The Transcontinental Hotel, Brisbane

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Queensland Figaro and Punch Saturday 11 July 1885, page 8

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The Brisbane Courier Thursday 30 August 1883, page 6

THE Transcontinental Hotel was constructed in 1883-4. In 1879 Peter Murphy, wine and spirit merchant, leased premises in George Street from Francois Boudin. In 1881 he acquired the adjoining vacant land. On 28 August 1883 Peter Murphy, then publican and lessee of the Burgundy Hotel, businessman, financier of MacDonnell & East (1901) and Member of the Legislative Council (MLC, 1904-1922), announced by public notice in The Telegraph his intention to apply for a new publican’s license and to build a new hotel on this site. Intended to accommodate passengers from the nearby railway, the Transcontinental Hotel was to comprise “16 bedrooms, 1 dining room, 1 luncheon room, 1 billiard room, 4 sitting rooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, store, pantry, cellar and outhouses”. On 22 September 1883 renowned architect Francis Drummond Greville (FDG) Stanley called tenders for the erection of a first class hotel for Peter Murphy. The new hotel, with a frontage of 74 feet and a depth of 40 feet, was four storeys high, one of which was below street level. The Brisbane Courier reported that the Transcontinental Hotel contained 27 bedrooms, seven public rooms, billiard room and a private bar”. A sunshade of “ornamental design” was attached to the front and the two upper storeys had balconies four feet, six inches wide, with “ornamental iron columns, brackets, frieze and railings”. The hotel offered comfortable accommodation, a first class table, with “all the delicacies of the season being provided”. The bar trade was one of the largest in Brisbane, with only the best liquor carried. In the 1880s, George Street contained most of Brisbane’s inner city first-class hotels, including the Bell Vue (1886), Cosmopolitan (1887), Shakespeare (1887-88), Treasury (1887-88), Criterion (c1883), Imperial (1885-6), Lennon’s (1883-4), Grosvenor (c1882), New Crown (188?) and the Transcontinental (1883-4). Of these, the Treasury, Grosvenor and Transcontinental are the only three to have survived. In 1906 new lessee Denis O’Connor commissioned architect, GHM Addison to design extensive alterations to the interior. At the opening ceremony of the new bar on 30 October 1906 the Transcontinental was declared to be “the most ornate and best equipped” hotel in Australia. In 1925 the hotel was further remodelled as part of Peter Murphy’s redevelopment plans for upper George Street as a commercial precinct. Murphy’s business acumen was realised by 1926 when upper George Street was declared to be “one of the most flourishing business” sectors outside of Queen Street and Fortitude Valley. The Murphy family owned the Transcontinental Hotel until 1935 when it was sold to Castlemaine Perkins. The McCoy family were licensees from the 1930s until the 1980s. In 1988 the hotel owners, Austotel, commissioned Hampton Interiors to restore the Transcontinental. The ornate cast iron balustrading which was removed in 1965, was reinstated and the original exterior colours were repainted.

– Queensland Department of Heritage & Environment 

transcontinental hotel brisbane todayTrading for 130 years, The Transcontinental Hotel is one of Queensland’s longest-standing pubs. In January 2014, The Transcontinental Hotel underwent a contemporary redesign to emphasise its heritage and elegance as well as restoring warmth and atmosphere. We boast multiple entertainment areas including our Public and Craft Bars, the Dining Hall, Beer Garden and Platform Bar. Our state of the art audio and visual equipment has made ‘The Trans’ the perfect venue for great food, after work or pre-game drinks, functions or just good times with friends. We’re the beautiful old Queensland pub located at 482 George Street, opposite the Roma St train station.






The other hotel in George-street is one being erected by Mr.Peter Murphy, near the railway gate, and is to be called the Transcontinental. It will have a frontage of 74ft. and a depth of 40ft., and will consist of four stories, one of them being below the level of the thoroughfare. The new hotel will contain about thirty bedrooms, and will be very completely fitted up. In front there will be a sunshade of ornamental design,and from the two upper floors balconies will project 4ft. with ornamental iron columns,brackets, frieze, and railings….

– The Queenslander Saturday 1 December 1883


THE usual monthly meeting of tho Licensing Court was held at noon to-day in the City Police Court. Peter Murphy applied for a provisional license for a new building which he proposes to erect in Roma-street, to be called the Transcontinental Hotel. Mr. Mein appeared in support of the applicant. Mr.Murray-Prior appeared to oppose the granting of the license. The bench, however, decided to grant the license.

– The Brisbane Courier Wednesday 12 September 1883


An 1884 newspaper advertisement for the hotel

An 1884 newspaper advertisement for the hotel

IT will be remembered that nearly three weeks ago it was reported in our Sydney telegrams that Mr. E. A. Holt, tho well-known manager of the Sydney branch of the Bank of New Zealand, had suddenly disappeared. It was at first said that there was nothing wrong with the bank’s books.This statement was supposed to be accurate at the time, but further investigations revealed a different state of affairs, and some “serious defalcations” were discovered. The Sydney Daily Telegraph says :-” The defalcations extend not only to Mr. Holt’s relations with the bank as manager, but also to transactions with private individuals and independent of the institution. To one of the latter class of dealings is due the laying of an information and issue of a warrant under the Fugitive Offenders’ Act for the arrest of Mr. Holt The warrant, which was issued on Monday and charges Mr. Holt with the fraudulent embezzlement of £1400, is similar to that used in the Von Bieren case. The sworn information upon which the warrant was issued, Bets forth that Mr. Holt induced the gentleman who has taken out the warrant to join him in the purchase of certain shares, and for this purpose the gentleman referred to opened an account in the Bank of New Zealand. Mr, Holt is said to have financed the whole business, drawing cheques, &c, when required. The business resulted in a loss to Mr. Holt’s temporary partner of some £1500, and, after being furnished with a statement of account, he drew a draft for £1400, and at Mr. Holt’s request, made it payable to Mr. Holt personally. The amount of this draft has never been credited to the account standing in the name of the gentleman already referred to.”

Public interest in the matter appears to have run high in Sydney, and the wildest rumours were circulated as to the amount of Holt’s financial transactions, the climax being reached in statements that the deficiencies amounted to £250,000. Our Sydney correspondent informed us a few days ago that it was stated by persons in a position to know that the deficiency amounted to about £33,000, of which it was estimated the bank would lose from £11,000 to £15,000. The total amount of Holt’s liabilities was set down at £50,000, but there are valuable assets, including his house and furniture, which are worth from £8000 to £10,000, and it is said that the wines and other liquors in the cellar should realise £1000. In addition to the foregoing, there are mining and other interests which it is thought will further reduce the deficit.Among other rumours which were circulated was one that the bank officials were unwilling that Mr. Holt should be apprehended. This was, however, denied, and tho bank authorities stated that they had offered special inducements to bring about his arrest.

The manner in which Mr. Holt left Sydney also formed the subject of many conflicting rumours. The Daily Telegraph stated that it had “reliable information that on Thursday,the 18th instant, Mr. Holt waited on a well known shipping firm and urgently applied for a passage for a friend by the barque Cynisca,which was to sail immediately for Valparaiso. He said it was important that his friend should leave the colony at once, and as the case appeared to be urgent, to oblige Mr. Holt, a clerk was sent down to Watson’s Bay, where the vessel had been lying, to see if a passage could be secured at the last moment. It was found, however, that the vessel had cleared the Heads about an hour previously. Mr.Holt, who had left the office with the remark that he would meanwhile assist the friend to pack up his things, was informed at the bank that the Cynisca had gone. He seemed rather disconcerted, but stated that he would call at the firm’s office again and see about another vessel. He did not, however,return….

Another rumour was that Mr. Holt had been seen on the Northern Railway of New South Wales disguised as a Roman Catholic priest. This appears to have been correct, as it is now known that the police had knowledge of a priest travelling overland to Queensland. According to the Chronicle he appeared at Toowoomba as Father Rea, and was seen in an hotel there eagerly reading the Sydney telegrams in the Courier. It is stated that he came onto Brisbane with the intention of sailing for London in the R.M.S. Dacca, and although he was not among the passengers who left Brisbane in that steamer, it was surmised he had taken passage in another steamer up the coast, intending to join the Dacca at another port. He appears to have changed his name on arriving in Brisbane from Rev.Father Rea to the Rev. John Payten. The name of the ” Rev. John Payten ” appears in the passenger list of the s.s. Keilawarra, which left Brisbane for Townsville, via ports, on the 24th March. The “reverend” gentleman was a passenger through to Townsville, and returned thence to Brisbane by the same steamer. In the meantime the detectives appear to have got on the quondam priest’s track, believing him to be the man they wanted. He was watched at each port on his way down the coast, and when the steamer reached Brisbane early yesterday morning a detective was on the look-out for him. Shortly before leaving the steamer the ” Rev. Mr. Payten” appears to have exchanged his clerical garb for that of a tourist, and went to the Transcontinental Hotel where he engaged a room as” Mr. Tinks.” Shortly after 1 o’clock Senior-detective Nethercote and Detective Wyer visited the hotel, and were shown up to the room of ” Mr. Tinks,” and the former entered into conversation with him. At first he denied that he was Mr. Holt, but subsequently admitted the fact, and submitted to arrest. He was formally charged with embezzling the sum of £1400 in Sydney. On a search of the bedroom being commenced, he gave a bag of sovereign, and two others were found. One of the bags was concealed between the mattress and the bed. The three bags contained nearly £200 in gold. A bill of exchange on London for £500 was also found among Mr. Holt’s papers. The detectives and their prisoner walked to the watchhouse whither his portmanteau and Gladstonebag were also conveyed. During his walk from the hotel to the watchhouse he wore the clerical hat which it is supposed he had previously worn whilst disguised as a priest. He was clean shaven, and apparently in excellent health. Holt will be brought up at the Police Court this morning.

– Brisbane Courier Tuesday 6 April 1886

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COLONIAL Telegrams. [from our own correspondent.]

A young man named Brown, a lodger at the Transcontinental Hotel, had an extraordinary escape yesterday. His bedroom door at the top floor was lockedand be could not get out, so he tied several sheets together and endeavoured to reach the second storey. He slipped and fell over 40 feet on to hard ground. He was only shaken and had been drinking.

– Maryborough Chronicle (Qld) Friday 1 October 1886.

Suspicion or Larceny

Robert Fairweather and George de Courcy were charged with having property in their possession for which they could not satisfactorily account. It appeared that both the accused were found lying in the stables of the Transcontinental Hotel, in George street asleep, with a bag containing two fowls which they could not account for. They were both fined £3, or in default fourteen days imprisonment.

– The Brisbane Courier Saturday 25 December 1886

E. B. Holt, the bank manager swindler, who gotfour years’ hard labor in Sydney for his frauds,seems likely to be let out shortly although he hasonly served about half his sentence. Holt wasalways a character. He was arrested in Brisbane in the Transcontinental Hotel, having been masquerading first as a priest and next as a drummer. When he got his sentence, he immediately started to grow insane according to the most approved methods, and his friends were soon busily engaged trying to get him released on various pretences. But the insanity dodge failed. Then he tried the ” shamming Abraham ” biz., and, by the accounts given all along, Holt should have died some dozens of times over by this. It appears that there are still a lot of trust moneys and other funds which cannot be operated on without E. B. Holt’s signature, and the artful recluse declines to sign anything until he is free. On the 22nd instant, the government medical officer reported to the Minister for Justice of N,S. Wales that “the  further incarceration of Edward B. Holt would be absolutely dangerous to his life.” This is simply awful. For I never—no never !—heard of any common vulgar criminal dying in gaol, did you? The distinctions drawn by law are marvellous. And,verily, perseverance has its reward.

– Queensland Figaro and Punch Saturday 31 March 1888


A commercial traveller named E. Christenson committed suicide at the Transcontinental Hotel to-day. He was found hanging by a rope attached to clothes pegs in the bathroom. His body was cut down; but life was discovered to be extinct. The deceased was a married man.

– The Western Champion (Barcaldine, Qld) Tuesday 12 January 1897.

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One of the bars inside the hotel in the 1880s


Mr Peter Murphy who was one of the most prominent of the older citizens of  Brisbane, died early yesterday morning after an illness extending over some months. Though he had been ill for  some time, hope of improvement was entertained until some five days ago,when the commencement of the heatwave threatened to bring about a collapse. Two days ago Mr. Murphy became unconscious and he passed away at  7 o’clock yesterday morning.

Mr. Murphy whose death is regretted by a host of friends, was born in the West of Ireland on June 29, 1853 and was the son of James and Ann Murphy of Ireland. He arrived in Brisbane in 1871, and married Miss Ellen O. Bulcock daughter of Mr Ben Bulcock of England in 1885. Trained in Ireland for the drapery trade, he quickly took an active interest in the commercial affairs of this city, and in the course of time became chairman of directors of Perkins’  Brewery the Union Trustees, and Chairman of directors of McDonnell and East, Ltd. He was also a shareholder in many business concerns and was owner of the Transcontinental Hotel which for many years he managed with success. As president of the Licensed Victuallers’ Association in 1892-3-4 and again in 1903-4  he performed valuable services for the trade. Like many of his country men who achieve commercial success, he gravitated to politics, becoming a member of the Legislative Council in 1904 under the Morgan Administration and rendered valuable services to Queensland during the many strenuous political crises which followed in the intervening years.

Possessing an amiable personality, and  being known for many acts of kindness,  and philanthropy done unostentatiously, Mr. Murphy had an extremely wide circle  of friends and was an honorary life  member of the Philanthropic Institute.

Realising the necessity for a world tour in company with T.J. O’Shea he visited Ireland, England America and the Continent, returning with renewed vigour to  attack the ever-increasing commercial and  other interests that claimed his attention.

In earlier years Mr. Murphy was a very active member of the Queensland Turf Club and as a horse owner his colours  were on several occasions ridden to victory. Thus in sporting as well as business and political circles, Mr Murphy will be missed, while a great number of friends will regret the loss they have sustained in the absence of his genial personality.The deceased gentleman leaves a large family, including his widow and four sons and four daughters. The sons are: Dr.Peter Murphy (Sydney), and Messrs Ray,Kevin, and Rex Murphy (Brisbane); and the daughters, Mrs. J. A, Fihelly, Mrs Austin Lennon, and Misses Ida and Eileen Murphy, all of Brisbane.
– The Brisbane Courier Wednesday 25 February 1925

Categories: Brisbane hotels, Queensland hotels

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