Horses benefit from Bills’ generosity
At the back of the Milton Showground on Croobyar Road is a simple horse trough with the inscription ‘Donated by Annis & George Bills, Australia‘. It is one of an estimated 7,000 troughs around Australia that were financed from the Estate of George Bills, who died in1927.
There were even some erected in England where the funds were administered by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain & Cattle Trough Association.
Born in the English town of Brighton, George Bills, with his parents Richard Elizabeth and brothers migrated to New Zealand in 1869.
A keen ornithologist, Richard imported birds from England for Acclimatization Societies in New Zealand whose aim was to make the colonies look as much as possible like home.
The family moved on to Australia in 1873, to Brisbane, where George married the English-born Annis Swan. George manufactured the Lethe brand of mattresses, doing well from the venture.
The couple did not have any children, but they worked enthusiastically for causes related to animal welfare. Sadly, Annis died whilst on a visit to England in 1910.
George is said to have been instrumental in establishing the RSPCA & became a Life Governor of that organization in 1924.
Prior to his death he established a trust so that his £80,000 estate could be used for the benefit of animals.
Over the years he had observed horses hauling heavy loads over long distances in hot weather, with neither shade nor water. This thinking led to the construction of the cast concrete water troughs that were constructed over all over the countryside in the next decade.
There was not one common design, as some larger models were designed to cater for draught horses & camels and others, like the one at Milton, had a special section at one end from which dogs could drink. Other Bills horse troughs in the Shoalhaven district can be found in Bomaderry, Illaroo Road and Nowra Showground.