Built in 1815, Macquarie Arms was first built by Richard Fitzgerald in Thompson Square. He was given this allotment by Governor Lachlan Macquarie – this was given on the condition that Fitzgerald would build an inn at least two stories tall. This wasn’t just a kind gift – this would spare the government the cost of building such a large structure.
Some of the first guests at the hotel were the 73rd Regiment Red Coat Soldiers, who were stationed at Windsor. It became known as the Mess Hotel – the soldiers stayed on the upper floor and the convicts stayed in the cellar (even though their long, hard days of labour had built the inn).
Even though it’s known as the oldest inn on the Australian mainland, it wasn’t always a pub. From 1840 to 1873, it was used as a private home but then was run as a hotel by the Bushell party from 1872 to 1900.
Almost 200 years later, this heritage-listed hotel is known as a historic building of significance – as it’s the most intact major commercial building dating back to pre-1820 Australian colonial history. Visitors can still see traces of its fascinating history, such as a plaque on the hotel’s wall that shows the height of the great floor of 1867 (the greatest flood recorded in the district). The hotel’s cedar joinery, circular staircase, stone flagging and a large Georgian doorway are other prominent architectural features.
Other traces of the hotel’s history remain too – according to locals, ghosts walk these halls. There have been reports of soldiers on the upper levels or convict brothers Richard and Fitzpatrick, who met an untimely death in the cellar after mixing chemicals to make bootleg rum. There are also sightings of ‘little Mary’, who unfortunately died at the age of seven in a deadly fire on the hotel’s upper floor. The pub still runs a ghost tour to this day for anyone interested in the paranormal.