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From 7th Hussars to Vasse Hotel

William Leaf was a sergeant in the Queen's 7th Hussars, but he died in Busselton, Western Australia and is now buried in the pioneer cemetery. He was born in England around 1820.


William Leaf's grave in the Busselton pioneer cemetery. Photo Samantha Elley.


William spent some time in the forces, serving Queen and country but by 1869 he received a pension and had already moved to Western Australia, where he met and married Ann Forrest in 1864.


Just before the couple got married, Ann's father, Gaven Forrest, who had built and owned the Vasse Hotel in Busselton, just south of Perth, had died. So William took over the running of the business. Sadly, their first child was still-born in 1865, but they went on to have Rosena Mary Marion (b. 1867) and George William (b. 1872).


The hotel was a bustling concern with William employing 17 men, including five cooks from 1864 to 1874. It was so named to reflect the area of Busselton which was called The Vasse, when first settled. There were often balls and parties held to coincide with race days, agricultural shows and visiting holiday makers.


William advertised the best of wines, spirits, ales and porter obtainable for his customers. Visitors could be accommodated with refreshments of the best quality. The beds were well aired and there was good stabling for horses with hay and corn.


There were darker moments too, such as the stabbing of a man by the name of Walter Sunter, by a 'ticket-of-leave' man in a brawl at the hotel in 1868. The stabber was brought in front of the magistrate and his sentence extended by three years for his violence.


The hotel had one large and two small parlours, five good bedrooms and a ballroom, where the balls were held, 40 foot by 20 foot in size. There was a bar, tap room, cellars and store rooms with stabling for 10 horses.


The 11 months before he died William put the Vasse Hotel up for sale. His health had declined and he wished to retire from the hotel business. Mr Mewitt took over the business and William died in 1874.


References

  • 'Leaf, William', Bicentennial Dictionary, Friends of Battye Library Inc., accessed 20th March, 2024, https://www.friendsofbattyelibrary.org.au/bicentennial-dictionary

  • 'Wm Leaf', UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Admission Books, Registers and Papers, 1702-1980, Ancestry.com.au, accessed 21st March, 2024

  • 'For Sale', The Herald, Saturday 7 February 1874, Page 1

  • 'Vasse', The Herald, Saturday 17th October, 1868, Page 2

  • 'Vasse Hotel', The West Australian Times, Thursday 4 February 1864, Page 2

  • 'To Be Let', The Inquirer and Commercial News, Wednesday 2 September 1863, Page 2

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