8 Colonial Australia
In the 220 odd years since the arrival of the first European settlers, Australia has
developed a distinctive architecture of its own.
My father-in-law was a keen photographer and took hundreds of photographs of old
buildings when he visited us from England. As he said, Australia is a very young
country compared with Britain but that doesn't mean it has no historical buildings.
The old colonial buildings were designed to suit the needs of a pioneering society.
They are very different from the buildings of Europe and they are very different from
those going up in Australia today.
Pubs are an institution in Australia, just as they are in Britain and Ireland. Grog
arrived with the First Fleet and it did a lot to shape the nation's character. Back in the
early colonial days, hotels weren't just drinking houses. They were places to stay and
the licensing laws made it clear that landlords had an obligation towards travellers .
The old laws have lapsed but the old hotels remain.
Some fine examples survive in our capital cities but most have been swept away by
recent development. Heritage listing has saved some but hasn't prevented others from
falling victim to mysterious fires. You'll find a few old pubs that still provide
accommodation. Some have become backpacker hostels . Others provide motel
accommodation in adjacent modern buildings.
If you are travelling round Australia and have an interest in beer and architecture,
check out the old hotels. They are a fine reminder of the colonial days . You'll find
them right across the country. Those in the old mining towns are particularly
impressive. Australian miners prided themselves on being amongst the best paid in
the world. They expected style and comfort in their leisure hours and their drinking
houses testify to that.
The picture above is of Buchanan's Hotel in Townsville. It was taken by my father-
in-law and was later destroyed in a mysterious fire. Buchanan's was used by General
Douglas Macarthur during the War in the Pacific.
Colonial architecture is not confined to drinking houses. Domestic architecture soon
took on a distinctive Australian look. In the temperate regions of the south, the need
for innovation was not strongly felt. But, further north, in the demanding climate of the
tropics and sub-tropics, it was irresistible.
When the British arrived on Australian shores they were not strangers to tropical
living. The Indian experience influenced architectural thought and continued to do so
during the early years of settlement. It can be seen in military barracks and domestic