The Liverpool Arms was a fine example of the evolution of Sydney’s pubs

The Liverpool Arms in the 1870s
The Liverpool Arms in the 1870s. Picture: Supplied


Elias Ellis. Picture: Supplied

AT the harbour end of the Pitt Street Mall, in the heart of Sydney’s busiest shopping precinct, stands a five storey reminder of how the city’s colonial pubs developed.

There’s no better example of the evolution of Sydney’s pubs than the former Liverpool Arms, which traded for almost 140 years on the corner of Pitt and King Streets.

The heritage listed former hotel developed from a quaint English style inn, into a bathroom-tiled beer palace that typified Sydney during the 1950s and 60s, and was reflective of similar pubs that struggled to survive through the 1970s with the demise of the tied-house system.

Besides the architectural evolution of the business though, what’s also fascinating is the innkeepers and publicans who made their living from within its walls.

From a London born Jewish draper, a couple of Sydney mayors, and a Shakespearean actor and honorary consulate, the Liverpool Arms’ publicans walked a variety of life’s pathways.

For 95 years, prior to brewery giant, Tooth and Company buying the hotel, the building’s owners were chiefly from Sydney’s Jewish community.

The story of the pub begins with English Jews, Elias and Rebecca Ellis, who had immigrated to Australia during the 1820s.

The husband and wife redeveloped an old brick watch-house that sat on the south west corner of Pitt and King Streets, into a drapery and clothing store in the 1830s.

In May 1843 a fire, started by a candle left burning on the counter, gutted the drapery store and as consequence the shop was closed and leased to publican, Joseph Smith.

Smith was hosting the nearby Saracen’s Head Inn, at the corner of King and Sussex Streets when he advertised for builders to convert the burnt-out drapery store into a public house in September 1843.

Smith had plenty of experience as an innkeeper. He had hosted the Roan Horse Inn at the Junction of Seven Hills and Windsor Roads, near Blacktown, from the late 1830s before moving to host a pub almost opposite the commercial wharf in Sydney during 1842.

To enable Smith’s new pub to open, the license of Pettit’s Hotel, at the corner of Park and Castlereagh Streets was transferred to the old drapery store on December 18 1843.

Smith named his pub, ‘The Black Boy’.

At the time King and Pitt Streets was a popular theatre precinct, where the thirsty could find plenty of ale and entertainment.

The Black Boy joined three other pubs at the intersection – Alfred Toogood’s Rainbow Inn (north west corner), Phillip Solomon’s Elephant and Castle (south east corner), and William Toogood’s Rose and Crown (north east corner).

Smith had a short stay at The Black Boy, and went on to host the Mayor Inn on Pitt Street. After his departure, new host Peter McKew transferred the Black Boy’s license to George and King Streets in September 1844.

The new Black Boy at the corner of King and George Street, Sydney. Picture: National Library of Australia.

Owners of the old Black Boy, Elias and Rebecca Ellis, re-licensed their old drapery store as the Freemasons Arms in December 1844, before changing the name to the Liverpool Arms in 1845 – a name it would hold for the following 130 years.

The Ellises fell on financial difficulties and were declared insolvent, before selling, and moving to Melbourne in 1846. The “respected old colonist” continued his drapery business there and died at his residence, Cardigan-street, East Melbourne in 1866 at the age of 71.

The Liverpool Arms, circled, from a 1848 drawing.
The Liverpool Arms, circled, from an 1848 drawing. Picture: State Library of NSW
The King Street view of the Liverpool Arms in 1848.
The King Street view, circled, of the Liverpool Arms in 1848.Picture: State Library of NSW

Fashioned on inns from Mother England, the Liverpool Arms was a two storey sandstone building, with “cosy pews and box seats” and “small tables”, where the “thirsty wayfarer, or the business man with his customer, could enjoy the ‘half pint of British’, and chat on business or friendship, and enjoy both”.

Two large windows, with small pains of glass faced both King and Pitt Streets, while a large lamp guided dry-throat customers through a corner entrance door.

Taking the reins of the Liverpool Arms, another Jew by the name of Edward Samuel, built a reputation of supplying first rate lunches at the pub during his ownership. During his six years behind the bar, Samuel built a reputation for providing lunches that would remain for almost a century.

Benjamin Palmer. Picture: Supplied.

Samuel sold the goodwill of the business to Edward Palmer. Palmer was Sydney born in 1828, the eldest son of English immigrants. He and his wife Emma, with their children, took the license of the Liverpool Arms in 1854.

Hotel keeping was in Palmer’s blood, with his father William hosting a number of Sydney pubs, including the Rising Sun Inn, the Fortune of War, and the Dumbarton Castle.

Palmer, at the age of just 22, was the landlord of The Swan with Two Necks on the corner of Park and George Streets in 1850. From 1854 to 1867 he was licensee of the Liverpool Arms, where the young publican hosted a number of meetings to prepare rules for a proposed Sydney Licensed Victuallers’ Association.

Another prominent publican of the Liverpool Arms was John Benjamin Moore, who purchased the freehold of the pub and held its license from 1867 to 1880.

London born in 1832, John Benjamin Moore was 35 years of age when he took the license of the Liverpool Arms in 1867.

Described as “portly” and “one of a family of publicans”, Moore, with his wife Sarah were one of the longest serving hosts of the pub, remaining there until 1880.

Moore was also a Sydney Council alderman from 1870 to 1893 and, while hosting the Liverpool Arms, was mayor in 1875 and 1876. He officiated at the opening of one of the early stages of Sydney Town Hall.

Liverpool Arms 1850s
Liverpool Arms 1850s. Picture: Supplied.

While Moore didn’t have too much trouble draining his beer barrels, the same couldn’t be said about the pub’s cellar. The cellar often filled with storm-water after heavy rain, often causing major damage to stock. The Clarence and Richmond Examiner reported that a “remarkable change in the weather took place” and “rain fell in heavy torrents”, causing Sydney’s street drains to choke, on April 21 1874.

“The dust-bins… were floating about the streets in all directions, and tons of sand, vegetable matter, and putrefactive substances were carried down the few gratings that were left open. There were four feet of water in the cellar of the Liverpool Arms, and the loss by the floating of casks and the saturation of casegoods (furniture) is estimated by Mr. J. B. Moore to be not than £100.”

Moore’s cellar flooded again in September 1876 when the Sydney Evening News reported: “The cellars of the Liverpool Arms were inundated after major storms hit Sydney…”

The drainage problems were a constant problem for Moore, who during the late 1870s placed his 26-year-old brother-in-law, David H. Warby in charge of the pub.

Warby had a reputation as a clever businessman. Moore enticed his brother-in-law to run the pub by offering him half of all profits made by the business – an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Born at Campbelltown, Warby was employed as a store hand by a local tradesman, later securing employment with a leading grocery retail house in Sydney, known as Kidman and Sons. He was offered a lucrative position in the firm’s Oxford Street branch, where he quickly became one of the leading hands.

After eight years’ service, Kidman and Sons gave Warby a start in a grocery business of his own, and he met with much success.

Moore’s decision to place his brother-in-law as manager of the Liverpool Arms proved a wise move. The first year the net profits earned at the Liverpool Arms were said to be £2000.

Soon afterwards Warby purchased a 21 years’ lease of the building from his brother-in-law, paying £1000 per annum rent for the two-storey inn.

David H. Warby. Picture: Supplied

When 28-year-old Warby became licensee of the Liverpool Arms in 1880, he soon branded his signature on the pub in a dramatic way. The Evening News reported on August 13 1881 that the “extremely handsome glass window” on the King-street front of the Liverpool Arms Hotel had been painted.

In the upper portions the arms of the city of Liverpool were blazoned with the motto on a scroll beneath, Deus nobis haec otia fecit, meaning ‘God has given us these days of leisure’.

On a “handsome scroll over all appears in gold letters the name of the hotel, and in another character beneath appears the name of the proprietor, David H. Warby”.

“Underneath and down each side are arabesque ornamentations and bacchanalian figures surrounding an arch of plain glass, through which it is intended shall be visible a pyramid of show bottles. The entire work is very creditable to the firm; and will be a notable ornament to the decorations of King-street business places. It is said to be the largest and best executed work of its kind as yet turned out in Sydney.”

While the street level of the pub was impressive, the problem drainage in the cellar continued. The Evening News again reported on April 7 1884:

In the city a good deal of damage was done, owing to the water over flowing the footpaths, cellars suffering from the inflow of water, and much damage was done. The Liverpool Arms Hotel was an instance. Mr. Warby, the proprietor, does not live on the premises, two or three of his employees do, but they were asleep; and, not receiving any intimation that the place was being flooded, the fact of great loss going on in the cellar remained unknown till Sunday morning. Had the watchman or the constable on that beat given the inmates notice that the water was pouring down the grating, steps could have been taken to stop it, but as things turned out, Sir. Warby has lost property to the extent of £250.

The end came for the two storey sandstone inn during 1884. The Sydney mail reported on May 3 1884 that “two old landmarks”, the Liverpool Arms and the nearby Currency Lass Hotel, were condemned by Sydney Council. Ironically, Moore, who owned the freehold of the building, was an alderman on the council at the time.

The Liverpool Arms shortly before demolition in 1883.
The Liverpool Arms shortly before demolition in 1883. Written on the back of the original photograph: “The ‘Liverpool Arms’ Hotel corner of Pitt & King St Sydney. Taken the morning it was closed for demolition for erection of the new building for the owner David Henry Warby”. Picture: State Library of NSW.

Meanwhile Warby called for tenders on July 1 1884 for “the erection of premises” to replace the old pub at the corner of Pitt and King streets. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on November 20 1884 that “another old Sydney identity was being removed”, with Andrew Allan receiving instructions to sell by auction the building materials of the “Old Liverpool Arms”, the doors, windows, tiled, iron roof, lead guttering, two beer engines, three bar screens, chandeliers and piping, large door lamp with reflectors and “a great lot of sundries”.

The Evening News reported on Tuesday October 26 1886 that the “new Liverpool Arms” had been completed.

“Mr. Warby has built upon the old site occupied once by Mr Ben Palmer and Mr Moore, at the corner of King and Pitt streets, a building towering towards Heaven. This is much more than a bar hotel, the extra accommodation being devoted to offices. The bar trade is, however, one of the largest in Sydney.”

The rebuild of Liverpool Arms was a joint venture between Moore and Warby and was reported to have cost £9,000. After the completion of the building Warby purchased the freehold from Moore for £34,000.

This is where Moore’s association with the Liverpool Arms ends, and he retired to his grand home, St Elmo at Campelltown where he died from heart failure at the age of 77 on June 20 1911.  His wife, Sarah, and several grown-up children survived him.

After the new Liverpool Arms was completed, a few incidents marred the first few years of trade. The Evening News reported on December 30 1886:

Edward Quirk, a blacksmith, was in one of the outhouses of the Liverpool Arms Hotel on Tuesday evening, when he was pushed down by an individual, who, after fumbling about his clothes and extracting a purse, ran away. He succeeded in catching him in an upstairs room, and held on to him, despite the man’s struggles, until a constable was called in. On the constable coming on the scene, a purse containing a £5 note and two sovereigns were picked up on the ground beside them, and Quirk identified as belonging to him… (the perpetrator) was sentenced to six months’ hard labor.

Liverpool Arms King Street Packers
Packer’s Liverpool Arms. Picture: Supplied

The Evening News also reported on October 10 1888:

Fatal Accident in a Hotel.


Yesterday afternoon a man named George Brookbank, aged 55 years, and recently residing at 212 Clarence-street, was found dead at the foot of the stairs in Warby’s Liverpool Arms Hotel, at the corner of Pitt and King streets. The discovery was made by a man named William Corbett, of 87 Pitt-street, Redfern, who reported the matter to the police, and Sergeant Murphy conveyed the man to the Sydney Hospital, where he was examined by Dr. T. C. Fisher, who announced that the man was dead. The body was then removed to the North Sydney Morgue. A few minutes previous to the discovery the deceased was seen by the barkeeper, Joseph Rodgers, staggering on the footway, and he appeared to be very much under the influence of liquor. When seen by Sergeant Murphy deceased was in a sitting posture on the floor, apparently dead, and was bleeding from a wound on the back of the head, and also from his left ear. A report of the occurrence has been sent to the Coroner, and an inquest will be held.

Warby placed the hotel on the market in June 1889. The hotel was advertised as being “a substantial building of five stories over a splendid basement; seven floors in all.

“This building has been erected so that all the floors are independent of any partitions. The accommodation at present comprises: A basement, well drained, and floored with patent asphalt, and high ceiling, well lighted. On the ground floor are entrances from King and Pitt streets three separate bars doing the best business of its class in Sydney. The first floor has a billiard-room and two sitting-rooms. The second floor has a luncheon-room and kitchen. The two upper floors contain sixteen bedrooms. The Roof is flat, asphalted, with parapet wails, and has an upper kitchen and other offices. Although now most profitably occupied by an hotel doing the largest business in the city, this important corner is also admirably situated for the head office of a bank, a fire or life insurance office, a building society or any large financial institution.”

Sydney was on the eve of the great economical depression in 1889 and the property market had crashed. The Evening News reported in September that Warby’s hotel was “passed in at £1042 per foot”.

It was reported that Warby entered into a contract of sale of the hotel to a buyer at £52,000, but through some disagreement over a clause, he withdrew from the contract, and the sale was not made.

When the bank crashes occurred soon afterwards city property depreciated considerably in value and wanting to retire from hotel life and settle on the land in the country, Warby disposed of the freehold of the Liverpool Arms at a price considerably less than £52,000.

The freehold of the Liverpool Arms was eventually sold to Brisbane couple, Henry and Sophia Morwitch in 1896 for £36,000.

The Liverpool Arms was the rendezvous for sporting men in those days, particularly in foot running and aquatic sports, and beer was dispensed at two pence per glass from three large bars.

Following a dispute with a labour organisation for his refusal to engage employees through a union body, Warby was boycotted by a number of labour people, and he retaliated by making the three bars into one large bar and raising the price to six pence per glass. His friends rallied around him in the fight against the boycott and it was reported that in the first year he showed an increase in profits of over £300 on the previous.

Trade continued to flourish afterwards. During the time Warby was at the hotel, he took a keen interest in foot running and rowing. As a foot runner he won two yards from scratch, the Licensed Victualler’s ‘ Handicap, at their annual picnic, and in the next year he ran second off scratch.

Warby’s pub became famous for its counter lunches during the 1890s. Although the practice of supplying free sandwiches and other meals to entice customers to Sydney pubs was common, it was unpopular with publicans, the hotelier’s association, and authorities – for vastly different reasons.

liverpool arms Tooth & Co 1930
The Liverpool Arms 1930. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

Supplying free lunches, lunches at reduced prices, or meals with free beer, had become common practice in Sydney pubs during the 1880s. Publicans were reluctant to cease the practice in fear their colleagues would continue offering free meals, drawing custom from their bars. It seems solidarity among the publicans was not strong.

Authorities and wowsers on the other hand were eager to ban the ‘counter lunch’ as it was a major attraction for drinkers to pubs. In any case, the practice continued for many decades, with Warby’s Hotel becoming well-known for its free lunches.

In fact, Warby’s Hotel’s counter lunches were reportedly responsible for an Australian slang word, which has long disappeared.

A ‘warby’ was a ‘bludger’ or person who ‘sponged’ money from other drinkers to buy beer to take advantage of the free counter lunches on offer at city pubs. From the 1890s through to the 1950s they were also known as ‘beer-sparrers’.

After asking other men to give them money to buy a beer, the ‘warby’ or ‘warb’ called three or four of his mates together. They ordered a pint of beer between them and passed the glass around to take advantage of a free counter luncheon.

While some sources say the Australianism ‘warby’ is a survival of a Scottish dialect term for a maggot, The Don Dorrigo Gazette gave a different origin on September 6 1922.

“In Sydney ‘Sun’ the other day ‘Warby’, as a synonym for beer sparrer, hum or dead-beat, was classed as ‘a new word’. It is 30-odd years old, and (says ‘Norbell’ in the ‘Bulletin’) was coined to fit the derelicts who used to line up to the counter-lunch at Warby’s Hotel, corner of Pitt and King Streets, Sydney. It is usually abbreviated to ‘Warb.’

During most of the 1890s, until the opening of the new century, the Liverpool Arms was hosted by Walter and Caroline Packer.

Walter Joshua Packer was a native of London, and a marine engineer by profession. Arriving in Australia in about 1877, he entered the service of the Adelaide Steamship Company, for whom he acted as inspecting engineer, in the purchase of new boats from England.

Packer subsequently carried on the business of hotel-keeping in Port Adelaide and Adelaide, including as host for many years of the Southern Cross Hotel, and later, in 1893, he gained the license of the Liverpool Arms in Sydney from David Warby.

Packer hosted the Liverpool Arms for almost a decade before his death at the age of 54 in May 1902. The couple had no children.

Packer’s widow, Caroline, hosted the business for another year after his death, before one of the Liverpool Arms’ most flamboyant and interesting licensees ventured to the bar in 1904.

Neville Mayman

Benjamin Neville Mayman arrived in Sydney from London in the early 1890s, later becoming host of the Liverpool Arms from the Warby family.

Mayman was from a wealthy English family, with strong political and business ties. He came to Australia to manage the business of Messrs Henry Pooley and Son, weighing machine makers of Liverpool and London, who established a branch in Pitt Street Sydney.

Soon after arriving in Sydney, 25-year-old Mayman was recommended and accepted as a member of the elite Prince Alfred Yacht Club in 1893, and in 1896 he married the socially connected Florence Bourne.

Mayman’s association in the weighing-machine business was short lived and in 1896 he took the license of his first pub, Tattersalls at Parramatta. He went on to host the Bank Hotel in Newtown in 1897, and the Brighton Hotel in Oxford Street, Sydney. The Sunday Times reported on Sunday December  23 1900:


Some two years ago Mr. B. N. Mayman took possession of the Brighton Hotel, Oxford-street, and since then, by the expenditure of about £3000, he has converted it into one of the handsomest and most striking hostelries in the city. The external decorations are exceedingly handsome, the great electric lights and huge clock being as well known to residents of the Eastern Suburbs as the General Post-office itself. Customers can obtain anything from the threepenny beer to the best brands of champagne, and some idea of the extent of the business may be gathered from the fact that eight hands are kept constantly employed in the bars. Nothing but the leading brands in all lines are kept in stock.

Within a few years of Mayman’s arrival in Sydney, the keen thespian was among three men who formed the Sydney Dramatic and Musical Club. He became honorary secretary. The club was formed to give amateur drama and comedy performances in Sydney.

The Maymans had one child together, Phyllis, born in 1899 in Fairfield, and who later moved to England, marrying into the Royal aristocracy. She also became an actress.

Known by all as Neville Mayman, the 35-year-old bought the lease of the Liverpool Arms for £9,000 in 1903. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on March 9 1903:


Mr. Ivan Henry, of Pitt-street, reports having sold for £9000 to Mr. Mayman, Packer’s Hotel, at a figure which he states beats all records for this State for a leasehold hotel. The demand for high-class hotels in the metropolisis, he thinks, at the present moment abnormal. This condition of affairs is accentuated by the presence in Sydney of several high-class caterers from New Zealand, who have been either driven out by the local option vote, or who are afraid that the restrictive legislation of the island colony will have a prejudicial effect upon the prospects of trade.

Mayman took over the license of the Liverpool Arms from Caroline Packer in March 1903.

Although employing a “capable manager” to run his new hotel, Mayman, over the six years he owned the business, remained a hands-on licensee.

While the hotel became famous for its counter lunches, the practice of providing free meals was costing many publicans – particularly those not tied to any of the big breweries – big time. While the big breweries were subsidising counter lunches in their tied houses, free houses, like Maymans, were struggling to compete and fought hard to do away with the practice.

The Albury Banner and Wodonga Express reported on Friday 8 January 1904:


The free counter-lunch is the most startling feature of Sydney hotel bars. “‘Tis not a snack,” said a Yankee visitor the other day,” ’tis a feast – an opulent feast.” During the holidays bar vies with bar, and they more they give away the more they seem to profit. One, a king in its way, provides ham, fowl, game, knives, forks and serviettes – the 3s dinner of the regular hotel. A year ago the landlord cut his entertainment down to bread and cheese, but he tells that his bar trade fell away 50 per cent, so that he was glad to revive the era of luxury. A customer, seating himself at the head of the table, drew a chicken to him and called imperatively for the waiter. “Waiter,” he said in injured tones, “this is not my serviette: mine has my initials on the ring. I carved them there a month ago.”

Mayman retired as publican of the Liverpool Arms in 1909, selling the business to Theodore Trautwein for what was then a record price for Sydney.

Trautwein bought the goodwill and a 19 year lease for £16,500. The previous highest price in Sydney for a lease was £14,000 for the nearby Royal Hotel.

Theodore Trautwein

Born in Camperdown, Victoria in 1869, Trautwein was granted his first license at the age of 25 in the coal mining village of Clifton, south of Sydney, in 1895. From the Imperial Hotel at Clifton, Trautwein went on to host several pubs in western Sydney and Katoomba before taking the license of the Liverpool Arms in Sydney in 1909.

Trautwein would become one of Sydney’s most colourful hoteliers. He was a cigar puffing, horse racing identity, who later was elected to the NSW Legislative Council. The hotelier also spent time behind bars for tax evasion.

Trautwein remained licensee of the Liverpool Arms until 1919 before going on to host some of Sydney’s most successful pubs. He died in Sydney at the age of 85 in 1955.

A number of publicans fronted the bar of the Liverpool Arms after Trautwein’s departure from the Liverpool Arms in 1919, including Michael Joseph Hughes.

Hughes, who took the license of the pub in 1919, had a short stay at the Liverpool Arms. He was found dead with a gun shot wound to his head just two years later while hosting the Royal Hotel at Tamworth. The Albury Banner reported on January 28 1921:

A pistol shot was heard at the Royal Hotel, the largest public house in Tamworth. Mr. D. Kearns, a friend of the licensee, Michael Joseph Hughes, went to the latter’s room to call him to dinner, and found the door locked. He went round the back and entered and found Mr. Hughes lying on the floor, in a pool of blood, with a revolver in his right hand. There was a bullet wound in his temple. Mr. Hughes was removed to the Tamworth Hospital, where he died. He was 35 years of age, and leaves a widow. Deceased had only taken over the Royal Hotel on July 13 last. Previously he was licensee of Shortland’s Hotel, Newcastle, and prior to that of Trautwein’s Hotel [Liverpool Arms], corner of King and Pitt streets, Sydney. Deceased had attended the Tamworth races for two days, and had suffered heavy losses. On returning from the races on the second day he appeared worried and strange in manner. The body was taken to Sydney, and the interment took place at Rookwood on Saturday.

Meanwhile, man about town, Neville Mayman tried his hand at politics after leaving the Liverpool Arms. He made several unsuccessful attempts to be elected as a Liberal candidate in both state and federal politics. He and his wife were often mentioned in the social pages of Sydney’s newspapers, and they both continued performing theatre.

The Brisbane Telegraph reported in March 1913 that the Maymans “may be classed among new people, as it is only of late their names have come prominently forward in the social and charitable worlds”.

“They have a lovely new place, Maybourne, Bayswater road, at which they gave an at home on Wednesday afternoon to a number of friends. Mr. Mayman is said to have made a fabulous sum out of the sale of his hotel at the corner of King and Pitt streets (now Trantwein’s), It was one of the houses that figured so prominently in the “no counter lunch” agitation.”

Mayman went on to become the president of the Benevolent Society of New South Wale before resigning after seven years to take the position of Consul for the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.

With his wife Florence and daughter, Phillis, Mayman left Sydney for Europe in 1919, where the three continued their acting career in London and France.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported in May 1925 that Mayman’s wife Florence had died in London.

“A tireless worker for any patriotic, or charitable cause, until ill-health supervened in latter years, she was a striking and most attractive personality. A husband and only daughter, both in England, survive this most sympathetic woman.”

Entertainment publication, Table Talk reported on October 13 1927:

Mrs Thomas Carew (Miss Phillis Mayman).

MARRIAGE of interest to Australians took place in London last week – that of Miss Phillis Mayman and Mr Thomas Palk Carew. Miss Mayman, who was presented at Court some time back, is a daughter of Mr Neville Mayman, a Napoleonic-looking Sydney hotel proprietor, who had civic and political aspirations in his early days, but who now lives, a widower, in Paris. The Carew family is probably the oldest in Devon. It was prominent there at the time of the Norman conquest, and it has been producing distinguished members ever since, The baronetcy, to which Mr Thomas Carew is heir, dates from the middle of the 17th century, and boasts as its proud motto “Nil consclre sibi”— “I am unconscious of guilt.

Mayman returned to Sydney in 1931 after spending seven years in Cannes, France. On his return to Sydney, he operated a private hotel, The Mercedes on Bayswater Road, Kings Cross. He died aged 74 in a Strathfield private hospital in July 1941.

liverpool arms tooth company 1949
Liverpool Arms 1949. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

The Liverpool Arms, while a Tooth and Company tie, continued in the ownership of wealthy Jewish widow, Sophia Morwitch until her death at the age of 92 in England in 1934

Tooth and Company purchased the Liverpool Arms from Morwitch’s estate for £70,000 in 1938.

The hotel was described at the time as being “an attractive building of brick, recently modernised and in good condition throughout, with tiled front to the height of the awning, and comprising of ample cellar accommodation, a ground floor island bar, with a bottle department and kiosk.

On the first floor there was a lounge-room, servery and toilet. The second floor consisted of a dining room, sitting room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and store. On the third floor were seven bedrooms, a bathroom and toilet. There were another seven bedrooms on the fourth floor, with a bathroom and toilet. There was a laundry located on the roof-top.

During Tooth and Company’s ownership of the Liverpool Arms major renovations were carried out to cater for an increasing number of thirsty soldiers during the wars years. In fact, not only were extra bars added to the hotel, the barmaids had to become skilfully quicker to keep the amber fluid flowing. The pub claimed to have “the world’s fastest barmaid” in February 1946.

The Wingham Chronicle reported that barmaid Daphne Nolan could keep on for hours, serving 16 middies a minute from the bar of the Liverpool Arms.

Another interesting wartime story is that of 22-year-old Frederick Bernard Cole, who was reportedly AWL or in military detention camps practically his whole service as a soldier in the Australian Forces. The Sydney Truth reported on Sunday May 27 1945:

A DECK of playing cards, so cut that an expert in their handling could always win, were produced in Central Court last week when Frederick Bernard Cole, laborer, pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawfully using a lavatory in the Liverpool Arms Hotel to engage in playing banker.

Cole was sentenced to 14 days’ hard labour on this charge, and fined £5 or 10 days for having worn a uniform while not a member of the Military Forces. Constable Fisher said that at 3pm on May 24 he found Cole playing banker in the lavatory of the hotel.  “The pack of cards Cole was using,” said Fisher, “were cut along the sides so that an expert could always produce cards of high denomination. The ends were also cut, so that low denomination cards could be manipulated.”  The constable said that at the time of his arrest Cole was wearing a military uniform and a slouch hat. He had been discharged in December, 1944. Throughout practically his whole service Cole had been A.W.L. or in military detention camps.

After 131 years, Tooth and Company closed the Liverpool Arms as a pub in 1974, and the building was converted for retail and commercial use.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage describes the former pub as a representative example of Victorian Free Classical architecture above awning level, marred by street level alterations and interior refurbishment.

“Major works were carried out in 1977 to convert the hotel into offices. A second significant programme was carried out in 1987/88 and this work included changes to the shopfront, installation of a suspended ceiling on the ground floor, introduction of stairs and a new awning. A third major make-over occurred in 1990 which required amongst other works alterations and a fit out for a bank on the ground floor.”

liverpool arms hotel sydney 2015
The former Liverpool Arms, Sydney 2015. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection


Black Boy

1843 – 1844: Joseph Smith

Freemason’s Arms

1844 – 1846: Elias Ellis

Liverpool Arms

1846 – 1846: Elias Ellis

1846 – 1848: Thomas Martin

1848 – 1853:  Edward Samuel

1854 – 1867: Benjamin Palmer

1867 – 1880: John Benjamin Moore

1880 – 1884: David H. Warby

Hotel demolished & rebuilt

1884 – 1893: David H. Warby

1893 – 1902: Walter J. Packer

1902 – 1903: Caroline Packer (husband deceased)

1903 – 1909: Benjamin Neville Mayman

1909 – 1919: Theodore Trautwein

1919 – 1920: Michael Hughes

1920 – 1922: S.C Bubb

1922 – 1923: Mrs. M. A. McDonald

1923 – 1925: Mrs Cordingley

1925 – 1926: R.C Harrison

1926 – 1930: Morris Zarkin

1930 – 1931: Gordon Fitzroy Woodlands

1931 – 1933: Francis Joseph Seage

1933 – 1935: Thomas Fletcher Birrell

1935 – 1941: Reginald Allen

1941 – 1947: Franklin Arthur Bullock

1947 – 1969: Maurice John Whelan

1969 – 1974: Unknown (can you help?).

 Hotel closed 1974.

© Copyright Mick Roberts 2023. Story updated 2023. 

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Categories: NSW hotels, Sydney hotels

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9 replies

  1. Thanks Mick. Great research and very interesting article. In your work, did you come across info on The Punch Bowl Inn, in Cambridge St in The Rocks? It was owned (or maybe he was a licensee) by Andrew Coss, a transported convict and a forbear of mine. I would love to learn of the fate of the hotel, and anything of its history. Thanks!

  2. Hi Michael. I’ve heard of the Punch Bowl Inn, but don’t have any info on it, sorry. So many pubs, so little time!

  3. Great work Michael. It’s important that these times are documented for many reasons. My angle has been family history, and I thought to add to your excellent record.

    Henry and Sophia Morwitch owned the hotel from 1896 until its sale in 1938

    A note found in the Brisbane Courier, published on Friday the 25th of September 1896 says: “Mr Morwitch of Brisbane has bought the property at the corner of King and Pitt streets (181 Pitt St) known as Warby’s Hotel for 36,000 pounds”

    According to the 1911 Macquarie ward (Sydney) rateable property schedule, Sophia still owned the property, at that time occupied by T C Trautwein and known as the Trautwein Hotel, of brick and slate construction, having 4 floors plus a basement, 23 rooms and a gross annual value of £2519.

    The property was later renamed as The Liverpool Arms hotel.

    Sophia’s hotel was put to auction on the 25th of March 1938 at 11am. Advertisements for the auction ran on the 5th, 19th and 23rd of March in the Sydney Morning Herald and on the 26th of February in The Argus in Melbourne.

    I hope this adds to your work Michael.

    Scott Morwitch

    • HI Scott!

      I just came across this post and was going to ask Michael where the date of 1922 for the purchase of the hotel by Sophia came from, as thanks to your stellar research and Trove, we know that Henry purchased it in 1896.

      Any thoughts Michael on the 1922 date? Something obviously happened in that year?



    • Thanks Michael. I have updated the information in the story. After further research, I agree with your comments, and have updated the story. The freehold of the Liverpool Arms was sold to Brisbane couple, Henry and Sophia Morwitch in 1896. Thanks for reaching out and setting the record straight.

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