Like so many Tasmanian hotels, the Sheffield Hotel has an intriguing history. In its first 14 years, two owners became bankrupt, a third de-licensed, and another two applicants had three failed attempts to gain a liquor license. Finally in 1896, Fred Maddox of Latrobe gained a license, named it Maddox’s Caledonian Hotel and for the next 84 years four generations of the Maddox family successfully ran this iconic hotel.  Only after it was sold in 1980 was it given its present name Sheffield Hotel. So, to avoid any confusion, we hasten to add that back in 1885 when John T Wilson demolished John Powlett’s original split-timber Sheffield Inn on the corner of Main & High St, (now Caltex Service Station), and erected his new two-storey brick building, he renamed it the Sheffield Hotel. It retained this name until it was delicensed in 1939 and ultimately demolished. What follows below however, is the story of the well-known landmark situated at 38 Main St, currently known as the Sheffield Hotel and its first turbulent years under various other names.

Collard’s Kentishbury Hotel

In Feb 1883 a substantial two-storey brick building called the Kentishbury Hotel opened in Sheffield, offering the best in accommodation, wine, and spirits. Owned by Wm Collard from Latrobe, it contained eight good-sized rooms, a bar, detached kitchen, office, plus a six-stall stable.  The bricklayer was Samuel Jones and the builder Gideon Robson, both of Sheffield.  It was reported: ‘This hotel will supply a long felt want, for though the old Sheffield Inn, opened in 1861 answered all purposes well enough in the earlier days of struggle and privation, now that we have entered upon a more prosperous phase, it is certainly not equal to the present requirements.

Previously an English draper, William Alfred Collard b1854 was employed by Nathan & Co. General Merchants of Latrobe, until 1878 when he opened his store nearby. That same year Collard married Mary Young, daughter of Fred Young, licensee of Railway Hotel in Latrobe. Collard’s business ultimately failed and in February 1879 he was made bankrupt. However, after his creditors had sold up all his stock to retrieve their debts, his bankruptcy was annulled. About this same time, gold was discovered in the Minnow River at Lower Beulah, so Collard came with his wife and family to Sheffield and teamed up with Robert Manley, owner of Sheffield’s first general store, to go prospecting. Collard took out his first lease at the Minnow River on 10 Dec 1880. Six months later, with Robert Manley & Chas Smith they formed the Latrobe Silver-Lead Mining Co with Collard as manager. His brother-in-law Francis Young of Latrobe and Chas Manley of Kentish helped them work this claim, which soon fizzled out.

Two years later, on 9 January1882 Collard acting for Robert & Chas Manley, John Stone and himself, applied for four new gold-mining leases, close to Campbell’s Reward between Mt Claude and Lorinna, where gold deposits had recently been found. A man of considerable bearing, Wm Collard soon made a name for himself around Kentish. On a Vice-Regal visit to Sheffield in March 1881, Collard and Manley met the Governor of Tasmania and State Premier’s parties at Railton and escorted them up to Sheffield. Eight months later, on 22 November, the Hon Wm Moore was given a complimentary dinner in Sheffield for his tireless efforts in parliament to lift the plight of the pioneer settlers. Upon his arrival, Wm Collard marshalled a group of local horsemen beneath two decorative arches to welcome this distinguished guest.  At 7pm, 100 gentlemen sat down to a lavish spread in the Sheffield Inn catered for by Mr & Mrs John T Wilson and Mr & Mrs Wm Collard. The room was tasteful decorated with ferns, flowers, Chinese lanterns and mottos, the latter being the work of Mrs Mary Collard.

Initially, Collard had considered constructing a hotel beside the Minnow River, but when those mining claims began to falter, he purchased 16 acres just outside the Sheffield town boundary early in 1882 and began building his big 2 storey brick hotel. For such bold actions, Collard was elected to the Kentishbury Road Trust and the remark made: ‘If all the town-people had the energy of Wm Collard, and a spark of his enthusiasm, we would soon find ourselves surrounded by a busy money-making and money-spending community’

Collard opened the bar of his new Kentishbury Hotel in time for Christmas 1882, but the guest rooms were not completely furnished until Feb 1883. But Collard was soon hard pressed to repay his huge loans.  With fool-hardy faith in his untested mineral leases, Collard had purchased 16 acres of land, built his Kentishbury Hotel and lavishly furnished it mainly on credit. When his latest mining leases again proved disastrous, Collard was unable to repay his loans, so on 15 June 1883 was forced into bankruptcy for the second time. His new hotel was put up for sale on 13 July 1883, but when it didn’t sell, the bank took possession of his property and auctioned off all the hotel’s furniture and contents separately. Included was an elegant walnut drawing-room suite, several couches, a chiffonier, a piano, bookcases, oil paintings, dining-room suite, tables and chairs, hall stands, six brass and iron bedsteads, duchess dressing tables, marble-top washstands, elegant chests of drawers, wardrobes, linen press, bar furniture, scores of small utensils and a few horses, cows and pigs, plus several building allotments. Wm Collard quietly slinked off to Zeehan where he became bankrupt for the third time. He ended up at Stoodley where he farmed for twenty or so years, before returning to Latrobe in 1906 and opening a general store called the Palace Emporium. Ten months later, on 19 October 1908 his wife Mary Jane Collard (51) died leaving him with 3 married daughters. This was his final blow. In January 1909, he sold his business, packed his bags, and left for the mainland.

Padfield’s Caledonian Hotel

After Collard’s Hotel had stood as an empty shell for almost 12 months, it was purchased by Frederick A Padfield, owner of the Caledonian Hotel, Campbell Town. He refurbished, renamed the Caledonian Hotel (poetic name for Scotland) and sought to obtain a liquor license. Fred Padfield had been a leading character in the Campbell Town – auctioneer, mining investor, member of the local Road Trust and past Warden of the Municipality.

But much had changed in Kentish since Collard’s earlier application for a liquor application. The Temperance movement had established itself in Sheffield in July 1882, and the Band of Hope with its pledge to abstain from alcohol, was now well entrenched throughout the Kentish district with large followings at their monthly meetings. The Salvation Army had also spread up to Sheffield from Latrobe, where they had waged an aggressive campaign to close several hotels in Latrobe. It was into this kind of environment that Padfield sought in Dec 1883 to have George Jubb installed as the licensee of his new venture. His application was now rejected on the grounds that Sheffield didn’t need a second public house.  Some months later, in May 1884, Padfield hired Latrobe solicitor George Inglis to put the case for a second hotel once more to the next regional licensing board. Inglis argued that Sheffield was now a rapidly growing town and there was room for two hotels, and even presented a character reference for Fred Padfield from the Superintendent of Police in Campbell Town. Padfield’s application was opposed by John Duff, David Hope and Robert Luttrell who presented a petition of names against it. This time however the Bench found in favour of Padfield and granted him a license on 6 May 1884. Strangely almost immediately Padfield had a change of mind. He accepted a more lucrative offer to take over the brand new 28-room Sea View Hotel in Devonport and arranged for his Sheffield license to be transferred to George Jubb. Padfield ultimately became Secretary of the Mersey Marine Board, Secretary of the Devonport Town Board and a founding member of local Freemasons Lodge. He died August 1890. Mrs Padfield was postmistress at Devonport for 21 years, then transferred to Longford.

Meanwhile back in Sheffield, after new State-wide licensing legislation was passed at the end of 1884, it effectively de-licensed the Caledonian Hotel. Probably because it was within 100 yards of an existing hotel, or outside the township boundary. Maybe Padfield got wind of these proposed changes before he jumped ship, anyway George Jubb’s liquor license was revoked. With no income from his delicensed Caledonian Hotel in Sheffield, Padfield was forced to try and sell it. But with no sale on the horizon, on 5 January 1885 his creditors once again auctioned off all stock, furniture & fixtures and left the big two-storey ‘white elephant’ empty. Six months later, on 13 July 1885 this vacant hotel building was quietly sold privately to Latrobe’s first doctor Dr Sydney Smythe.

Dr Smythe’s Commercial Centre.

Dr Sydney Smythe purchased 16 acres on two titles: the empty Caledonian Hotel on

12 acres, and a house on 4 acres occupied John Balfour.  The entrepreneurial doctor promptly turned the empty building into a commercial hub by enticing several Latrobe businesses to become his tenants and open branches of their business in Sheffield. This resulted in the Sheffield’s business centre developing at its western end, rather than its eastern end as had been originally envisioned.  Dr Smythe led the way by fitting out his own consulting & surgery rooms for his weekly visits and opened Sheffield’s first chemist shop with Sam Breaden as manager.  His biggest client, the Bank of Australasia followed by opening a branch office in August 1885. Its first two customers were Reuben Austin of Paradise and James Boutcher, of the Promise Land (Roland). Its manager Captain Alexander Faulkner introduced the game of tennis to Sheffield by building a grass court on the site of the Sheffield Bodyworks.

Another tenant was Latrobe Solicitor George D Inglis who opened a branch office with Law Clerk Malcolm Bauld in charge. Inglis was well known in Latrobe, but so was his law clerk. Malcolm Bauld became known throughout Tasmania and mainland for his patriotic poems and songs that he wrote about the British and Australian forces engaged in Boar war in South Africa. So much so that Malcolm and wife Emma with their four children moved to Melbourne in 1900 after he was offered a lucrative literary position on the staff of the ‘Melbourne Sportsman’ newspaper. Dr Smythe’s phenomenal run of successful invesments took a nose dive on 30 August 1886, when the two new Friendly societies in town, the Rechabite and Oddfellows Lodges, both wanting a full-time resident doctor in Sheffield to serve all their Kentish members, chose Dr Robert Davis who had just arrived from Ireland.

When Dr Davis began full-time medical practise in Sheffield, Smythe closed his weekly consulting room and chemist shop, subdivided his property into about ten commercial and residential blocks and sold them off, retaining ownership of only three blocks that included his old hotel cum commercial centre.  Elsewhere Dr Smythe continued with his financial investments both in land and the silver mines at Zeehan and Dundas.  After the Bank of Australasia built their own premises in Sheffield on the corner of Main & High St (now Bossimes bakery), and moved out of the old hotel, in January 1892 a local Sheffield man John Allen applied to lease the building from Dr Smythe and reopen it as the Caledonian Hotel, provided he could obtain a liquor license. His application was disallowed.

Then came the Great Depression of the 1890s and the crash of many banks. Dr Sydney Smythe was caught with large loans on numerous investment properties and was made bankrupt. In Latrobe the Union Bank of Australasia took possession of his family home, his surgery and remaining properties, including his old Caledonian Hotel premises in Sheffield. This sad experience forced Sydney and Selina Smythe to separate and our well-known doctor departed from Tasmania without his wife for an unknown destination. Today the name of Sheffield’s first doctor is perpetuated in Smythe Street running south behind the hotel off Hope Street.

Henry Law’s Failed Attempt

Another attempt to regain a liquor licence also failed. Bachelor Henry Laws, originally associated with Hatton & Laws, Launceston, had opened the first chemist shop in Deloraine and became a leading citizen. After borrowing heavily to purchase the British Hotel, it was the Great Depression that sent him bankrupt in March 1892 causing him to leave town. Upon learning that the Caledonian Hotel in Sheffield had been repossessed, he applied to move into the empty premises with his new wife, his British Hotel cook and her 8 children and opened a billiard saloon while she catered for casual meals. His real goal however was to obtain a liquor license and reopen this hotel. But after his plans were rejected twice at two separate meetings of the licensing board in 1896, Laws gave up and opened a chemist shop in Sheffield instead.  However only a few months later, the NW regional licensing board was reorganized, some rules relaxed, and quarterly meetings moved from Latrobe to Devonport. In Dec 1896 Fred Maddox (74) proprietor of Maddox’s Family Hotel at the Latrobe bridge successfully gained a new liquor license for Sheffield. So after these first 14 very turbulent years, this failure-prone hotel got a new lease of life. Next month’s story tells how four generations of Maddox family ran the hotel for 84 years, followed by David & Carol Watson for the last 42 years.

Next time: (78) The Sheffield Hotel (2) Maddox’s (1896-1980) and Watson’s (1980–2023) Story