Walter sat at the same table in Adelaide’s Exchange Hotel for 42 years

The Exchange Hotel, Adelaide, 1867. Picture: State Library of South Australia


WHEN the Exchange Hotel was demolished in February 1960, it ended more than 120 years of Adelaide’s history. In fact, it destroyed the city’s oldest pub.

There had been a hotel on the north-east corner of Hindley and Gresham Streets from March 1839, when Samuel Payne was granted a general publican’s license for the Australian Arms.

The Australian Arms sat on Adelaide’s original town acre, which – as some stories go – was won in a game of cards by Payne on his voyage from England.

Payne, who came to Australia in 1838 in the ship Lord Goderich, was the first owner of the Adelaide town acre on which he licensed his pub. The wager was reportedly the acre of land against a bottle of rum and a song.

While I prefer this version of how Payne gained the land for one of Adelaide’s first pubs, the most likely story though is not quite as colourful.

The most likely story story is that Payne purchased the acre in London for £81 before landing in Australia. Whatever the story of Payne’s property purchase the fact remains that his pub was among Adelaide’s first.

Samuel Payne changed the name of his hotel from the Australian to the Auction Mart Tavern in 1842, on account of a popular market store that traded nearby.

Payne died just weeks after retiring as host of the Auction Mart Hotel in September 1847. He fell out of bed while suffering influenza, hitting his head on the floor and falling unconscious. He never regained consciousness, and died leaving a widow and seven children.

Early in 1847 George Coppin, a well-known comedian and actor, took over the hotel from Payne. Coppin added a new frontage to the hotel and changed the name to the Exchange in 1847. It would be known by that name, or Royal Exchange, for the following 113 years.

Known as ‘the father of the Australian stage’, Coppin was born of a theatrical family at Steyning, Sussex, in 1819, and played violin solos on the stage at the age of six. He arrived in Sydney at the age of 24 at the beginning of March, 1843, and appeared shortly afterwards at the Victoria Theatre.

In 1845 he practically founded drama in Melbourne by undertaking the management of the Queen’s Theatre. He built theatres at Adelaide, Port Adelaide, and Bendigo. For nearly 30 years he sat in the Victorian Parliament. He claimed to have introduced the English thrush and the camel into Australia.

Coppin hosted the hotel until 1852. He died in 1906 at the age of 87.

George Coppin, host of the Exchange Hotel, 1847 – 1852. Picture: Sydney Mail March 21 1906
A coach and four stands outside the Exchange Hotel in Hindley Street, Adelaide, whilst a lady and gentleman look on from the balcony. J. Crampton is the licensee at this time. Picture: State Library of South Australia.

After Coppin vacated the pub, the lease was acquired by James Ferdinand Schmidt, until 1858, and then the following publicans held it successively :- Francis bunn (1858-1864), John Carruthers (1864-1867), and John Crampton (1867-1868).

On March 9, 1868, Charles James Ware took over the hotel from Crampton, when he paid his first licence fee of £1 12 shillings and 6 pence to “carry on”. The Ware family would go onto host the pub for more than half a century.

Charles Ware, with his wife, Fanny, had a brewery at Kooringa, as well as a cattle station south of Burra, before selling-up and taking on the Adelaide pub.

In December 1871, Ware died, leaving his widow to continue running the pub. Fanny became known “for her open-heartedness to all classes”.

Charles Ware, host of the Exchange Hotel, 1868 – 1871. Picture: Adelaide Mail March 8 1924

Fanny Ware, who with the assistance of her brother, W. Crawford, carried on the business until her death in 1898 at the age of 69. She was a said to have been a woman of great kindness and charity, but she was a rigid disciplinarian in the conduct of her hotel.

For all that, the employees reportedly were loyal and gave long years of service. Mary Moseley spent 53 years in the employ of the Wares, and was part and parcel of the house, practically becoming host after Mrs Ware’s death.

Moseley, known affectionately as ‘Mother’ by customers, worked at the pub from 1871, until her death on October 14, 1919, aged 71.

Others whose record was only a few years less than Moseley were a Miss Tidswell, with over 40 years of service, and Charlie Oatway, the barman and cellarman, who was there for 26 years. There were many others whose connections with the Exchange Hotel exceeded a decade.

Long before the loss of their mother in 1898, Fanny Ware’s three sons, Arthur, George and Boxer helped in the management of the hotel, and took it over entirely after her death.

Arthur Ware was Mayor of Adelaide, an office to which he was elected for three years in succession. Boxer Ware also figured in municipal life, and was Mayor of Thebarton, but George Ware always preferred to live privately, and devoted himself to his hobby of farming, having a model property at Willunga. In addition to his municipal activities, Boxer Ware was devoted to sport, and owned several racehorses.

The Adelaide Herald reported on September 1 1899:

A hotel occupied the site when the late Mrs Ware first arrived in South Australia, 60 years ago, but it stood some distance back from the street, and at successive periods additions have been made which have brought it up to the level of the sidewalk. The present bar is spoken of by the Mayor of Adelaide as “Coppin’s front,” because it was built when Mr. George Coppin, the well-known theatrical manager and ex-legislator, of Melbourne, held the licence. The cellars show more plainly than the house itself that the superstructure has been constructed at different periods, for they are divided along their length by the wall which carries the original front, and the first joists also bear signs of greater age. Each of these underground storage places is nearly as old as the colony, but they are still well adapted for the use to which they are put. In the front one are many barrels of Ware’s Beverley and Bitter Beer, which is drawn by the engines above, and in the rear the English Draft Ale is kept. Although the Exchange is the oldest hotel in South Australia it never had a more vigorous business existence than at present. It has always been well conducted, and the best of everything is kept. Long ago what was known as “the Guild Club” used to meet there, and the snug little parlor where the members sat, with its convenient round table, is still to be seen.

In August, 1913, alterations were again made to the hotel, and the old name “Australian Arms” – which had been placed there in 1840 in black letters — was discovered.

The original shingles still remained on the roof, although they were covered with galvanized iron. In the course of years the Exchange Hotel became a rendezvous of many South Australian notabilities.

The old dining room was the first Masonic lodge-room in South Australia, and for half a century its festive boards were patronised by leading citizens, including Walter Hacket, who was a famous Adelaide botanist.

Hackett was a man of methodical habits, and hated change. He dined for 42 years at the Exchange, where he had always occupied the same table and had sat in the same chair, until the installation of electric fans.

On account of the installation of the fans in the room, he removed his seat to a remote corner, where he sat for a further four years — making a total of 46 years patronage, before his death at the age of 87 in 1914.

Old Exchange Identities: Walter Hackett (on the left), and another “regular”, Watts Newland, who were old habitues of the dining room at the historic Exchange Hotel. Picture: Adelaide Observer, February 23 1918

The Wares finally left the Exchange Hotel in 1924, leasing the business to ‘Wally’ Piper, who hosted the pub for many years.

Wally Piper, host of the Exchange Hotel during the 1920s. Picture: Adelaide Daily Herald April 17 1924

When Charles Arthur Goldfinch was licensee of the pub on June 27 1930, it was a two storey building with a wide verandah upstairs, and a balcony decorated with iron lace.

The Exchange Hotel, Adelaide, 1930. Picture: State Library of South Australia
The Exchange Hotel (left) in 1960 shortly before demolition. Picture: City of Adelaide Collection
The site of the Exchange Hotel at the north-east corner of Hindley and Gresham Streets is now the site of a high rise commercial and residential building. Picture: Google Streetview

The Exchange Hotel was demolished in February 1960. A large residential and office tower now sits on the site.

Facebook comment: Simon Storey – “Thanks Mick, your yarn about Walter is perhaps widespread as so many locals have a Norm’s stool or Barry’s corner. At the Grapes, corner of Grant Street and Humffray Streets Ballarat we have Table 5. To sit at Table 5 you had to pass an easy test….over 70 years old and have a ride home after the chook raffle on Thursday evenings. I was honorary member as I was a kid at 60 when asked to join. Sadly, from a rowdy table of 6 and occasionally 7, we are now down to three. I can’t get there as easily as I used to, Brownie, Wingnut and Baldry have cashed in their earthly chips. G, N & B are still there on chook raffle night but I think the new publican has removed the sacred “5, reserved” from the table.”

Facebook comment: Jenny Jones – “My husband’s favourite hotel was the Royal Hotel in Clifton Hill, Victoria. There was a bench seat to the right of the entrance under a window, some of the younger Punters called it the Death Seat! Some of the older locals would sit there for hours either drinking or not drinking. One by one, they would drop off the Perch. I would love to have asked them if they were nervous but I didn’t dare. It was a little sad for me to hear one of the group had gone. In reality it was probably just another meeting place out of the weather.”

© Copyright Mick Roberts 2020

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