Red Bull Inn, Ultimo, Sydney: 1839-1861

A bar fight. The 1880s saw the Pushes or gangs of Larrikins at their height
This image shows Essen Restaurant on Broadway Ultimo. The crane on the building site to the right is the vicinity of where the Red Bull traded. This 2012 picture shows the distance between the Stonemasons Arms and the Red Bull (former Essen restaurant), which was trading at the same time. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection.
uts broadway grrogle
The modern, UTS building sits on the site where the Red Bull Inn once traded. The inn was roughly located at the second power pole from the corner. Photo: Google Streetview.


THERE was hardly a dull moment in the short but colourful history of Sydney’s Red Bull Inn, a little pub that traded for 20 years on today’s Broadway.

Believed to be constructed of stone, the two storey Red Bull Inn had a succession of publicans serving-up ale to the hard drinking slaughter-yard workers, teamsters and cattlemen, who drank at its bar, and who joined the regulars from the surrounding over-crowded slums of the Ultimo Estate.

Among the Red Bull’s customers were members of the notorious gang known as the ‘Livers’, composed mostly of butcher boys from the nearby Glebe abattoirs.

Gangs, known as ‘pushes’, were common on the streets of Sydney during the time the Red Bull Inn traded between 1839 and 1861. Besides the Livers, there were the Rocks Push, Burley Boys from Woolloomooloo, and the Forty Thieves from Surry Hills, whose members, known as larrikins, terrorised the neighbourhood, often engaging in open warfare.

A popular bar on the main road into Sydney from the western districts of the colony, patronised by an eclectic collection of butchers from nearby slaughter yards, cattlemen and returned soldiers from the Crimean war, the Red Bull was not for the faint hearted.

A number of Crimean War veterans were enjoying a few ales at the Red Bull in 1857, the Empire reported on October 6, when trouble erupted between them and the Livers:

Edward Maiden, soldier of H.M. 77th Regiment, was charged with assaulting a policeman. Sergeant Lane stated that at an early hour on Sunday morning, he received information that some soldiers and other men were fighting in Parramatta- street. On proceeding to the spot he found prisoner and number of butcher-boys kicking up a row near the “Red Bull” Inn; he tried to quell the disturbance, when prisoner questioned his right to interfere, and used same bad language towards him; adding that “he had killed ten men in the Crimea, and was able to kill ten more.” Prisoner then shoved witness against the shutters of the house, and in the course of a scuffle which ensued, struck the policeman two or three times with his belt. The sergeant further stated that defendant was partially intoxicated at the time, and that he had evidently been excited by the butcher-boys before committing the assault. When asked for his defence. Maiden denied having struck the constable, but admitted that he had been drinking rather to excess on the evening in question. He was remanded to be dealt with by the military authorities.

The Red Bull Inn was granted a license to trade by convict John Darcy on April 29 1839. It was located about midway between Jones and Wattle Streets on Broadway, Sydney. The inn brought to seven – the Coach and Horses, Hope and Anchor, Wellington Inn (opposite), Golden Anchor, Stonemason’s Arms and Sportsman’s Arms – trading along today’s Broadway and George Street Sydney between City Road and Ultimo Road.

A $235 million University of Technology development is currently (January 2013) underway on the site of the old inn, which when completed will feature a spectacular 12-storey Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology building.

Solomon Wiseman

Darcy was one of 180 convicts who arrived in Sydney on December 29 1823 on the ship Medina from Cork Ireland. He was about 38 years of age when he was assigned to Soloman Wiseman, of Wiseman Ferry fame, who operated an inn along the Portland Road near Windsor.

Darcy, who no doubt learnt his innkeeping skills from Soloman, headed to Sydney after gaining his certificate of freedom in 1831. He was convicted and fined for assaulting his brewer, the Sydney Gazette reported February 26 1842:

John D’Arcey [sic], a publican, on the Brickfield-Hill, was yesterday fully committed to take his trial for an aggravated assault on Mr. Richard Crampton, the brewer of Elizabeth-street. Mr. Crampton had gone to demand payment of some money due to him from D’Arcey for rent, but on his entering the shop, defendant knocked him down; this assault the defendant did three times, and, after knocking him down, kicked him several times. Mr. Crampton offered to settle the matter if the defendant would pay for a coat of Mr. C.’s which had been spoiled in the malee, but this defendant refused to do.

Darcy continued hosting the hard thirsts of Ultimo Estate drinkers for almost another decade before his license was finally cancelled after he abandoned his house in February 1851. He died just two years later at the age of 68.

The inn was re-opened by John Cornwall Webb the following month, and William Hunt became publican. Following Hunt, 27-year-old Vincent Howell became host of the Red Bull in 1853. Howell had previously hosted the Bird in Hand on the Windsor Road, and the Wheatsheaf on Parramatta Road.

After leaving the Red Bull in December 1854, Howell hosted the Woolpack Hotel at Petersham before his death in 1855 at the age of 39. He left a wife and six children.

One of the Red Bull’s most notorious publicans arrived at the bar after the departure of Howell. Thomas Cardwell was 33 when he arrived at the inn with his wife Jane and six young children in 1854.

Cardwell landed in Sydney from North Ireland in 1842 at the age of 21 and married Jane Purvas the following year. He made his way to Camperdown, where his brother James and John had already settled.

The brothers became familiar faces in the Sydney Police Court, and were often arrested on charges of assault. A magistrate remarked in 1855 that the brothers “ought to have a police court exclusively to themselves, as hardly a day passed in which they did not appear before him”.

Cardwell was granted a license for the Victoria Inn at Camperdown in April 1849. He was 28. He became notorious for impounding stray cattle trespassing on land he leased at the Ultimo Estate, close to today’s University of Sydney.

Cardwell’s reputation for litigating the “dairy-men and their wives”, who lived on the Ultimo Estate, became infamous. He rented a large portion of the estate and his reputation for repeatedly impounding cattle trespassing on his land regularly ended in violent confrontations. The owners of the cattle often challenged Cardwell, with newspapers of the time littered with court cases involving the confrontations. The Empire reported on February 21 1856:

Cardwell or his brother is the complainant in most of the (28) postponed cases (for summonses). The circumstance that has given rise to so much litigation amongst those persons, most of whom are dairy-men and their wives, and live in close proximity to one another on the Ultimo Estate, is, that Cardwell, who rents a large portion of the estate from Mrs. Harris, has been in the habit of impounding their cattle for trespassing on his land. The owners of the cattle became irritated on account of those proceedings, and abused Cardwell on account of them. One word brought on another, until at length a general disturbance took place, in which, it seems all were equally culpable. The three persons, Thomas Crosby and his wife and John Clarke met Cardwell taking their cattle to the pound, and attempted to rescue them. The Police Magistrate said that no doubt those persons were under the impression that they were acting legally in rescuing their cattle; but, he could not forbear remarking that there was a great deal of ill-feeling displayed on both sides. Cardwell had taken out summonses against all the parties, and they in turn had taken out summonses against him. From the gross and distinct contradictions on both sides, when it came to the turn of either party to be placed in the witness-box and sworn, there cannot be the least shadow of a doubt that some of the parties must have committed perjury. This is not said without reason, for any person present at the trials to-day, and observant of the proceedings, must have been convinced that such was the case.

Just three months after arriving to host the Red Bull in 1854, Cardwell’s two-year-old son, Andrew died. In March 1855, his servant, Mary Kennedy, was assaulted while asleep at the inn. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on May 3:

Hugh Lavery was charged with assaulting Mary Kennedy. Prosecutrix deposed that some time last night she was awoke in her bed, by some one touching her; it was the prisoner, who asked her to admit him into her bed; she screamed out, and he went away her master came and she complained to him. Thomas Cardwell, of Parramatta-street, publican, deposed that he was called up by his servant’s cries, and on hearing the cause, ordered Lavery to leave the house ; as he refused to dress himself, he (witness) threw his clothes down stairs, and put him after them; as he then refused to leave the house, he sent for a constable and gave him into custody ; the prisoner had been drinking, and went to his own bed about 10 o’clock ; more than an hour had elapsed when this took place. Guilty of assault; ordered to pay a penalty of £5, or to be imprisoned for one month.

Testing Cardwell’s well-known temper, Richard Cotton, the Empire reported on October 25 1855, went with his “mistress” to the Red Bull to challenge him over the purchase of a cow.

After confronting the Cardwells brothers John and Thomas, Cotton was thrown to the ground, and repeatedly struck. Both brothers were fined £1 each, with three shillings and six pence costs, when they fronted the local magistrates for the assault.

Cardwell’s short fuse was again revealed when he was charged for assaulting his wife Jane on January 2 1865. While living at Camperdown, Cardwell beat his wife and called her “foul names” after she tried to prevent him throwing out butter. She said that he also beat their children and that she was afraid of him. Caldwell was fined 10 shillings, six shillings, with nine pence costs, or seven days gaol. He was warned by the court that if he appeared again he would be “more severely dealt with”.

After leaving the Red Bull, Cardwell moved back to Camperdown, where he hosted the Sugar Loaf Inn for a number of years before his death at the age of 54 in 1875.

After the Cardwell’s departure from the Red Bull, the Hayes, William and Mary Ann, became hosts. The husband and wife’s stay at the Parramatta Street pub was to begin on a tragic note.

Hayes was 27 years of age when he gained the license of the Red Bull in March 1856. However, just six months later he was dead.

While riding his grey horse along George Street Sydney about 10am on Wednesday September 24 1856, Hayes collided with a carriage, occupied by Dr Roberts. After the collision the horse bolted and its saddle slipped round causing Hayes to fall, hitting his head on the curb stone in Hunter Street. He was taken to the Infirmary in Dr Roberts’ carriage, but died shortly afterwards.

A coroner’s court heard the horse Hayes was riding had been borrowed in exchange for one which he had taken to have broken-in. The jury found Hayes died from injuries caused accidentally by a fall or kick in the head from his horse, and “that no blame attaches to any party”.

Hayes wife Mary Ann took-over the running of the Red Bull, and within six months of her husband’s demise, death came knocking on the pub’s door once again.

An inquest was held into the death of a guest at the Red Bull Inn when Hayes found Charles Jenkins, from Wollongong, dead in his upstairs bed in March 1857. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Jenkins, 50, had been staying at the pub with his 11-year-old son, and that he had been “in the habit of going out pleasuring, and returning to the inn partially drunk”.

On Sunday morning, he came, after being absent all night, and in the course of the day had some drink in a neighbouring place. He retired to bed in the evening a little intoxicated, but he was not so far gone as to be unable to take care of himself. His son slept in the same room, and in the morning he came to Mrs Hayes, and told her that he had been unable to wake his father. On going up stairs she found the deceased lying on the bed perfectly dead. He was undressed, and the clothes on the bed were not disturbed. The jury returned a verdict of death from a fit of apoplexy.

In December 1857 Mary Ann Hayes was given permission to transfer the license of the Red Bull Inn to the corner of Kent and Crescent Streets, near The Rocks. The new “commodious Red Bull, near the gas works”, was advertised with “all the comforts and conveniences of a private residence, combined with the advantages of a first class hotel, and on the most moderate terms”.  Hayes new venture was short lived and her license was cancelled after she “abandoned the occupation” of the public house in January 1858.

Another self-made ex-convict businessman resurrected the Red Bull two months later. Builder, Malachi Hardiman operated a stone quarry, on his property at the corner of Bay Street and Parramatta Road, Glebe. Today the site is the sprawling Broadway Shopping Centre.

Hardiman arrived from Galway Ireland to Port Jackson Sydney as a 21-year-old on board the Eliza in September 1832. He had been convicted of being a ‘whiteboy’ or ‘ribbonman’ – a member of an illegal rebel Roman Catholic group pushing for Irish separation from England – and was sentenced to life in the colonies.

Hardiman received his ticket of leave in 1840, married Ann Owen in 1842, and was given a conditional pardon in 1847. His wife, Ann was the daughter of Edward Owen who had been granted just over three acres of land at The Glebe in 1848. The property was bounded by Glebe Street in the north, Bay Street on the east, and Parramatta Street on the south, with a depth of a couple of hundred feet.

A stonemason by trade, Hardiman’s quarry made him a wealthy man, supplying building material for a rapidly growing city. He also worked as a builder and his success allowed him to build a portfolio of properties in the Glebe/Ultimo area. By the following Sydney Morning Herald report on December 17 1853, Hardiman, it seems, was also was a keen gardener:

THE “FRUITS” OF STREET TUITION – “May it please your Worship,” said Malachi Hardiman of Blackwattle Swamp,” I can’t keep a single   bit of fruit of no sort in my garden, on account of the young vagabonds of lads as are continually prowling about in our neighbourhood. On Sunday the garden was full of ’em; so I crept round and pounced down upon ’em like a hawk; but the only one I could clutch was the young one who stands before you. He had his pockets stuffed full of mulberries, and few people know how many were in his stomach. Police Magistrate – What is the value of the stolen fruit? Mr Hardiman – Can’t speak as to that. Police Magistrate – Three pence? Mr Hardiman – Don’t know. Police Magistrate – Two pence? Mr Hardiman – Can’t say. Police Magistrate – A penny, a half-penny, a farthing? Were they worth anything? Mr Hardiman – It is not the value so much as the principle. Police Magistrate – What’s your name, boy? A Shrill Voice – Mike Hinnisay, plaze; just turned elivin. Police Magistrate – Do you live with your parents? A Shrill Voice – Father’s dead and mother’s bolted. At the conclusion of this confession, little Mike, of the shrill voice, was discharged, with a warning, the fruits of which have to be seen.

Charles Gavan Duffy

Hardiman established and hosted at least two pubs on his properties fronting Bay Street at Glebe. The Stonemasons Arms opened opposite City Road, on the corner of Bay and Parramatta Streets, in March 1854, while the Gavan Duffy Hotel – named after Charles Gavan Duffy (1816-1903), Irish nationalist activist and later premier of Victoria -was located in Bay Street at the corner of Glebe Street.

Hardiman’s Stonemasons’ Arms is not to be confused with a pub by the same name on Broadway, further towards the city, and (January 2013) trading as Essen Restaurant and Beer Cafe (Essen closed for business in 2018).

Besides Hardiman’s two pubs on Bay Street, he added the Red Bull to his portfolio when he re-licensed the pub in March 1858. However, not all was financially well with the entrepreneurial hotelier. With a large family of six, ranging in age from one to 14, to feed, Hardiman fell on difficult times in the late 1850s.

Hardiman continued as host at the Red Bull, advertising “Christmas amusements” at the rear of the pub for 1858. Attractions on the day included climbing the greasy pole for a new hat, sack race for a new hat, pig race with a greasy tail, along with “other amusements”.

With the New Year, the same hard drinking customers continued to frequent the bar of the Red Bull. Robert Emms was fined £3 or to be imprisoned 14 days for assaulting Hardiman in the bar of the Red Bull in 1859. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on January 20 that Emms came to Hardiman’s pub for a glass of ale, which he refused to pay. As a consequence, Emms was put out of the house. Not long after he returned with a mate and ordered two glasses of ale. Emms placed a shilling on the bar, in which Mrs Hardiman gave him three pence in change, taking extra for the drink he had previously refused to pay for before being put out of the pub.

Emms continued to be noisy and abusive, so when Mr Hardiman returned he “put him as gently as possible out” once again. This time Emms retaliated, striking the publican a violent blow in the mouth – “whether with his fist or with the whip he carried”, cutting his upper lip severely, and causing a considerable loss of blood. Hardiman’s shirt was said to have been torn to shreds in the malee.

Hardiman’s continuing financial problems forced him into administration, leading to the consolidation of his property investments in 1859. The official assignee of his estate transferred the license of the Red Bull to Hardiman’s other pub, the Gavan Duffy – which had been closed for sometime – at Glebe on June 30 1859.

Hardiman was fined a hefty £30 in July 1859 when he failed to have the license renewed. However, after sorting out the license, Hardiman continued as publican at the Bay Street inn until 1860. He died aged 72 in 1883.

The original Red Bull Inn on Parramatta Road was re-licensed to Thomas Hickey in September 1859. Hickey – who had previously run the Plough Inn, on the Parramatta Road at the junction of Liverpool Road from 1852-54, and later the Longford Hotel in Kent Street Sydney from 1854-58 – had a short stay at the Red Bull on Parramatta Street.

Local butcher, Robert Peisley took the reins of the Parramatta Street pub in the latter part of 1859. The Red Bull’s last publican was Richard Hutchison who too over the license early in 1861. By the end of March the Red Bull Inn on Parramatta Street was no more. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on March 15 1861:

Several publicans were prosecuted for violations of the Licensing Act. and the licenses granted to Richard Hutchison, for a house in Parramatta-street, known as the Red Bull, and Thomas Lee, for a house at Petersham, known by the sign of the Cherry Gardens, were declared to be cancelled, on evidence that they had abandoned their licensed houses as their usual places of abode.

After the Red Bull Inn closed, the property was leased by pioneer ‘whip’, Lewis Alexander. Alexander had operated coaches between Sydney and Parramatta since the 1840s. He began an omnibus service between Sydney and Bankstown in the 1860s, leasing the Red Bull for use as his city depot. He advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald on July 20 1861:

LEWIS ALEXANDER (formerly of Pitt-street) begs respectfully to apprise his friends and the public that he has taken those extensive premises, in Parramatta-street (late the Red Bull Inn, opposite Tooth’s brewery), where he intends earning on his business – Commission, Sale, and Livery Stables. His judgment in horses and other branches stands second to none, coupled with fifty years’ experience in England and the colonies; he solicits their patronage. Horses broke to saddle and nil harness. Attached to the premises, a paddock, sheds, and loose box, for unbroken or country horses. Superior dogcarts, hacks, omnibus, breaks, &c, on hire, at moderate charges.

Today the site of John Darcy’s Red Bull Inn is part of the University of Technology.

The publicans

1839-1851: John Darcy
1851: John Cornwall Webb
1851-1853: William Hunt
1853-1854: Vincent Howell
1854-1856: Thomas Cardwell
1856: William H Hayes
1856-1857: Mary Ann Hayes
1858-1859: Malachi Hardiman
1859: Thomas Hickey
1859- 1861: Robert Peisley
1861: Richard Hutchison

[I would be interested to hear from anyone with information on the fate of the Red Bull… its later uses, and eventual demolition date.]

First published 2021. Story updated 2021

© Copyright Mick Roberts 2021

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