Mysterious 'secret cellar' discovered under carpet in Aussie restaurant

The Australian restaurateur had no idea what he would find when he started remodelling the 162-year-old building.

When Jamie Shepley began renovating his new restaurant, he had no idea he would uncover an unexpected and well-kept secret beneath the floor.

The restaurateur of 20 years recently started working on remodelling the area once home to the famed Barter’s Restaurant at the 162-year-old Prince of Wales Hotel in Wagga Wagga, NSW.

But the heritage building offered up more than just a new business opportunity after Shepley discovered rumours of a historic secret were true.

"The previous owners believed there was a secret cellar under the floor but they never checked for fear of it being full of water or pests," he told Yahoo News Australia.

"It was boarded up with a round piece of plywood, then a piece of sheet steel under the carpet in the restaurant."

'It was a treasure hunt'

Keen to find out whether a secret room lay beneath, Shepley wasted no time pulling apart the floor. But what he found left him speechless.

"As soon as we could, we ripped up the carpet and the other coverings, it felt like we were on a treasure hunt, it was very exciting," he said.

The spiral staircase leading down to a wine cellar discovered at a restaurant.
The staircase was hidden under the carpet of the current restaurant. Source: Supplied

"Once we opened it up, we were very surprised that the staircase remained and was in good condition, we went downstairs to find not a single pest and it was completely dry."

The secret wine cellar was in such pristine condition that the iron spiral staircase was completely intact and there was even working power and lighting down there. Parts of the hidden staircase had remained untouched for years and were found inside, making it functional once again.

"When we uncovered it we were very happy to find the staircase still inside, it was in two parts and we were able to bolt it back together," Shepley explained.

'A fantastic find!'

Wanting to discover more about the cellar, Shepley has since reached out to locals on Facebook keen to understand more about how the space used to look and how it was used.

Wagga Wagga residents have responded with disbelief at how the cellar is so intact and in such great condition.

"What a fantastic find. It’s just beautiful," one said, with another adding: "Going by the walls and floors that's a very old cellar. Love this find."

The restaurant located inside the historic Prince of Wales Hotel in Wagga Wagga, was once home to Barter’s Restaurant - an elite dining venue and bar - which operated in the '70s, '80s and '90s. The restaurant's historic menu from 1977 encourages guests to “browse around” their wine cellar to find “something a little different”.

Secret wine cellar (left) and 1970s restaurant menu (right).
The staircase led to a large open wine cellar that was surprisingly in great condition. The cellar was once a selling point for the 1970s restaurant Barter's. Source: Supplied/National Library of Australia

Several locals have shared that they remember visiting the restaurant throughout their childhood, with Shepley also able to find the original owners on Facebook.

"Barters was owned by my family, I grew up running around that place and hiding in the wine cellar," one person revealed.

"I remember going down there and choosing wine for my mum and dad when we ate at Barter’s... was a fabulous restaurant," another said.

Shepley now intends to return the wine cellar to its former glory and plans on renovating the space into a wine and whiskey cellar.

“We’d love for guests to be able to go down there and take a look,” he said, adding that he hopes renovations will be completed sometime in March.

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