The Salisbury Hotel

The Salisbury Hotel

Salisbury Hotel circa 1882
   Opening originally as the New Road Inn, the Salisbury Hotel was built by John Harvey the founder of Salisbury Township. It was the first hotel in the township and was situated on the only road that led to a bridge over the Para River. Harvey had designed his new town, and a new road to lead people away from the Main North Road, back through Salisbury.
 This hotel was used for meetings that decided much of Salisbury’s future. Local laws and legislation were decided here, local council formation, the location of Mills, Post Offices and even how the train line would pass through the township were all decided in this hotel.

 Usually, I write about spooky stuff, ghosts, hauntings, etc, but in this case, I couldn’t find any local legends or ghost stories associated with this hotel. I spoke to the current publican of the hotel very recently, and she assures me this hotel Is not haunted, however, it has some interesting history, including the story of an inquest into the suicide death of Scottish immigrant James Carstairs.

Salisbury Hotel 2019 – Allen Tiller
   On the 14th of Oct 1854, James Carstairs, known locally as ‘Scotch James’, hung himself a bedroom of the Birchall family home. Evidence at trial indicated that Carstairs had been overseeing the kitchen of the Birchall farm. During that time, he had gotten Fanny, the 16-year daughter of Mr Birchall pregnant. When Fanny’s father heard of her condition, he left the vowing never to return. This, it is claimed led to Carstairs suicide.

 On the day in questions. Carstairs woke at 6am went into the kitchen, lit the fire and set the kettle on the stove. He then left and went back to his room.
 At 7am, Elizabeth Birchall (Fanny’s sister) and another staff member, Elizabeth Symes awoke. For whatever reason, the girls peered through Carstairs window and could see him standing motionless behind the door. The two women called out to him, but he did not react or reply. They called over My Symes and Mr Munday who went to check on Carstairs. They found he had hung himself with a very thick rope.

Salisbury Hotel circa 1890

Fanny Evett, during the inquest, claimed she had only ever had consensual sex with Carstairs, however, she had been raped in her fathers front garden, but stated in court, she was already pregnant at the time. She was unmarried, and had never told Carstairs the child was his, nor pressured him for marriage.

 Carstairs body was cut down by Mr Webb and placed on a couch until a doctor arrived to examine it. Carstairs body was then moved to the New Road Inn for an inquest. No Judge could be found in the area to preside over the inquest.
  It took two full days for a mounted constable to search for someone to hold the inquest. Otto Schomburgk J.P. eventually presided over the inquest, but, in the meantime, Carstairs body had come to decompose.

 The inquest into the suicide of Scotch James was the first held in the New Road Inn. Later the same year, 1854, the hotel changed its name to the Salisbury Hotel.

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019

 ‘CORONER’S INQUEST AT SALISBURY.’, Adelaide Observer, (28 October 1854), p. 11.

‘CORONER’S INQUEST AT SALISBURY. —SUICIDE.’, Adelaide Times. (26 October 1854), p. 3.

Shields, Brian P 1983, History of Salisbury, Salisbury Public Library Service, Salisbury

‘SOMETHING DISGRACEFUL.’, Adelaide Times, (18 October 1854), p. 2

 ‘CORONER’S INQUEST AT SALISBURY.’, South Australian Register, (26 October 1854), p. 3.

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