Local Interest 4: Pubs/Hotels

Pubs played an important role in South Australian lives. They were important landmarks and centre’s of social activities in many towns and cities. They also provided employment for the publicans and many workers.
While some early pubs were substantial structures with several public rooms, away from main city streets the pub could be a private home with one room set up as a bar and one for overnight guests. From the 1850s pub facades began to resemble shop fronts, but interiors changed little until the late 1860s when the Licensing Bench demanded minimal room sizes and numbers of rooms.
Located on transport routes, in new towns, at river crossings, major junctions, mining and railway towns, ports, pubs were often the first business in a new township. They have provided venues for religious worship, theatrical entertainment, meetings, public and private, balls, banquets, fetes and sporting events, and have been used as school classrooms, commercial rooms for travelling salesmen, electoral polling places and venues for inquests. As well as planned events by both publican and the community, pubs are renowned for unplanned interaction between regulars and strangers.

Here’s a look at the past of some of our local ‘watering holes’.


Aldinga Hotel, Aldinga

The Aldinga Hotel which is located on the important cross roads of Old Coach Road and Port Road was opened on 20 March 1851. The first licensee was Carty Downing who ran the hotel from 1851 to 1854. Downing purchased allotments in the new subdivision of Section 400 and named one of the areas Downingsville.


Early photos indicate the modest nature of the hotel structure in its early years. Most recently it has been extended and a concrete block structure added to the street frontage. The core of the structure retains little of the early building fabric of the hotel. However, its continuous functioning as a hotel provides the structure with its historic significance. The hotel served an important social function in early settlements in the district providing facilities for business, Council and school meetings, and other social activities. There is a notable mature Norfolk Island pine at the rear of the hotel.


Alma Hotel, Willunga

The Alma Hotel was built in 1851 by an English Stonemason, William Toll. It opened as a public house on 18th September 1856 trading as Alma House or the Alma Inn and became the Alma Hotel in 1877.

 (Alma – approx. 1886)

Erected prominently at Number 11 on the eastern side of Hill Street (called High Street until 1983). The hotel originally was a single storey building. An abutting two-storey structure to its south dates from about 1870 and a further northern section – the dining room — from 1974. Much of the original slate flooring and veranda survives.

In 1892 George Webb of the nearby Willunga Hotel bought the property, his family retaining it for the next 55 years.

 (Alma – late 1890’s)

The Alma Hotel was built when Willunga was a booming slate mining town, and as a stopping point for travellers with Cobb and Co coaches travelling further south. There would have been stables out the back along with its own well. In the late 1800’s the upstairs section was added, primarily for holiday makers from Adelaide where, from the balcony guests could see all the way to Aldinga and the busy port of Port Willunga. Many people ask about how it was named Alma Hotel. One line of thought is that it was named after the 1854 Battle of the Alma in the Crimean War which many Englishmen fought in. Alma was also a popular ladies name. In Latin it also means good and true.

(Alma – 1919)

Being one of the first substantial buildings in Willunga the hotel was used for many different purposes in the early years, as a morgue, coroner’s court, housing shipwrecked immigrants, and for the visiting dentist.

The Alma is reportedly to be haunted.


Barn, McLaren Vale

The Barn at McLaren Vale stands on land originally granted to George Fife Angas, Henry Kingscote and James Riddell Todd in 1840 under the hand and seal of George Gawler who was at the time Commissioner of public land in South Australia. The particular site on which The Barn was built was the old Coach Stop Way Station for the overnight stage for bullock teams bringing wheat from Victor Harbour to be milled in Adelaide.

(Barn – approx. 1890)

In 1882 Thomas Hardy acquired the property and used the extensive stables to house his work horses. As a result of a long-running local feud the old well by the stone horse trough was poisoned, killing Thomas Hardy’s horses. The property fell into disuse until in 1969 David Hardy (great-grandson of the original Thomas Hardy) renovated the original coach house building.

One of the fascinating things about The Barn is the conditions of the license. The License was granted shortly after the end of 6 o’clock closing in hotels. Tap beer could not be offered but they didn’t outlaw sparkling wine on tap which became a calling card for the iconic venue. One of the other stipulations was that in order for the restaurant to trade it must operate as a legitimate art gallery, which it did successfully for many years and was a catalyst for the large array of galleries you see in the region today.


Belle Vue Hotel, McLaren Vale

Richard Bell established a hotel he named ‘The Clifton’ after his new wife Ellen Clift, the daughter of a local family. He also named a street after her, Ellen Street. The first licensee of the hotel was Alfred Bock, followed by John Clift and Nicholas Clift.

 (Belle Vue 1910)

The hotel closed in 1864 and was bought by Thomas Hardy in the 1880s. He extended it and reopened it after a period of nearly 20 years of disuse. The hotel was later known as the ‘Bellevue Hotel’ from 1901-1939.

It was renamed the Hotel McLaren from 1939.


Crown, Reynella

The town of Reynella was subdivided for sale in 1854. By 1866, the town had a steam flour mill, a hotel – the Crown – a post office, a store, a school and a chapel.

 (Crown Hotel 1890)

In 1853, twelve months before the town land sales took place, John Reynell sold 1-acre (4,000 m2) of land on the north side of Panalatinga Creek on what was known as the Great South Road, to a Mr Robert Hay for the purpose of building a hotel.

 (Crown Inn 1910)

The hotel, now known as the Crown Inn Hotel, has had a continual licence since that time. Over the years it has had several variations of the original name. In 1855 it was known as the Crown Inn, in 1886 the Reynella Hotel and in 1887 the Crown Hotel.


Devonshire Arms, McLaren Vale

William Colton (one of the founders of McLaren Vale) built the hostelry which was called the Devonshire Arms, Devonshire House and/or the Devonshire. Colton died on the day the inn was opened in 1849.

William Colton’s trustees sold the Devonshire Arms to Nicholas Browning, the allotment was described in the conveyance as being “in the township of Gloucester in the McLaren Vale”. The inn had two doubtful distinctions, the first being that it was opened on the Sabbath, and second that its founder, William Colton, died suddenly that night

The building was later used as a cordial factory, and then as a butcher’s shop from 1930’s – 1980’s.


Emu Hotel, Morphett Vale

The first Emu Hotel in Morphett Vale was built by Alexander Anderson on what is now the corner of David Terrace and Main South Road, opposite St Mary’s Church. The hotel traded successfully on this site until 1864 when the license was transferred to a public house on the present site, which had also been owned by Alexander Anderson.

Anderson had emigrated from London with his wife Catherine Frances, née Creighton, with children Joseph and Rosina (born at sea), on the Recovery arriving in South Australia on 19 September 1839. They immediately settled in Morphett Vale, keeping the Emu Hotel from 1839 to 1845.

 (Emu – 1936)

The hotel was called ‘The Emu’ until 1967 when it changed to the ‘Morphett Vale Tavern’. It reverted once more to the ‘Emu Hotel’ in 1997.


Golden Pheasant Hotel, Hackham

The old Golden Pheasant Hotel was built in 1841, and was a popular resort for the whalers who plied their trade along the coast. The hotel was built by Mr. William Holly, who arrived in Australia from England in 1840. The Golden Pheasant Hotel in Hackham, which was still standing in the 1920 is said to have been a haven for ‘whalers and smugglers’.

The smuggling of tobacco and spirits, common around the Onkaparinga River and supplying Adelaide proved a good deal more lucrative than looking for whales.

(Golden Pheasant only just standing in the 1920’s)

The materials used in the construction were gathered from the countryside, and the fact that they stood the test of time speaks well for the builders. Gumwood was used in the roofing, and the inside fixtures were of cedar.

 William Holly

William Holly arrived in South Australia in October 1840 on board the ship the “Apolline“. Publican, Golden Pheasant Inn, Hackham.

Ruins of the ‘Golden Pheasant Inn’ at the Pioneer Village, Hackham, during it’s dismantlement after closing, 8th April 1991.


Harts Temperance Hotel, Aldinga

In about 1868, an L-shaped building was constructed. When Francis Hart owned it, 1890 to 1920, it was known as Hart’s Temperance Hotel. Hart was a member of the local District Council for 13 years and had noticed that, while the agricultural fortunes of the district were declining, holiday makers were using the area consistently.

(Harts Temperance Hotel 1880’s)

Aldinga township was first laid out by Lewis Fidge, a local farmer, in about 1857. Quite rapidly, the settlement gained an hotel, church, blacksmith’s shop and a number of other shops and trades.
By the 1870s, as land in the vicinity had become affected by constant planting and harvesting of wheat and produced pathetic yields, there was a significant migration of farmers from Aldinga to areas opening up in the mid-north of South Australia. Churches closed and trade was depressed. Indeed, between 1861 and 1881 Aldinga’s population dropped from 916 to 665.
Aldinga, though, had one most important feature that saved it from disappearing – it was situated on the Old Coach Road from Adelaide to Sellicks Hill, Myponga and Encounter Bay. Thus, when people began, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to see the area with its rural charm and magnificent beaches as a perfect holiday spot, the town was in a unique position to cater for visitors.


Horseshoe Inn, Old Noarlunga

Horseshoe Hotel, Noarlunga was built in the 1840’s on a horseshoe shaped portion of the Onkaparinga River. No-orlunga is from the Aboriginal word for fishing place and the old inn was known for organising fishing parties on the tidal river. It also had the reputation as a watering hole for smugglers bringing their alcohol and tobacco from wrecks in the Gulf. The Horseshoe Inn was also a staging post for coaches and bullock teams from Adelaide.


The Horseshoe Hotel was first licensed in 1840, only four years after the settlement of South Australia. The Horseshoe existed as a licensed hotel until 1933, and did not trade again in this capacity until 1983 when it was granted a license to trade as a Historic Inn. During the period it did not operate as a hotel the Horseshoe had many other uses including being a boot maker and harness repair shop as well as an AMPOL Petrol station complete with petrol bowsers out the front.


The original Horseshoe Inn appeared considerably different in structure with an unusual roof construction of wooden shingles. At a later date, the façade was changed to include the parapet. The early existence of the Horseshoe Inn provided a welcome stop for the Cobb and Co. coaches and bullock teams en route to Willunga. The Becker family restored the Horseshoe and reopened its doors as a reputable restaurant, complete with the atmosphere of the 1800s, in August 1978. The granting of a Historic Inn License in 1983 meant the Old Horseshoe Inn could open its bars to customers seven days a week.


The man to the left of the photo holding the horse reins is John Charles Dungey, proprietor from 1887-1889 and again from 1893-1914 and the girls are likely to be his daughters.

The Horseshoe Inn was destroyed by fire on 1st January 1988, and in 2007 the site was redeveloped as Winnaynee, Horseshoe Inn Reserve.


Jolly Miller Hotel, Old Noarlunga

The Hotel was first licensed in 1850 under the name the ‘Jolly Miller’. The name was changed to the present name of the Noarlunga Hotel in 1881.


‘The Jolly Miller Hotel’ used to bear a sign of a ‘happy miller’ squatting on a bag of flour, with a foaming tankard in his hand. The hotel was established very early in the Old Noarlunga developing years. Built in about 1849 ,the original building was very small, and parts of the original structure are still contained within the existing building.

The eastern wing, behind the largest gable, is thought to have been added between 1904 and 1921 and the façade was possibly altered at this time also. (Its form and construction suggest that the façade was altered in the 1920’s). Other alterations took place in 1972 and 1979 and substantial additions were made to the east in 2001.

By the 1860s the town had a post office, council chamber, 2 churches, a public pound, 2 hotels, a mill, a brewery and brickworks.
Old Noarlunga became a well-known sporting venue, visited by cycling clubs and throughout the 20th century the town was a popular stopping point for tourists on the way to beaches in the region.
1972 saw Main South Road bypass the town and in 1978, by council resolution it became Old Noarlunga. Many local residents at the time were not in favour of the townships name change.


Old Bush, Willunga

The first Old Bush Inn in Willunga was situated on the south-eastern corner of St James Street and Atkinson Drive. Originally called the Lincolnshire or Lincolns Inn House.

(1st Old Bush approx. 1840)

The second Bush Inn was a distinctive two-storey inn, built from locally-made Atkinson’s bricks. It was at the rear of the present building, but overlooked St James Street. The first licensee was Mary Ann Atkinson. The dining room, known as the Long Room, measured 50 feet by 18 feet and was often used for dinners, public meetings, Court hearings and meetings of the District Council. At least one inquest was held here, in 1853, before the Court House was built. The local Hunt Club set out from here for ‘the days hunt through the ranges after Kangaroos, Wild Dogs and Cattle’.

(2nd Bush Inn approx. 1890)

The present single-storey stone building was completed in 1901 to replace the earlier two-storey brick Bush Inn, which had operated nearby from about 1870.

(Canberra 1905)

The Inn was known as the Canberra Hotel up until 1973. The licensee in 1917 was charged with trading after 6 pm but was given the benefit of the doubt, it being argued that the prosecuting constable’s watch was at odds with the Bar-room clock. Charges alleging that seven men were drinking in the bar after hours were consequently withdrawn.

 (Canberra 1926)

The picture above shows the White’s Canberra Hotel. The Dodge brothers car registration number 56-102, was registered in 1926 and owned by W.T. White owner of the hotel.

The Inn’s name was changed to the Old Bush Hotel in 1973.


Port Noarlunga Hotel, Port Noarlunga

The Port Noarlunga Hotel was constructed in 1932, at a time of intense development in the town.

The Hotel was constructed by Harwood Jarvis who also built the three houses adjacent ‘Milliari’ on Saltfleet Street. Jarvis had a holiday house in the town.

The license for this hotel was transferred from the Horseshoe Hotel in Old Noarlunga. This first licensee was Reg Naughton. Mrs Eva Whitrow was the licensee from 1941 to 1951 and Clive L. Whitrow, her son, was licensee from 1951 to 1963.

A beer garden, ‘The Frangipani Gardens’ was opened in 1947 as the first beer garden in South Australia. It was removed in 1996.


Salopian Inn, McLaren Vale

On the outskirts of the Former township of Gloucester (McLaren Vale) towards Willunga was built a hostelry in 1851 known simply as ‘Gumprs’, the name of its first owner.

It continued to be known by this name until licensed by E.F. Jones as the Salopian in 1854. A Salopian is a person from Shropshire England, but the reason for the choice remains unknown. In 1860 it was licensed as the ‘Volunteers’ and kept that name for one year only.


Pier Hotel, Port Willunga

Port Willunga was, at one stage, the second busiest port in South Australia (after Port Adelaide). It was used for shipment of grain and flour from the local farms and mills; and later slate from the Willunga quarries. Being such a busy port, Port Willunga also had two hotels. The Seaview Hotel and across the creek the Pier Hotel fondly name Uncle Tom’s Cabin’.

It was in 1840 that Thomas Martin & Mary Evans arrived in Holdfast Bay, Port Adelaide as “free settlers” from England. They embarked on the 29th May 1840 from Plymouth UK, on the three mastered Barque Lysander with 220 passengers on board and arrived in South Australia over three months later on September 6th 1840.
They were farmers and hoteliers who purchased land and built the Pier Hotel called “Uncle Toms Cabin” at Port Willunga. They were industrious people and accumulated considerable wealth which enabled them to run small businesses and farms. They are buried in the Willunga Cemetery south of Adelaide.

The Pier Hotel (Uncle Tom’s Cabin) was built in the early 1850s and was licensed as the Pier Hotel between 1852 and 1862. It had 15 rooms, including an upstairs ballroom, and three brick fireplaces, and was a focal point for social activities in the community that grew around the jetty.

The house known as the Harbourmaster’s Cottage was built next to Uncle Tom’s Cabin some time before 1887. The name reflects the association of the house with Thomas Martin Jr. who was harbourmaster at Port Willunga between December 1883 and September 1885. Thomas Jr. was also widely remembered locally for his role in the rescue of the survivors of the wreck of the Star of Greece which sank off Port Willunga in 1888.

The Pier Hotel was vacant for many years before it burnt down in the 1960’s

In June 1996 Flinders University of South Australia, undertook an excavation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin at the request of the District Council of Willunga.


Seaview Hotel, Port Willunga

Built in 1845, the the Sea View Hotel changed names many times during its operation between 1856 and 1894. It was established as the Lewis Arms Hotel in 1856 and was licensed to James Wilson. The hotel was also known unofficially as the Rising Sun and Temperance Hotel. From 1857 – 1858 the hotel was licensed to W.H. Marsh. Between 1859 and 1860 the hotel was known as Jervis Arms and was licensed to John Wilson. In 1860, the hotel was renamed the Lewis Arms Inn. The name remained for the following 24 years. During this time the hotel changed hands nine times and in 1884 the name was changed to the SeaView Hotel the name the hotel had until it was closed down in 1894.

SeaView Hotel, Port Willunga in 1882 when the proprietor was W Stirling.

The Hotel was used as a place of refuge when the Star of Greece survivors were brought ashore. The survivors were clothed and given medical attention in the hotel. Hotels were important meeting places for sailors. It is suggested that the Seaview Hotel played a significant role in the maritime cultural landscape as a place where mariners would have retired after working on the jetties or on the boats.

The building is currently a private residence and is the only site in Port Willunga registered as a place of State significance.


Victoria Hotel, Tapley’s Hill.

The first Victoria Hotel was built in 1840 by Thomas Tapley. The building is now part of a farm complex and the hotel was shifted further north to the present location.


On November 16th, 1838, Mary and Thomas Tapley and 9 of their children, Kitty, Thomas, James Morford, Elizabeth, Susannah, Mary Ann, John, Mary Jane and Hannah arrived in Port Adelaide aboard the Rajasthan. Thomas Tapley applied for land on ‘the hill’ and moved to what is now called Tapley’s Hill in January 1839. They established Rosenberg Farm and grew crops like wheat, barley and potatoes diversifying into hospitality by building an inn called the Victoria Hotel. Drivers of wool carts would stop at the Victoria overnight and then drive down all the way to ships at Port Adelaide creating a track known as Tapley’s Hill Road.

Tapley recognised that travellers would welcome a place to stop for refreshments and to water their horses at the top of the steep climb from the Adelaide Plain to the top of Tapley’s Hill. By 1840 he had constructed a small inn at the top of the hill, the Victoria Hotel, which has continued to trade at this location from that time to the present.
The small inn, known as the Victoria Hotel, was a staging stop for coaches on their journey south along the South Road and was periodically home to the local magistrate’s court. The Victoria Hotel prospered and has been rebuilt several times during its one hundred and fifty years.


Victory Hotel, Sellicks Hill

European settlers first had contact, in 1838, with the area now known as Sellicks Beach. At that time a road running from the whaling settlement at Encounter Bay to the fledgling capital of Adelaide came nearby. This road, though, was a terrible test for the people travelling it and the beasts that attempted to pull the loads being sent along its path. Nearby land was purchased in 1847 by one William Sellick, who lent his name to Sellicks Hill and Beach.
Perhaps the greatest feat achieved for this district was the construction of a new road over the range at Sellicks Hill. Although the road was approved some time before, it was not until a meeting at the Aldinga Hall in 1858 that locals saw it come to fruition. At that time, John Norman and others argued for the road to be built. By March 1859, they had their way and the road became known as the Victory Road and a local hotel, Norman’s Victory Hotel was built shortly afterwards. Unfortunately, although this new part of the road was excellent, other sections between Noarlunga and Aldinga were impassable in winter and alternative routes were used.


Willunga Hotel

In 1868 James Castle, storekeeper and licensee of the Old Bush Inn, decided that Willunga needed a another hotel. He relinquished his license of the Bush Inn and set about providing one.
Fortuitously he owned an allotment at 5 High Street, next to the general store he had opened in 1850. Here he built a fine two storey building with a front balcony, stables and stockyards in a position later described as ‘one of the best that could have been selected’ for a hotel. It was ‘tastefully designed and neatly finished both internally and externally’. A license was obtained and Willunga Hotel opened for business in October 1868.

A photo of Goode’s Store, 1885, which is now part of the Willunga Hotel. Picture: Willunga National Trust.

When James moved to Adelaide in 1871 he leased out the Willunga Hotel until his son William took over the license from 1879 to 1881. Then followed a succession of licensees, including six years tenure by George Webb whose family later ran the Alma Hotel.
The Quinn family ushered in a new era at the Willunga Hotel, owning it for fifty-two years until 1947. The women of the family were the mainstays of the business. When her husband James died in 1904, Dora (Dorothy) Quinn ran the Hotel singlehandedly until daughter Molly was old enough to help, assisted by son Andy.
The Hotel was a popular refreshment stop and meeting place for locals and visitors who arrived in goods wagons and passenger carriages. Hotel income was supplemented by providing liquid refreshment at Willunga Shows and catering for the opening of Willunga Slate Quarries in 1922.


Willunga Hotel, now expanded into the adjoining store buildings at 3 High Street. The three buildings came under single ownership in 1976. The original railings and slate veranda remain, together with internal stonework on some walls.



I would like to acknowledge the following for some contributions to this web page.

Willunga library
State Library of South Australia
National Library of Australia
Willunga National Trust

The Observer
The Chronicle
The Advertiser


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