To my pre-teen self, The Royal Bull’s Head Inn was an old and unremarkable wooden building atop a gentle rise near my primary school in Drayton on the south western outskirts of Toowoomba.
I would park my hairy, white mount ‘Pete’ in the pony paddock beside it for seven years back in the day when riding bareback to school was unusual but not unheard of. I passed the Inn’s cool and shaded verandah many times – swinging the hands of school friends as we tramped in pairs for old-time dance lessons at the memorial hall; riding my pushbike to the ‘servo’ to exchange 50 cents for a bulging bag of heart-shaped lollies; and marching in uniform to the dawn Anzac Day service further up the road. Little did I know then that this building was anything but old and unremarkable.
It was not until I grew out of my brown school sandals and socks that the ‘old’ become ‘historic’ and the ‘unremarkable’, ‘something special’. So special that the National Trust purchased the property in 1973, making it one of 11 registered properties in Queensland along with the likes of Wolston House at Wacol and the Stock Exchange Arcade at Charters Towers. It was already 126 years old by this time. William Horton named his Inn after a prize Durham bull called Champion, whose head adorned the establishment’s logo. In its day, the Inn was known as a high-class establishment providing food, shelter, entertainment and company for the isolated communities on the Downs. In August 1860, the Darling Downs Gazette reported, “Mr Horton … appears determined to surpass even metropolitan competitors by making Bull’s Head the most commodious and best fitted-up hotel in the colony.” There was a coffee room, spacious bedrooms, private quarters for the family and a first for any hotel in the colony – a bathroom. Sadly, when Horton died, the Inn went broke and everything was sold at auction. In 1879, saddler Richard Lynch bought the property and transformed it into a family home named The Terrace. They added a kitchen, replaced the shingle roof with corrugated iron and inserted bay windows. A post office even operated from the end room between 1892 and 1952. The Lynch family lived at the Inn until the 1970s when the last of the family, Alan Lynch, died. It was then that the National Trust became custodians of the dilapidated property and set to work to create a museum.
Today, the Inn’s quaint dormer windows, narrow cedar staircase, pressed metal ceilings and some original rooms are testament to the hard work of countless volunteers who fought to save the building from decay and abandon.
You can join the friends of the Royal Bull’s Head Inn by contacting Stephanie Keays on 0432 939 350 or Like them on Facebook. To see the Inn for yourself head along to the community open day on the first Sunday of every month from 10am to 4pm. A visit will prove it is anything but the old and unremarkable building of my childhood.
Words by Heather Smith | Images by Fiona Stone