Horsham's largest hotel, the Royal, holds many distinctions.
Although it was the 20th hotel to be licensed, it is the oldest hotel in the city to still exist in its original form.
Carl Gottfried Rasmussen, an inhabitant of Horsham from about 1860, owned a house and butcher's shop on the present site of the Royal Hotel at the south-west corner of Wilson and Firebrace Streets.
Rate records indicate he went on to buy adjoining land along Wilson Street, on which he built a row of three brick shops.
Around 1881 he appears to have negotiated the purchase of the brick, single-storey Lands Office in Firebrace Street, south of his property.
Mr Rasmussen matched the design of the old Lands Office and, incorporating the office as a dining room and kitchen, built a new two-storey hotel around it.
The "Royal Hotel" was first licensed on December 13, 1881.
It abutted his row of shops in Wilson Street, had an ornate verandah and balcony and was well appointed throughout.
In October 1882 Henry Harling "Dad" Barrett leased the Royal Hotel from Mr Rasmussen.
In September 1885, following Mr Rasmussen's death, Mr Barrett purchased the freehold as well.
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In 1886 Mr Barrett, undertook a major expansion of the hotel.
A fourth shop was added to the western end of the existing row of shops along Wilson Street and 17 new rooms were added as a second storey above.
The Governor of Victoria, Sir Henry Brougham Loch, visited Horsham in early August 1886 and was accommodated at the Royal Hotel in a newly built apartment on the corner of the hotel created especially for the accommodation of such dignitaries.
Mr Barrett was granted an extended licence by the Licensing Court in December 1887 for the sale of liquor up to 2.30am to allow for arrival of the express train from Adelaide.
In those early days, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a hotel's main function was to provide accommodation and there were many permanent residents.
For example, from 1904 a dentist, had rooms in the Royal until about 1912.
In contrast to today's hotels, the bar in the Royal could only accommodate up to six drinkers, until it was extended in 1914.
In November 1907 Henry Barrett died, aged 73.
His daughter, Elizabeth Harling Barrett, carried on as the hotel's licensee until the hotel was leased to Francis Henry Turner in September 1909.
The Barrett family had run the Royal Hotel for 27 years.
In December 1952 the Horsham City Council passed By-law No 35... Hotels, with their lengthy verandahs were particularly hard hit.
In that time the hotel had been improved to the point where it was recognised as being one of the top hotels between Melbourne and Adelaide.
In mid-1914, new publican, Charles Fartch, embarked on a major expansion of the bar area.
Fartch secured the lease on the adjacent shop and, by the simple expedient of creating a hole in the dividing wall, was able to build a 'J'-shaped bar totalling 50 feet in length.
This bar, which still stands today in modified form, was prefabricated in Ballarat.
In December 1923, Mr Fartch, finding the town electric supply too unreliable for his hotel, installed his own electric generating plant.
It powered all the hotel's 86 lights and was able to also power the laundry irons and the vacuum cleaner.
In March 1926 John Edward O'Shea took over the lease of the Royal.
In January 1927, Mr O'Shea then purchased the freehold of the hotel from the Barrett family for £35,000 (equivalent to about $12 million today) and made some improvements.
In 1928, it was reported that the Royal Hotel contained a total of 43 beds in 34 separate rooms and three chalets.
The Ballarat Brewing Company purchased the freehold of the hotel from John O'Shea in 1936.
In June 1937 the company began a massive building program, including a complete renovation of all upstairs rooms, re-plumbing the whole hotel, reconstruction of the main bar, installation of a new saloon bar and writing room and the extension of the ornate verandah along the Wilson Street frontage.
The tiling of the external walls of the hotel was also carried out at this time and lock-up garages built at the rear.
The hotel has changed little from this date apart from the addition of a gaming room (now a function room) in the mid-1990s.
In December 1952 the Horsham City Council passed By-law No 35.
Building owners were given until January 31, 1963 to remove all verandahs supported by posts.
Hotels, with their lengthy verandahs were particularly hard hit.
The Royal Hotel was the hardest hit having by far the largest verandah, which only 15 years prior had been extended along Wilson Street at considerable expense.
The hotel's verandahs were removed in the mid-1960s.
Around the mid-1990s the leases on the other three shops along Wilson Street were taken over by the licensee and the shops converted into a sports bar with an onsite TAB betting agency.
About 2005 this area was converted into a live band stage and dance area.
Currently, the Royal Hotel has 30 bedrooms, a double room with ensuite and an apartment.
The total number of beds available in the hotel is 46.
The hotel also has Horsham's only cellar still in use.
The present licensee, Grant Fiedler, has held the lease on the Royal since December 2018.
His aim, to provide a venue in Horsham with live music and to a menu a step up from "standard pub food", has been severely curtailed, in common with all hoteliers in Horsham, after the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic.