Most troughs were installed in Australia; over 300 remain. Troughs were also installed in England, Ireland, North America, South Africa, Japan and Switzerland. Each trough cost £13 (just over $1000 today) to fabricate and install in the 1930s. From the 1880s to 1900s, George and his brother Henry ran successful businesses importing and selling birds, and manufacturing mattresses and sofas. George and Annis were keen supporters of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; George later becoming a Life Governor of the RSPCA. Annis and George built the first troughs in 1908. Annis died soon after, and George set up a trust to: ‘construct and erect and pay for horse troughs wherever they may be . . . desirable for the relief of horses and other dumb animals either in Australasia, in the British Islands or in any other part of the world’.
To honour his wife and country, each trough was to be labelled ‘Annis and George Bills Australia’. Following George’s death in 1927, the trust was administered by his sister Daisy Cook. Initially the troughs were individually designed and constructed. Then in the early 1930s Jack Phillips, a relative of the Bills, produced 250 precast concrete troughs to a standard design at his Hawthorn factory. Rocla pipes took over production in the late 1930s, which discontinued around 1945. The Bills’ Trust shifted its focus, helping to finance the RSPCA Tally Ho Animal Rest Home and the George Bills RSPCA Rescue Centre during the 1960s.