First public house

The "Glenelg Illustrated 1836 - 1856" claims that Glenelg was the site of the first public house.

The question is: is this true? Chris Ward says it is not true (you can almost hear his derisive snort!)

Being a naturally curious person I noted that it was claimed that the first public house was at Glenelg. Being sure that at the time there were probably more drunks at Nepean Bay than Holdfast Bay, I did a little research.

There were no actual licences issued prior to 21 March 1839. There had been some legislation passed in 1837 but it was faulty so early places were actually unlicensed premises.

At Nepean Bay/Kingscote there were:-

  • The Crown & Anchor Booth at least as early as 2 November 1836
  • Deacon’s in 1837 run by William Archer Deacon
  • Thompson’s in 1839

At Holdfast Bay/Glenelg there was:-

  • The Reed Hut from 6 March 1838 and renamed and probably licenced as The Glenelg Hotel from 23 March 1839 until the licence lapsed in May 1860. It was located on what is now the corner of Colley Terrace and Anzac Hwy facing the Pat. The first publicans were Francis Fenden and Francis Henning and the last Henry Moseley

William Archer Deacon arrived on the Africaine on 4 Nov 1836 and the Crown & Anchor was already operating.

Deacon opened a “coffee shop” but I suggest it was about as much a coffee shop as some of the coffee shops in Hindley Street in the late 1950s.

Charley Thompson and his wife appear to have operated Thompson’s.

As an additional snippet Robert Bristow (Cygnet 11/9/1836), who had three different early pubs including the Marino Inn (Kingston House), held the first cricket match in the colony at The Great Tom of Lincoln in Thebarton in 1839.

So which were the first licenced public houses on Kangaroo Island, and when?

Queenscliffe Family Hotel in 1883 ( Queenie’s obtained their licence on 9 December 1884. Upgrade in 1911 and again ca 1938.) Penneshaw 1886 relocated about 1903. Ozone in 1907. Parndana and The Shed much later.

- Chris Ward

The oldest licensed pub is South Australia is the Edinburgh Castle in Currie Street, Adelaide. Its proprietor, John Guthrie, was granted the first license to sell alcohol in South Australia on 31 May 1837. The pub was originally known as Guthrie's and parts of the original building are still in use. Other pubs opened in Adelaide later the same year include The Princes Berkley in Hindley Street (then known as The Buffalo's Head and for some time as the Black Bull), Fordham's (known later as the Sturt Arcade Hotel), now Grenfell 110, Grenfell Street and The British in Finniss Street, North Adelaide. The oldest intact and wholly original hotel building is the former Beresford Arms in Gilles Street, built in 1839. - State Library SA


South Australian hotel records prior to 21 February 1839 : including identifying South Australia's oldest hotel by identifying the State's first licensed publicans, and the title and location of the premises / by J.L. (Bob) Hoad

Hotels and publicans in South Australia 1836 - March 1993 / by J.L. (Bob) Hoad

University of South Australia. South Australian Sources for History and Social Science; "Glenelg Illustrated 1836 - 1856"; Compiled: George K. Soward; W.K. Thomas, printers, 1896; Adelaide [S. Aust.]

(This original book is available in the State Library. There was a facsimile edition printed in 1978 which may even be in some suburban libraries.)

State Library of South Australia