By MICK ROBERTS
& MICHELLE HOCTOR ©
KIAMA Inn is the oldest business in Kiama Municipality having operated from the same site – on the south-east corner of Terralong and Shoalhaven Streets – continuously since 1853.
After Wollongong’s Harp Hotel, it is the oldest licensed premises in the Illawarra.
The Kiama Inn was established as the Fermanagh Hotel, built by James Barton in 1849 on land purchased from Alexander King. Kiama Independent records state the contractor was a German known as “louie”.
Little is known about the original hotel other than the fact it was a timber building that had an entrance in Terralong Street, via a flight of stone steps.
Barton named the pub after his birthplace, the County of Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. It was a wise choice for a locality where the majority of the population hailed from Northern Ireland and where the business competed against at least five other pubs located in the Kiama CBD.
Barton was about 30 years of age when he opened his pub with his wife Elizabeth. He operated the business until 1855, when he sold up, lived on his Kiama farm for a few years before moving to Fortitude Valley in Queensland in 1862.
The last licensee of what was known as the Fermanagh Hotel was Christopher Hetherington who took over in 1867.
It was licensee John Reed (Read) who officially changed the name of the pub to the Kiama Hotel in 1874.
Of course, the establishment is most fondly known as Tory’s Hotel to this day, it being named after one of the region’s most successful colonial publicans, George Tory.
Born in Lincolnshire, England, in 1832 and after completing an apprenticeship in joinery and carpentry, George decided to seek his fortune in Australia after learning of the riches to be made on the goldfields.
On arrival in Australia in 1853, however, the shrewd businessman realised there was more money to be made by staying in Sydney.
Masses had drifted to the goldfields in search of wealth and good tradesmen were hard to find in Sydney Town.
Worthy tradesmen could dictate good wages and Tory fell into that category. He commanded 26 shillings a day while working as a joiner in Sydney and soon built up a healthy bank balance.
With money behind him, Tory decided his future lay in the country and he headed for the Shoalhaven on the NSW South Coast.
He built the township’s first public building when he opened the Nowra Hotel on the corner of Kinghorne Street on July 1 1857.
His association with Kiama began in 1880 when he bought the old established two storey weatherboard Kiama Hotel after “profitably” selling his Nowra pub.
The Kiama Hotel underwent some major changes after Tory took the helm from James Elliott. He had foreseen the wealth the Sydney railway would bring to Kiama and its growth as a seaside tourist resort. Preparations were made to have the old inn totally built. Work began in November 1888, the cost estimated at £3,500 for the construction of a three-storey brick premises that would include 60 rooms for the accommodation of travellers.
The work was carried out by a Mr G Stoker who built the Kiama Oddfellows Hall (on the site of today’s Kiama Leagues Club) at the same time. A feature of the renovations would be a magnificent wrought-iron, latticed veranda.
Not one to miss a business opportunity, Tory carried out the reconstruction while still operating the old hotel, as was evidenced by an advertisement placed in the Kiama Independent in November 1888, when the work began:
“The proprietor of this old established hotel desires to inform his numerous friends, travellers, and visitors, that although he has pulled down the front part of his old premises for the purpose of erecting more extensive accommodation, the business in all its branches is still carried on and having taken a ten-roomed house close to the hotel, sleeping accommodation is undiminished. The new travellers’ room will be completed in a few days; in fact, visitors will find the establishment as well worth patronising as ever – George Tory.
Stoker completed Tory’s hotel in July 1889, and later was engaged to enlargie the nearby Brighton Hotel, and build the Wesleyan Parsonage. He was also the successful tenderer for a home for the Sisters of Charity Kiama.
On completion the pub was renamed Tory’s Hotel and was reported to have done the “largest business in the place”. There were two other pubs trading in Kiama at the time – The Brighton Hotel and The Grand.
Tory retired from the pub in 1894 after selling the freehold to Shellharbour publican William C Yell.
George Tory died aged 71 in 1901 leaving a widow and 15 children – 12 from a previous marriage. The Kiama Independent reported Tory had died from Dropsy after suffering a lengthy attack of asthma. The pioneering publican’s name was removed from the pub when the sign was changed to the Kiama Inn during the 1980s.
© Copyright Mick Roberts, Michelle Hoctor 2015