Bendigo’s Albert Hotel had a secret ‘after hours’ passage for customers

Albert Hotel, Bendigo, C1972. Picture: Bruce Howard, Australian Pubs Collection, Australian National University

STORIES of secret passages and hidden doorways in pubs are commonly told.

Concealed passages and doors allowed pub customers discretely into bars ‘after-hours’, away from the prying eyes of the law, to enjoy a few drinks at the discretion of the publican.

There’s also the legend of the secret tunnel running from the cellar of Sydney’s Hero of Waterloo at Miller’s Point to the harbour.

The tunnel was said to be for rum smuggling and the involuntary recruitment of sailors. A drunken man could find himself dropped through a trapdoor into the cellar, shoved through the tunnel, and shanghaied aboard a clipper short of a crew.

Victoria too has its pubs with secret passages. There’s the story of Bendigo’s Albert Hotel and its passage leading to the adjoining ‘Ramblers Club’.

The unlicensed Ramblers Club was established in the 1880s and was home to sporting groups like cycling, billiards and rowing.

The doorway between the club and the pub was four feet by two feet. It was cut into the back of a lavatory so members could make their way into the Albert’s bar to enjoy a few drinks during prohibited hours.

The secret doorway’s fate though was sealed when police raided the pub one night in 1929, arresting five men. The Melbourne Age reported on Friday, December 20, 1929:

Hotel with secret passage

Police make discovery

BENDIGO, Thursday – Following a police raid on the Albert Hotel, McCrae-street, on the night of 23rd November, the licensee, Muriel Spalding, was charged in the city court today with having permitted persons to be on the hotel during prohibited hours, and also with having illegally, disposed of liquor. She was fined £1 on the first charge, and the second was dismissed.

Constables gave evidence that although they kicked and knocked at the doors they were not admitted for 10 minutes. Two men, one of whom said he was having a rest, were found hiding under a table, another was found in a wardrobe, and two others were found on the roof.

A secret passage leading from the hotel premises to the Rambler Club was also found, a doorway four feet by two feet having been cut into the back of a lavatory. Five men found on the premises were fined £2.

Established in 1852, sadly the Albert no longer trades as a hotel.

Do you have a tale about a pub’s secret door or passage to share? Tell us about it in the comments section below…


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Categories: Victoria hotels

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4 replies

  1. Mr Mick Roberts, I am very interested in your Albert Hotel photo as it was commissioned by my grt gt grandfather Jeremiah Heffernan and his brother in 1860s. I am currently working on Shamrock Hotel and all other hotels owned by Heffernans and I would like to publish in this book if i ever finish. Is this picture out of copyright?

    • G’day, Maryty. Thanks for your message. The photo is a Google, Streetview image. I used an app to turn the image into a “sketch”. So I’m not sure how you would go about publishing the image and copyright conditions.

  2. Mick your image is great. My grt grt grandfather Jeremiah Heffernan was one of the original owners. I am publishing a book about all Heffernan Hotels in Sandhurst at that time and I wonder if I could use your sketch and would I only need to acknowledge? Mary Healy

    • Mary, I have no problem for you to use the “sketch”. Just a reminder though, it’s a sketch produced from a Google Streetview. An acknowledgement of the sketch would be great: Image:

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