Who is the Hero of Waterloo?

The Hero of Waterloo is none other than the Duke of Wellington, best known for defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, bringing an end to the Napoleonic era of European history. He was a conservative military leader who frequently won battles in difficult circumstances and inspired discipline and loyalty in his troops. Wellington became prime minister of Great Britain in 1828.

Arthur Wellesley - The Duke of Wellington

Arthur Wellesley – The Duke of Wellington

Ivan Richard Nelson

From 1988-2013, Ivan Richard Nelson was the publican of The Hero of Waterloo Hotel, making him the longest licensee in the pub’s history.

Ivan gained his strong business ethic from working in his grandfather’s company, Nelson & Robinson, Australia’s leading shipping company.

Ivan’s warm, generous personality endeared him to the locals and visitors to the Hero. Ivan would delight in showing visitors the cellars and enthralling them with the Hero’s many stories.

Ivan’s passion for his colonial pub has helped ensure the Hero maintains its historic atmosphere.

Ivan Richard Nelson

Ivan Richard Nelson

Our Famous Cellar & Tunnel

The Hero Cellar and Tunnel

The Hero Cellar and Tunnel

There is an enduring legend that a secret tunnel running from the cellar of the hotel to the harbour was used for rum smuggling and the involuntary recruitment of sailors. An unknowing young man might find himself drunk at the bar, dropped through a trapdoor into the cellar and dragged through the tunnel, only to awake to the morning shanghaied aboard a clipper.

Reminders of the Hero’s notorious past are everywhere. The downstairs cellars still have shackles on the walls and the entrance to the smuggler’s tunnel can still be seen.

This Historic Australian landmark is classified by the Heritage Council and The National Trust.


The ghost of Anne Kirkman

It is rumoured that in 1849, publican Thomas Kirkman pushed his wife, Anne, down the Hero’s stairs to her death.

In recent times, it has been said that the ghost of Anne Kirkman frequents the Hero. After upstairs functions rooms are reset for a new day, several chairs can be found facing the fireplace the next morning, even though nobody has been inside since the previous evening. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, classical music can be heard coming from the piano in the bar area. When the owners descend the stairs from the upstairs apartment where they live, the music eerily stops, the lid of the piano left open.

A brief colonial history


George Paton purchased land on the corner of Windmill and Lower Fort Street in The Rocks from John Clarke.

George Paton

George Paton


The Hero of Waterloo was built by George Paton, a Scottish stonemason, who was also involved in the construction of the nearby Garrison (Holy Trinity) Church, the colony’s first military Church. Convict labour was used to build both the hotel and the Church from sandstone from the Argyle Cut. If you look closely at the Hero’s walls, you can still see the chisel marks of the convicts who carved them. Interestingly, the hotel has nine dummy windows in the upstairs rooms, probably a means of avoiding the window tax of the time.


On 30 June 1845, George Paton obtained the first public licence for the Hero of Waterloo. Early clientele included the crews of the whaling and sealing vessels that docked at Millers Point. It was also a favourite drinking spot for the garrison troops of the colonial days.

On 2 September 1845, Thomas Kirkman became the Hero’s second licensee. Kirkman arrived in Australia in 1793, having been sentenced to seven years’ transportation at Dublin City in 1791. It is rumoured he may have been an Irish Rebel.


On 13 September 1849, Kirkman’s wife, Anne, ‘fell’ down the stairs at the Hero, broke her neck and died. Patrons say she still haunts the pub and sometimes, at night, plays beautiful classical music on the piano.


Jonathan Brown regularly advertised the Hero espousing its virtues of lodgings, a tavern and its close proximity to the wharves.



In February 1867, the Hero of Waterloo freehold was put up for sale by Theophilus Paton, the eldest son of George Paton.

Theophilus Paton

Theophilus Paton


The bubonic plague swept through The Rocks.



Numerous properitors came and went during the Hero’s colonial era.

The Hero of Waterloo Hotel - circa 1901

The Hero of Waterloo Hotel – circa 1901