Current Issue #488

A Guide to Adelaide’s Pub Heritage

A Guide to Adelaide’s Pub Heritage

Adelaide’s hotels have always been a crucial part of the city’s character. Many date back to Adelaide’s very foundation in the 1830s, with some even continually operating since that time.

Back then individual people were awarded liquor licenses, not the venues themselves. Those publicans were obliged to give food, water and shelter to travellers, and host any corpse brought to his door. To refuse any of these services would incur a 20 pound fine.

They were places of music, community gatherings, political foment and casual acquaintance, as so many of them remain today. Using the resources of the National Trust of SA, we have put together a quick guide to the heritage of six of Adelaide’s enduringly popular and curious pubs.



The Beresford Arms Inn on Gilles St no longer exists as a functioning hotel, but it is a testament to how Adelaide’s pub heritage. Built in 1840, the Beresford is a classic example of how most of Adelaide’s pubs began. Those hotels we know and love today were rebuilt in the classic colonial style during a boom period in the late nineteenth century. Now used as a private residence, the Beresford Arms was severely damaged by fire in 2001, but gratefully preserved thanks to the owner and Adelaide City Council.



One of the oldest licensed venues in South Australia, the Rob Roy was first established as a one storey cottage pub in 1838, more similar to the Beresford Arms than its present form. Named for the 18th century Robin Hood figure, Rob Roy the hotel has undergone extensive changes in its history. But unlike many of Adelaide’s pubs, it has maintained integrated the older constructions into its current design. It was reputedly also where the first person to be lynched in South Australia was caught (they were strung up down the road in Hurtle Square).



Now known as the Producer’s Bar, this hotel has undertaken countless name changes in its lifetime, coinciding with neighbouring industries and different clientele. It was first known as the Woodman’s Inn, popular with workers from the wood yard that once sat where the Botanic Hotel now does. Then around 1900, Adelaide got its first power station on Grenfell Street and the hotel became known as the Electric Light. Only a few years later it was rebuilt entirely in the majestic form we see today, and called the Producer’s Hotel, catering for those selling fresh produce in the Fruit and Produce Exchange across the road. In 1986, it again changed name to the East End Exchange when the markets left the city, and has cycled through its old monikers right until the present day.



The Exeter has long been a mainstay of Rundle Street patrons. Built in 1851, the hotel has seen plenty of punters come through its doors. The building as it is now was built in 1888 to compete with the now defunct Tavistock Hotel, which sat on the north-east corner of the Frome-Rundle intersection, and was knocked down in the 1960s. While the hotel has undergone many refurbishments in its time, little has since its most recent and distinctive green tiles were added in 1929, which adds to the nostalgic charm of the place.



Just up the road we find another Rundle Street favourite, the Austral Hotel. The Austral was originally constructed between 1880 and 1883 as part of an ambitious complex that now stretches west down Rundle from the pub. The exterior of the pub has changed minimally since its heyday, with the exception of the ‘bunker’ space that was added at the rear to ameliorate noise complaints from nearby residents. A far sight from what one would see at the hotel today, a horse and carriage smashed through the front bar in 1915 after it was startled by a motorcycle, causing catastrophic damage to the bar, but miraculously injured no patrons.



Another one of Adelaide’s oldest pubs, the Tivoli dates right back to 1846. Reputedly named after the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, it was a massively popular theatrical venue for a long time.  It was only in 1916 when 6 o’clock closing times put and end to theatrical performances, but the hotel returned as a performance space, hosting rock bands like the iconic Cold Chisel from the 70s until the 90s. The hotel’s classic large room is one of few remaining in Adelaide’s pub set, and is used presently as a restaurant, named the Ballroom.

The Adelaide City Explorer resource also contains a series of free self guided walks relating to Adelaide’s heritage.

Photos courtesy of National Trust SA

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