Tasmania’s Central Hotel: One of the first 15 pubs licensed in Hobart

Central Hotel, Hobart, Tasmania. Picture: Central Hotel Facebook Page
The Ship Inn, Hobart  (Photo: www.thegomc.com)
The Ship Inn, Hobart. Picture: thegomc.com


LOCATED close to Elizabeth Street Mall, the former Ship Hotel, established in 1818, now trades as the Central Hotel, and is popular with the after-work set.

Originally opened as the ‘New Inn’, the pub was first licensed by Thomas L. Richardson on October 3 1818, and was one of the first 15 public houses to be licensed in Hobart.

A private residence, known as Verandah House, was first built on the site in about 1817. The house was converted to a hotel the following year and a ‘tap’ or bar was opened down a lane at the back.

From at least 1821 the hotel become known as The Ship, and coaches ran from the inn to the ‘Star and Garter Hotel’ at New Norfolk, as well as the 14 hour journey to Launceston. As early as 1829, The Ship was noted for its dinners held by the Agricultural Society and other bodies.

The old Ship Inn was pulled down in 1883, when the new Bank of Van Diemen’s Land was built.

Over the years the hotel has seen many face lifts and a few name changes, with the most major being in 1999 when the “Ship Hotel” was completely renovated and updated into a modern café and bar.

In July 2006, the pub became known as the Central Bar & Café, evolving once again with the entire top floor gutted and redeveloped into 11 accommodation rooms.

Today (2021) the pub, at 73 Collins Street, trades as the Central Hotel.

The Ship Inn, Hobart 1860s
The Ship Inn, Hobart 1860s. Picture: Supplied

The Launceston Examiner, Monday, May 8, 1882


(from our own Correspondent)

1828 Advertisement for the Ship Inn. Picture: Supplied

THE Ship Hotel is shortly to become a thing of the past, and a stately bank, the new premises of the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land Company Ltd, is to take its place.

Mr J. C. Hadley, the last of the long line of proprietors who have commanded the old ship, has taken possession of Webb’s Hotel, now to be known as Hadley’s Hotel, which he has had renovated and re-decorated in such style as to hold the premier position among the hotels of the city.

Last week the auctioneers entered the Ship, and a crowd of brokers, buyers, and curious people held possession for a day whilst the furniture and fittings were disposed of, and to-day the spoilers have set to work to dismantle it.

In a few week’s time the house our grandfathers cracked jokes, talked politics or business, and drank their grog in, will be a confused heap of bricks and broken timber; and the old inhabitants will look at the vacant allotment and think of the innumerable associations connected with it, while the work en are busy carting away the bricks- those good old bricks of sixty years ago- and carving out the stone for the new bank.

A much-patched and mongrel-looking building was this Ship, but withal there was always an air of respectability and comfort about it and for many years it has held a chief place among the houses of the city. It is a sort of place the future novelist of Tasmania could make one of the chief scenes of his story, and two of three hours spent with an old identity with a good memory would give other materials full of point and interest.

Life had many romances and queer incidents in the days when the Ship was young, and many is the story told of So-and-so and So-and-so in the good old days, or bad days. The Ship was a famous nautical house, and thither resorted the old generation of whaling captains and other seafaring men “more potent in potting than your Dane, your German, or your snag-bellied Hollander.” Nor were politicians wanting in the good Ship’s company, and in days when political excitement ran high, much higher and warmer than now-a-days, many was the meeting held there to decide upon action.

Sportsmen, too, would meet there and arrange those three-mile races, in three heats, which were fashionable in the good old days when horses were heavier and men wanted more excitement than is got out of a modern Cup race run in three thirty-five. Nearly all of these men are gone. Here and there you meet one whose sound constitution has survived the test of time and little longer than the rest; and when his memory gets brightened by recurrence to old association, snatches of old stories, old practical jokes, old quarrels, with here and there some reference to a man who was old when they were young, falls upon the listener and conveys the expression of a different age though the vices and virtues are those of all generations.

These were the times when “the first gentleman in Europe” sat upon the throne of England and his gentlemanly instincts were much affected by all his loving subjects. Van Diemen’s Land was then attached to the Government of New South Wales, and his Honor Lieutenant-Governor Sorell was the lord of this little island. In these good old days the land upon which the Ship Hotel now stands belonged to Me Edward Lord and he have it to Mr Ingle. It originally had a cottage on it surrounded by a garden, a small weatherboard cottage similar to the one adjoining it belonging to Mr. John Edington, which with it vine-clad roof was only destroyed five years ago.

An advertisement in the Cornwall-Chronicle, Launceston, June1865.

Mr Ingle pulled this cottage down and built a fashionable brick residence which still remains the main portion of the present Ship Hotel. This was built as nearly as can be ascertained about the year 1818, and in the following year Mr Ingle let it to a Mr Began who first opened it as the Ship Hotel.

At this time it had a tall mast in front from which a flag floated proudly. Mr Began did not retain possession long, for the Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser of May 13th 1821, contains the list of those who were licensed to sell wines and spirits for the year, and opposite to the Ship appears the name of Peter Copeland.

There were thirteen people in Hobart then licensed to sell spirits, wine, and beer, and four to sell beer only. Amongst the former class only three exist at the present time- The Ship, the Hope and Anchor, and the Bird-in-Hand, the last house kept by the late Mr John Edington- an announcement of whose marriage with Mrs Edington, who is still living in Hobart appears in the same Gazette a month later. Of the latter class, those licensed to sell beer only, the White Horse, in Liverpool-street, is the only living representative, though it has enjoyed the more extended form of license for half a century since.

Adjoining the Ship, in Elizabeth-street, a place was erected for the accommodation of the meaner class of customers, who were not considered fit for the quality of the day. This place was called the Ship Tap, and did a flourishing business, for both qualities could drink in the good old days. The road was then much lower down than it is now, and access was had to the Ship by a long flight of stone steps, though the reason for building so high above the level of the road is not at all clear, unless it was to give the quality a position of vantage in an elevated verandah, from which they could look down upon the passing crowd.

The commoner sort of people entered the tap [bar] from the street level, and when the street was raised they had to go down tow steps into it, and duck their heads too, if they did not wish to hit the top of the shortened entrance. From this time the house changed hands frequently, and each new proprietor made some alteration to it. The following is a list of the proprietors in their order since Began’s time: Allwright, Ben Morris, Day and Wise, Wise, Cox, White, John Providence Lester, Joshua Anson, Walter Butler, Charles Hartam, and J.C. Hadley.

In 1861 the house had lost some of its ancient prestige, and Walter Butler, who took it, made an effort to revive its fame, but with little success. The Ship’s tap [bar] had been disconnected from the hotel, though it existed under a different proprietor, till the premises were taken by Mr Charles Hartam in 1867, when it was finally closed, and its sanded floor and pink and white barmaid forgotten.

Under the tenancy of Mr Charles Hartam, and the able management of the late Mrs Hartam, the house assumed its sway, and became again one of the chief hotels in the city, which it continued till now [1882].

In 1876, after the death of Mrs Hartam, Mr J.C. Hadley took it, and continued it on the same line, the old house following in the zenith of its fame.

The Ship Hotel, Elizabeth Street Hobart C1875
The Ship Hotel, Elizabeth Street Hobart C1875. Picture: Supplied.

The Hobart Mercury, Monday, August 27, 1923


Re-modelling of the Ship Hotel

Licensed for 100 Years.

History of the Building.

WITH the progress of Hobart, rapid as it is, buildings popularly regarded on  account of their antiquity as landmarks, and dating back to the romantic times of the previous century, have, like all things, to give way for something better and more modern. Some of them are full of interest, their associations are unique, but the ever growing craze for business prosperity is opposed to sentiment, and out these old things go. However bright, and however cheerful the associations may have been, the cobwebs of time soon gather and hide the picture of bygone days. Men “with snowy crowns and flowing beards” love to sit and talk about the things that happened in these places, recalling happy memories, or perhaps the reverse, and thinking of the hours they spent when the building, as one may say, was in its prime. But with the passing of time the picture fades, and most of the stories of the buildings are forgotten. The modern man comes along with his improvement schemes, and another place passes into oblivion.

During the past few years several old places have gone that way, or have been so completely remodelled on modern lines as to lose their historical identity. One of the latest is the Ship Hotel in Collins-street, probably one of the oldest and best known hotels in the city. Of course the original Ship Hotel disappeared from the corner of Collins and Elizabeth streets several years ago, the building at present used as the hotel being the old billiard-rooms connected with the first hotel, but at present a scheme for the transformation of the premises is being undertaken, and an imposing building will shortly be erected. The major portions of the existing premises are to be demolished, and a new two-storied place is to be constructed. The lower portion of the facade is to be faced with marble to its full height, and many alterations are to be made to the interior. The public bar space will occupy an area of approximately 1,000 square feet, and is to be fitted with an up-to- date double-decked bar of horseshoe formation executed in Tasmanian blackwood. Fronting in Collins-street, as at present, will be the main entrance, and on the left-hand side will be a bottle department, with a separate entrance and show window. Attention is also being paid to the needs of patrons by the establishment of a new dining-room, while a lounge, private dining-room, and smoke-room are also included in the new designs. There will be numerous bed-rooms, and the basement will be utilised for hot-water heating, stores, and laundry. In fact, the place will be so altered that traces of its earlier and highly interesting existence will be entirely obliterated.


Could the walls of the present building speak, they could tell many a story of joy and sorrow, of hope and despair. The “Ship,” as it is popularly called, has a history that few buildings can boast of. The original building, which made way as far back as 1883 for the imposing building of the V.D.L. Bank, now the Union Bank, was entered by many thousands of people, who partook of the refreshments that were sold therein, and in what may determined the “good old days” many a young immigrant who landed in Tasmania with his £500 or £600 entered the Ship Inn and spent it all before leaving. In there a few hundred pounds, unless the owners were carefully looked after, speedily vanished. When the Ship Hotel was erected, it was considered the principal hotel in the city. In the old times the captains and officers of the ships that visited Hobart from various parts of the world used to gather round the Ship bar and tell yarns and drink grog. All the new arrivals, at least the majority of them, used to congregate there and make it their residence until they got settled, a roaring business was carried on, and the Ship established for itself a name which it never lost.  

Since the first license was taken out, over a hundred years ago, the hotel has had many landlords. The first was a Mr. Began, who converted it from a private residence known as the Verandah House into a hotel. After Mr. Began had carried on business for a short time he retired in favour of Mr. Copeland, and in   the “Hobart Town Gazette” of October 11, 1821, it is stated that a license was granted Mr. Henry Copeland. This gentleman did not carry on business for more than a year, when Mr. Allwright became landlord. In 1824 the license was transferred to one Benjamin Morris, but after three years’ residence in what had by this time become the principal hostelry in Hobart, he resolved to give it up, and on August 11, 1827, inserted the following notice in the “Gazette”: “Benjamin Morris begs leave to return his most grateful thanks to his friends and the public for their very liberal patronage during the past three years he has occupied the Ship Inn, and being now about to leave the above concern, he has to request that those who stand indebted to him will liquidate their respective accounts forthwith.” It would appear that even in those days it was customary to slate up a drink, and occasionally jog a customer’s memory for payment.


In after years, many alterations and improvements were made to the hotel, and while this work was going on an accident occurred in which a man lost his life. The licensee at the period was Mr. William Cundy, who planned a scheme to raise the floor of the billiard room at the back, which was, until alterations were recently commenced, the front part of the building, in order to make more head room in the basement.

A number of men were employed on the job, and after the beams had been cut, the hoisting process by means of screw jacks took place. By some means or other the floor swung inwards and collapsed, crushing one man to death and injuring several others.

The entrance to the bar was on Elizabeth-street. The bar itself was formed in crescent shape in one corner of the room. From the bar to the front wall a partition was erected, and behind it were placed sofas and chairs for the benefit of the customers. Out of this room a door led down a few steps into a bedroom, which was partitioned off from what was known as the long dining room. Entrance was also obtained from the bar-room into a small office situated in the basement of the building.


It was from the Ship Inn that the coaches used to start for Launceston and elsewhere, and history has it that crowds of spectators used to gather on the verandah of the inn and footpath in front to witness the arrival and departure of the mail coaches. The Post Office was built on the corner where the Commercial Bank of Australia now stands. From 1861 to about 1867 the business of the hotel was bright, although there were several changes of landlords. At one period, owing to the depressed state of the country at the time, one landlord, a Mr. Walter Butler, made a failure of the venture, but with other licensees the place picked up again, and had another run of its former prosperity.  

In 1881 the directors of the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land resolved to build large and handsome premises in the centre of the town, and after casting about for a suitable site, they chose the block on which the Ship Hotel stood. A bargain was struck with the then proprietor, Mr. John Clay Hadley, afterwards proprietor of the Orient Hotel, and father of the present licensee, who agreed to let the bank have the land and buildings thereon from the corner of the street to the billiard-room entrance on the Collins-street side, and to the insurance company’s offices on the Elizabeth-street side. Possession was taken by the bank on March 31, 1882. The main building was then demolished, and some additions were made to the billiard-room in Collins-street, to where the hotel business was removed. The hotel has, one might say, had a personality. With the remodelling of the building this will be lost, and, although the name will be retained, people are quick to forget, and so its past, full of incident, as it was, will be buried. But the new building now in process of erection will be a worthy successor.

First published 2014. Updated 2021

© Copyright Mick Roberts 2021

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Categories: Hobart hotels, Tasmania hotels

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1 reply

  1. Hi,
    Thankyou for a very interesting article. I am writing a book and would like to use the image above called “Van Diemen’s Land Family Hotel” 1828
    I wondered if you can tell me the reference for this please.



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