Tag Archives: Seven Stars Hotel

Charles Tilley: The man behind the hotel

by Amy Wilson

The Seven Stars Hotel site is located in the small township of Redbanks, in a red lentil field north of the Mallala-Gawler Road intersection. At first glance you would never know a hotel existed on the site. There are few surviving records of the hotel that provided food, accommodation and entertainment for the traveling shearers and miners coming to and from Burra. The land was owned by Edward Armand Wright, who leased it to Charles Tilley for 10½ years at £1000 a year.  Tilley built the hotel from local limestone and timber in 1865 and purchased the entire property in 1872 once his lease was finished (Mallala Museum 2012).

Although not much is known about the hotel, Charles Tilley is mentioned in a couple of interesting newspaper articles – both involving deaths.  A letter to the South Australian Register (28 October 1879) written by Edward Boothby from Two Wells, defends Tilley against accusations by the press and local community that William Hillier died from excessive drinking in his [Tilley’s] public-house. Boothby explains that Tilley not only provided good accommodation at moderate prices but also supplied water to the public and took it upon himself to sink another well at the cost of £50.

On the topic of Mr. Tilley’s wells, The Bunyip writes an article in the Mount Gambier Border Watch (11 December 1872) newspaper commenting on the ‘distressing disaster resulting from uncovered tanks and wells, of which we have of late had to record so many’, referring to the death of Charles Tilley’s 10 year old son. On a stormy and intensely dark night, Tilley sent his son inside for a lighted lantern but he never returned. After inquiring with a hotel guest, the boy had not been seen and a search of the hotel revealed his son’s body floating dead in an open tank. The Bunyip asks “Why cannot the settlers of South Australia take common precautions as they do in England to guard against the loss of life by such means?”

These small passages give us a glimpse of the man behind the hotel and the thoughts of the people who frequented the public-house or knew about its reputation. The Seven Stars Hotel was not only important for traveling workers and those seeking employment in the hotel, but it was also a meeting place for committees, of which Tilley was often a member.  I like to think of Charles Tilley as not only a businessman and a hard worker, but as a man who truly cared about his customers.

References:

1872 ‘A REMARKABLE DREAM.’, Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), 11 December, p. 4, viewed 5 October, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77128452

1869 ‘BRIDGE MEETING AT REDBANKS.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 30 July, p. 3, viewed 5 October, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article41404964

1886 ‘Family Notices.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 15 January, p. 4, viewed 5 October, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50183580

1879 ‘MR. TILLEY’S HOTEL AT REDBANKS.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 28 October, p. 6, viewed 3 October, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article43089285

19th century stoneware bottleneck, site of The Seven Stars Hotel. (Photo by Amy Wilson)

2012 Now and Then: Mallala, Seven Stars Hotel. Mallala Museum: South Australia. Viewed on 4 October 2012 <http://mallala.nowandthen.net.au/index.php?title=Seven_Stars_Hotel&gt;

Mallala: An intersection and a museum

Hidden in a small town one and a half hours away from the CBD is a wonderful museum full of town history and other artefacts. Operated by volunteers of the Mallala and Districts Historical Committee, the museum displays a range of donated items from people in the community to show the different eras the town associates with, as well as the things they are proud of.

One important artefact that is on display at the museum is the dining table from the elusive Seven Stars Hotel. This is one of the last pieces of the Seven Stars Hotel left, along with some newspaper clippings. This is a great piece to show the history of the town.

Table from the Seven Stars HotelTable from the Seven Stars Hotel

However, there are some items on display that are quite scary looking, this is including the dolls on the top level, which looked like something right out of ‘Dolls’ (1987). However, apart from these dolls the overall collection is quite spectacular for a small country town museum. The old school building attached is quite fascinating, along with a penny-farthing, which, after reading the description they included with it, actually makes a lot of sense.

However, as amazing as I thought the museum was, it saddened me that, upon looking at the visitor’s book, the last person had signed it over three months ago, now obviously not everyone signs the book but considering how awesome this museum was, it is a shame that no one really knows about it. For a small fee, it could be a nice day out with the family, a picnic in front and a valuable history lesson as well.

Therefore, if you are ever down near Mallala, why not take the time out on a Sunday afternoon to visit this wonderful place?

(Photo courtesy of Hayley Prentice)

Cycle in the Paddocks of Red Banks

Trudging back and forth across endless metres of the bare, sun-baked, Redbanks paddock, hunters scour the ground for treasures scattered across its surface to be flagged. Others stand by their tools and instruments retrieving the treasures already identified. As the hours pass by the hunters continue their search for the lost Seven Stars Hotel, recording every action and discovery to add to their treasure maps, in the hopes that they will be guided towards their prize, all the while being worn down by the unrelenting sun and flies. Finally as the sun begins to set the hunters scramble to return to their camp, eager to escape the patch of dirt where they have toiled since the early hours of the morning.

Trudging across the Redbanks paddock.
Photo courtesy of Jessica Lumb.

Upon arriving back at the camp, some move off to wash away the pain of the day beneath water, while other sidle off to wash away the pain by emptying glasses at the pub. As night sets in, most would think that the hunters, after having spent around nine hours working outdoors, battling sun, dirt and flies, would retire to their beds and recuperate, ready for the burden of the following day. But instead they gather in the meeting room and arrange themselves around the long table and begin the task of arranging what they have recorded during the day. Once again these hunters take up their instruments and tools and push on into the night. Eventually the group comes to a consensus and then in gradual waves, so as to not leave a comrade behind, they break away to collapse into their tents, to catch a few hours sleep before repeating the process all over again.

Working into the night.
Photo courtesy of Sam Deer.

For a week this routine continues until by the end, the hunters, or archaeologists as they should be called, collected around 1000 artefacts and mapped their scatter across the north-western corner of that Redbanks paddock.

Background Noise: A Double-Edged Sword

Most archaeologists working in the field know far too well of the bothers that can be caused by background noise when looking for artefacts at a site. This little trickster comes in a variety of forms, usually depending on what field you’re working in – e.g. for Indigenous archaeologists looking for stone artefacts background noise usually rears its ugly head in the form of stone fragments of the “non-artefactual” variety.

While investigating the site of the Seven Stars Hotel at Red Banks, SA, with a group of approximately 18 Flinders University students and staff, background noise proved to be a bit of a double edged sword, mischievously messing with not just the usual one, but two of the most important senses necessary to carry out a worthwhile investigation in such a setting.

The Seven Stars Hotel was a popular drinking hole for locals in the 1860s and 70s and got its name from its location at the time – at the intersection of (yes, you guessed it) seven roads. Today the pub is non-existent to the naked eye – the only remnants are thousands of artefact fragments (bottles, ceramics, bricks and more) scattered throughout a field and the surrounding area. As would be expected when working on a site that’s been cultivated and ploughed extensively, background noise played tricks on the visual senses of field workers in the form of artefact-resembling rocks, remnants of crops, clumps of soil, grass and snail shells (see image above).

Situated right on the roadside (and quite possibly underneath it), the fieldwork being done on the site was hindered even further at the hands of background noise from passing traffic – every time a vehicle drove past the site a deafening roar filled the air and rendered any communication being attempted at that moment pointless. Conversations and instructions had to be repeated regularly, and we found ourselves on more than one occasion having to wait patiently as a convoy of cars cleared the area. This proved to be quite infuriating, especially when trying to communicate GPS co-ordinates across an open field with the wind also blaring in the background.

On the upside, we managed to defeat background noise and make the project and field school a great success – more than a thousand artefacts were collected from the site!