LOCATION:     69 Main Street, Hahndorf

SHR 13140 – confirmed as a State Heritage Place 20 November 1986

Rickaby's German Arms c1922

German Arms 1888  [Freason's Illustrated Adelaide News]The original German Arms Hotel was established as a small hostelry across the road (84 Main Street) in 1839, and was the first licensed hotel in Hahndorf.  The present two-storey, stone and brick building was constructed on the present site in the early 1860s, at which time the hotel business transferred to the new premises.

The German Arms Hotel was one of the buildings searched during World War I, when Hahndorf was placed under martial law.  In 1916 the hotel's name changed to Hahndorf Hotel and a year later, when Hahndorf was renamed Ambleside, it became the Ambleside Hotel.  The business reverted to its original name in 1976, following renovations.

Brief History

Extract from 'Hahndorf - A Journey through the Village and its History', by Anni Luur Fox

German Arms c2006

The S.A. Register of 4 August 1851 described the Arms as 'a small comfortable house, snug and clean, exceedingly well-conducted and more quiet than inns usually are'.  James Ide had become publican in 1849 and had kept up the well-deserved reputation until his death in 1851.  His widow married Francis Robert Hunt who took over management of the hotel.  She died in 1859.  A fire destroyed much of the original hotel building in February 1861, the year that the widower Hunt remarried.  His brother-in-law, Thomas Ide, was in charge in 1865 when the grand new hotel was completed across the road at No. 69 Main Street.

The new building was always alive with concerts, lectures and wedding celebrations as well as the pleasures of the bar. Brass bands entertained from the balcony.  Cobb and Co. coaches called in to deliver and pick up passengers and parcels. Police lock-up cells were built at the rear during one of Echunga's gold rushes in the 1880's.  They were demolished in the 1980's in favour of a row of modern housing units.

Lutherans were never teetotal and though the church frowned on drunkeness, Hahndorf has a long history of hotel patrons found snoring on the roadside after closing time, particularly on moonlit nights.  Because of poor street lighting, meetings held at the hotel were generally scheduled to take advantage of such heavenly cycles.  The German Arms remained the sole hotel in Hahndorf until Gottlieb Schuetze established the Australian Arms in 1854.  The names Ide and Hunt appear on lists of publicans at both hotels.

Alcohol was also a part of life at home, either homemade or purchased from the hotels or Rebensberg Winery on Schroeder Road.  One resident told Anni Luur Fox the story of a friend who sent his young son to the German Arms to buy a bottle of Port.  While crossing the Hahndorf Creek, the lad decided to rest by the waterhole to sample his purchase in secret.  One forbidden mouthful multiplied rapidly before he realised he was in deep trouble.  His father was sure to notice, but not, he figured, if he refilled the bottle from the waterhole.  He wobbled homewards carefree, smugly pleased with his brainwave.  But all was lost that evening!  The drunken tadpoles in Father's after-dinner drink gave the game away.

World War 1 affected life in Hahndorf dramatically.  While local men were busy enlisting in the Australian Army, the name 'German Arms' was removed from the hotel after it was unsuccessfully raided for guns.  People of German ancestry were considered aliens and many were rounded up for internment at Torrens Island.  The worried villagers began burying the framed Bible texts written in German that hung on their cottage walls.  They also buried paintings by Hans Heysen whose brother had been interned in a Sydney camp.

In 1914, G.C. Fellenberg changed the hotel's name to 'The Hahndorf Hotel'.  When the name 'Hahndorf' disappeared from the map with sixty-nine others of German origin by Act of Parliament in 1917, the hotel adopted the new name of the village, 'Ambleside', the name of a nearby railway station.  The original name of the hotel remained buried in a painful past that few local people would talk about.  John Storey prompted its reinstatement in 1975 when the new South Eastern Freeway contributed to the explosion of the tourism and real estate industries.  During the 1990's Noel Duffield enlarged the hotel and installed poker machines.  Having won several tourism awards and expanded the Old Mill Restaurant, he and his family turned to new challenges at the end of 1998.

Over the road where Lubasch's original hotel once stood, the Hahndorf Grocery Store also has a long history of serving the community.  After Alfred Miller married Alma Haebich in 1899, he built the house and attached store at No 80 -82.  The tiny fachwerk (half-timbered) cottage next door at No. 84 was once Podgy Post's butcher shop. Half was demolished to make way for Shueard's Shop at No. 86.  According to local artist Roy Gallasch, Mr Post was a devotee of the German Arms in later years.  He had been a superb football player. 'Strong as a bull,' said Roy, 'You couldn't knock him down with a steam engine!'

Early Licencees and Historical Milestones

(From information compiled by Reg Butler)

Almost as old as Hahndorf itself, the German Arms has followed the town into offering tourist hospitality to the state, the nation, and increasingly, the world.  Even by 1897, 'Handlebar', a newspaper columnist recommended the hostelry to touring cyclists as 'a resting place to dream of rustic surroundings and homely country folk' .  The hotel became the first in South Australia to gain a Sunday trading licence - August 1982.  Long may the German Arms retain Dr Samuel Johnson's urbane observation: 
'There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.' (Letter to James MacPherson 21 March 1776)

Inhospitable World War One tensions caused difficulties both for Hahndorf and the German Arms. The hotel changed name twice: 
1914 - The Hahndorf Hotel 
1917 - Hotel Ambleside 
Although Hahndorf regained its original name in November 1935, the German Arms had to wait until February 1976.

  • 1862-1874 Thomas Ide 

    • By January 1865, the present German Arms premises, across the road from the first inn, were nearly ready for use: 'This two-storey, almost newly-built guesthouse, comprises 14 rooms, 2 cellars, kitchen, washhouse, stabling for 12 horses, nearly new yard and fruit orchard and a 20,000 gallon water tank...' (Sud-Australische Zeitung 13 January 1865) 

    • Sombre jurors also gathered at the German Arms to investigate the 'darker side of life': 'An inquest was held on Saturday night [4 March], at the German Arms, upon the body of Mr Robert Strenz, licensed teacher of the denominational school ... Mr Strenz upon returning home at night [Friday 3 March] had taken about a teaspoon of morphine ... He never rallied, and at 3.30pm [4 March] breathed his last.' (The Chronicle 11 March 1871) 

    • The German Arms' clientele grew rather more boisterous: 'Robert Gibson and Duncan Waddle ... robbed and assaulted John Jones ... on leaving the hotel at about 11pm ... He was not sober at the time and remembered but little of what took place afterwards ... Found himself next morning lying in a stable at the back of the German Arms public house, divested of boots, hat and belt ...' (The Register 13 July 1872) 

  • 1874-1878 Henry Hardy 

  • 1878-1879 Emily Buckham 

  • 1879-1880 Joshua Dixon 

  • 1880-1887 August Pade 

    • Several publicans became entangled in other misfortunes: 'Mr August Pade, of the German Arms, has, through the depressed state of the times, had to call his creditors together.' (Mt Barker Courier 18 March 1887) 

  • 1887-1890 William Stoneham 

    • 'Great consternation was caused here today when it became know that William Stoneham, the landlord of the German Arms Hotel, had been arrested tonight [8 July] in connection with the late bank robbery. A large party of police and detectives made a secret raid in Hahndorf...He stated that he had not stolen the notes, but had found them in the cesspit.' (The Advertiser 9 July 1890)A Supreme Court Jury found Stoneham not guilty, 'from a strictly legal point of view' , in August 1890. 

    • Hahndorf's German citizens gradually adopted English sports:  At a meeting held in the German Arms Hotel on Saturday evening, 3 September, it was decided to form a cricket club at Hahndorf ... 'The town has not hitherto gone in for properly organised cricket ... Colours dark and light blue.' (Mt Barker Courier 9 September 1887) 

  • 1890-1891 Marie Stoneham 

  • 1891-1892 Thomas Broad 

  • 1892-1894 Charles Heynen 

  • 1894-1897 John Whicello 

  • 1897-1899 Julius Wegener 

    • The German Arms helped adapt German customs to the Australian environment:  'The decision of the Hahndorf Rifle Club to hold the annual shooting and sports on Commemoration Day [28 December] proved a wise one ... The entries were numerous and all the items well contested ... In the evening, a public dinner was held at the German Arms Hotel, where the prizes won during the day were presented.'  (Mt Barker Courier 30 December 1898) 

  • 1899-1902 Charles & Emily Formby 

  • 1902-1904 Ida Finck 

  • 1904-1911 Ellen Bennett 

    • Occasionally, even the German Arms proprietors exposed themselves to unwelcome physical injury: 'Mrs Bennett, landlady of the German Arms Hotel, met with a painful accident on Wednesday, 11 May.  While she was drawing a cork from a bottle of lemonade, the bottle burst, with the result that a piece of glass caused a serious gash under Mrs Bennett's chin.  About a dozen stitches were necessary to close the wound.' (The Register 14 May 1904) 

  • 1911-1913 George Rickaby 

    • Landlords found it prudent to advertise their particular sporting interests:  'The German Arms Hotel had changed hands.  Mr DP Bennett has disposed of his interests in the business to Mr Geo Rickaby, who hails from the Peninsula.  The new licencee is 'a sport' and intends to identify himself with the local clubs.  He takes an interest in horse-racing and owns the horse Exeter.' (The Advertiser 4 August 1911) 

  • 1913-1914 Gertrude Lane 

  • 1914-1915 GC Fellenberg 

  • 1915-1916 EW Gray 

  • 1916-1921 Conrad Palm 

  • 1921-1923 Ernest Johns 

  • 1923-1924 Joseph Lineham 

  • 1924-1929 William Nitschke 

  • 1929-1941 William Watson 

    • A plougman's bread and cheese board no longer sufficed in the hotel dining-room when players and supporters celebrated a successful season:  'At a dinner generously donated by Mr & Mrs WD Watson ... 50 footballers and supporters were present on Saturday evening last, 29 October.  The dining room and tables were greatly admired, the former being decorated with the club's colours (black and white streamers), while the waitresses wore black and white caps.  All present wore fancy paper caps...' (Mt Barker Courier 3 November 1938) 

  • 1941-1952 Frederick Langbein 

  • 1952-1955 Frederick Dawson 

  • 1955-1967 Stanley & Mary Wood 

  • 1967-1968 Walter Teakle 

  • 1968-1970 Lance & Eunice Nitschke 

    • The modern, spacious German Arms became a popular spot for Hahndorf's public gatherings, including the regular District Council meetings.  Auctioneers conducted property and stock sales. politicians arrived to seek votes:  'An elector asked the candidate whether he was in favour of payment of members [of Parliament].  He replied that he was not...Mr Boehm then moved that Mr Townsend was a fit and proper person to represent the district...' (The Chronicle 11 April 1868) 

  • 1970-1971 Geoff & Marilyn Evans 

  • 1971-1972 Alex Laredo & Marilyn Evans 

  • 1972-1974 Alex Laredo & Roberto Corney 

  • 1974-1976 Robin Duffield 

  • 1976-1977 John & Heather Wise 

  • 1977 Reg Lawson 

  • 1977-1979 Hermann & Robyn Lantzsch 

  • 1979-1981 Giovanni & Eileen Vincenzi 

  • 1981 Leslie David 

  • 1981-1983 Louis Stephens 

  • 1983 Leslie David 

  • 1983-1984 Louis Stephens 

  • 1984 Edwin Mildenhall

Early Ownership 

Information from The Hahndorf Allotments Database compiled by Reg Butler.

Old Lot No. New Lot No. Street No. Street Name
  S.H. 11 69 Main Street
Year Sold New Owner Occupation Owner's Home Personal
1849 Joseph Remfrey mining captain Kanmantoo Land grant.
1853 Robert Hunt # gentleman Hahndorf GRO title.  LTO title-1859
1868 Benjamin Nash tailor Adelaide  
1876 Thomas Skermer gentleman Lower Mitcham Died 1891.
1891 Richard Evans and
William Evans
mercantile clerk



Executor.  Nephews of T Skermer.
1892 Jane Scott %  widow Queenstown  
1900 Richard Evans and
William Evans
mercantile clerk




Ellen Bennett,

nee Helmore

wife of Frederick Bennett

hotelkeeper, Hahndorf


Executor.  Sons of J Scott, by her first  marriage

with Richard Evans Executor.

1915 Percy Bennett and
George Bennett
licensed victualler
Son of E & F Bennett.
1921 H Pike & Co brewers Oakbank  
1974 Tarfield Pty Ltd business firm Pirie St, Adelaide  


  • #  1864 - R Hunt built the present German Arms Hotel on the site. 
  • %  Jane Scott was a sister to Thomas Skermer.  Her first husband, Richard Evans, was a ship's captain of Queenstown. R & W Evans, the executors, were sons of this marriage.  In 1863, Mrs Evans re-married to George Scott, a Queenstown mariner.
  • 4023/165 Metric title.