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History of the White Swan Hotel


The White Swan in 1894



Lismore, Victoria

Acknowledgement to The Argus, Camperdown Chronicle, National Library, the Lismore, Cressy and Derrinallum Advertiser and "Browns Water Hole".


The earliest known date of the White Swan Hotel is the 28 Nov, 1879 when Joseph Duncan applied for a victualler ( liquor) license. It was possibly Lismore's first, if not only, building at the time, probably starting as a small dwelling and extended onto over the years.

The White Swan was established on the Ballarat side of Lismore, at the bottom of the hill, on the banks of Browns Water Hole. It was built on the corner of Addis St (the main road in those days) just prior to the creeks crossing, on the then named - Cressy Rd (now Hamilton Highway) built directly in the middle of where Warrnambool, Geelong/Ballarat roads crossed over .With Ballarat being the principal market place in the Western District meant the Swan was in exactly the right location to accommodate travellers.

This made the White Swan a very busy place to be.


From the time the hotel was built it played a major role in Lismore and its history.

The White Swan was a place of, not only the usual hostelry requirements, but with no town hall etc, yet built, the Swan was also the only venue that meetings and other gatherings could take place.

Council meetings - where the determination of ratepayers were decided were held here. Almost all of Lismore's structure and development were discuss around the tables and fireplaces of this original Lismore establishment. Anything of any importance whether it was church, town planning, court hearings, coronal enquires, weddings, land or property auctions, stock sales/auctions, football, cricket and other sporting events, a new group trying to organize its existence, weddings, funeral services, parties of all sorts or just a gathering of Lismore's small but growing population was held within the walls of the White Swan Hotel.

Of course along with the good came the bad, and the Swan saw many a drunken fight and many a married man fall to the traps of some of the local ladies.

On the 30th April, 1880, a local travelling fruit hawker died at the hotel of congestion on the lung.. Another man also died at the Swan in January 1880 after his wagon failed to negotiate the steep slop on the opposite side of the creek to the Swan. His wagon crushed his legs to jelly.

June 1880 a man who tried to commit suicide claimed the publican, Mr. Duncan sold him "bad drink". The 30th November 1880 saw one of Mr. Duncan's elderly female workers assaulted by 2 men. According to her - one of the men shot at her and eventually stole over £8 from her however she fought back and slashed one of their faces with a knife. There was also at least one robbery when, in March, 1890, two men, who were offered a bed due to drunkenness, stole 3 bottles of whiskey and one of brandy with the total value of 25 shillings.

On Oct,1894, at Mundy Gully - 5 horses were drowned and cart ruined when a cartage man tried to cross the flooded Gully. He was swept away by the water until he caught onto a tussock - 100 yards down stream. After resting he regained some strength back and was able to walk, in the pelting rain, to the White Swan Hotel, clad only in his shirt. There he was given some hot food and a bed. The wagon, loaded with 15 wool bales, was destroyed.

Before its demise this splendid old building consisted of - eight bedrooms, three private sitting rooms, one dinning room, bathrooms, kitchen etc, six stalls - built of iron, loose boxes and a coach house. It also had a large underground tank - fifteen foot deep by eight foot wide. All this stood on one acre of land with another two and a half acres of land available for use, as well as a further ten acres elsewhere if needed, presumably for horses.

The hotel had a bluestone, square-fronted bar room with a effigy sign above the front entrance with "White Swan Hotel "on it along with the words "A Toute Voiles" , French for "Full Sails Ahead". In the early days this must have been a reminder of the old English Inns to immigrants.

The White Swan Hotel saw many changes, not only in appearances but also in ownerships and Leasers.

On 3rd November, 1883, The White Swan was advertised for sale or let by the proprietor, R. H. Parry. Parry wanted £480 for the sale or an annual fee of £80 for rent. Robert Henry Parry possibly rented the Swan to W.T. Boyd because he transferred the hotels victuallers license to William Thomas Boyd, only to have Boyd, in June 1886, transfer the license back to Parry until the end of that year. Parry then retransferred it back to Boyd in November 1886. William Thomas Boyd, who owned the Swan by now, applied for a victuallers license in November 1886 (again in Dec 1888 for £46 and then again in 1889 for £40). Boyd, who in December 1889, was appointed Herdsman for the Lismore Common had also bought the no longer required jail from the no longer needed Lismore police station. By April 1893, Boyd had fallen seriously ill and subsequently died in January 1899, aged 38yrs and 7mths. The White Swan Hotel, Lismore - Victoria, being the estate of My W.T. Boyd was put up for auction in 1904.

The White Swan was auctioned on June, 1904 where it was hoped that the hotel would bring £500. It eventually sold to Mr. William Lauder for £750, he also bought the liquor license for that same hotel in December 1905 for £65.

In the papers dated Sat 23rd July, 1910 a Public Notice read that The White Swan Hotel, Lismore has been renovated through out and offers "First Class Table", "Best Wine and Spirits" and "Every Attention Taken" by Mrs. Pain, Proprietor. Mrs. Pain did not keep the Swan for long and in Oct 1910 she sold it to Abel Turner who was a chef at the Leura Hotel, Camperdown.

In January 5th, 1911, Abel Turner had taken over the Hotel. On November 4th, 1911, that same owner stated in a Public Notice advertising the White Swan Hotel as it being "Under New Management" and "Fully Renovated" .

Although Abel Turner is advertising as the owner of the White Swan Hotel on Saturday 3rd December 1910, J Gollier and Co Pty Ltd of Lydiard St Ballarat apply for a transfer of a liquor license as "Being the owners of the licensed premises known as the White Swan Hotel in Lismore" has made application for authority for new premise's to be built on another site in the township of Lismore and for the removal of the license thereto".

Mr. Lazarus who appeared for the applicants said that "The existing premises were antediluvian and small.

The site was on the banks of the creek and wholly unsuitable. A new building could not be erected to such an advantage on the present site as the proposed one. The present site is dangerous it was near the bottom of the hill and a conveyance in turning was likely to be precipitated down the balance of the incline".

In January, 1912 the White Swan Hotels remains were sold for removal to Mr. Cedes for his secondhand dealership in Ballarat.

By 30th Nov, 1911 the White Swan had been replaced by a new modern hotel and with Lismore's towns centre now slowly being established further up the hill. By the end of November 1911 the new hotel was operating at its present location. It is now known as the Lismore hotel.


The White Swan had a street light in front of it. Travelers could use that light to negotiate the narrow bridge that went over the Brown's Water Hole. This bridge was made very dangerous by the sudden drop on the Cressy side. When the White Swan Hotel closed the light was removed causing the travelers to have trouble crossing the bridge therefore the light had to be relocated to the other side of the bridge possibly on Cemetery Rd.

At the council meeting on December 2nd, 1913 Constable A.D Kerr, Inspector Of Nuisance, Lismore, reported to council that the White Swan Hotel's bar parlor remains were a harbor for drunks and undesirables and the odor arising from there was enough to cause a serious outbreak of fever. The well was unprotected and he had given the owner notice but as yet nothing had happened. The council will attend to it.

While some of the Swans bluestones were used as a gateway into a local farm and one large bluestone was turned into a step for a house within Lismore, the White Swan Hotel's era had came to an end on January 7, 1914, when the old hotels stonework was pulled down and made into spall for local roads. The area had become a camping ground for tramps and was in a dirty state so the last of the old Swan was cleared away.