Publican John Kerr has a passion for history that his long ownership of the Commercial Hotel in Roxburgh has given him the ideal opportunity to indulge.

He and his wife, Patricia, have owned the hotel for more than two decades, during which Mr Kerr has amassed a wide-ranging collection of documents, images, books and knowledge about the history of the property and its original owners.

The couple have the hotel on the market but Mr Kerr said they were taking their time and in no hurry to sell.

“It should take time,” he said, “it’s not like a house.

“We’re just waiting for the right person.”

The original Commercial Hotel was a one-storey wooden building on Hawick St, the side street of the current hotel’s corner site.

Named the Teviot Junction Hotel when it was established in 1863, the hotel was bought by John Beighton in 1865, and reopened as the Commercial Hotel the following year.

Mr Beighton, who became the first mayor of Roxburgh in 1874, sold the hotel to Henry and Harriet Heron in 1875.

Mr Heron died in 1896. His widow ran the hotel on her own, having already proven her mettle to the locals and miners that frequented the area, when she spent three years as the only woman living in the Fourteen Mile gold miners camp in Roxburgh Gorge.

In 1901, she also bought a general store, drapery and dwelling in Hawick St that had belonged to former Mayor Beighton, who died in 1879, and had a two-storey hotel built adjacent on the corner site.

The bones of the early hotel remain, including the original Kauri staircase, although the building is currently used as a backpackers.

Original fittings . . . Mr Kerr on the historic hotel’s original Kauri staircase. PHOTO: TRACIE BARRETT

In connection with the hotel was a livery stable with stalls for 16 horses, a building that still stands on the current hotel property.

Mrs Heron retained control of the hotel until 1913, in her 70s, “the same as the guy talking to you now”, Mr Kerr said.

“She did a great job,” he said, “even in the dingy days when it was dusty dirty roads with horse dung.”

Mrs Heron died on October 28, 1933, at the age of 97.

An obituary for the “grand old lady of Roxburgh” in the Otago Daily Times on October 31 said she had wished to spend the evening of her days in the little town she saw grow from a very small beginning that was fulfilled”.

Mr Kerr and his wife are selling for the same reason Mrs Heron eventually let go of the reins of the hotel she built, a desire to retire and let someone else have their time with the historic building.

He hopes when that “right person” comes along, they will appreciate the long and colourful past of the property and its former owners and do the hotel justice.