embedded in the local consciousness, the area surrounding this hotel (Acland Street) became known as
the Village Belle precinct, even officially recognised as such by the local
Village Belle Hotel, 1912
It marked the depot for the first local trams – Gunn’s Railway Cars –
that ran there from the St Kilda Terminus on the
arrival of each train, and was a favourite among luminaries including the
literary Dyson brothers – writer and poet Edward (1865-1931), cartoonists and
artists Will (1880-1938) and Ambrose (1876-1913) as well as Australia’s most
celebrated printmaker Lionel Lindsay (1874-1961).
Its name is apparently ironic given that it was the
last stopping point before the ugly Elwood swamps, on the way to the Dendy
settlement at Brighton.In its early days, it was similarly burdened
by a less-than-savoury reputation.
South of the Village Belle was a bush racecourse,
where boxers and spectators held fights, and apparently the hotel was used by
these men as a meeting place to plan their covert activities. The premises were
originally deemed so unsuitable that Henry Peel’s application for a public
license in 1854 was rejected, although, less than a year later, on April 15 1855, a license was granted to
Edward Stead. Architect John Vardy designed a new verandah in 1876. The present brick hotel, built in a
restrained conservative style, dates back to 1891.As the parapet proudly attests, architect
William Pitt (1855-1915) was responsible for the design.
the 1920s, SP bookies, including Wally Myer, who were
refused entrance into the hotel, began operating in the Peanut Farm behind
Acland Street, with radios on the ground and speakers in
the trees. Regulars included local criminals Squizzy
Taylor and Bradshaw.
Like the Wimpoles of the
generations of men named Barlow Telford, (the latter with his sister Sarah),
have consecutively managed the hotel since 1945.The Telford family took over
the lease from a Mrs. Meredith.They
bought half of the twelve shares of the hotel from the Mahoney family in 1957,
and bought the remainder a decade later. Barlow Telford 1st was president of
the Hotel Association in the sixties and was instrumental in effecting
developments in licensing laws, including the closing time change from to
Since 1998, more than a million dollars has been
spent on renovations to the Village Belle.