Early pubs of Hobart: The romance of Tasmania’s hostelries

THE following feature story, describing the early names of Tasmanian inns and pubs was published in the Hobart Mercury on July 19 1946. The revealing story gives a glimpse into the colourful signs that once swung above the doors of Australia’s most southern ‘capital’ in the 1830s:

The Help Me Through The World Inn, one of Hobart’s earliest drinking houses, long passed into oblivion. The inn was located at the intersection of Barrack and Liverpool Streets, Hobart.

 Hobart had 89 ‘Pubs’ in 1835

 By a Staff Reporter

THERE is a romance about the old hostelries of Hobart, and if their walls could talk they could tell the story of the city itself, for since the days of Bobby Knopwood, Hobart has had its “pubs” – and many of them. As far back as 1835, before Hobart had begun to feel its growing pains, there were 89 licensed houses. Today there are 64.

HOBART’S first public house, the Whale Fishery, was opened on July 25, 1807, and the event evidently was suitably celebrated, for the Rev Bobby Knopwood records:

“This day Hopkins, servant of the Lieutenant-Governor, opened a public house, the sign of the Whale Fishery, and at 8 pm, Capt Johnson, Lt Lord, Lt Breedon, Mr Janseon, Mr Bowden, Humphrey and self supped there, myself in the chair. At half-past 11 we came away; the weather very wet and cold.”

Half-past 11 evidently was closing time, or the reverend gentleman considered it was late enough, for July 25, 1807, being a Saturday, he doubtless had thoughts of his sermons of the approaching morrow!

Colourful Names          

Many of Hobart’s hotels have borne colourful names. A few have survived for more than a century but the majority have fallen into the limbo of forgotten things – except to a few of the city’s oldest inhabitants.

Looking over the list of licensed houses of 1835, one finds some picturesque, often amusing names, and wonders what would be the reaction of the Licensing Court today if a licensee sought permission to put up the sign Help Me Through The World, Surely We Have Done Our Duty, or Labour In Vain.

Royalty and the aristocracy were well represented, among them being King George Inn, William the Fourth (both in Liverpool St. at the same time), Victoria (2), Prince Alfred, the Black Prince, Prince of Wales, Duke of Clarence, Duchess of Kent, Duke of York (3), Duke of Wellington, and Lord Nelson (of which there were four, two at the same time).

Incidentally, the Duke of Wellington, at the corner of Macquarie and Barrack streets, celebrates its centenary this year.

In addition to the Empire (2), British and Royal Oak (3), there were many names of patriotic flavour such as Britannia (2), George and Dragon, St. Andrew, Scotch Thistle, St. Patrick, Shamrock (2), and Leek, while India was represented by the Mogul and Calcutta.

The Shakespeare and Sir John Falstaff showed that the theatre was not forgotten, and the Theatre Royal, beside Australia’s oldest theatre in Campbell St., figures among Hobart’s early hostelries, which have stood the test of time.

Some of the most, unusual names were Bull and Mouth, Cat and Fiddle, Come In and See Wiggins. Hammer in Hand, Hen and Chickens. Help Me Through the World (2), Hit or Miss, Labour in Vain (2), Lame Horse (2), Maid and Magpie (2), Mulberry Tree Inn, Noah’s Ark, Pack Horse Tavern, and Spotted Cow.

It is not surprising that the whaling industry, which figured so prominently in the early days of Hobart Town, should be well represented but other callings were not overlooked, and among early-day public houses were the Bricklayers’ Arms (2), Cabinet Makers’ Arms, Butchers’ Arms (3), Quarrymen’s Arms, Bakers’ Arms, and Sawyers’ Arms.

Few of Hobart’s very early drinking houses survive today. Among the most notable are the Ship in Collins St., which received its first licence in 1821, the Carl-ton Club, at the corner of Liverpool and Argyle streets, which has carried on business continuously for 106 years, and the Albion, in Elizabeth St., which was in existence in 1835.

Other names which have survived, though not necessarily the original houses, are the Clarendon, Tasmanian Inn, Lord Nelson, and Freemasons’.

The present Freemasons’, rebuilt some years ago, stands on the site of the original building, the Tasmanian Inn still exists, but the names Clarendon and Lord Nelson were borrowed from earlier hostelries on different sites.

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Categories: Australian Hotels, Hobart hotels, Tasmania hotels

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6 replies

  1. Love your Work … wish I could afford more

  2. My husband grew up in what was the Packhorse Inn, Melville Street.

  3. My Great,Great,Great Grandfather James Rawlings ran the George and Dragon for a brief time in 1834 , he was 25 Years Old. He subsequently moved on to found the “Ye Olde Buckland Inn” at what was at the time known as Prosser Plains , then re-named Buckland. The tiny town is still around and so is the pub.

    • Hi Stuart, would you have any information Photos/documents of Ye Olde Buckland Inn?

    • Hi Stuart, thanks for this info. James is also my direct relative on my fathers side – I am planning on visiting the Buckland Hotel. Do you have the address of the George and Dragon in Hobart.


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