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John Fawkner and Launceston’s Cornwall Hotel

John Fawkner, who later in life added his middle name Pascoe, advertised the opening of his newly completed boarding house in Cameron Street, Launceston, on Friday, 24 September 1824.

At the time there wasn’t a newspaper in Launceston, so his announcements appeared in the Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen's Land Advertiser.

“Cornwall House – The proprietor of this new establishment having finished it in a superior style, for the accommodation of genteel company, has six rooms to let, with board if required. The upper rooms command a fine view of the town and shipping; and the building is the only two-story house in Launceston.”

John Fawkner had wanted an hotel licence for his new establishment, but his application had been refused by the Board of Magistrates in Launceston.

In a letter of complaint to Governor Arthur in February 1825 he said he had “expended the greater part of his capital in erecting and furnishing his house and premises” for the purpose of obtaining an hotel licence.

He said he had been urged by “many of the most respected inhabitants” of Launceston to open an hotel as the only other reputable establishment for travellers was the Launceston Hotel in Brisbane Street which was frequently booked out.

John Fawkner “most respectfully” begged Governor Arthur to recommended him to the “magistracy of the County of Cornwall” as a fit and proper person to hold a licence to retail wine spirits and beer.

A reason given for the rejection of his hotel licence was that his wife Eliza, who had been transported for seven years in 1818 for kidnapping a four-month-old baby, was still under sentence.

They had married in Launceston in 1822 and established a number of businesses, including a bakery and a timber mill.

John Fawkner arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in 1804 as a child with his convict father, also John, and mother Hannah (nee Pascoe) who were allowed to travel with him.

They had to wait two years, after Eliza’s sentence had expired, for their hotel licence application to be approved.

The list of Launceston innkeepers and publicans for 1826 appeared in the Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser (Hobart):

Mr Richard White, Launceston Hotel; Mr William Field, Plough Inn; Mr John Fawkner, Cornwall House; Mr Robert Towers, Caledonia; Mr Henry Davis, Commercial Tavern; Mr James Houghton, Horse and Jockey; Mr Henry Boyle, Red Lion; Mr Thomas Manning, Jolly Sailor; Mr Alexander Stewart, Ship Inn; Mr William Patten, Hope and Anchor; Mr Henry Burgess, Black Swan; Mr Drummond, Rose and Thistle; Mrs Townson, Bird-in-Hand, (two miles from town); Mr Alexander Waddle (one mile from town, sign unknown); Mr Robert Mar and Mr Coombs, at the Elizabeth River (no sign yet).

John Fawkner immediately changed the name of his establishment to the Cornwall Hotel and first advertised his new business in the Colonial Times on Friday 13 October 1826.

The Cornwall Hotel became one of Launceston best known hotels and lays claim to be Launceston's oldest hotel still operating on its original site.

Images -- TOP: The Cornwall Hotel today. Photo Julian Burgess. MIDDLE: Eliza and John Fawkner, paintings by William Strutt, State Library of Victoria Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. BOTTOM: The Cornwall Hotel c1880, State Library of Tasmania.

Written for the Launceston Historical Society and published in The Sunday Examiner, 18 February 2024.


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