John Whitbread was found guilty of poaching rabbits in England when he was just a boy aged 15, and was sentenced to seven years in Van Diemen's Land. He arrived in Hobart in 1828. As a convict his record was of good behaviour and when he later settled in Stanley he became a fine citizen, business man and host. He built the hotel and named it the Emily Hotel, now known as the Stanley Hotel.
He bought the block on which it stands from the VDL £20 and the building was licensed as a hotel around 1847. He married Eliza Toysbin and descendants still live in the local area.
In the book A Residence in Tasmania, published in 1856, Butler Stoney describes the Emily Hotel as it was in 1853.
He said that on arrival in Stanley "a good and comfortable hotel rewards the weary traveller...Mr Whitbread's establishment is a fine large stone-built house with many good and well-furnished rooms and every attention is paid to his guests".
The Hotel has been continually licensed since 1847 under various names, the Emily, Freemason's, Union and now the Stanley Hotel.