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Royal Bull's Head Inn

  • 600838
  • Brisbane Street, Drayton, Toowoomba


Also known as
Bull's Head Hotel; Royal Bulls Head Inn
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Retail, wholesale, services: Hotel/inn
3.8 Developing secondary and tertiary industries: Marketing, retailing and service industries
3.11 Developing secondary and tertiary industries: Lodging people
5.8 Moving goods, people and information: Postal services
Construction period
1859–1950, Royal Bull's Head Inn (1859 - 1950s)
Historical period
1840s–1860s Mid-19th century


Brisbane Street, Drayton, Toowoomba
Toowoomba Regional Council
-27.60093087, 151.91332229


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

The Royal Bull's Head Inn represents that early period of European settlement on the Darling Downs when Drayton was an important settlement located on a major trading route between the Downs and the coastal cities.

Criterion BThe place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage.

As a pre-Separation inn it is a rare building in Queensland and its construction methods provide evidence of early and uncommon building methods. There are also rare intact finishes upstairs.

Criterion CThe place has potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Queensland’s history.

As a pre-Separation inn it is a rare building in Queensland and its construction methods provide evidence of early and uncommon building methods. There are also rare intact finishes upstairs.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

The inn retains much of its grounds and the building, room layout and archaeology demonstrate its use as an inn complex.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The building in its setting has aesthetic qualities which are recognised by the community.


The Royal Bull's Head Inn, a two storey timber and brick building, was constructed in 1859 as a major extension to William Horton's well-known 1847 hotel at Drayton.

In the early 1840s, squatters first began to take up pastoral runs on the Darling Downs, thus initiating European settlement of the area. In 1842, Thomas Alford set up a store near the boundaries of Westbrook, Gowrie and Eton Vale runs and at the junction of two routes which led through Gorman's and Hodgson's gaps in the Range. The place was known to the Aborigines as chinkerry (water springs up) and to Europeans as 'The Springs'. In 1844 Alford gained a license to sell liquor and a cluster of buildings belonging to artisans and other businesses developed at 'The Springs' to serve the needs of pastoralists, bullock drivers and travellers.

In 1847, an inn of superior quality was built by William Horton at what was by then called 'Drayton'. Horton (sometimes referred to as Orton), was an ex-convict who had come to the Downs to work for Henry Stuart Russell of Cecil Plains, by whom he was highly regarded. Horton had run a hotel for George Thorn at Ipswich in the early 1840s and, with this experience, set out to make his new hotel a by-word for comfort and service on the Downs. He called it the 'Bull's Head' after 'Champion' a prize Durham bull on Cecil Plains station. The hotel soon became an important meeting place for squatters and also had a thriving bar trade. It offered lodging, a staging place for animals and was used for auctions, meetings and other social functions.

In 1848, Drayton was surveyed to allow builders to secure title to their property and Horton purchased lots 8 to 11 of Section 1, on which his inn was built, at the first land sale in 1850. Drayton continued to thrive as a service town, but faced persistent problems with its water supply which could not reliably keep pace with the number of people and animals who were using it. Wells were sunk, but did not cure the problem. Drayton's situation in a gully also made expansion something of a problem. In 1851 Horton purchased lots 15 and 16 on the hill behind his hotel, as a paddock, which were marked on the survey as unsuitable for building. At the same time, the area known as 'The Swamp', 6.5 kms away, which had been intended as suburban lots for Drayton, was developing quickly.

'The Swamp had a more reliable water supply than Drayton and soil well suited to farming. It was also closer to the new Toll Bar road over the Range which had a gradient better suited to dray traffic. By 1852 Horton was already arranging to build another hotel at 'The Swamp' and by 1855 was offering the 'Bull's Head' for sale with a three year lease in place. A rivalry between the two settlements had developed which would eventually result in Drayton's eclipse by Toowoomba, as 'The Swamp' was to be called.

In 1856 Horton sold his still unlicensed 'Seperation (sic) Hotel' at Toowoomba to Russell and James Taylor. He moved back to Drayton in 1858 and expanded the Bull's Head by a major extension constructed along Brisbane Street adjoining the original inn building. The new work was completed for the visit of Sir George Ferguson Bowen, Queensland's new governor, in March 1860 when he stayed at the inn following Drayton's public banquet there.

Improvements to the inn, now called the 'Royal' Bull's Head Hotel, continued with a installation of a billiard room with a first class Thurston table and new stables in 1861. In 1864, however, Horton died. He had been a genial and popular host and without his personal touch the hotel gradually faded along with Drayton during the 1860s. The hotel was leased to several different licensees over the next few years but none succeeded financially. In 1865, and again in 1867, the contents of the inn were sold by auction.

In 1875 Horton's estate was wound up and the older part of the inn and its outbuildings were sold for removal. At this time the inn complex consisted of the 1847 and 1859 inn buildings, a cottage, stables, butcher's shop, kitchen and billiard room. There was also a paddock for horses behind the hotel.

In 1879, the Royal Bull's Head finally ceased trading as a hotel and was purchased by Richard Lynch as a family home which he named 'The Terrace'. His family conducted a post office from part of the building between 1892 and 1952 and enclosed a section of the verandah as a bathroom and kitchen in the 1950s. When A.C. Lynch died in 1973 the former inn was purchased by the National Trust of Queensland. After extensive restoration and reconstruction it was opened to the public as a place museum based on its original usage as a wayside inn. Archaeological surveys have been carried out on the grounds and former kitchen, which may contain material from the 1847 building. Pathways, terracing and other early features have been revealed. Information gained from such surveys, including the cataloguing of quantities of bone fragments from food animals, are expected to expand understanding of the operation of such inn complexes from the early European settlement period.


The Royal Bull's Head Inn is situated on a slight rise addressing Brisbane Street. It is a two storey timber framed building with weatherboard and chamfer walls outside and brick nog dividing walls inside at ground floor level. There are ten rooms downstairs and five upstairs. The enclosed section of the verandah which contained the 1950s bathroom and kitchen is now used as a kitchen and tea room. The roof is clad by corrugated iron and pierced by four dormer windows which are a striking and well recognised feature of the of the building. The building is set on a 1970s concrete slab which replaced the original bed logs.

The early kitchen remains in a ruinous condition at the south west corner of the main inn building. A well, possibly from the hotel period, is close to the back wall of the inn.

Much of the original area of the grounds survives and contains garden and agricultural structures added by the Lynches and some early plantings. Parts of the stone pitched terracing from the hotel period remain. Picket and post and split-rail fences have been reconstructed. A new, free-standing toilet has been constructed in the paddock to one side of the inn.

The building contains Lynch family furniture and fittings. It has some original finishes such as wallpaper on calico scrim stretched between studs and joists upstairs. Most of the joinery is original and some is painted with decorative scenes. The pressed metal ceiling in the parlour survives.

Image gallery


Location of Royal Bull's Head Inn within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last reviewed
1 July 2022
Last updated
20 February 2022
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