The Seahorse Inn & Ben Boyd
Construction of Boydtown began in 1843 when the newly arrived Scottish entrepreneur Benjamin Boyd proposed to base his Steamship Company at Twofold Bay. Boyd's paddle-steamers operated between Sydney, Twofold Bay and Hobart.
Boyd purchased a large section of land in the southern portion of the Twofold Bay where he established the townships of Boydtown, which at its peak had 200 inhabitants and East Boyd where he established a whaling station.
The first building erected in Boydtown was the "Seahorse Inn", named after one of Boyd's steam-boats. The foundations were constructed of sandstone imported from Sydney and the rest of the building from locally made bricks and hardwood and with cedar and oak fixtures imported from England. The hotel was built with convict labour and never fully finished. Boyd also built a row of houses, which he christened " Jerusalem," for the use of the workmen he employed.
Boydtown’s church was thereafter constructed and roofed but never furnished due to the subsequent bankruptcy of Boyd in 1848.
In 1883 a correspondent to the Australian Town and Country Journal reported..."In order to keep back as much as possibe the development of the then young town of Eden, he [Boyd] bought allotments there, upon which no one was allowed to build. In spite of these precautions, however, Boydtown, with the exception of the hotel, which is now used as the private residence of Mr. Flavelle, the present owner of the property, is to-day in ruins and a town of the past."
The Church lost its roof in 1926 in one of the many bushfires which have periodically devastated this area and which have also destroyed many other historic Boydtown buildings, but its crumbling walls still stand today on the hill behind the Seahorse Inn.
By 1936 due to neglect and vandalism the Seahorse Inn had been reduced a shell. It was in this year that it was purchased by a builder from Lakes Entrance, Mr R.B. Whiter who along with his two sons began the long task of restoring the inn and adding an extra storey.
Alan Whiter was sixteen when his father bought the Seahorse Inn and began its restoration with no electricity or running water. Alan and his brother Aurthur mixed three thousand bags of cement by hand. Work on the site was interupted by WWII when petrol rationing was introduced and the Whiter boys left Eden to serve in the military. After the war the family regrouped and restarted restoration of the inn, a task that was not finished until 1957.
Mr. Alan Whiter was interviewed as part of Eden Access Centre's Oral History Project. Below is an excerpt from this interview.
"What was there around the ruins of the Inn? Was there anything around it still of the old buildings?"
"There was a chimney standing on its own, about 50 yards to the east of the Seahorse Inn which is now gone and on the hill behind the remains of the old church, and wherever you went on the flat surrounding the Seahorse Inn was evidence of old buildings, all long gone and fallen down. It was from those buildings, which by now were laying on the ground in the bracken fern, we recovered all our bricks. All the raw materials were on site, so it was just a matter of putting it all together.
My dad had a connection in Melbourne with a lady called Mother Dally, that was her trade name, and she was a lady wrecker similar to 'Whelan the Wrecker' and from there he was able to get all his building material, like lead light windows and doors, all joinery with a period appropriate to that age, and they were all built in and most remain there to this day.
We finished the restoration in 1957...we decided to put it on the market. It was sold in 1957 and we then moved into Eden and
continued in the building trade and that's where we are today."
The building has changed hands a number of times since and lately underwent a 4 million dollar renovation which was completed in 2006 by the Lyon Group Australia which now run it as a picturesque, boutique hotel
Scotish born Benjamin Boyd was a controversial figure in Australian history. A wealthy London stockbroker he came to Australia in 1842 with grand plans.
In 1840 he had written to Lord John Russell about his plans for "further developing the resource of Australia and its adjacent Islands". To this purpose he set up the Royal Bank of Australia in London in 1839 with a nominal capital of a million pounds and two hundred thousand pounds raised from the sale of debentures. With this he set sail to Australia in his schooner the Wanderer. When the ‘Wanderer’ reached Sydney in July 1842 it followed four steamships crammed with food, wines, plates, furniture, office furniture and whaling and sealing equipment.
He soon became one of the largest landholders in Australia with more than 2,000,000 acres (810,000 hectares) in the Monaro and Port Phillip districts and along the Murray River, most of which was used to run sheep. He also had interests in whaling, shipping, export, banking and finance. He was elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly.
He instigated many grandiose schemes but his financial empire was plagued by shipping losses, the financial depression of the 1840s and labour disputes. To solve his labour problems he resorted to 'blackbirding' (importing islanders under virtual slave conditions) and later attempted to bring in indentured labour. Both measures met with stiff opposition from both humanitarians and workers in the colony, who feared for their own working conditions.
Financial mismanagement and the overly ambitious nature of his schemes led to him being declared bankrupt and in 1848 he departed Australia in the Wanderer to try to recoup his fortunes in the Californian goldfields where he again met with disappointment.
After his failure in the goldfields he set sail again, this time to cruise the Pacific. In 1851 he disappeared at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands when he went ashore to hunt ducks. Despite searches initiated by his creditors his body was never recovered.
By the time of his disappearance Boydtown had become a virtual ghost town, many of its residents having moved on to Eden.
Australian Dictionary of Biography; entry for Boyd, Benjamin (1801-1851) by G. P. Walsh
Wikipedia; entry for Benjamin Boyd
Dictionary of Sydney; entry for Boyd, Ben by Alison Vincent
Seahorse Inn Website - History of Boydtown and the Seahorse Inn
Southern Pencillings." Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907) 26 May 1883: p. 25
Eden Access Centre 'Oral History Project' with many thanks to Alan Whiter