Across Australia, in large towns and small, occasionally there are old horse troughs in parks or along the roadside. They were installed to provide drinking water for horses as they carried people and goods all across the country before motor vehicles dominated the landscape.

Some of the troughs were erected between 1930-1940 by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Troughs Association. A significant bequest left by George and Annis Bills assisted with the proliferation of the troughs. Although rarely used these days, they are regarded as socially significant as they demonstrate early philanthropy and animal protection in Australia in the early twentieth century.

George and Annis Bills were English migrants who met in Queensland. George’s business ventures included a very successful mattress manufacturing business. Annis Bills died in 1910, and George died in 1927. After personal bequests, the income from his estate was to be used to provide troughs for horses, and to prevent cruelty and reduce the suffering of animals in any country. The large bequest was in part administered through the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).

There are at least three stone drinking troughs for horses still in situ through the mountains at Warrimoo, Wentworth Falls and Medlow Bath that were installed as part of the Bills bequest.

The troughs at Wentworth Falls and Medlow Bath have a side trough for smaller animals. Some also had a tap for the boss. The majority of the 700-odd troughs were erected in Victoria, and there were about fifty installed overseas including some in the UK and Dublin.

Although the troughs were initially individually designed and constructed, by the early 1930s a standard design was used featuring pre-cast concrete and a curved pediment with the inscription ‘Donated by Annis and George Bills Australia’.

Check this link out to read more of the history and see some great photos including ducks taking a drink in one of the troughs at St Arnaud, Victoria.

What a wonderful legacy to benefit untold numbers of horses, dogs, humans and any other creatures with a thirst who came across them.

[Photo: George and Annis Bills trough located in Railway Parade, Medlow Bath]