The hotel was established by Robert Hudson Bain (1831-1887) in 1857 which was four years before the town of Berwick was gazetted. Early Days of Berwick has this to say about the name of the establishment at a very early age, possibly the late 1840's the district was marked out for Police administrative purposes embracing the Port Philip area and with its limits at Bacchus Marsh and Berwick respectively. This theory that Berwick was the 'border' of this administrative area and thus the hotel was named the Border Hotel, is supported by the fact that there is an historic hotel in Bacchus Marsh called the Border Inn, construction of which started in 1850. The book goes on to to say when the original Port Phillip Farmers' Society was formed [in 1848] two branches one at Berwick and one at Bacchus Marsh were formed so that district links existed between these two places. The other theory suggested by Early days of Berwick is that Bain named it after his birth place, the border town of Berwick-on-Tweed, however Richard Myers, author of the book, Berwick Mechanics' Institute and Free Library has dismissed this idea, as Bain was born in Falkirk in Scotland.
Robert Bain came to Australia in 1855 when he was 24 years old. He married Susan Stewart in 1859 and they had eleven children, but more about them later.
Berwick Inn in 1858
The Bain family owned the hotel until 1909, with Susan Bain taking over as licensee after her husband’s death on February 24, 1887 at the age of 56. Robert Bain's obituary in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal can be read here but it reads in part - Connected with school, with Mechanic's Institute, with Cemetery, with everything that concerned the town ship; he was always ready to do his part...... Scandal, whether to hear or to utter, was abhorrent to him. He was full of humanity toward all, ever ready. to give honor to whom honor as due, and help them who were in need. His funeral was at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church and he is buried at the Berwick Cemetery.
The Bain family taken in the 1880s.
Photo: Berwick Mechanics' Institute and Free Library by Richard Meyers
We know that Robert gets much deserved credit for his role in public life, but Susan was in the background raising their eleven children and when her husband died in 1887 and when her youngest child was only eight, Susan took over as the licensee of the Hotel and managed the business until just before her death at the age of 69 on June 26, 1908. Her obituary in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal described her as highly respected and that her many good deeds will long be remembered by residents in and around Berwick. You can read the full report here.
Death notice for Susan Bain from the South Bourke and Mornington Journal of July 1, 1908
Here is a list of Robert and Susan's children*
Catherine (born 1860 - died October 1900 - known as Kate, married John Murray Leggatt in 1878)
Jane Hudson (born 1861 - known as Jean, she is the Mrs W.S Withers listed in the death notice. Jean married Walter Seward Withers in 1886, they are listed in the 1911 English Census, living in the town of Goodworth Clatford, near Andover, in Hampshire and she died in June 1926 at Andover)
Margaret Anne Stewart (born 1863, known as Maggie, married Charles Allen Champion in November 1889 and died in March 1891)
James (born 1865 - died January 1908)
Robert (born 1867 - died January 1902)
Harry Wilson (born 1869 - died April 1902)
George Alexander (born 1871 - ?)
Edwin Clarence (born 1873 - died 1875)
Susan Stewart (born 1875 - died 1876)
McCulloch Stewart (born 1877 - died January 1908)
Donald Stewart (born 1880 - died January 1937)
The Berwick Inn is still functioning in the original buildings (with some extensions). After Susan Bain died, the next owner was also a woman, Helen Struth who owned the hotel from 1909 to 1948. Gordon Blackburne was the third owner from 1948-1960. During his time the Melbourne Hunt Club called in for their traditional stirrup cup before a days riding. Blackburne Square in Berwick is named after Mr Blackburne.
The Melbourne Hunt Club outside the Berwick Inn - the riders are Alec Creswick, George Missen and Rupert Richardson.
Photo: Berwick Nostalgia: a pictorial history of Berwick published by the Berwick Pakenham Historical Society in 2001.