There were a large number of hotels in the Ballarat district over the years. Some of these were elaborate and grand buildings which have survived and are still in use. Others were no more than canvas shanties, of which very little, perhaps only their name survives.
Click here for a list of Hotels by location.
Much of the work in researching Ballarat's hotels was undertaken by John Hargreaves during the 1930's and 1940's. His book, "Ballarat Hotels, past and present", published in 1943, documents Ballarat's hotel history. Many of the hotels which he describes as still operating in the 1940's no longer exist. Often descriptions of the locations also refer to landmarks that have also disappeared. A large number of hotels he could identify only by name, and their location and history remains a mystery. Many shared the same name which makes it difficult to decide which individual hotel is being referred to in contemporary documents.
1934 talk to the Ballarat Historical Society
In 1934 Hargreaves gave a lecture on the hotels of Ballarat to the Ballarat Historical Society. Reports of the talk from as far away as Geraldton in Western Australia, give a good summary of the history:
EARLY BALLARAT. A PLETHORA OF HOTELS SOME PECULIAR NAMES. Apparently in the early days Ballarat was surrounded by breweries and thickly dotted with hotels, says the Ballarat 'Courier.' Within a radius of four miles of the post office there were no fewer than 666 separate public houses and 13 breweries. Information to this effect was given by Mr. J. Hargreaves before members of the Ballarat Historical Society in the course of a lengthy paper entitled. 'Early Hostels.'
In contrast with the days of the roaring camp, the speaker pointed out that in the same area there are now only 67 hotels, but they are of a different class to the beer shops and shanties which served the day and generation of the early miner and adventurer. These early hostels served a need for victualling and accommodating the diggers. The uncertainty which attached to the new goldfield did not warrant the erection of commodious hotels, and this fact actuated the Licensing Court in granting licenses to the great number of small houses. It was impossible, Mr. Hargreaves said, to state the largest number trading at one time, but 477 were in existence in Ballarat and Sebastopol in 1870. The following hotels, established in the fifties are still in existence: Bath's (Craig's Hotel), George, Unicorn, Victoria, Australia Felix, British Queen, Imperial, North Grant, Mack's, and the Grapes. In the early days there were approximately 100 licensed houses from Grenville Street along Bridge and Main Streets to the four-mile post on the Buninyong Road. Now only six remain to assuage the public thirst along that frontage.
Mr. Hargreaves created some amusement by recalling the names of some of the early hotels^ some of which were "Dunmow Flitch and Bacon", "Help me thro' the World", "Pick and Shovel", "London Shades", "Grasshopper", "Dew-Drop", "Cottage Inn", "Cross Keys", "Village Inn", "Hit or Miss", "Saracen's Head", "Native Youth", "Erin-go-Bragh" , "Horse and Jockey", "Stag and Hound", "Pack Horse", "Flying Squadron". Applications were also made for "Lover of Justice"' and "Surrey Coal Hole", but the court refused them. Each of the hotels was traced by Mr. Hargreaves to its location, and out outstanding events relating to many of them were recorded. In those days there were in Ballarat six "Commercial Hotels", six "Golden Fleeces", four "Globes", three "London Taverns", five "Nationals", three "Royal Standards", four "Temperance" and four "Victorias".
It was obvious from the amount of information imparted that Mr. Hargreaves had gone to unlimited trouble in collecting and arranging his data, and in responding to a vote of thanks he said the work had occupied him for about five years.