London Hotel

London Hotel, south-east corner of Little Flinders Street (now Flinders Lane) and Market Street, Melbourne, c. 1905 (left, photographer unknown)
and c. 1920 (right, Edwin Studley Miller, photographer)
RHSV Collection : S-171 (left) and AL009-0101 (right)

According to Maurice Walsh in Tales of Taverns in the Victoria Colony, there were three London Hotels (or Inns) on the south-east corner of Little Flinders Street (now Flinders Lane) and Market Street, Melbourne. Walsh says that the first (London Inn), built in 1841, was constructed on the rubble of what used to be Melbourne’s first candle factory – the licensee being a Francis Hobson. Near to it on Flinders Lane, was the Ship Inn, Melbourne’s second licensed tavern. This area, so close to Queen’s Wharf on the Yarra River was ‘favourite haunt of seafarers in the early days of Melbourne’.

In 1852, the London Hotel was rebuilt. This is the building shown above left. Taken about 1905, it shows a medium sized two storey hotel amid a growing and ever bustling Melbourne. Advertisements can be seen on the neighbouring building’s walls for companies such as: “Alex Cowan & Sons, Paper Makers”, “H. F. Ransford, Customs and Shipping Agents”, “Frederick Tate, Customs Agents, Goods and Parcels Exported”, and “Quiggin. B, Timber Merchants.” Immediately adjacent to the hotel in Market Street is a further customs agent, George Murray – appropriate since customs agents and warehouses, like hotels, taverns and inns, were often strategically located to dockside areas. Posters on the windows of the hotel confirm that James Hill (late of the Royal George Hotel) was the new owner. Notice too, the power lines, horse-drawn carts and the various forms of hats, including Bowler and Newsboy styles, worn by the men posing outside the hotel.

By 1918 Ettie Simbert was the licensee of the hotel, which, since the around the turn of the century, had some external remodelling (a ‘facelift’). Its exterior c. 1920 is shown above right. At this time Eli Phillips had an association with the hotel, as he is also named in signage on the building. By June 1923 the London Hotel was being demolished for a new three-storey hotel costing approximately £14,000, designed by Sydney Smith and Serpell and renamed “The Old London Inn.” Some fifty years later, the hotel was still standing in this location.


The major sources consulted for this article were: Maurice Walsh Tales of Taverns in the Victoria Colony (no date, see; The Argus, Melbourne, Wednesday 20 June 1923, page 9; and Sands & McDougall’s commercial and general Melbourne directory, Sands & McDougall, Melbourne, 1904, 1974. A photograph of the Old London Inn (built post 1923) is located at Original research undertaken by Elisha Catalano, Deakin University, while on internship at RHSV.

Unfortunately, though very detailed, the copies of Walsh consulted have no references, apart from an indication in the Introduction that he has referred to The Chronicles of Garryowen (The chronicles of early Melbourne, 1835–1852 : historical, anecdotal and personal, reprinted in the 1970s), and the Robert K. Cole papers at the State Library of Victoria.

Robert K. Cole papers

Robert K Cole was a well-known identity in the brewing world of Victoria, joining Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) in 1906 and spending all of his working life at a Victorian plant. He was a member of the Historical Society of Victoria (later RHSV), taking particular interest in the history of the brewing industry and hotels in Victoria.

The Cole-Tetlow index to the Robert K Cole collection of hotel records is an important source of information about Melbourne publicans. The index was compiled by Eric Tetlow, State Library Genealogy Team volunteer, using the Robert K Cole Collection of hotel records held in the Library’s Australian Manuscripts Collection. This index contains over 21,000 names of hotel licencees taken from the Melbourne city and metropolitan volumes of the Robert K Cole collection of hotel records held at State Library Victoria (SLV). Copies of the original volumes are located in the Library’s Family History & Newspaper Room.

The index entries contain the name of the licencee or owner, location of the hotel, dates when the licence was held, and volume and page numbers, which can be used to locate an entry in the Robert K Cole Collection of hotel records. Covering the years c 1841 to 1949, the information was gathered by Robert K. Cole from various sources such as post office directories, and newspaper and trade journal notices.

Access the Cole-Tetlow index by searching the SLV’s Australiana index.