The Scarborough Hotel

BY Mick Roberts 

Scarborough Hotel as it looks today with (from left) Dan Campbell (one time barman) and former hosts Edwina Crow and John Campbell.

NOT many pubs can lay claim to having a town named after it!  Well that's exactly what Wollongong's oldest licensed premises - the Scarborough Hotel - can boast.  Having never been rebuilt or drastically renovated the heritage listed Scarborough Hotel is the oldest licensed premises in the City of Wollongong.

Built at a cost of 3,000 at South Clifton in 1886 for Alfred and Sarah Broadhead, the Scarborough Hotel was named after an English village, which means 'Fort on the Rock'.  At the time Alfred Broadhead was hosting the nearby Clifton Inn (which closed in 1911) and appointed his stepson, Edward Lindsay, as Scarborough Hotel's first publican.  The building was opened to the public on June 21 1887 to coincide with the official opening of the Wollongong to Clifton section of the South Coast railway. The Scarborough was licensed to sell liquor the following month.

Scarborough Hotel in the 1930s

The Clifton corespondent to the local newspaper relayed a great yarn about the Scarborough pub in January 1890.
Near closing time, one windy night, host Lindsay decided to take a rest from the bar and left 'Tom the Hostler' in charge of serving the almost empty bar room.  Retiring, Lindsay sat back to enjoy a cigar while Tom began reading a magazine story titled "is the Devil real or imaginary".

As the wind whistled through the trees outside, Tom began balancing out the arguments in the article.  Mesmerized, he let most of the lights blow out, and was in semi-darkness, when he heard a heavy step. Startled he looked up to see "Old Nick" himself - horns, hoofs, tail and all!  Hearing a shout of "the Devil's in the bar", Lindsay came running with his dogs barking in tow, while Tom armed himself, appropriately, with a fire poker.  The dogs seized Beelzebub after a fierce struggle and managed to bring him down. It was then discovered that the object of all their fright was only a poor Old Man Wallaby that had dropped in to wet his whistle. Tom was said to have skinned the Wallaby for a souvenir and continued to wonder if the Devil was real or imaginary.

South Clifton was officially renamed Scarborough, after the pub, in 1903 making the town the only place in the Illawarra labeled after a hotel.  Originally built as a tourist pub, costing 6 shillings a night for accommodation, the bar soon became home to thirsty coal miners. The Bulli Times' Clifton correspondent reported in 1907: "The majority of the miners being partial to a 'long beer' when their pay is being served, the local hotel had to make some extensive alterations in order to conveniently cope with the increased trade."

The pub was the centre of community life in the early 1900s. During 1907 it was used for an inquest into the deaths of two coal miners killed by a fall of rock in the South Clifton Colliery, while a local cricket club was formed in the hotel during the same year.  Despite a 1958 Tooth and Company report stating that the pub "had no future" it continued to provide for the local community.  The town was "sparsely populated by the poorer class miner who support the club where beer is sold at a cheaper rate", the report stated.

Not all were pessimistic. Host Phyllis Hatch was reported to have said in 1968: "Scarborough's a quiet old place but we get a good trade here. The miners come in and we get plenty of passing trade. During the day, the older locals pop in for a few beers. We're a friendly lot here."  

Not much has changed at the Scarborough. Owned by WIN Television, it continues to cater for passing trade, and the friendly parochial seaside community.  The balcony at the rear of the pub boasts breath-taking ocean views and is great stop over while driving along scenic NSW South Coast's Lawrence Hargrave Drive. 


Mick Roberts is a journalist and hotel historian. He has had two books, The Little House on the Hill and The Local, published on the liquor industry and, besides other local history publications, is presently working on a comprehensive history of the liquor industry and hotels in the Illawarra region of NSW. His regular history feature, Looking Back, can be read in the Northern Leader newspaper distributed throughout the northern suburbs of Wollongong NSW. These feature articles also appear at his Looking Back website

Mick is always on the lookout for pub yarns, stories, information and old photos and can be contacted by email at or PO BOX 5148 Wollongong 2500.

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