Keilor Hotel and Keilor History

A rare survivor among the wayside inns that opened in the squatting era, the history of the Keilor Hotel dates back to 1849

The Keilor Hotel was established in 1849 by a James Mitchell, a Scot, the name then was the Galway Arms Tavern, the name of our Bistro today.  It changed its name to the Keilor Hotel around the 1860’s but was also known as the Red Lion Hotel. The crossing over the Maribyrnong river formerly known as Saltwater river, ensued that many travelers would stop for refreshments and, being the main route to Macedon was through Keilor, the site of the hotel was chosen so as to attract the travelers en route to the central Victorian goldfields.

Gold rush fever gave way to the harsh reality that there was a long haul ahead as diggers headed to the goldfields. On reaching the ridge of The Marybyrnong valley, their spirits lifted nestled below in Keilor village was their first watering point. A welcome respite from the harsh conditions on the road.

In 1853 a traveler named William Kelly described his coach trip to the diggings and his breakfast stop at the Keilor Hotel. He was amazed at the size of the enormous steaks that were served. Today in those same four walls, we still serve great tender steaks and other dishes to fill the travelers and local community, but with a vast greater selection of dishes to select from and a more professional hospitality service than what our previous forefathers had to encounter.

The Old Calder highway was original known as Macedon St and Cobb and Co was the company that ran the coaches and Keilor was the first stop where they changed their horses. They started coaching in 1854 travelling between Melbourne and the goldfields.

The Keilor hotel was the second night stopover for most of travelers going to the goldfields from Melbourne.  The miners going to the goldfield’s were the escorts for the gold that was transported back to Melbourne stage coaches and bush rangers that were attracted to the lucrative trade of stealing gold. The roads were busy and this was a time when Keilor flourished. Local farmers like David Milburn would sit on the side of the main road and sell his fruit and vegetables to the passing crowd.

In 1974, Ray Dodd became the owner, the current owner today – Ray has kept a copy of 1886 Licensing act – Some of the features of the act were that it was illegal for hotels to sell liquor on credit or to children or aborigines, you could not employ females and one of the strangest requirements of that era was that a licensee had to set aside a room for dead bodies.  Taverns were obliged to have at least two sitting rooms and two bedrooms and enough stabling hay and corn for six traveler’s horses.

Many a character has passed through the doors of this hotel, with unconfirmed tales such as Ned Kelly stealing the barman’s watch and Squizzy Taylor firing a gunshot into the roof of the bar to frighten one of the customers, these are typical of those often repeated as folklore in many hotels but not many hotels have witnessed so much history as the four blue stone walls of this historic hotel.

The Keilor Hotel is historically significant and is a rare example of a wayside inn from that era, but the hotels and its surrounds are constantly being improved but still maintaining its heritage landscape. At present, the hotel is adding a “tasting room” which will open the access to Marquee and Vinery areas to the hotel but also be a room that is impressive when completed in coming months.

This historic hotel has been welcoming patrons for over 160 years and we look forward to serving the public for another 160 years with many new events to be featured at the hotel in coming months to continue to attract the local community of Melbourne and Victoria.