Pubs, Hotels and Taverns
From 1855 until 1922, buying alcohol on Sundays from licensed premises in Perth was illegal, unless you were a bona fide traveller or lodger. In 1922, a licensing amendment allowed hotels that were 20 miles or more from the Perth Town Hall, as the crow flies, to sell alcohol for a few hours on Sundays. Some of these premises were located in the Shire of Mundaring.
The Oxford Inn, the Lion Mill Hotel, and the Sawyer's Valley Hotel - all in the Shire of Mundaring - became attractive destinations for a Sunday afternoon outing, especially with WA's growing car culture. These hotels advertised their special status, such as "Good Health in the Hills, plus good cheers and home comforts at the Mt Helena Hotel. Septic system, hot and cold baths, excellent cuisine. Outside the 20 mile radius from Perth applied by the Liquor Act."
By the 1950s, these locations were described as holding "Sunday Sessions", with many Perth locals travelling to the fringes of the Metropolitan area to enjoy a drink.
In 1962 the Licensing Act was again amended. The restrictive nature of Sunday trading, it was argued by some politicians, disadvantaged three local hotels that were just inside the 20-mile radius; the Mundaring Hotel, the Parkerville Hotel, and the Mundaring Weir Hotel. Changes meant that venues that were 20 miles or more by road from the Perth Town Hall could now open on Sundays. Emphasis was also placed on the tourism benefits of this change. This guide to the Shire of Mundaring's hotels and taverns provides a history of the development of the Sunday Session, as well as stories about each location.
The origins of the popular Perth Pub "Sunday Sessions"
25 miles 'as the crow flies' 29 miles by road
The first hotel at Chidlow's Well, the Oxford Inn, was built in the early 1880s from handhewn timber for John Symonds. Symonds had previously been the licensee at the Mahogany Inn. Symonds' move to Chidlow's Well, as Chidlow was then known, was to take advantage of the newly completed Eastern Railway that terminated there. In the late 19th century Chidlow's Well was thriving, with carts and wagons bringing in farm produce and sandalwood, and railway and timber workers living in the town. The Oxford Inn stayed open 24 hours a day. In March 1908, the inn and stables burnt down, and the current hotel was rebuilt as an eight bedroom brick building on nearby Thomas Street. The closure of the railway in 1966 and the rerouting of Great Eastern Highway affected the propsperity of Chidlow. The inn was renamed the Chidlow Tavern in 1984. It was one of the first public houses to benefit in 1922 from the new 20 mile limit.
Mt Helena Tavern
21 miles 'as the crow flies' 25 miles by road
Mount Helena has undergone a few name changes since a sawmill was first located there in 1882. Initially known as White's Mill, the mill was then taken over by Lion Timber and in 1899 a townsite known as Lion Mill was gazetted. Lion Mill was renamed Mount Helena in 1924 following a competition asking for suggestions from schoolchildren. Lion Mill Hotel first opened in 1902. The weatherboard building featured verandahs and French casement windows. A brick addition was made to the hotel in the 1920s; what is now the public bar and lounge. Today, asbestos cement sheeting covers most of the exterior of the hotel. In its early days the hotel was an important community hub, with meetings taking place there. Cricket matches, log chopping competitions, and whippet races were held nearby. Located 21 miles from the Perth Town Hall, the Lion Mill Hotel was able to offer drinks to patrons on Sundays from 1922.
Image: Lion Mill Hotel in 1924. A cricket match is taking place on the adjacent field.
Sawyers Valley Tavern
21 miles 'as the crow flies' 25 miles by road
Sawyers Valley began as a pit sawyer's settlement in the 1860s, and the first European inhabitants were primarily former convicts and 'ticket-of-leave' men working in sawpits. In the 188s a sawmill was established to take advantage of the settlement's location on a vital transport route: York Road and the Eastern Railway. A town site was finally gazetted in Sawyers Valley in 1898. The first hotel on this site was established in the early 1880s by ex convict Lot Leather. Initially a store, Leather applied for a wine and beer licence, which he obtained in May 1882. In the 1930s the current hotel was designed using an Art Deco Style. On opending in 1937 the new hotel was prased as representing the alatest in 'country hotel design', with high maintenance woodwork and verandah posts 'banished' in favour of a concrete canopy and steel girders. The exterior of the Sayers Valley Tavern is little changed from when it was built in 1937. From 1922 the Sawyers Valley Hotel, as it was then known, became a popular destination for a Sunday drive to the Hills. By the 1950s politicians were noting the parking problems on Great Eastern Highway as a consequence of the 'Sunday Sessions' held there. This was cited as an important reason for allowing other local hotels to trade on Sundays.
Image: Sawyers Valley Hotel 1920s. MHHS Collection.
Mundaring Weir Hotel
18 miles 'as the crow flies' 25 miles by road
In 1898 a hotel was built by the Jacoby brothers near the construction site for the Mundaring Weir. This was one way of dealing with the sly grog shops that had appeared in the area. Initially a single storey building called the Reservoir Hotel, in 1906 Fred Jacoby added a two storey extension to the front of the Hotel renaming it the Goldfields Weir Hotel. It soon became of the State's most popular tourist hotels. In the 1920s and 1930s, visitors travelled to the Weir by train and car for a Sunday excursion, and High Tea at the hotel. This was a very prosperous time for the hotel. By the 1950s Perth locals were travelling further afield for their holidays and the hotel was struggling to survive. Changes to the licensing legislation in 1962 was positive for the venue, with the 'Sunday Session' integral to the hotel's later success.
18 miles 'as the crow flies' 22 miles by road
The Mundaring Hotel was built in 1899 by H.A Hummerston. The two storey brick building, near the newly built Mundaring Railway Station, became a popular weekend retreat in the early 20th century as more people visited the HIlls to enjoy the bush and the healthy lifestyle. Lying just within the 20 mile limit, as the crow flies, arguments were presented in Parliament from the 1950s onwards that Mundaring Hotel should be allowed to trade on Sundays. Emphasis was placed on the distance by road, being over 20 miles, and the economic disadvantage faced by the hotel when other premises close by could trade. In 1962 the hotel was allowed to open for 'Sunday Sessions'.
Image: Mundaring Hotel c1905.
The Mahogany Inn
17 miles 'as the crow flies' 20 miles by road
Mahogany Inn is the oldest hotel on what was York Road, now Great Eastern Highway. The Inn started life as a military barracks, protecting travellers. In 1843 the building operated as a wayside house, able to sell alcohol. The next year, Edward Byfield was granted a Publican's Licence and named the Inn "The Prince of Wales". In the 1850s Byfield built the older sections of the Inn we see today. After his death in 1863, the Inn had a number of licensees until in 1884 it was sold to Stephen Parker and used as a private residence. It was only in 1991 that the Inn was again serving alcohol. Today, the 'Inn Mahogany Creek' also provides food and accommodation. One of the best known incidents at the Inn is, unfortunately, untrue. According to legend the famous bushranger Moondyne Joe escaped from the police by sliding down the roof of the Inn onto a policeman's horse and galloping away. However, no evidence exists to support this tale, which was first published 29 years after Moondyne's death in 1900. As the Inn did not operate as a licensed premises from 1884 to 1991, the history of the 'Sunday Session' is not applicable.
Image: Mahogany Inn 1902.
17 miles 'as the crow flies' 20 miles by road
Alice Ottey, a widow and a victim of domestic violence, was granted Parkerville's first liquor license in 1902. This was after her husband, Joseph, was killed by their daughter in 1900 during a domestic dispute. Alice turned her wood and iron home in the the Railway Hotel in order to support her family. Originally licensed to sell wine, beer, and fermented liquor, by 1906 the hotel had a General Publican's license and also offered accommodation. At this time it was renamed the Parkerville Hotel, although it was often still referred to as the Railway Hotel. In 1921 the hotel was de-licensed. Following a petition from residents testifying to the important community function served by the hotel, the licence was restored in 1927. The following year, the single storey hotel was rebuilt at a cost of £7,000 (c. $540,000) to become the two storey brick building it is today. From 1962 the Parkerville Tavern, as it became known in 1978, was legally able to sell alcohol on Sundays.
John Forrest Tavern
15 miles 'as the crow flies' 19 miles by road
The John Forrest Tavern opened in 1978, after the 1970 Act allowed all hotels to open on Sundays. It was a popular weekend stop for weekend picnickers to John Forrest National Park, until its controversial closure on 31 May, 2022 as part of the planned redevelopments by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.