Yamba’s First Pub
Many towns grew and developed around the local pub so each one has a story to tell about that town. Yamba’s first pub, the Wooli Hotel has since disappeared but still has historical significance for Yamba.
The Wooli Hotel was built by Walter Black in 1862 on two allotments along Wooli Street, facing Yamba Bay, not far from the public wharf and opposite what is now the Calypso Caravan Park.
It was a long rectangular building with a detached kitchen at its western end, parallel to the shoreline with rectangular stables to the rear. In 1870 a room was added at the eastern end and a separate shingled roof building with two attic rooms was also built at its eastern end. Further renovations and additions were carried out in 1884, probably to retain and attract customers in the face of competition from the newly opened Yamba Hotel nearby.
Walter Black was granted a licence conditional on his supplying stabling for four horses. He was also cautioned that since there were no police stationed in the town he would be held strictly liable for any breach of the peace occurring in his hotel.
The hotel became a popular watering hole for workers but also served as a community-meeting place. A magisterial investigation into the tragic death of John Whelan, killed when run over by a rail truck loaded with stone for the breakwaters was held at the Wooli Hotel, then in the same year, when the Mary Lawson was wrecked, survivors were cared for at the hotel. Again, in 1875 the hotel hosted the presentation of a silver watch to pilot, Captain Francis Freeburn, in honour of his rescuing several officers and crew off the wrecked Helen McGregor.
The new competition from the Yamba Hotel, as well as a shift of the breakwater works from Yamba to Iluka, must have severely affected Walter’s business as he unsuccessfully advertised all of his Yamba properties for sale in 1895, which led to a bankruptcy sale the following year. The Hotel was closed for the next four years, reopening in 1900, but the revival was short lived as the business was offered for sale again a few years later, together with a music hall (Black’s Hall, opened 6 May 1893). Business would have been suffering greatly as the harbour works closed down in 1903 and many of the workforce left the area.
Wooli Hotel converted to two houses in 1911 Photo taken c1930 what was then Cavanagh’s Flats
After Walter’s death in 1904 his wife Maria leased the land and hotel in 1905 to Edward Stephen Blanch, a retired publican from Lawrence. Blanch had a few appearances in the Police Court regarding unsatisfactory premises and having drinkers on the premises after hours. Maria regained the lease in January 1907 but in 1911 the block was subdivided and the building converted to 2 separate houses, one of which still stands today at 7 Harbour Street.