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Anglers Tavern History

Welcome to Anglers Tavern

It’s the pub with many names and many stories, and it’s been a part of Maribyrnong life on the river for more than 150 years. With a long and rich history, the pub was built around 1870 next to the Raleigh Road bridge, the pub was initially known as the Anglers Arms. Over the years, it has been called the Anglers Rest, The Jolly Angler’s, The Bridge Angler’s, and now, the Anglers Tavern.

The Maribyrnong River – known as the Saltwater River until its name was changed in 1913 – was a focal point of the area, with people enjoying the surrounds for swimming carnivals, picnicking, boating and fishing, all popular pastimes in Melbourne’s west at the time.

The Pub’s Evolution

Boating and Fishing

A well-known fishing spot, for many years the hotel offered boating facilities for fishermen. By the early 1900s the Saltwater River was a popular destination for picnicking and sailing, with people attracted to the areas hotels, tea-rooms, cruise boats, and its open-air picture theatre.

 

Community Hub

The area around Anglers was a popular gathering place on weekends according to The Essendon Gazette which on 25 February 1892, acknowledged the pub’s then licensee, a Mr Johnson, for his generosity and hospitality, with Mr Johnson very kindly placing his boats at the disposal of the picknickers to regularly enjoy a day out.

Challenges & Resilience

Flooding Incidents

Being close to the river the Anglers Tavern was regularly flooded over the years. After heavy rain the Maribyrnong River sometimes burst its banks and caused damage to the pub and the surrounding area. The original building has been redesigned several times over the years. In September 1870 The Age reported on the effects of the rising river on the pub.

“A considerable amount of damage has been done by the flood in this neighbourhood”, and The Angler’s Hotel has suffered more than any other building on the river.

It speaks of the pub’s 150-year relationship with the river, literally experiencing its ups and downs. But it also speaks of the Angler’s resilience and its just-get-on-with-it pragmatism.

“It’s not the end of the world,” the hotel’s area manager Craig Barnett told The Age. “We’ll be back trading again later today.”

The Darcy Family Era

The Anglers was then owned in the late 1990s for several years by the Darcy family who made significant improvements. “An opportunity came up to purchase The Anglers Tavern, which probably needed a bit of a cuddle,” says Luke Darcy, former Western Bulldogs footballer and now AFL commentator. “It was a little bit tired and it was great fun to bring back such an iconic venue with such an incredible history.”

“A good local pub means an enormous amount to a local community. As always with a good pub, you do it well and the local people in the community really appreciate the time and energy and effort.”

The Anglers Tavern attracted many locals, some of whom would visit daily. “There were some great characters who had known that place their whole life, whose Dad took them when they were kids,” Luke says. “A lot of them worked for us. An old bloke called Jack lived in the next street and he came to the pub every day. He’d be in the front bar telling stories about the coming and goings at the pub. He was one of the great characters at the Anglers.

Given The Angler’s intimate relationship with the river flooding was a constant reality for the pub since it was built. “It’s part of the history, the beauty and the devastation of it,” Luke says. “It’s susceptible to the elements. The locals who were our regulars knew the history well. Some of them were there every day. They talked a lot about the floods in the 1970s. They talked about water being at the height of the bridge. They kept saying ‘It will happen again’. It would keep you up at night. You couldn’t imagine it was possible. But they were right.”

Looking Forward

There have been several major floods in recent years but those of November 2022 around the Maribyrnong River were devastating for many homes and businesses in the area, including The Anglers Tavern whose ground floor and beer garden were inundated by floodwaters after heavy rain.

Luke is pleased the Anglers Tavern is undergoing work so it can soon return to doing what it does best, as it has done for more than 150 years. “Anyone who’s going to back a local pub we should celebrate. They require a bit of investment, but when they’re run well and done well they’re a really important part of the community.”

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