High Street is still the main home of Bangor’s public houses and another one which existed in the nineteenth century was the International Hotel. The present building on the site is Wolsey’s and it dates from circa 1880 according to Patton’s Bangor Gazetteer. In the 1863 valuation the lessee was William Dines and the building stood between the gasworks and William Barr’s premises. (see the article on The Star). Dines rented the property from Robert Edward Ward. In the early 1850s directories had listed him as a publican in Quay Street, but by 1856 his business had moved to Ballymagee Street (now High Street). In 1865 Wynne’s directory listed him as a spirit dealer at 23 Ballymagee Street. This number does not relate to the modern numbers on the street or even to the valuations as the odd numbers are now on the opposite side of the street.
William Dines died on 7 December 1866 aged 61. His will described him as an innkeeper and his effects were valued at under £600. He left money to relatives including £100 to his wife Isabella whom he had married in 1860 at Bangor Abbey when he was a widower. There is no mention of children in his will. His property and its contents in Ballymagee Street were left to his sister Ellen Savage. This bequest was not to be mortgaged or sold. At her decease the property was to go to John Barber junior if still living. If the latter was dead the property was to be sold and the proceeds divided among William Dines’ heirs. His niece Agnes Christy (the spelling of the surname varies) nee Savage, was to get his 10 shares in the Holywood and Bangor Railway. John Barber had been left £60 in the will. No relationship to William Dines was mentioned there unlike in the case of the other legatees.
The valuations list Ellen Savage as the lessee of Robert Ward in 1868. She had applied for and received a spirit license in 1867. The following year James Christy was recorded as the lessee. In his will William Dines had mentioned his niece Agnes Christy and she had married in 1860 a James Christie who was then a constable in County Louth. It is possible this was the same man. In a directory of 1881 James Christie was listed as a spirit dealer in Ballymagee Street. By 1885 Martha Mawhinney was lessee as the tenant of Ellen Savage, who was then living at a house in the rere of the premises.
I have been unable to find out what names, if any, were given to the premises by all the above people. In 1887 Samuel Boyd was given a spirit license for premises in Ballymagee Street, although he was recorded as living in Belfast at the time of his second marriage in 1890. Then in 1890, the valuation listed him as the lessee from Ellen Savage. He appeared in the Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory of 1892 as running the the International Hotel. In October 1892 he placed a death notice in the Belfast News-Letter for the death of Martha Mawhinney in her 70th year. She was his mother and the wife of Samuel Mawhinney. She had married him in Belfast in 1872 as the widow, Martha Boyd. The notice stated she died at her son’s residence, the the International Hotel, Ballymagee Street. She was buried in Bangor Abbey where the gravestone mentions her second husband Samuel Boyd who had died in 1871 and her son’s wife Isabella who had died in 1885.
On 9th March 1892 Ellen Savage died at the age of 80 at Francis Street in Newtownards. Her death was reported by her daughter Mary Galbraith who had been left £30 in her uncle’s will. In October the sole remaining executor of William Dines’ will, applied at Newtownards Quarter Sessions for an ejectment order against Samuel Boyd of the the International Hotel. Ellen Savage had let the premises to Samuel Boyd as a yearly tenant and then for her lifetime in December 1890. Under the terms of William Dines’ will the property was to be sold after her death unless John Barber junior was still alive and the proceeds split among the parties mentioned in the will. John Barber must have been dead by this time as the judge granted possession to the executor. Samuel Boyd then moved to Quay Street where he ran the Harbour Bar
Meanwhile in April 1893 the the International Hotel was advertised for auction, together with its spirit license. It was 38’ 1” in front on the south side of Ballymagee Street. It was held for a term of 999 years from May 1892 at a rent of £11 8s 0d. The premises were in a central position overlooking the new esplanade and were extensive and well fitted up. A good and lucrative business had been carried on during the last 30 years. It was also called a desirable investment, but no details of the rooms were given. The auction was due on 1 May and from the valuation it appears that the purchaser was Alexander Warden.
It seems that he did not intend to run the business himself as a further advertisement appeared on the 17th. It stated that the unnamed vendor had recently purchased the premises from William Dines’ executor and was offering the interest and good will of the license of the the International Hotel for a term of 20 years. The rent was £50 a year. This time the advertisement gave more details of the premises. The house contained five large and commodious business rooms, including a bar parlour. At the rear was a large yard, approached from a side entrance. It contained a small dwelling house, ample stabling, a hayloft and storehouses suitable for carrying on the bottle trade.
On 6 June a notice in the paper explained that the premises had been withdrawn from sale by public auction as they had been disposed of by private treaty. The valuation reveals that the new tenant was Hugh Shanks. An early photograph of the view up High Street from the esplanade provides confirmation of the purchase. The building is shown as taller than the one directly beside and below it and the name Shanks is visible on the side, just below the roof. The first directory to mention a Shanks as a publican in Ballymagee Street was in 1894 when the initial of the first name was given as F. By 1896 the initial had changed to H. There was no name given for the premises.
The final question is who built the present premises. Patton dated them to c1880, when James Christy was running the premises and Ellen Savage was the lessor. It is also significant that by 1885 Ellen Savage is recorded as living in a house at the rere (sic).