The Australia, Porthmadog
The Australia, 31 High Street, Porthmadog
This inn was probably opened in the 1850s. The first known written reference to “Austrilia House” is dated 1857. The occupant, David Jones, was listed as a “victualler” in the 1861 census.
Nobody know how the pub got its name. Contrary to popular belief, Porthmadog ships didn’t carry slates to Australia. Slates destined for distant continents went to Liverpool or London, for loading onto larger ships. One Porthmadog-built barque, the Anne Melhuish of 1849, did reach Australia. It sailed there and in New Zealand for many years but never returned to Britain.
The only other Porthmadog-built ship which sailed for Australia, the North Wales, left in August 1852 carrying emigrants who hoped to benefit from the gold rush. The brig was built for the voyage by Captain Richard Prichard, an entrepreneur who had taken many emigrants to the USA. He opened the town’s first bank, in Lombard Street, and briefly owned the Britannia Foundry. What became of the ship after he set sail for Australia, aged 72, isn’t recorded, but there’s an account of his dying off the Californian coast in 1855.
Several of the Australia Inn’s Victorian licensees had maritime connections, including ship-builder Daniel Griffith in the 1870s. Captain John Williams, landlord from 1900, and his wife Winifred had a daughter. Emily, who was born in Chile. British ships went there to collect nitrates or guano – seabird poo! Their son John, a year younger then Emily, drowned in 1901, aged 16 or 17, when the Porthmadog schooner Hannah and Jane was wrecked off Hartlepool.
In 1899 the inn’s frontage was inspected and condemned as cracked and dangerous, with a bulge in the middle. When the frontage was rebuilt, the pub’s floor was lowered so that there was only one step to climb from the street, instead of six.
In 1916 the Australia Inn was run by Frank Williams, whose mother in law was the licensee but lived in Liverpool. She took over the pub’s running when Frank was called up to serve in the army.
The pub had the name Y Gestiana in the early 21st century, but reverted to its previous name in 2015 when it was taken over by the group of local breweries which also manages The Albion in Conwy.
The bus stop outside has long been identified by the pub’s name. This sometimes gives rise to information about bus times indicating that the local bus is destined for “Australia”!
With thanks to Robert Cadwalader of Porthmadog Maritime Museum
Postcode: LL49 9LR View Location Map
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