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Step back in time

We are so very proud of the history here at The Guildford Hotel – and what an incredible history it is!

The town of Guildford was established in 1829 as a market centre for the surrounding agricultural areas, making it crucial to Western Australia’s trade and prosperity.  With its intact 19th and 20th century buildings, Guildford has been described as one of the most important towns of first settlement in Australia. Built in 1885-86, the story of The Guildford Hotel stretches back 139 years and has always been at the centre of the town’s life. 

We’ve heard many whispered tales and joyous times gone by that we couldn’t wait to share some of them with you here…


Written by Peter Wilmoth.


2 years after the Fremantle Guildford Railway was built, Lot 26 Ellen St (now Johnson St), was bought for £600.

In 1886, The Guildford Hotel was licensed.

Image: Railwayheritagewa.org


Mr George Hiscox takes ownership of the hotel. Born Arthur George Bruton in England, for reasons unknown he changed his name when living in Victoria between 1882 and 1889. George also built other hotels in the district and in Perth.

The gold rush boom allowed George the wealth to develop the hotel including adding the two-story verandah. The imposing structure demonstrates the prosperity of the town in this era. 

The Guildford Hotel was a popular gathering place in the developing settlement town, and if running the hotel was all he did he would still be regarded as a much-admired Guildford pioneer. 

Image: Royal Western Australian Historical Society


But theatre was another of George Hiscox’s passions. To the excitement of the locals, in 1897 George built The Vaudeville Theatre next door to his hotel at a cost of 1300 pounds. 

“This new theatre, which faces the main road and is alongside the hotel almost directly opposite the railway station, is to be known as The Vaudeville,” announced The Western Mail in December 1897.  The Western Mail also noted on 10 December 1897 that the new Vaudeville Theatre will be “quite a complete revelation”. “Theatrical companies, when going on tour, will have an opportunity of playing a night at Guildford in a well-constructed building with a very ample stage and all accessories”. Accommodation rooms were also added to the hotel at this time. 

George was a busy man. In 1896 The West Australian reported his nomination as a councilor in the Guildford Municipal elections. He later became the town’s mayor. 

Image: Western Mail newspaper


The theatre’s grand opening was held on 3 January 1898 and a packed house cheered a burlesque production of “Sleeping Beauty”. 

One can imagine the buzz around the district as people visited The Guildford Hotel for a pre-show drink and then went next door to a highly contemporary theatre to see a show. 

The Vaudeville Theatre soon became a popular social venue, staging concerts – including Gilbert and Sullivan – and dances, many organised by the Hiscox family. 

Late 1800’s

In the final years of the 1800s Guildford was an exciting centre. Newspaper reports of the time reveal the pride Guildford had in its new theatre, as well as the regard in which George Hiscox was held, and not just as a popular publican.  

The Western Mail noted on 10 December 1897 “The adjoining on the left [the hotel] has for a long time been an ideal residence and it is here that birthday parties, cycling tourists, picnickers and the like love to congregate, for no suburban hostelry can be found more homely in its character nor more comfortable to halt at. 

“With its capacious and lofty bedrooms, its wide balconies, its smoking, reading and billiards rooms, its large bathroom and, aided by excellent cuisine, with the Swan River almost at its door, available for swimming, boating and fishing.” 

It noted the pub had “exceedingly good liquors”. “Presided over by Mr Hiscox [it] has become not only a familiar institution but is a permanent landmark of that charming and most picturesque of all suburbs, to wit Guildford.” 

Image: Early 1900s, outside the billiards | Swan Guildford Historical Society

Early 1900’s

In the early years of the 20th century the town was well serviced by entertainment. As well as The Guildford Hotel and other new pubs and the new theatre, an open-air cinema playing silent movies was built just to the west of The Vaudeville Theatre. 

Image: 1906 | City of Swan Local History Library


In 1915 George made some improvements to the hotel, adding some Italian Renaissance-style touches, a spiral staircase, construction of a new façade and an eight-sided cupola (now called belvedere) which has since been reconstructed.

Image: The State Library WA


In July 1927 George died. His death was reported in a tone of genuine sadness. “Widespread regret was expressed in trotting circles on Monday when the news of the death of Mr George Hiscox was received in the city,” said The Western Mail on 21 July 1927. 

The Daily News of Perth on 29 July 1927 reported on his funeral, saying “the respect and esteem in which the deceased was held was revealed by the large number of friends who were gathered at the gravesite and the numerous floral wreaths received.” 


On 27 June 1929 The Daily News reported that “The Guildford Hotel and adjoining Vaudeville Theatre went to public auction”, under instructions from the administrators of the estate of the late George Hiscox”. 

“There was a good attendance and spirted bidding which commenced at 12,000 pounds and rose to 20,000 pounds,” the paper noted. 

Both properties were sold to the Swan Brewery Co Ltd for 25,000 pounds. 

Image: © Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of Australia) 2015


The Vaudeville Theatre continued to be a valued community space in Guildford and was at first used as a social centre for clubs, such as the United Kingdom Natives Association, and later the Bohemian Club, then as a billiard hall. In 1947 it became a furniture factory, and then in 1966 a panel beater business and subsequently a variety of retail spaces to the present. 

The old truck/ playground pays homage to the Dowson family’s panel beater business here from 1966 to the 1990’s.  

Image: Cinematreasures.org

1950 – 1991

1950 – The building features a silver Belvedere and white paint update.

1980 – Major renovations were carried out. The Hotel now includes a bottle shop, restaurant, 3 bars and 26 accommodation rooms.

1991 – The property was purchased weeks before demolition started due to structural problems. The restoration begins.

Image 1: West Australian Newspaper Archives

Image 2 & 3: Swan Guildford Historical Society

Image 4: West Australia Newspaper 12.10.1996


The main hotel building was added to the State Heritage Register.

Image: Swan Guildford Historical Society


In August 2008 a fire could have meant the end of the structure itself. The first floor of the hotel was gutted. For years it sat vacant and fell into disrepair with the local community running a fierce campaign urging the restoration of the building. 

When this work began in 2016 some significant discoveries were made…under the plasterwork were found original handmade bricks made by convicts.  

Image: ABC Photo Archives 1.9.2008


The Guildford Hotel re-opened in May 2016 and today remains a much-loved icon of the town. 

If you sit in the hotel today and listen carefully you might hear George Hiscox organising a show for his theatre, some support for his mayoral candidacy or a tip for one of his pacers.


The Guildford Hotel was reunited with The Vaudeville Theatre. Renovations were made to the theatre providing an extension to the locally loved Beer Garden.

Warning: Under the Liquor Control Act 1988, it is an offence: To sell or supply liquor to a person under the age of 18 years on licensed or regulated premises; or for a person under the age of 18 years to purchase, or attempt to purchase, liquor on licensed or regulated premises. Licence Number: 6020001610, Class of licence: Tavern, Licensing Entity, AVC Operations Pty Ltd