Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Who had the first Publican's License for a hotel in New Zealand?

[Taylor, Richard], 1805-1873 :Kororareka. 1839.. Taylor, Richard, 1805-1873 :Sketchbook. 1835-1860.. Ref: E-296-q-171-1. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22388752

During the times of early settlement in Northland, New Zealand, the town of Kororareka (now Russell) in the Bay of Islands was known as "The Hell Hole of the Pacific". Whaling ships frequented the settlement well before the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. After annexation by the British, laws came into force requiring hotels to have a publican's license.

In reading the history provided as part of the Russell Bay of Islands website, I noted the following:

"New Zealand’s First Licensed Hotel After New Zealand became a colony in 1840 all hotels selling alcohol had to have liquor licences. The country’s first was granted to John Johnson of the Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Kororāreka. The hotel in Russell is the fourth on the site."

Indeed, John Johnson of the Duke of Marlborough Hotel was granted a publican's license, along with several others in the same settlement. Johnson and 8 others in total held the first Publican's licenses. On looking further into the granting of licenses for 1840, I found  in the New Zealand Advertiser & Bay of Islands Gazette (16 July 1840) the following had been granted Publican's licenses:

  • George Russell, Russell Hotel, Kororareka
  • Samuel Allen Wood, Wood's Hotel, Kororareka
  • John Johnson, Duke of Marlborough Hotel, Kororareka
  • Robert Edney and George Hemmings, Whale Fishery, Kororareka
  • Robert Evans, Commercial Hotel, Kororareka
  • Thomas Nolan, Mason's Arms, Kororareka
  • David Mason and James Stewart, Sailor's Return, at the Pa
  • William Tibbey, Russell Hotel, at the Pa
  • James Stiles, Eagle Tavern, at the Pa.

In fact, a total of nine publican's licenses were granted on the same day. However, according to the history of the Duke of Marlborough Hotel:

"After the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, New Zealands first government was formed just down the road in Okaito, and started treating to bring the famed lawlessness to an end.  With Johnny being so well known in the local area, it is no surprise that he managed to swing the very first licence for his establishment (the colonial treasurer was a close friend), so after 13 years of serving Whalers, traders and prostitutes, Johnny the ex con was now all legal. The licence now hangs proudly in a gold frame in the bar, where sharp eyed history buffs have pointed out a reference to the succession of Queen Victoria from her father. "
Sourced: "Duke of Marlborough Hotel - a place in history" 
Published Duke of Marlborough Hotel,
 Russell, Bay of Islands New Zealand
Retrieved 28 January 2014

Screenshot of the first Publican's license issued in New Zealand
Sir George Grey Special Collections Reference: NZMS 346 Auckland Libraries
Retrieved: 14 January 2014

Further research at last found the original copy of the license on Te Ara. Indeed. John Johnson was granted the first license, marked with a number 1.


Initially I questioned if Johnson was the first license holder in the Bay of Islands. While a total of nine licenses were granted on the same day and no number order given I assumed too easily. Lesson learned and this post amended.


Anonymous said...

Pretty sure if you visit the Duke and view the licence in the bar, you can see that it is numbered something like 001 - so even if others were granted a licence at the same time, the Duke received the very first licence. (It's also still operating whereas the others are, I'm assuming, long gone.)

Liz Clark said...

Hi Amy

Hey thanks for that! Very helpful!

Liz said...

Post amended thanks Amy