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Troughs that watered horses

The Ballan horse trough originally outside the RSL (Commercial Hotel in the background), now at A.A. McLean Reserve Ballan. Photo – Ballan Shire Historical Society

By Lachlan Ellis

You’ve likely passed these concrete horse troughs on your travels, but may not know their history and, that they’re almost 100-years- old.

There are four troughs in Moorabool, in front of the Royal Hotel and the Blacksmith’s Cottage in Bacchus Marsh, A.A. McLean Reserve in Ballan and one on the Ballan-Daylesford Road.

If you look closely, you’ll see the troughs have inscriptions reading ‘Donated by Annis & George Bills, Australia’.

They are four of more than 500 in Australia which were donated in George Bills’ will, with most constructed in the 1930s. Each is inscribed with the same words.

George Bills died in 1927 at the age of 68 and, left an estate of over £80,000 in his will to construct horse troughs “wherever they may be of the opinion that such horse troughs are desirable for the relief of horses and other dumb animals”.

George and his wife Annis were both avid supporters of the RSPCA, and George was made a Life Governor of the RSPCA in 1924.

According to the Bacchus Marsh & District Historical Society’s ‘Bacchus Marsh Heritage Guide’, the distribution of the troughs began in the late 1920s, with Victoria and New South Wales home to hundreds within a decade. None were made following World War II.

The Bills were both born in England in 1859, with George born in Brighton and Annis born in Sheffield. They were married in 1885, with George making a living in businesses manufacturing coiled and woven wire mattresses in Sydney and Melbourne.

The Bills horse trough outside the Royal Hotel is now used as a flower bed, while the one at the Blacksmith’s Cottage was moved from the Racecourse Reserve in 2000.

The trough at A.A. McLean Reserve was originally situated outside the RSL clubrooms, according to a 1981 article supplied by the Ballan Shire Historical Society.

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in the 23 November 2021 edition
pick up a paper around your town.