Early History of the Hotel
William Fox Martin built the Hotel in 1860-61. The first license was issued in 1861. William was born in Mitcham, Surrey, England, on 25th March 1816 and moved to Tasmania with his parents in 1823. He managed his Father’s coaching business after leaving school at New Norfolk. After he married in 1840 he commenced farming in the New Norfolk district and then went into the hotel business at Spring Bay.
His next move was to Hobart where he built and managed the City Hotel on Elizabeth Street, along with a daily passenger coach line from Hobart to Norfolk. After eight years at this business, he visited Melbourne and in 1854 the family moved to Melbourne where they leased the Grace Darling Hotel in Smith St Collingwood for three years.
The Martin family then moved to Corowa and leased Buraja Station until 1860. William built the Royal Hotel with a butcher’s shop, on the corner of Riesling and Sanger Streets. In October 1875 when the first edition of the Corowa Free Press was printed, Mr. Martin advertised that a new billiard room and commercial rooms had recently been finished. The advertisements in the Corowa Free Press during the period from 1875 to 1880 stated that the Royal Hotel was used by commercial travellers, surgeons, dentists, coroners (a commercial room was set aside for this specific purpose) and for general club meetings.
There were show yards at the rear and a circus was held annually in the rear yard. The balcony was used as a judge’s box for the horse races from South Corowa, which raced up Deniliquin Road (Now Federation Av) along Edward St, and then up Sanger St to the finishing line in front of the Royal Hotel.
William Martin continued as Licensee until December 1881, when his son Arbon Martin took over as Licensee. That same year, William Martin undertook to rebuild the back part of the hotel as a two-storey brick premise. The new area boasted ten apartments, consisting of six bedrooms and two parlours upstairs, which were set apart for the convenience of families. On the lower floor, there was a spacious ballroom measuring 44ft x 22ft. It was also suitable for the display of samples shown by commercial travellers who stayed there. There was very good stabling at the rear with well-grassed paddocks securely fenced.
One year later George Louch was listed as Licensee, and then transferred the lease in December 1885 to Mr. John Cairns, who had been Licensee of the Empire Hotel in Wahgunyah.
The hotel lease was transferred to Mr. E. A. Wegener in January of 1888, and he set about to improve the hotel. With Striking alternations to the bar, which he converted by the removal of a large portion of the back wall, and altering the bar into a “horseshoe” shape, popular at the time. By August 1888, Mr. Wegener had learnt, to his cost, that improvements do not always pay! From a very dingy edifice, he had transferred the hotel into quite an attractive resort, but business became very pressing and his creditors became impatient. So, William Martin had to once again take over the running of the hotel until a new lessee was found.
By August 1889 Mr. John Rankin had taken up the lease of the hotel. Mr Rankin had acquired a good reputation as a hotelier, learning his trade in Melbourne and then holding the lease on the Royal Hotel in Queenscliff for five years, and then the Royal Mail Hotel at Yea in Victoria before moving to Corowa.
William Fox Martin died on 29th of September 1891 and the funeral was the largest ever attended at Corowa with 58 vehicles and 17 horsemen.
John Rankin owned the freehold of the Royal Hotel up to September 1901, when he sold to Mr Henry Taylor. Mr Rankin stayed on as licensee until June 1906, when he moved to the Village Bell Hotel in Collingwood. Mr Taylor sold the freehold to a Mr. J. Jensen prior to October 1906 when Mr. Jensen sold to Mr. M Jager of Bethanga. Mr Frederick Jager was the licensee until 1912, and then the license was transferred to Mr. George F. Vincent. In September 1913, the wooden portion at the front of the hotel was dismantled to make way for a two-storey brick structure. The building work was undertaken by James Wilson.
By 1917 Duncan Innes had taken over the license of the hotel and after two years he transferred the license to Sara Montgomery who had managed the Council Club Hotel at Wangaratta prior to moving to Corowa. She held the license until 1921. The license was then taken up by Robert W. Clune. By 1924 the Corowa Free Press advertisements mention the Proprietor of the Royal as Mr. Greg Kettle.
We are currently researching the details of who owned it from then. We have some information that Alfred Goldman bought the Hotel in Feb 1981 and leased it out to John Almore till 1989. A lady named Helen had it from June 1995 till December 1996.
Mr. R. Goodall bought the freehold and started major renovations in 1998. Together with his partner Christen and friends they removed the old stables, fencing and adding a drive through bottle shop and carpark. Mr Goodall leased the Hotel out to several licensees over the years. Mr. Goodall sold it to the current owner Mr. M. Newnham who renovated the kitchen and balcony, giving the hotel a fresh coat of paint and carpets before opening in October 2017. Ex Airforce pilot and current 747 Captain for Qantas Mr. Newnham spends his days off and weekends working at the hotel while his wife and children attend schools in Melbourne they accompany him to the Royal Hotel as often as they can. The Royal currently has a great team of 16 employees who are now building a reputation of great food and outstanding customer service under the management and guidance of Hotel Manager Brian Kuehn.