True to the ‘Great Australian Dream’, The Royal Hotel was designed and built by Irish patriot and former convict done good, Joseph Noonan (or Nunan).
With a great shortage of hotel accommodation during Perth’s 1882 gold-rush, right from the start the new two-storey ‘first class family hotel’ thrived.
In 1894, with James C. Foster as proprietor, The Royal Hotel undertook a major redevelopment, transforming into a ‘grand Victorian Second Empire’ style building. WA-born architect Henry Trigg lead the transformation, having designed other well-known Perth landmarks including the Subiaco Hotel, Trinity Church and Trigg Chambers. A newspaper described the new-look hotel:
“The ground floor contains a splendid saloon with a very handsome bar. A counter of elaborate design and the mirrored shelving, together with the enriched ceiling and cathedral glass in the front windows, produce a fine effect. A black-and-white marbled tiled vestibule gives access to a dining room of fair size, well lighted, and a stair-case leads to the first floor, which is made private by screen doors leading to the front entrance.”
Throughout its history, The Royal’s walls have witnessed the wonderful, the wacky and the downright woeful. In 1914, Frank Dixon set-off fire crackers in the Saloon, blowing away a man’s eyebrows and whiskers, and in 1894, William Parker served time for stealing a corkscrew and a pewter pot. There’s been Constables tripped, altercations with ex-Sheriffs, barmaid conspiracies, and yes, there have been deaths – murders, mishaps, and attempted poisonings by massage oil.
Of course, there have been far more good times and hilarity than bad. 1912 saw The Royal Hotel described as ‘one of the finest hotels in the state’. Indeed, it was the go-to meeting place and epicentre for Perth locals, and people ventured from all over Australia to stay in its rooms and drink in the famed Saloon. Even the Hotel’s Bottle Shop Manager, W. H. Jones, went the extra yard (literally), delivering by horse and cart to suburban doors.
There’s been some interesting owners too, with The Royal Hotel sold to the Swan Brewery Company Ltd in 1925, then again in the 60’s to the University of Western Australia. In 2018, The Royal Hotel was redeveloped as part of Raine Square, and mercifully, Charter Hall opted to maintain this beautiful and iconic building as a central piece to its development. And for that, all of Perth can be unbelievably grateful.