But who were Annis and George Bills?
Have you ever wondered about those concrete horse troughs, which still can be seen seen in parts of NSW and Victoria. All these troughs bear a inscribed terrazzo name plate which simply states “Donated by Annis and George Bills Australia ”
With the advent of the motor vehicle the usefulness of the troughs waned, now very few are now in use except for ones found in Museums, or at pony clubs and showgrounds.
Most troughs are usually empty and showing signs of age, or have been converted into flower boxes. Many of them have been removed from their original sites because of road works, and danger to traffic and redundancy. Many have been place in museums where they can be seen today.
I have received photos of Bills troughs from places as far away as London Ireland and Northcliffe in Western Australia.
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The story begins in 1859 when George Bills was born in Brighton England. He came to Australia as a young man, and he and his brother established a wire mattress manufacturing business in Kent St Sydney, which operated successfully over many years.
During his lifetime, he took a keen interest in seeking out cases of human need and gave many thousands of pounds anonymously to assist the needy folk.
George Bills died 14 Dec 1927 and his wife, Annis died on the 20 Jun 1910. After providing some personal bequests, his will directed the income from the residue of his estate to be used to provide troughs for horses, and for the purpose of preventing cruelty, and alleviating the sufferings of animals in any country.
More then 500 troughs were erected in Australia mostly in New South Wales and Victoria, and some in overseas countries—England, Ireland, Switzerland [for donkeys] and Japan.
In the early stages of trough supply, each was individually designed and constructed. One of the firsts was a granite Memorial trough, hewn in one piece as a memorial to Mr Bills. It was situated in Barton St Hawthorn, Melbourne; the trough has long since been removed.
Later a standard design was adopted, and Rolca concrete products supplied many hundreds of the troughs in Victoria and New South Wales. Troughs were supplied on application to the Bills Trust by Councils, and truckloads of 10 would often leave the Rocla Factory for installation by a team of men in country towns.
Most of the troughs were made and supplied in the 1930’s in Victoria.
The cumbersome steel and concrete moulds were later moved to a Rocla factory at Junee. NSW. Where about 20 troughs were made in 1938. The moulds were transferred to Sydney where about 200 troughs were made and supplied to various areas. But the growing use of the motor car and trucks caused a halt in demand for the troughs and none have been installed since World War 11.
The Bills Trust
The objectives of the Bills trust, however, have been subsequently met in other ways. Today thousands of horses, cattle. Dogs, cats, and other pets are benefiting from the generosity of a simple, unassuming but intensely human married couple who died almost eighty years ago.
One big project made possible by the Bills Trust was the establishment, in Co-operation with the RSPCA of the big Rest Home at Tally Ho Victoria which caters for dogs, cats, and other pets.
Another, the George Bills RSPCA Rescue Centre, Burwood a suburb of Melbourne, was opened by His Excellency the Governor of Victoria, Sir Rohan Delacombe, on June 23. 1964 the cost was paid by the estate, and it is proving of great benefit in the treatment of injured strays.