The Courthouse

Courthouse history

Macarthur Courthouse
31 High Street
Macarthur, Victoria

This building opened in March 1892, however Magistrates were operating as far back as 1869. 

Among the cases heard on opening day were six debt claims  - businesspeople against their customers. Over the coming months were some of the following: 

  • George Betts struck the librarian of the Mechanics Institute, William Clarke, while drunk. Fined 2/6. Defendant then charged by police for being drunk in a public place. Fined 10/-.
  • W. Macpherson, vermin inspector for Minhamite Shire, versus William Green for failing to destroy rabbits after receiving due notice. £2 fine and a claim for payment for men employed on defendants land £3-11-6 costs. 
  • Margaret Larkin versus Patrick Larkin for desertion. Long report before case was dismissed. 
  • Thomas Kelly and Donald Nicholson both claimed a cow in possession of Angus Nicholson. Case dismissed. 
  • Mrs. Maddigan versus Mr Patrick Fahey for illegally detaining property belonging to her, being eight chairs, eight pictures and two ornaments (one being a flycatcher). He had purchased them from Mrs. Maddigan's husband when he was on a 'drinking bout', without Mrs. Maddigan's approval. Mr. Fahey was ordered to return the property, with 5s costs.

The Court of Petty Sessions continued until 1977. Girl guides used the building for their meetings for a time. The Clerks room was used by the Lands Department and later an Insurance Agency. In 1982 Court again resumed. By 1986 the building was closed and tenants sought. 

The Macarthur & District Historical Society formed in March 1987 and have renovated and occupied the building since that time.

Macarthur Police Lockup

Since 1867

The Macarthur Police Station was commissioned on 28th May 1867, and we assume 2 lock-ups were constructed at the same time.

Original location

Originally located in Market Street, the lock-ups have had many and varied uses but were initially used to hold people overnight for such offences as 'drunk and disorderly'.

Assembly on site

These buildings, weighing approximately 3 tonnes each, were imported from England and were flat packed, and assembled on site. All boards on the inside are stamped with a number to assist in assembly, and can still be seen today. The wall boards are 75mm thick; smooth on the inside and shaped like weather boards on the outside.

No escaping!

Between every second board there is a strip of flat steel. The bolts go through the base of the building from front to back, likewise for the ceiling, and the wall bolts go from top to bottom; so no-one was ever going to escape!


There was no furniture, only a 'dunny can' and two grey blankets. On one occasion, Mr. Charlie Bourke was arrested for being drunk and fighting, and as there was no pillow supplied, Mr Bourke took his sheepdog to use as a pillow!

Later uses...

The last official record in 1956 was of a local woman being locked up for being drunk and disorderly, although it is believed a few more may have seen the inside of the walls after that! Later in the life of the lock up it was used for storing horse food, chook food and last of all, as a woodshed.


One lock-up was demolished but the other has been restored. The marks on the walls and floor are from an axe chopping wood, not someone trying to escape! In 2009 the Lock-up was re-located to this site and restored by the Macarthur Historical Society.

Bills Trough

Annis Billls (1859-1910)

George Bills (1859-1927)

Kindness to animals

The Bills Horse Trough was instigated by George and Annis Bills, who had a great love of animals and concern for their welfare. They bequeathed money to build drinking troughs for horses in the early 1930s.

The water troughs were essential for the 'relief of horses' as many goods were delivered by horse and cart. 

The earliest troughs were individually designed and constructed in Hawthorn, later being mass produced. There were more than 500 troughs made, mostly supplying Victoria and NSW, however some were also installed in England, Ireland, North America, South Africa, Japan, USA, Canada, Rumania and Switzerland.  

Macarthur's Bills Trough

Few of the troughs still exist with many being repurposed, destroyed or broken over the years. 

Macarthur is fortunate to have one of the remaining troughs in existence.

In their day, men's barber shops (like ladies hairdressers) were places for both grooming and social interaction. They played their role in shaping society as much as shaping incredible up-dos. Our barber shop is certainly a step back to those days!  

From the comfy barber's chair, to the strange array of oils and creams, cut throat razors, bottles of potions and pills as well as the astonishing smoking related items - our barber shop gives a glimpse of life in mid-century society - and of how times move forward.

Barber Shop