Building History

British Seamans Hotel

 

Built in 1886, the Wine Odyssey Australia building was originally known as the British Seaman's Hotel. But the site's association with wine (and other less cultivated forms of alcohol) goes back to the 1840s, when it was owned by Australia's first female entrepreneur, Rosetta Terry.

In 1799, the infamous convict ship, Hillsborough, sailed into Sydney Harbour with only two-thirds of its original human cargo.

Ravaged by typhus and brutalised by the ship's master, the survivors of "the Death Ship" were described by Governor Hunter as "the most Miserable and Wretched … I ever beheld". Rosetta Terry was among them.

 

Australia's first female entrepreneur
Despite having one young child and falling pregnant with another, Rosetta (aka Rosa Pracey) fended for herself and became Australia's first female entrepreneur - trading in sugar, tea, tobacco, snuff and anything else she could get her hands on.

Rosetta makes her mark
Her reputation as a trader grew. When another more salubrious ship arrived from Edinburgh in 1808, the top bidder - paying the grand sum of £133 for "wine, spirits and dried fruits" - was Rosetta.

Rosetta and the Rum Rebellion
She had become influential in the colony and when John Macarthur challenged Governor Bligh in the so-called Rum Rebellion of 1808, Rosetta contributed £20 to his fighting fund.

One of the country's first female publicans
Attempting to bring the liquor trade into order, the authorities granted 44 wine and spirits licences in Sydney in 1809, but only 4 were issued to women. Rosetta Terry was one of them.

Rosetta marries Samuel Terry
Already powerful and wealthy in her own right, Rosetta moved into another league when in 1810 she married the father of her third child, Samuel Terry.

The man who owned "half" Australia
A convict who'd also arrived from Lancashire, Samuel accumulated massive landholdings and by 1820 owned more than 20% of all mortgages in the New South Wales colony (which at that point took in Queensland and Victoria).

The Botany Bay Rothschild
Known as the "Botany Bay Rothschild", Samuel was one of the founders of Sydney Grammar School and the largest shareholder in the Bank of New South Wales. But 31% of shareholders in Australia's first bank were women. And, of course, one of them was his extraordinarily capable wife, Rosetta.

Rosetta back in business
After Samuel died of a stroke in 1838, Rosetta continued her successful entrepreneurial ways – which brings us back to the corner of Argyle and Harrington Streets in the Rocks.

Rosetta Terry's link to Wine Odyssey Australia
It was here, in the 1840s, in a pub known as the King's Head Inn, that Rosetta Terry sold beer, spirits and some very perfunctory wine - on the very site where Wine Odyssey Australia stands today.

Wine Odyssey's debt to Rosetta Terry
The quality of the refreshments has hopefully improved, but Wine Odyssey's owners acknowledge their debt to the trailblazing efforts of the remarkable Rosetta Terry, Australia's first female entrepreneur.

Source: "Rosetta Terry née Rosey Pracey (1770-1858)" by David Pracy, The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, "Biography of an Ancestor Competition", 2007.

Header image: View in Sydney Cove, N.S.W., 1845 Jacob William Jones Pencil. State Library NSW.