In 1799 all the land on which this building, and the buildings behind, stand was leased for business purposes to Read and Allen. In 1838 the premises were described as a house, office and yard with the highest valuation in the town. Twenty years later Edward Bryce bought the lease from Andrew Nugent but the terms show that it was specifically forbidden for the premises to be a ‘tavern or public house for the sale of spirituous liquors.’
By the 1860s prosperity in Portaferry had reached an all time high and the port was handling more shipping than any other on Strangford Lough. It was about this time that Edward Bryce obtained his landlord’s permission to open a spirit- grocers in the corner premises. In 1880 he sold his lease to Henry and Hannah McGrath and for the next fifty years it was known as ‘McGraths of the Quay.’
More recent owners, the Wilsons and then the Herlihys, continued to improve the hotel which now incorporates the entire original house, the adjoining parlour houses and the old hotel.
In 1936 a local leading businessman, William McMullan, bought the property. He also owned the gas works, quay, the salt pans, a flax mill, a fleet of lorries and substantial property in High Street.
He leased the hotel to a Miss Eileen Thompson and her mother. Miss Thompson applied for a hotel licence and employed James Beck to convert the building into a proper hotel.