SYDNEY’s first beer garden was established facing York Street outside Petty’s Hotel at the corner of Jamieson and Clarence Streets late in 1938.
While beer gardens are now common in the yards of Sydney pubs, they were difficult to find prior to the 1950s.
Beer gardens were much welcomed by women, who up until that time had been either confined to cramped, musty parlours, or in the 1940s and 50s forced to sit in cars and have their husbands or boyfriends bring them out their drinks.
Although it would be another 20 years before women were accepted in public bars, the beer gardens provided a refuge when they slowly began to appear in the yards of Sydney’s pubs from the late 1930s. They allowed a civilised area where woman could gather at a pub for a drink. More importantly though, beer gardens allowed mixed drinking, and arguably provided the gateway for women to eventually enter the men only public bars.
A women’s column in the Sydney Sun on November 20 1938 reported; “At last we have a beer garden… opened yesterday at Petty’s. Bright umbrellas and lacquered chairs alongside the street… later there’s to be a special section for women only”.
Goodbye To Petty’s Hotel
NOT even drinks “on the house” could disperse the gloom in Petty’s last night, when the 118-year-old hotel closed its doors for the last time. It has been bought by the Red Cross, which will turn it into a blood-bank headquarters.
The atmosphere was thick with nostalgia in the lounge and on the terrace, where a polite burst of clapping followed an announcement by the manager, Mr. T. T. Archer, that the drinks were “on the house.”
The same announcement in the public bar was the signal for a roar of approval, which brought in two policemen at the double. (They retired to a corner, looking relieved, and accepted the hospitality pressed on them by two old dockers.)
As 6 o’clock approached, Grace, up in the saloon bar, administered her last reproofs and advice to the city managers and clerks. “I’ve got the most exclusive clientele in Australia,” said Grace. “I don’t mean for money or anything like that, but they’re all nice and never any trouble.
“I like to see men behave themselves properly, especially if they’re drinking a beer. And that’s one thing you can say about Petty’s: there is never any of this ungentlemanly conduct here.”
“First time in a century they’ve closed the doors, they tell me,” said a truck driver in the public bar.
“I never thought I’d live to see the day when free beer made me feel sad. I suppose the pub’s being sold in a good cause. But where am I going to go? That’s what I want to know. Why, I’ve been coming here since 1908.”
The saddest touch of the evening came just after closing time, when a taxi drew up and decanted a very old gentleman. He came up to the reception desk and said, “I am just passing through Sydney, but I shall be back on the fifteenth. Could you please let me have a room then for one week?”
He appeared stunned to learn that Petty’s was sold to the Red Cross.
“But I always stay here,” he cried. “I had no idea of this: it’s four years since I came to the city, and I had no idea. Why, I’ve always stayed here, and so did my father. It’s the only place I could stay. Where on earth can I go, then?”
And so, to the bewilderment of a past generation and the sorrow of its present users, passed Petty’s Hotel: a place of countless pleasant memories and one of the few Sydney hotels where the tradition of civilised drinking still lingered on.
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Categories: Sydney hotels
I am particularly interested in the story of Petty’s Hotel, at what used to be Number One York Street, Sydney, and enjoyed reading you article about the building’s days as a smart hotel – with Beer Garden.
In the early 1970s I worked there, on the NSW Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service’s staff, and just loved my office with beautiful French doors onto the front verandah!
But there is a puzzle: when the building was demolished, what happened to the stunning cedar staircase between the ground floor and the middle floor (the Ballroom, or nurses’ tea-room), and the enormous mirror (probably 8′ high) which had once graced the Ballroom, and was in ‘my’ days positioned over the staircase??
There was also a very old watercolour painting of the building, and I have a photograph which I took back in 1973. Maybe the painting still resides in the HQ of the current Red Cross offices, but I do wonder…. I have never seen a copy of it reproduced on the ‘official’ sydney history websites, and the NSW State Library’s website knows nothing about Petty’s Hotel.
I would be happy to email you the image if you think it might be useful for your ‘Time Please’ website.
(Although I was with the secretarial staff, my last job there was to make drawings of the building, on a greeting card sent to all the blood donors with the details of the BTS’s change of address.)
Thank you for your very interesting article,
Thanks for the interesting message, Christine. I would indeed be
interested in the photo of the
painting of Pettys. It would be such a Shane if those features, like the staircase and mirror, ended up on the tip. I’ll do some digging around to see if I can find the fate of the painting you mentioned. Regards. firstname.lastname@example.org
Christine, it seems the red cedar bar ended up in a pub in Orange after the hotel’s closure in 1950. No news though on the painting and other fittings from when you worked there for the Red Cross.
At one time Pettys Hotel was owned by William Gannon son of Michael Gannon – Mary Parsonage, Michael Gannon builder of lots of House’s and Hotels in the rocks – Mary Parsonage Daughter of convict horse thief Thomas Parsonage and wife convict Mary Jones , in the year 1886 William Gannon owned the Melbourne cup winning horse Arsenal – So this family have the gran-son of a horse thief winning the Melb cup – – Mary Parsonage is the sister of my G.G.G. Grandfather Edward Parsonage – – just a little bit Trivia with the cup being on next week – regards Bill Turner.
I have just come across a 1946 pic of the hotel which is in excellent as new shape. It was found in a shoe box which my mother had. The pic is a very clear frontal shot with 2 cars parked out the front. The beer garden can be seen and there is a flag flying from the front entrance. The flag appears to be the National Colonial Flag so I don’t know why it would be flying in 1946. I can’t see the 4 stars on the red cross either. In the lower right hand corner is what appears to be written in ink “With compliments Petty’s Hotel 25th April 1946. On the back there are 8 signatures. The front entrance appears to have been redesigned from earlier pics I have seen of Perry’s Hotel.
Love to see, Larry…. cam you email us a copy?
Thought I posted a reply for you. No problem but I can’t see an email address. The flag by the way turns out to be the R.N. White Ensign which makes a lot more sense.
Thanks Larry. I’ve emailed you about Petty’s Hotel to the address you have registered with Time Gents website. Let me know if you haven’t received the email.
Thanks Larry. Email: email@example.com