“First opened in 1854 the hotel seems to have been built in two stages. Judging by the roughly-worked bluestone, the building facing King William street is most likely part of the original hotel; but the Italianate corner building with its semi-circular arches, miniature heads and mixed Classical details came later, possibly during the middle 1860s. (Hotels in Fitzroy up to 1906, Nicola A Piccolo, 1971)
Edward Wills arrived in Australia in 1844 and after purchasing land, built in 1857, the two buildings in the photo below. These together became the National Hotel.
The following information is from the June 2020 issue of the Fitzroy History Society Newsletter, written by member Mike Moore:
“Edward Wills arrived in 1844 as an assisted immigrant sponsored by Mr Webb who owned the 28 acres of land, Webb’s Paddock, in early Fitzroy. By 1849 Wills lived on Brunswick St, owning two sites there, and by 1859 he owned most of the sites northwards from King William St towards Moor St.
From August 1857 he built, for himself, two adjacent 3 storey shops, later identified as 174 Brunswick St and 95 King William St. Together they comprised the National Hotel.
Fitzroy became a separate municipality in 1858 and early meetings of the new Fitzroy Municipal Council were held on 4 and 18 October 1858 at the hotel. Many other public meetings, with 100 or 200 attending, were held at the National Hall, part of the National Hotel, through to the formation of the Fitzroy Cricket Club there in November 1861.
In March 1860, the National Hotel with its large hall was advertised for a 3 year lease. Jacob Gartside Holdsworth secured a 5 year lease (at £300 pa and dated 3 April 1860) and his publican license was granted in September 1860. Initially married in England in 1848, he had come to Melbourne via Wisconsin and California, USA and had been a grocer in central Melbourne. He had no legal children, and “was generally known as and supposed to be a single man” in Melbourne. He died at the hotel in April 1862, aged 43. The inventory associated with his probate lists the 500 items (stock, furniture and fittings) then in the hotel’s 6 bedrooms, bar, 2 parlours, sitting room, billiard room, bagatelle room, kitchen and cellar. The associated National Hall had 10 wood chairs and 30 wood benches. His nephews, James and William Whittaker applied for transfer of the license, but the succeeding licensee from April 1864 was William Smith .
Succeeding publicans were Thomas Howard Bond (1869-), George Eldridge (1879-), George Potter (1885-), Robert Glen (1888-91), Miss Katie West (1895-), Mary Doyle, Miss Emma Foy (1898-), and Mrs Ellen Campbell (1910-).
Barnett Isaacs owned the National Hotel from before 1879, until his death in London in August 1884. Barnett Isaacs, together with Mark Moss and Henry Fergie, had also jointly owned the Rob Roy Hotel, valued at £5000 in 1884.
His son Woolf Barnett Isaacs was then the owner through to 31 December 1899, although he had become insolvent in 1895. Woolf died on 5 June 1905, age 62, leaving no real estate and less than £1000 of personal assets.
James Ernest Reading, a carrier, was the occupant at 95 King William St from 1914 until his death in 1940. His wife Violet May Reading was the lodging-house keeper at 174 Brunswick St from 1916 until 1954.“
The old National Hotel was located on the corner of Brunswick St and King William St. More information to be added shortly