally completed in the 1870s, it bypassed Longford township.  A name change was therefor in order for the old inn, and it was renamed”The Racecourse Hotel”, after Australia’s oldest continually operating racetrack, 800m to the south.  The signage has faded, but is still visible on both the eastern and northern sides of the building.  The house is listed on the Register of the National Estate, as being “A fine example of a late Georgian hotel with Victorian Gothic influence to transom light and barge decoration. The building retains some old signage and contributes to the historic worth of Longford.”

In October 1866 John Clarke “begged to inform the inhabitants of Longford and its vicinity, that he is now prepared to supply them with superior ale from his own home brew in any quantities.”  By show day 1866, the Cornwall Chronicle advised that Clarke had accommodation for upwards of 200 horses.

On the 16th December 1867, a gruesome murder took place (although probably not in the hotel!).  Ellen Moriarty, last seen drinking at the Hotel in the company of Daniel Connor, a 35 year old Irish labourer, and Ann McDonald, was found disemboweled on the Cressy Road at the gravel pits near the racecourse.  Miss Moriarty had allegedly swallowed two sovereigns placed on the bar by two agricultural workers, flush at the end of the harvest, who then unsuccessfully shook her to recover the coins.  Mr Connor stated “that he had not left the Railway Tavern with deceased, but went by himself and slept on his bedding in the bush, near Brickendon.”  Connor was found guilty, however, and hanged and gibbetted (tarred and left on public display) on Gibbett Hill, near Perth, a practice outlawed in England at the time.

In June 1870 Henry Whitely, son on Michael Whitely, married Mary Jane Clark, John Clark’s daughter, at the Railway Hotel.

John Clarke brewed his own drinks in the taproom (the door on the left of the photo below – now the owners’ bedroom) – which features a wet cellar, well below the water table.  Clarke’s health was suffering by 1873 when he placed an ad in the Launceston Examiner “To Let or Sell” the business.


The undersigned retiring from the above business in consequence of continued ill-health, is desirous of selling or lotting those wellknown premises situate in Marlborough-street, on the main road to Cressy. The house, built of brick, contains 16 rooms, besides large bar, brewery and plant, malthouse, stabling, weigh-bridge, requisite sheds, large yard, garden, well, &o., in good order. For further particulars apply to John Clark. Railway Hotel, Jan. 31.

Jane Clarke, Railway Hotel Longford Tasmania

Jane Clarke, Railway Hotel Longford Tasmania

The hotel failed to sell, and John Clarke died at home, at The Railway Hotel, on the 9th May 1881, after “a long and painful illness” (listed in his death certificate as “general decay“).  His widow, Jane Clarke (born 1831), pictured seated in the photograph to the right, with her daughters Rose, Mary, Charlotte, Florence and son Tasman John, took over as innkeeper and licencee.  Another son, John, had died in infancy”on 30th November, at his parents residence, Railway Hotel, Longford, John, the dearly beloved infant, son of John Clarke, aged one year and six months and nineteen days.

In 1886 Rose Clarke’s husband, Mr Nichols, aged 41, the local blacksmith, died whilst trying to rescue a neighbours’s sheep dog whilst crossing the river near Woolmers.  Mr Nichols had crossed the bridge on a horse and cart, leaving his brother-in-law, Master Tasman Clarke, and son, on the banks of the river, instructing them to wait whilst he crossed the river.  No sooner had he crossed the river than he noticed his neighbour’s sheep dog stuck fast in “a perilous position” and crossed the river again to rescue it.  His reins came loose and he jumped into the river to retrieve the loose rein, then, hampered by his heavy coat, was swept away and drowned.  The boys ran back to notify Mrs Clarke at The Railway Hotel.  The sudden shock of Mr Nichols’ death”cast a complete gloom over the township“.

In 1893 William Russell (formerly of The Queen’s Head in Perth) took over as licencee.   At some point John Clarke had defaulted on his mortgage to Arthur O’Connor of Connorville, although Jane Clarke continued to reside at The Railway Hotel until 1893.   The mortgage passed to Roderick O’Connor, Arthur’s son, of Connorville.  “William Russell (late of Perth) applied for a license for the house at Longford formerly kept by Mrs Jane Clarke as the Railway Hotel, which had lapsed in January, the name to be changed to the Racecourse Hotel.  Mr R. O’Connor, the owner, who was also present, promised to put the house in thorough order, and also attend to the stables.  Mr Superintendent East said they would take Mr O?Connor’s guarantee. The house was built for a public-house, and was handy at race time as well as for the country people.  Granted at a fee of 12 s10 to the and of the year. Mr Russell intimated that the repairs would be proceeded with at once, and the house be ready for opening by the end of the month.”  Mr O’Connor owned “Connerville” at Lake River, near Cressy, one of the largest stations in Tasmania.  His descendant, the current Roderic O’Connor still farms there.

In July 1893 George Russell placed an ad in the Examiner stating that “Tenders will be received by the under signed for Alterations to Railway Hotel,Longford, and also for shingling this same.Particulars can be obtained from W. Russell, Longford“.

On 9th November 1895, the licence was listed as transferred from William Russell to George Stancombe Russell.  On the 23rd Dec 1897, George Russell was granted a special licence to sell alcohol on Christmas Day at the Christmas Sports.

In 1887, 1901 and 1904 Annie Morrison, the widow of Donald Morrison – a high school teacher from Launceston – was listed as the licencee (and interestingly George Stancombe Russell had moved on to the Ringwood Hotel in Cressy).

The Daily Telegraph, a Launceston newspaper, produced a special feature on Longford on the 23rd November 1903, whilst Annie Morrison was licencee,  in which they stated that “This hotel is the only one in Longford where ‘free drinks’ may be had at the horse trough, and very acceptable and refreshing they must be to the thirsty four-footed animals.”  Annie Morrison was charged with Sunday trading on the night of the 28th of January 1900 and fined  1pound.  In 1903 she testified at the inquest of a Gentleman, George Mathews, who had drowned in the Lake River, saying “she last saw deceased alive about nine o,clock on Saturday morning.  He was quite sober, and bought a bottle of rum, similar to the one produced. He said he was going to Evandale, and would be back, in a few days. He came to her place on Wednesday, and did not have much drink while there. He had been in good health, as far as she knew. He left the Hotel by himself, and said he came  from Mr H. Young’s,where he had left  his things.”

In 1904 at a council meeting “Mr Litmus asked if the water trough at the Racecourse Hotel belonged to theCouncil.  Mr Hudson explained that it had been placed there at the expense of the owner of the hotel, and the WaterTrust had given the water. It was always available for horses and cattle in that part of town.”

For many years the Longford Racing Club held meetings at The Racecourse Hotel, as did many other local associations such as the Longford Junior Football Club and the City Cycling Club.

On the 2nd November 1909 the licence was transferred from Mrs Elizabeth Wise to Mr Anthony Munley, who on Sunday 19th November “was robbed of 17s from a private drawer, John Henry Barrington of Westbury was charged of having stolen the money“.  On the 28th May 1910, Mr George Price was listed in the Examiner as having taken over as licencee.  IN 1920 his son James was charged but not fined for  “failing to keep the outer door closed on Sunday 21st November” and the same day Richard Grooves was charged with “supplying liquor to a person not being a traveller, lodger, or inmate“.  In 1921 Inspector Swan opposed the renewal of James Price’s licence on the grounds that “The house was not required in the neighbourhood and that it was not satisfactorily conducted.  On the first grounds the court thought that on account of the house’s proximity to the showgrounds and racecourse it was required.

On Tuesday 9th October 1923, Mr HTZ. J. Price advertised himself in The Examiner as being:

“the well-known proprietor of this popular hostel. There can be no difficulty in finding it, as it is opposite the show grounds. It is conducted in the good old style for its many patrons, and the traveller will find comfort, cleanliness, and convenience happily blended. For 12 years the hotel has been well patronised, specially on Show Days, when the popular SHOW LUNCHEON is arranged-a substantial and excellent meal being assured. Mr. Price will be pleased to meet old and new friends tomorrow (Show Day). The best brands of wines, spirits, and ales are available for all, as is excellent accommodation for vehicles and good stabling.”

Mr Price was married to Fanny Saltmarsh, whose family initially owned the three acres from the sheep pavilion to Bulwer Street at the showground, that is now part of the show ground site, opposite the Racecourse Hotel.  Mr Saltmarsh sold the three acres to Roderic O?Connor of Connorville, who donated the area to the show committee in order that it be incorporated into the show ground site.  Mr Price died at home at the Racecourse Hotel on the 5th May 1930 aged 61 and the licence transferred from his widow, Mrs Price, to Mr A.Eley.  In 1933 Egbert A.Eley donated a set of racing tyres for the Longford cycling road race which commenced at The Racecourse Hotel.

Glassing is not a modern phenomenon, with a Mr Lindress charged in 1934 with striking another man on the cheek with a glass.  ?Inspector Eyles said it was necessary to protect public interests, and also the licensee, who was endeavouring to conduct his house In a proper manner.?

W.H.Sayers, the licence by 1937, was charged and pleaded guilty to having permitted persons to be on his premises during prohibited hours on the 25th December 1938 (Christmas Day).  A fine of ?1 with 8s costs was imposed.  He had previously been charged in Oct 1937 “with supplying intoxicating liquor to Clifford Uhlman, while a prohibition order was in operation. He pleaded not guilty, and was represented by Mr. F. Derham Green. Sayer said that on the day in which Ullman was in his bar Uhlman called to pay him some money, and defendant gave him a drink. He did not know that an order had been taken out. The case was dismissed.

In 1940, the Racecourse Hotel was host to the wedding reception of Ila Mary Boyd, and Maxwell Charles Faulkner, who made their home at Rhodes, on Woolmers Lane.

Racecourse Hotel, Longford, now the Racecourse Inn - heritage accommodation

Racecourse Hotel for sale

Mr Sayer left the district in 1941, selling all of his goods at auction, including “a large quantity of vegetables“, and the inn was delicensed.  At this stage the inn was still situated on 5 acres of land.

Mrs Young (pictured left) then operated the Inn as a boarding house for elderly men until a fire in the 1950s destroyed most of the upstairs, including the roof,  dormer windows and the stairwell.

Mrs Young at The Racecourse Hotel, Longford

Mrs Young at The Racecourse Hotel, Longford

The owners did not repair the damage and the Inn remained derelict for almost 20 years, during which time it was used as a beehive, and possum trappers pinned skins to the upstairs ceiling.  It was also a popular lover’s tryst for young people.  A 1961 photograph clearly shows a ladder leaning up against the wall for access to the attic area; apparently many a Longford lad lost his virginity at the Racecourse Hotel.


In 1973 the inn was purchased by a young couple from Sydney, Rod Crockford, a television cameraman, and his wife Margaret, who had worked in advertising.  They had already restored another Georgian house in Marlborough Street, and reinstated the dormer windows, but ran out of money to complete the restoration.  In 1977 they sold the inn, which had been scheduled for demolition, to Ken and Mollie McWilliams and their son Michael, who over a period of three years accomplished a beautiful and sympathetic restoration.  At one stage 20 workmen worked on the house;  two plasterers laboured for six months on the plasterwork alone.  Mr McWilliams purchased the old Longford Presbyterian Church to source convict bricks that were missing from the Racecourse Hotel, and Huon pine from a tumbledown building at Bishopsbourne.  Mud 3cm thick had encased the staircase and a savage dog eluded capture by darting in and out of holes in the lathe and plaster walls.

Ken McWilliams was a wool buyer, and dealer in possum and rabbit skins, and Mollie and Michael both antique dealers.  The house became their family home until 1989, when, with the children grown, it became too big for their needs.  Mollie lovingly sourced vintage material for upholstery, sewing all the velvet curtains throughout the house, and sourced the magnificent cedar dresser in the dining room, built in 1850 by Mr Hudson, the husband of one of the Clarke daughters.  As she stated in a magazine article in The Australian Woman’s Weekly, there “wasn’t a cupboard in the place“, so Mr McWilliams had full length Huon pine cupboards installed in the kitchen.  The floors throughout the building which had rotted away were replaced, as were the doors in the 6 upstairs bedrooms, which came from the old Metropole Hotel in Launceston.  The skirting boards came from the Methodist Church at Cressy and 260 litres of paint were applied on the internal walls and ceiling.

In 1989 the Hotel was Purchased by Graeme and Helen Kennedy, who changed the name to “The Racecourse Private Hotel” and converted the building to a bed and breakfast, one of the first heritage properties in Tasmania with ensuite bathrooms.  Douglas and Mary Rutledge bought the house two years later and in addition to providing accommodation, offered a garden tour, “Behind the Hedges“, visiting various ocal properties.  They later opened an antique shop in Longford next to JJ’s bakery.

Bill and Robyn Baker bought the property in 1995, changed the name to “The Racecourse Inn” and renovated the ballroom, running a popular fine dining restaurant for several years.  The ballroom, now the dining room, features a tunnel-vaulted ceiling, one of only three in Tasmania (one of the others is at Sunnyside, Hobart – built in 1842), which is timber lined and plastered.  The magnificent 3 metre tall cedar shop cabinet in the dining room originally belonged to Mr Hudson, the Longford undertaker and haberdasher.  The two pieces had previously been separated, and were reunited by the McWilliams.  The bottom of the bar was Mr Hudson’s shop counter, the top being a later addition.

Your hosts, Annabelle Sandes and Richard Costin, bought this beautiful building in March 2015, and are delighted to welcome you to their home.  We hope that you will enjoy your stay at The Racecourse Inn.