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.
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
2012 Now and Then: Mallala, Seven Stars Hotel. Mallala Museum: South Australia. Viewed on 4 October 2012