Scratchy sleep at Darlington’s Royal Hotel


The Royal Hotel, Darlington 2016. Picture: Time Gents

THE Royal Hotel at the corner of Abercrombie and Codrington Streets, Darlington, like many Sydney pubs, struggled to survive through the war years.

Beer rationing, and even, as the following story reveals, restrictions on the availability of bed linen made running a pub a difficult task, for publicans like Annie Wilkins.

Annie survived through her perseverance and adaptability, and she made do with what ever she could get her hands on to trade through those lean years; like making curtains and quilts from hessian.

A bed at the Royal would have been one uncomfortable and scratchy sleep for guests. Annie also did all her own cellar work, which was unusual for a woman at the time.


The Royal Hotel, Darlington 2016. Picture: Time Gents

The Royal was built by James England in 1894 to serve the needs of local railway workers. The Victorian style hotel building maintains its early character with applied, rendered classical decoration that complements the adjoining terrace houses, and continues to trade today.


Royal Hotel, Darlington, 1949. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

Annie’s troubles were reported in the Sydney Sun on 5 August 1945:




Publican Annie Wilkins in one of the rooms of the Royal Hotel

At present there are only six guests in the hotel, while there is accommodation for at least 15 more people. Licensee Mrs. Annie Wilkins said she knows several other hotelkeepers who have rooms empty for want of coupons to buy bed linen. She said she took over the Royal Hotel four months ago and has interviewed Rationing Commission officials twice to obtain coupons for bed linen.

Quilts from Hessian

“I got a most unsympathetic hearing and have heard nothing for some weeks about my application,” Mrs. Wilkins said.

In the meantime, she has:-

  • Made quilts and curtains for some of the empty bedrooms from unrationed hessian.
  • Spent 25 of her own clothing coupons for material for a quilt and matching curtains for one single room.
  • Bought new beds (£12/12/-each) and mattresses for three of the single rooms.

“Reason that I am in difficul-ties is that the linen stocks were badly depleted and many of the bedrooms unfurnished and unused when I came here,” Mrs. Wilkins said.

“Barely paying way”

“I never dreamed that I would have any trouble getting new linen.”

In the meantime, the hotel is barely paying its way, because with the beer shortage the bar is closed three days a week. The Royal Hotel is a three-storey building, some of the empty rooms are 18 feet by 18 feet.

Mrs. Wilkins has had eight years’ experience in the hotel business, and employs only one woman to help keep house, apart from barmaids. She does the rest of the work herself, and is one of the few women licensees in Sydney to be her own “cellar man”.

Rationing officials to whom Mrs. Wilkins’ case was referred this week said they had no record of her application, and that she must apply again.


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Categories: NSW hotels, Publicans, Sydney hotels

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