Friday, 26 February 2010

Bills Troughs in Casey Cardinia

You may have seen some Bills Troughs, on your travels throughout Australia and overseas. They were funded from a bequest from the will of George Bills, who died on December 14, 1927. His will left various bequests to friends and employees but the bulk of his Estate was to be made available by his Executors to Societies for the protection of animals, such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and for the construction of horse troughs for the relief of horses or other ‘dumb animals’. These troughs were to be inscribed with the names of George and his wife Annis.

Who were George and Annis Bills? An article by Tim Gibson, Donated by Annis and George Bills - Australia: their concrete horse trough legacy published in the Gippsland Heritage Journal (see full citation at the bottom of this post) tells us that George was one of fourteen children and was born in Brighton in England on March 11, 1859. The family emigrated to New Zealand in 1869 and moved to Victoria in 1873. In 1880 George, and his brother Henry, commenced a wire working business in Sydney. Other brothers, Richard and Walter, later joined the business. Walter had invented a wire coiler and this led the Company into the manufacture of wire mattresses. The business became known as Bills Brothers. Various of the brothers operated factories in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane at one time. George married Annis Elizabeth Swann (b.1860) on May 18, 1885 at the Brisbane Registry Office. In 1910 the couple went on a trip to England where Annis died. They had no children.

The Bills troughs, for both horses and dogs, in High Street Bunyip. The terracotta roof in the background belongs to the Post Office, which was opened on December 8, 1925

George and his brother Henry had been supporters of the Victorian Society for the Protection of Animals as the RSPCA was then called and this devotion to the cause of animal welfare was continued after George’s death, through his Will. His Estate was administered by his sister, Daisy and her husband, William Crook. Tim Gibson, in his article cited above, says that the first troughs were individually designed and constructed, however in the early 1930s Jack Phillips became the contractor and had a standard design of pre-cast concrete, which were manufactured in Auburn Road in Hawthorn. Rocla then took over the manufacture of the troughs around 1937. Also in 1937 the last trough was supplied to a Victorian location and erected in Buckley Street in Essendon. After that, the distribution of the troughs moved to New South Wales and finished at the end of the Second World War. All up, around 700 troughs were donated to towns in Australia, around 400 of those in Victoria and fifty overseas.

Report in The Argus on the last Bills trough erected in Victoria
The Argus November 27, 1937

In the Casey Cardinia area the only ones I know of are at Koo-Wee-Rup at the Historical Society in Rossiter Road, and you can see both the horse trough and the dog trough at Tooradin, outside the Fisherman’s Cottage Museum on the Foreshore. The two troughs can also be seen in Bunyip in High Street. There is also one at Akoonah Park in Berwick.

The Koo-Wee-Rup Bills trough at it's relocated position at the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society. In the background is the Lock-up built in the 1920s, which was originally located at the Police Station in Sybella Avenue and moved to the Historical Society in 1993.

I came across an article in the Koo-Wee-Rup Sun of February 2, 1933 and it tells us that the trough in Koo-Wee-Rup was originally erected near the Royal Hotel in Station Street. The same article tell us that troughs have also been erected at Narre Warren, Pakenham, Garfield and Bunyip.
Koo-Wee-Rup Sun of February 2, 1933

So this raises a number of questions – what happened to the Narre Warren and Pakenham troughs? Where were they originally located? I believe the Garfield one was outside the Iona Hotel in Main Street but where has it gone? Where was the Bunyip trough originally located? The Tooradin trough was apparently outside the Store and Post Office along the South Gippsland highway. I’d love to know if you have any answers to these questions. The Bills troughs are a lovely reminder of a by-gone day, when horses ruled the road and also a practical memorial to George & Annis Bills' community spirit and love of animals.

The Tooradin trough, located outside the Fishermans Cottage Museum on the Foreshore.

The article I referred to from the Gippsland Heritage Journal is Donated by Annis & George Bills - Australia : their concrete horse trough legacy by Tim Gibson. Published in Gippsland Heritage Journal No.20, September 1996.

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