But the most famous ‘old’ pub in the capital is The Thistle Inn. Built on Mulgrave Street in 1840, it was overlooking the beach at the time and received the second liquor license issued in New Zealand.
Following the 1855 earthquake its prime beachside location changed dramatically but the pub still stood. Even after a fire in 1866, the inn kept its liquor license going even though it closed its doors for six months during the rebuild.
This fact caused controversy when discussion came up about the country’s oldest pub in 2008, as the Upper Moutere Inn near Nelson tried to claim the title claiming that they’d been serving non-stop since 1853 – but the Hospitality Association awarded the title to The Thistle Inn as its doors and stairs were original, and its license hadn’t lapsed since the day it opened.
Katherine Mansfield was also a regular at The Thistle Inn, and wrote about it in her prose – so let’s leave the last word to the grandest of Wellington’s dames.
“So we dined somewhere and went to the Opera. It was late, when we came out into the crowded night street, late and cold. She gathered up her long skirts. Silently we walked back to the Thistle Hotel, down the white pathway fringed with beautiful golden lilies, up the amethyst shadowed staircase.”
Leves Amore, 1907
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Images courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library.