On the SW corner of Ann St is a site that has had a hotel on it since 1850, nine years before Queensland’s separation from NSW. It has had a long and chequered history. In its earliest form it was known as the Bush and Commercial Inn, then the license changed hands and the hotel became known as the Freemasons Arms. It was then rebuilt (or at least renovated) as the Lamb Inn, and in 1863 was renamed the Royal George by its new licensee George Dickens.
Dickens became ill, and advertised in July 1864 for a new licensee, describing the hotel thus: “The Royal George Hotel fronting Ann and Brunswick Streets Fortitude Valley. Comprising 18 rooms, out houses, good stabling, spacious yard, and capital cellar. The above is a corner allotment fronting Ann Street being the main road to Breakfast Creek, Eagle Farm, German Station, Bald Hills, Sandgate, and Pine River with a frontage to Brunswick Street leading to Bowen Bridge, Kedron Brook & c. The House is an old established one, and doing a good business, and the proprietor’s reason for relinquishing business is on account of ill health in his family …”
The photograph above dates from 1876 according to John Oxley Library. The date in the lower right corner is 1854, which probably indicates the date of the construction of the hotel in this form. By the time this photograph was made a second storey had been added, the property was owned by the Church of England and the licensee was William Ruddle. Ruddle purchased the property from the church in 1885, and engaged prominent architect FDG Stanley to carry out some renovations. Stanley removed and replaced the roof, extended the hotel along the Brunswick St side, constructed a cellar, and added some verandahs around the building. The hotel would remain like this through to the 1960s, and the photograph below was taken in 1939, in which the hotel looks quite prosperous.
In 1901, Robin Dods was engaged by Ruddle to design the gabled two-storey building next door on Brunswick St known as Ruddle’s Building, and that also remains today. Further changes in ownership have followed over the years, and this has also meant more changes to the structure itself. In the sixties, the verandahs were removed (it seemed to be a common theme of that decade - perhaps to do with the introduction of commercial air-conditioning?).
An entertaining personal story compliments of D’Lora McCandless
via Old Brisbane Album Facebook Page
The Royal George, She certainly was grand in her heydays. I remember my father telling me a story more than once. It would have been about the time the second pic was taken. Just before WW2. My father worked with horses and when he was young and single before he enlisted for the war, he was a drinker and a gambler (both of which he gave up). He won on a horse race. Big time. A fortune in those days. He decided to shout the bar at The Royal George and as he became more drunk he paid young boys to do a "run".
To head off to the bars and hotels of Brisbane to tell anyone who was interested that the drinks were on him. They came by the hundreds and eventually the crowd spilled out and blocked the streets. The police were called to control the crowd and urge them off the streets so traffic could get through. For one glorious afternoon dad was the most popular man in Brisbane and the Royal George the place to be... until the winnings ran out. I daresay the proprietor was a happy man too. It would have set him up for life but Dad never seemed to regret it when telling the story and always had a grin. Mum would oh and ah at the waste of it. It's nice to see the hotel at the time he talked about it and I can only imagine the chaos and the verandahs lined with people.