Warrawong publican’s body exhumed

open hearth hotel warrawong c1960
Hot Dog Seller – By Geoff Reedy. Boy selling hot dogs outside the Open Hearth Hotel, Warrawong C1960

THE transfer of the license of the Post Office Hotel Quambone, NSW (about 30 miles from Coonamble) to Comrol House at the corner of King and Cowper Streets at Warrawong was granted in June 1949.

The first publican was Reginald Douglas Tolley who had served meals at the premises for the previous eight years. Tolley was given the approval to change the name of the hotel from the Post Office to the Open Hearth Hotel, as well as approval to supply and sell liquor in two additional bar rooms.

The original Open Hearth Hotel at the corner of King and Cowper Streets Warrawong in 1952. The hotel later moved to the north. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University. Inset: Reginald Douglas Tolley.

Born in Adelaide, South Australia, Reginald Douglas Tolley was an orchardist, who later became a vigneron. He later took up residence in New South Wales, where he would host several hotels.

A returned soldier and Mason, Tolley was a keen follower of horse racing and a fisherman, and went on to make pioneering improvements in the hospitality industry.

Tolley died under suspicious circumstances in 1952 while publican of the Open Hearth Hotel at Warrawong, south of Wollongong. The Barrier Miner reported on March 18 1952:

Body Exhumed

Wollongong. — The body of Reginald Douglas Tolley, licensee of the Open Hearth Hotel, Warrawong, near Port Kembla, was exhumed. Tolley died on Tuesday and was buried on Wednesday. The contents of the dead man’s stomach were sent to the Government Analyst for a report. Police say that, although Tolley had been seriously ill there was reason to suspect that he did not die from natural causes.

The Illawarra Daily Mercury reported on Saturday March 22, 1952 that an autopsy on Tolley’s body found no poison.

SYDNEY, Fri. — An analytical test of the stomach contents of Warrawong publican Reginald Tolley failed to reveal any traces of poison, police said today. Tolley was licensee of the Open Hearth Hotel, Warrawong. C.I.B. detectives ordered the exhumation of Tolley’s body from Wollongong cemetery last Sunday. Tolley died on March 11 and was buried the next day. Police were told tablets had been prescribed for Tolley, who had not been well for some time before his death. Police inquiries will now be discontinued.

Reginald Douglas Tolley was survived by his wife Alma, son Douglas and two daughters, Shirley Doilmari) and Margaret Runge.

The funeral left St. Stephen’s Church of England, Port Kembla, for the Wollongong Church of England Cemetery where he was laid to rest.

For a full account of the achievements of this pioneering publican visit Time Gents: Body of forward thinking hotelier exhumed after suspicious death

open hearth hotel warrawong palm bar 1952
The “Palm Bar” of the Open Hearth Hotel, Warrawong. 

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Categories: Illawarra Hotels, Publicans

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