We are upholding a long tradition of hospitality on this site. Before the present buildings, which were constructed in the 1970s, a previous building (photo above left) operated as a guest house and racing stables. Prior to that, the original business was established when guests really did arrive by the horse and carriage that is our trademark today
The earliest hotel that we know of on the site burnt down in 1918, and was replaced by the white building shown above left. This was operated as a guest house by the Pankhurst family who then built 28 loose boxes – the stables after which our own Stables Restaurant & Bar is named.
The guest house became a regular stopping over place for horsemen. Owners, trainers, jockeys and race goers from all over New Zealand stayed, and stabled their horses. At times, up to 70 people were accommodated, and Mrs Pankhurst is quoted as saying that “On more than one occasion, they had to sleep on mattresses in the dining room – anywhere to get a bit of sleep”. A loose box could be rented for just 2/6 (two shillings & sixpence) a week.
The list of high-profile horse racing names in the guest book was seemingly endless, including FD Jones, Fred Shaw, Frank Trilford and Peter Gallagher. Meanwhile, Pankhurst’s Invercargill stables produced a steady stream of winner. Struan, Royal Bid, Capasco, Cheerio, Bellbridge and Riverstone are rated as the best horses he trained.
A newspaper article that probably dates back to the 1960s rightly says that the building was steeped in racing history. The same article states that the Pankhursts were looking for land to relocate, as the building and loose boxes were shortly to be replaced by a motel – the same Coachman Inn that trades here today.
There was a period in the 1980s when the in-house 'Top Hat' restaurant was THE Invercargill hot spot – definitely the place to be seen dining and dancing! These days we are a little more sedate, but together with our awesome staff, we are working towards putting The Coachmans at the forefront - offering exceptional service and a range of affordable accommodation options.
Horse racing historians may be interested in visiting our Racing History page where we have posted the full newspaper article referred to above, as well as photos of the Pankhurst family working in the original stables. Meanwhile, we remain the closest independent motel, restaurant and bar to the Ascot Park Racecourse. If you are coming to the races, check out our bookings and specials, and know that you’re part of a living tradition of racing history in Invercargill!
We would love to know even more about the history here – if you have information and stories about times past, please contact us – we would love to hear from you!