The George Bills Story


           Horse troughs with a history.                   April 2016

Have you ever wondered about those concrete horse troughs, still seen in many parts of NSW and Victoria, they all have a  Terrazzo inscription  on them “

” Donated by Annis and George Bills Australia

I first became interested in these troughs in 1983 when a Tidy Town campaign was being run, While cleaning up in my town of Stanhope near the old Bills trough which is still located beside where the old entrance to the railway station once was.  It reminded me of the trough which was near the Newport Railway station and as a 13 year old I sold the Herald newspapers..This was when horses pulling carts were a common sight on the roads.

.  I can still remember the many  trades men with their horse and carts stopping at the trough to give their horses a drink, they were out  delivering goods in the Newport area  such as Ice, Bread ,Milk, Wood and briquettes, vegetables, and even  the old Bottllo ,who wanted to buy old used bottles to be recycled, also people who were still using a horse and gig for transport. On a hot day these cart horses would drink up to 60 litres plus of water a day.

Well very few of these troughs are now in use, most 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 roadwork’s, and danger to traffic and redundancy. Quite a lot  have been saved and are now in private ownership and being well care for.


But who were Annis and George Bills?

The story begins in1859 when George Bills was born in Brighton England. He came to Australia as a young man, and he and his brothers established a wire mattress manufacturing business in Kent St Sydney, which operated successfully over many years.

During his lifetime, George 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 in December 1927 and his wife Annis had pre deceased him she passed  away in England when they were over there on holidays  in the early 1920,s.

After providing some personal bequests, George in his will directed the income from the residue of his estate was to be used to provide troughs for horses, and and other animals for the purpose of preventing cruelty, and alleviating the sufferings of animals in any country.

I believe. more than 500 troughs were made and 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 the Rolca Concrete Company supplied many hundreds of the troughs in Victoria and New South Wales. Troughs were supplied free of charge when an application was made to the Bills Trust by Councils, and other originations,  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 mid 1930s in Victoria.

The cumbersome steel and concrete moulds were later removed 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 objectives of the Bills trust, however, have been subsequently met in other ways.

One big project made possible by the Bills Trust years ago, was the establishment, in Co-operation with the RSPCA the George Bills RSPCA Rescue Centre,  in 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 still proving of great benefit in the treatment of injured and stray animals..I admire the generosity and foresight George Bills had when he set up the Bills Trust remembering it all occurred during the years of the  great depression in the 1930ies.

The information in this leaflet is from many items I have been collecting over many years I do not know who wrote them but they all tell much the same story.

I also have been given a copy of George Bills will.

I have a collection of photos of Bills troughs from over 320 locations, of where these Troughs were once located and many can still be seen as you travel.

I would greatly appreciate it if any one who sights any of these troughs, if they would please take the time to forward me a digital photo to this email address


I do hope whoever reads this leaflet enjoys the read and it enlightens them on the wonderful acts George and Annis Bills did for animals so many years ago.

I would be happy to answer any question you might have, it has been my pleasure to compile this leaflet and your comments will be most welcome just send them to my  email address. or visit my web site at

billshorsetroughs wordpress

Researched  and written by George Gemmill 25 Brudenell St Stanhope 3623.

Phone 0358572352

Email or


Disclaimer: This information is not to be deemed to be legal advice

It is supplied in good faith and is believed to be correct.

However, no liability whatsoever is accepted from the use or reliance of this, or other information available.

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