"Adelaide is a thoroughly modern town, with all the merits and all the defects attaching to novelty. It does not possess the spirit of enterprise to so adventurous a degree as Melbourne, but neither does it approach to the languor of Sydney." - R. Twopeny, 1883

Friday, 10 August 2012

I found the Ship Inn!

I found the Ship Inn…

Remember Sophia? She was the one who gave birth in a hen house in a garden on Currie Street. Earlier in the morning, she'd had a nobbler of brandy at the Ship Inn and the hen house was next door. I had never heard of the Ship Inn before learning about Sophia. It wasn’t the name of any pub I knew in Adelaide. I looked on the digitised newspapers, but ‘Ship Inn’ disappears soon after Sophia’s time and I couldn’t find anything else. Until I found this.

It's a bit small, but part of it says: "Going through Light Square, which at this time [1860s] was occupied by fallen women, we pass a number of cottages until we arrive at The Ship Inn, now the Bedford. A little farther on were a number of cottages and a large block of land, and so we come to Gray street." The author clearly ignored North Street, or it didn't exist at the time. 

This article popped up when I searched for ‘Currie Street’ (I guess ‘Ship Inn’ didn’t read well on their search engine). So, by World War I, it had been renamed the ‘Bedford’. So, I did another search for Bedford Hotel, Currie Street and found a photo from 1891, some ten years after Sophia’s time. I won’t post the photo here, as it’s under copyright and I don’t want to get in trouble(!), but the link is here [opens in a new window] if you want to look at it yourself. I think it looks quite nice. The caption underneath reads: “Currie Street, north side, right side of the Bedford Hotel is 2 yards west of Elizabeth Street and frontage is 15.5 yards”.

Two yards west of Elizabeth Street (estimated, of course. I didn’t bring a ruler with me) is now…not a hotel. Unfortunately, I couldn't take a photo because the building is being renovated and there were fences up. I did get a photo of the side of the building, though. The wall is made of stone and looks old - who knows what it could tell us if it could talk?!

Mrs. Gearing, the woman whose hen house Sophia gave birth in, lived next to the Ship Inn. I found this carpark on Elizabeth Street – maybe this was where Sophia’s baby was born? Maybe not? If Mrs. Gearing lived on the other side of the Ship Inn, Sophia might have given birth in this carpark. 
All I can say is there’s a lot more than meets the eye. There are buildings in Adelaide that look old and look like they could tell a lot of stories, but this one – at first glance – is not one of them.

When the weather is a little nicer, I'm going to explore more of the west end and take lots more photos. Until then, have a photo of Light Square...just because. [You can see how dark and miserable it was - this is the middle of the day!]


  1. 34.9152263 S , 138.62305790000005 E
    A dilapidated old building, condemned. I've often wondered about its history. Some people tell me it used to be a general trader. I've even heard others claim it's the remains of an old mortuary. Can you shed any light on it?

    1. Thank you for your suggestion :) I don't know anything about it, but I'll certainly try to find out something - give me a couple of weeks. I should be able to post something about it by mid-September. I know there was an undertakers on Payneham Road, but I don't know if it used to be there.

  2. Hi, History Girl
    Thanks for the information in this post. I discovered your blog while I was researching the Ship Inn in Currie St, in connection with a newspaper article about my great great grandmother, Susan Mason. (I've written an article about her on my family history blog - http://clogsandclippers.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/susan-mason-wild-colonial-girl.html)Your article filled in a lot of gaps in what I knew. So thank you. I look forward to reading the rest of your blog. The social history of early Adelaide is certainly fascinating.

    1. Hi Stella,
      I read your blog - what a fascinating woman Susan Mason was!
      As far as I can tell, the Ship Inn was pretty popular in its time - it's a shame not too much more is known about it.

    2. Hi History girl
      In March this year I published a book (ebook and paperback) about Susan Mason's life, including her childhood and teen years in Adelaide. I'd be happy to send you a copy. A preview is available on Amazon or through my webpage. My apologies for posting this way, it's the only way I can find of contacting you, so please feel free to delete it.


Thank you for your comments; I really appreciate them :)