Hobart pub claims to be nation's oldest

Hobart pub claims to be nation's oldest
By admin

The reopening of a Hobart pub is set to reignite the debate over the identity of Australia's oldest watering hole.

The island capital's Hope and Anchor, which will open its doors this week after six years, claims the title.

Its operators say its licence dates back to 1807, eight years before rivals in Tasmania and NSW.

The establishment also lays claim to occupying the same site the longest, although extensive renovations from the 1820s have left little of the original building.

"This has proven that it's 1807," manager Robert Wilson said.

"There's a couple of others that have said that it's 1815 when they started trading."

Those others are the Bush Inn, in the Tasmanian town of New Norfolk, and the Macquarie Arms, in Windsor near Sydney.

The Bush Inn claims to be the oldest continually licensed pub in the country, with the same name, the same site and parts of the original building.

Its NSW rival claims something similar, but in the same building, and with a name change to The Royal from 1874 to 1961.

Mr Wilson, though, says The Hope has also been continually licensed.

"Technically (the licensee) could have opened the door any day he wanted and sold a drink because it was continually licensed," he said.

"They're saying continually trading at the other places.

"This is 1807 and their's is 1815, so there's a big difference."

Built near Hobart's waterfront, the pub was originally know as The Whale Fishery and was also called the Alexandra for a period.

It catered for the city's fishermen, and staff from the nearby Mercury newsroom, until it closed in 2008.

An antique collection that make it a virtual museum remained untouched until it was bought for $1.5 million by a Chinese businessman.

The Australian Hotels Association says it keeps no official list of the nation's oldest watering holes.

Pub history expert Dr Tanja Luckins, from Deakin University, says it is almost impossible to provide a definitive answer.

"It depends what you mean by old – is it the oldest standing building, is it the pub with the oldest licence, is it the pub with the oldest continuous licence?" Dr Luckins said.

"There are some buildings which were never actually formally licensed but they were known as somewhere to have a drink and they then became licensed."

The Hope is thought to have been a haunt of Ikey Solomon, the convict on which Charles Dickens based the character of Fagan in the novel Oliver Twist.

Dr Luckins says it would have provided its share of fun back in 1807.

"It would be pretty rough and tumble," she said.

"I think `colourful' would be a nice word to use.

"A bit of sly grogging, a bit of betting, a bit of gambling and that sort of stuff."

The pub will celebrate its 207th birthday on the date it was first licensed, July 25.

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