Prince Alfred Hotel (1864-1922)

The first mention of the Prince Alfred Hotel is on the 27 April 1863 when George Cann applice for a license for the Prince Alfred Hotel, Preston.   It was refused as the building was not yet complet.   The following year Cann applied again and on 4th May 1864 he was granted a license.   

George ran the hotel until he passed away, aged 59, in August 1874.   Less than two years later, having succeeded her husband as the publicam, Sarah Cann also passed away.   The new publican was John Keady.   Keady renamed the hotel Keady's Hotel, although the actual licence was Sarah Pryor.   Pryor was one of three Preston publicans fined in December 1877 for failing to have a light light outside their hotels after dark.  The fine was 2s 6d.

Sarah transfered the license onto Lewis Wiffen in September 1882.  Being a publican could be a challenging profession and there was a number of ways to incur fines from diligent policemen and  hotel inspectors.  In February 1884 Wiffen was caught with having schnapps in a Wolfe's schnapps bottle which was under proof.   It was a common trick amongst publicans to substitute cheaper alcohol into top shelf bottles.   Wiffen stated he had had the bottle for over two months as it was in low demand amongst his customers.  Curiously the publican of the Bridge Hotel was also found to have under proof schnapps in a Wolfe's bottle.   During the proceedings the lawyer, Mr. Wilkinson offered around glasses of the offending liquor and defide anyone to taste the difference. Wiffen was fined 10s. 

In September 1886 Thomas John Brailsford passed away at the Prince Alfred Hotel. He had only just purchased the hotel.  The following year his widow sold the hotel along with several acres of land for for £6,010.   It made her a handy profit as Mr. Brailsford had purchased it less than 18 months before hand for £2,225.   The new owner was Mr. Showers.   

Robert Walker was the publican in 1888 when a significant milestone was achieved in Preston.   The Northern Gas Company turned on the gas for the township of Preston.  As the street lighting was gas this was a significant event.   Even more conveniently for the Prince Alfred Hotel, the valve was located outside the hotel and the Mayor and all the dignitaries were able to retire to the hotel for refreshments afterwards.   About fifty people attended the post launch festivities at the hotel.

In April 1889 he applied for a liquor license for a new hotel, also named Prince Alfred Hotel, presumably built on the site of the old hotel.   The license was granted.  On the 2nd August 1890 Mrs Mills, the hostess, organised a splendid supper to celebrate the opening of the new Prince Alfred Hotel.  

Later that year a serious assault took place after an altercation at the hotel.   Mr M. Feldman and Carl Wignall had got into a disagreement at the hotel with Bernard Deehan.   After leaving the hotel Deeham assaulted the two men, hitting Feldman several times over the head with a bottle.  The affair was quite confusing with J. Burns, J. Brown and J. Lee also involved in the fight.  Deeham was fined £1 and £1 1s in costs.

Mrs Mills was soon in trouble with the law, being charged with having the bar door being open on Sunday 9th February 1890.  Constables Cole and Spratling noticed a bright light in the bar as they were passing the hotel.   Peering through a gap in the frosting of the door they saw Mr Mills in the bar with a towel and a glass.   He took a bottle from the shelf and went into the bar.  They noticed that Mr Mills met another man there and a coin was passed to Mr Mills who placed it in the till.  Shortly afterwards several men were seen leaving the rear of the hotel.   Police failed to observe Mr Mills handing a glass of liquor across in exchange for the coin, hence the charge of haivng the bar door open rather than the more serious charge of serving alcohol on Sunday.   The defence lawyer, Mr Wilkinson again, put forward the novel arguement that there was no evidence whether the hotel was located in Coburg, Northcote or Preston and therefore the court might not have jurisdiction  A fine of £5 was imposed nevertheless.

Work colleagues William O'Brien and Daniel Sullivan don't seem to have been on the best terms.  When they met up at the Prince Alfred Hotel  Sullivan greeted O'Brien with 'You're a fair cur in fact, you're a cur covered in blood (I am sure it sounded worse at the time).  O'Brien disagreed with the character assessment and invited Sullivan outside to discuss the matter further.   Sullivan felt it prudent to slip away but was caught and thumped on the nose.  

'They then went at it hammer and tongs' reported the Northcote Leader.  Witnesses commented about the two men rolling in the mud.   Sullivan was fined £5 and O'Brien a 20s fine.

In January 1895, tragedy struck the current publican, Alexander Sutherland and his wife Mary, when their four year daughter Rose drowned whilst playing in a local tan pit.  The Sutherland's had taken over from Mrs Mills in 1893 and would remain until 1899.   

Mrs Marco Spann held the license for a year before passing onto Elizabeth Ryland.  Ryland in turn passed it onto Margaret McKenna in 1902.  In 1905 Margaret found herself in trouble with the law.   The defendant, described as 'a very old lady,' was caught serving alcohol for a friend, outside operating hours.   She commented that it was just unfortunate that Constable Young happened to come into the hotel at that time.   The Magistrate, Dr. Cole drily '...that usually happens.' She was fined £2, instead of the more typical £5 for that offense.  By the time of sentancing Margaret had already passed the license on to Stoddart.

In 1905 Captain Alfred Stoddart took over.  Again the licensee stayed only a brief time before Henry Lane took over in 1908.    Lane did not get to enjoy it long as he passed away in November of the following year.

The license passed onto D.H. Lane, probably Henry's widow.  John Thomas McNamara became the hotel's second last publican.   

Over the previous decade the hotel was in all probability well run as there is no record of any liquor offenses or fights at the hotel.   In 1917  McNamara had a couple of clashes with the law.   Firstly he was charged with not having the bar door locked and sale of alcohol out of hours.  The charge seemed a little unfair.   Two policeman, Constables Webger and Jacob (both from Russell Street Police Station) had arrived at the hotel and attempted to enter through a side door.   They were dressed in soldier's uniforms.   McNamara challenged them and they stated they just wanted to play billiards.   He let them in and gave them a free glass of porter.   They tried to pay but McNamara refused payment.  McNamara must have sussed that something was not right and challenged them and accussed them of being police.   They denied it.  The defence lawyer, Mr Meagher thought the act by police was a low act but the Magistrates imposed a £5 fine.  In July of the same year McNamara picked up another £5 for selling alcohol in restricted hours.  

During McNamara's time as the publican, the hotel served as the headquarters of the Preston Soccer Football Club.  From 1916 hotels had their operating hours greatly reduced from 6am to 10pm, to 10am to 6pm.  It was the start of the infamous six o'clock swill.   Publicans, including McNamara began to appeal the Council valuations on their properties, as the reduction in hours severely impacted their business.

In 1920 Catherine Mulqueeny became the final publican at the Preston Arms Hotel.   Almost immediately the hotel was slated for closure as part of the Licenses Reduction Board.   Mulqueeny appealed the position stating that the Board had neglected to take into consideration the accommodation offered by the hotel.   The appeal was rejected and Mulqueeny took the post of publican at the Preston Arms Hotel.  For the owner of the Preston Arms Hotel the amount was £1,250 and another £400 paid out to the licensee, Catherine Mulqueeny.   The amount paid out for the Prince Alfred Hotel was at the upper end of the compensation which demonstrates the condition of the building and the amount of trade it was still drawing in from the nearby tanneries and abbatoirs.

After its closure the building alternated between private home, boarding house and from the 1950s to 70s apartments. During the 2000's it operated as a factory outlet for Barlow Shoes.  In more recent times it has again became a source of refreshments as the Kisses for Kaos cafe and bar.



1864 George Cann

1874 Mrs Sarah Cann

1876 John & William Keady

1877 Sarah Pryor

1878 John Keady

1882 Lewis Wiffen

1885 Thomas Brailsford

1886 Mrs Brailsford

1887 Robert Walker

1890 Mary Mills

1893 Alexander Sutherland

1899 Mrs Marco Spann

1900 Elizabeth Ryland

1902 Margaret McKenna

1905 Captain Alfred Stoddart

1908 Henry G. Lane

1909 D. H. Lane

1910 John Thomas McNamara

1920 Catherine Mulqueeny 

Cole, Robert K. Index of Hotels 1841 – 1949. Unpublished manuscript.

Darebin Libraries. Local History File: Hotels.

Edge, Gary (2004). Surviving the six o’clock swill: a history of Darebin’s hotels. Melbourne: Darebin Libraries.

 Soccer: Preston Club Meets.  The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. 1861-1954), 29 Jan 1915, p.2

Turning on the gas at Preston.  Mercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. 1878-1903), 17 Aug 1888, p.2

Prosecution under the Licensivng Act.  The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1957), 4 Mar 1890, p.9

Child drowned in tan pit.  The Age. (Melbourne, Vic. 1854-1954), 10 Jan 1895, p.6

Hotel compensation.  The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1957), 17 Oct 1921, p.7

Sunday liquor traffic.  Constable came at the wrong time.  The Age (Melbourne, Vic. 1854-1954), 20 Dec 1905, p.10

Licensing prosecutions.  Police in soldiers uniforms.  The Argus (Melbounre, Vic. 1848-1957), 14 Feb 1917, p.5

Deaths.  Northcote Leader (Vic. 1888 - ), 21 September 1886

Annual publicans licensing Meeting. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848-1956), 4 May 1864, p.7