Zetland Hotel, Zetland

zetland hotel 1 w

Zetland Hotel, Zetland 2017

A working Class Pub


WALKING into the public bar of the Zetland Hotel, in the southern suburbs of Sydney, it’s not difficult to see that this is a working class pub.

It’s a fascinating tiled, corner pub that continues to be a bastion of the working-class, in a transforming industrialised suburb, rapidly changing as the gentrification of Sydney continues unabated.

The historic terrace homes of Zetland, or Green Square as its new identity now dictates, is falling under the shadow of the urban renewal project, Victoria Park, a medium to high density residential and retail development along South Dowling Street, with its other boundaries along O’Dea and Joynton Avenues.

When ‘Time Gents’ visited the Zetland Hotel on a Sunday afternoon, it was obvious to me that its working class days are numbered. The pub will need to change its tune if it is to survive the tough competitive Sydney pub market. Less than a dozen drinkers gathered in the back “lounge” for its regular Sunday afternoon karaoke, while a handful of fellas took advantage of its TAB facilities in the ‘public bar’.

Without being too critical, the voices of some of the “singers” gave an understanding of why the Japanese perform karaoke in much more private surrounds, away from the ears of the general public. Before you get the wrong idea, I liked the Zetland Hotel.

zetland hotel bar 1 w

The unique curved art deco bar of the Zetland Hotel

I like what it represents. It’s a reflection of another time, with its art deco curved-tiled bar, and walls, its frosted glass windows, its drinkers, and its atmosphere. Long-live the Zetland, I say. But like many of Sydney’s pubs, it will be forced to change to cater for new residents – new customers.

The history of the hotel is working class, and hopefully that can be retained and preserved. But the pub needs a little sophistication for its new cashed-up neighbours.

zetland hotel zetland nsw w

The original Zetland Hotel at the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth Streets in the 1890s

The history of this pub where time seems to have stood still, can be traced back to 1887 when brewers, the Toohey brothers built a three storey Victorian era brick hotel at the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke Streets.

In 1888 the site was purchased by John Thomas and James Matthew Toohey, brothers from Melbourne, who established the Standard Brewery in Surry Hills in 1869, and began to produce beer under the ‘Toohey’ brand name the same year.

As did their main opposition, Kent Brewery (Later Tooths), the breweries started building pubs around Sydney and NSW to exclusively sell their products.

The Toohey brothers employed Andrew Wakely as the Zetland Hotel’s first host. Wakely was granted a conditional license for “premises to be erected” at the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke Streets in July 1887.

Less than 10 months before Wakely gained the first license of the Zetland Hotel, he was put in charge of the nearby Toohey’s owned Mount Lachlan Hotel on Elizabeth Street Waterloo.  This seems to be Wakely’s first pub, where he undoubtedly gained experience in handling the heavy-drinking, working class customers that frequented these inner-city watering holes. The Evening News reported on October 19 1886:

A THOROUGH PACED LARRIKAN: William Quirk, better known as “Crooked Quirk”, was charged with having assaulted Andrew Wakely. The prisoner, with other Waverley and Bondi larrikins, entered the prosecutor’s hotel; a new one just erected, on Friday night, and kicked up “Bob’s a dying.” Though there were seven of them, host Wakely floored the lot, one after the other, and three of them were taken by the police. Quirk, however, got away, but was arrested, all shaven and shorn, having removed his moustache. He was arrested by Detectives McLean and Blackburn. The police said there were over twenty convictions recorded against prisoner within eighteen months. He was awarded two months’ gaol, and a fortnight additional for assault.

Wakely also hosted the Enmore Hotel at Newtown, and the Wharf Hotel in Dowling-street, Woolloomooloo, drinking holes frequented by big-drinking, tough men, The Toohey brothers must have had faith in Wakely’s ability to keep control of these difficult, yet profitable, pubs.

zetland hotel 1920 anu w

The Zetland Hotel C1930. Photo: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

Wakely was 44 years of age when he and his second wife, Louisa moved into the Zetland Hotel in 1888. He was granted a “conditional license” license on Tuesday September 4 1888 when the three storey pub was completed. It was an immediate hit for the Toohey brothers, and within a month, Wakely was moved-on to another of the brewery’s hotels – the Terminus at Ashfield.

Wakely’s experience and knowledge of Sydney’s profitable pub industry is proven with his presidency of the Sydney Licensed Victuallers’ Association, which later became the NSW Hotels Association.

Wakely went onto host the Tattersalls Hotel at Parramatta for many years, playing a prominent role in the liquor industry through his executive position within the Licensed Victuallers’ Association. While at the Tattersalls Hotel he was declared bankrupt in 1891 and he moved with his wife and children to Fremantle in Western Australia, where he hosted a number of pubs, including the Swan Hotel. He died on June 16 1922 at the age 76. His wife, Louisa died in 1933.

About the same time Wakely had fled Sydney to start a new life on the other side of the country, the Zetland Hotel’s new host had his hands full managing a pub frequented by gangs, and the heavy drinking men who worked in the factories operating in Waterloo, Zetland and Alexandria at the time. The 1890s were also when ‘The Push’, or gangs of thugs, terrorised the streets of Sydney and its surrounding suburbs. The pubs, including the Zetland, did not escape their wrath. The Sydney Evening News reported on January 12 1891:

The Push on the Warpath.

Yesterday morning about a dozen of the Glebe “push” went out for an airing in a vehicle belonging to, and inscribed with, the name of Doherty. Information as to their earlier movements is wanting, but when they turned up at Currie’s Hotel, Waterloo, there were signs that a fight had taken place, one of the party having his nose “barked”. Here they captured a magpie, but the appearance of a blue uniform made them abandon the bird and take their chariot off at full speed. They then visited Diver’s Zetland Hotel, an obtained admission to the house. The licensee, however, refused to supply them with drink, but they got into one of the rooms, and from thence rushed the bar. They had very poor luck however, for the first thing they laid hands on was a bottle of sarsaparilla before they could annex anything else Mr. Diver produced a revolver. It was empty, but the raiders didn’t know that, and they at once cleared out, with the exception of one, who had to be thrown out. They then fired a volley of stones at the door, one of which broke the fanlight, and went off at full speed, with Mr. Diver in a buggy giving them chase. They drove citywards, and as the vehicles swept by stray policemen and others joined in the chase. The buggy took up a policeman on the way, but he was found to be rather heavy, and as much ground was lost he had to get down again. Meanwhile, the pursued left their chariot one by one. A youth named Thompson ran into a house near Cleveland-street. The house was speedily guarded back and front, and he was captured. The rest of the “push” was luckier, as they were careful to select difficult turnings for their attempts at freedom, and all escaped. The cart and horse was captured at Bay-street, Glebe Thompson was safely celled in the Redfern lockup.

The pub was often in trouble with the law for breaching various liquor laws, with Sunday trading and watering down its liquor two offences that had publicans fronting the courts. In fact in 1895 publican, Frank Wilson was fined £20 for selling “liquor unfit for consumption”.

In 1912, Jack Thorpe, the barman at the Zetland Hotel, was standing outside having a smoke on a Saturday evening when a young man named William McLachlin approached him and took his cigarette case, value 5 shillings. When Thorpe tried to recover his property, the Sydney Evening News reported, he received “a violent blow behind his left ear instead”. McLachlin was charged with assaulting Thorpe and with stealing his cigarette case. He was given two months gaol for the assault, and one month’s gaol for the theft.

The Zetland Hotel’s reputation as one of Sydney’s toughest pubs continued through the 1920s with a volley of publicans seemingly unwilling to stay at its helm for any great length of time. Frank Chigwidden had been at the hotel less than 12 months when he fronted the courts for trading on Christmas Day. Chigwidden had moved from the country, having previously hosted the Globe Hotel at West Wylong before he was fined £5 for having allowed persons on the Zetland Hotel premises during prohibited hours in January 1927.



Inspector Ryan said he saw a number of men loitering about the vicinity. In the hotel yard a number of men were standing. Some of them scaled the fence, and got away, but seven were detained. When the latter were asked what they were doing on the premises, they replied: “It’s Christmas Day and a warm day.” When defendant was questioned, he said: “You know it’s Christmas Day.” Harry Kesher, Robert McKiernan, Harry Emery. William Hampson, Daniel Joseph Quinn, James Taylor, and George Alfred Moore, who were found on the premises, were each fined £2.

During 1935, Toohey’s brewery had the three storey Zetland pub redeveloped. The tender of architects J. E. and E. R. Justelius and builder, A. F. Webb, were accepted to transform the Zetland Hotel in November 1935. During 1936 the top storey was demolished, making the building two storey hotel, and a parapet wall with Art Deco motifs constructed. The pub’s cellar was extended, and the ground floor refurbished, internally and externally in Art Deco style. This work was done when one of the Zetland Hotel’s best known publicans was at the helm.

zetland hotel 1937 anu w

The remodelled Zetland Hotel in the late 1930s. Photo: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

Bernard Fallon was the licensee of the hotel from 1930 to1954. He was an SP bookmaker, and well-known within the local community for making financial donations to the Mt Carmel Catholic Church, hosting annual functions for the local Labor Party branch, and for donning his “red suit as Santa Claus and the children would eagerly follow him down the road, receiving sweets and gifts” every Christmas.

After Fallon’s death in the 1950s the hotel’s license was inherited by his three daughters, one of whom is the current licensee’s mother, according to the book, “Histories of Green Square, Waterloo, Alexandria, Zetland, Beaconsfield and Rosebery by Anna Gauchat.

Toohey’s brewery sold the pub to Zetland Pty Ltd in 1959 and it passed out of the family’s hands until the 1990s when Darlene Hagan, Fallon’s grand daughter re-purchased the license.

What impresses me most about this pub is its unspoiled public bar-room. The pub is heritage listed as the interior of the hotel shows “a high level of craftsmanship and most elements from the 1936 renovation remain intact”.

The Zetland Hotel is well-worth a visit, with a reasonably priced eatery, a friendly atmosphere, and plenty of interesting historic features to keep those interested in Sydney’s historic pubs lingering for another schooner or two. That fantastic curved tiled bar, just must be leant on. If changes are around the corner at the Zetland to cater for the suburb’s gentrification, that bar should be jealously guarded at all costs – it’s a ripper.

A four schooner glass out of five rating from Time Gents.

© Copyright Mick Roberts 2017

Zetland Hotel Licensees 1887-1954

 1887-1888: Andrew Alfred Wakely

1888-1891: John R. Justin

1891-1893: John L Divers

1894-1896: Francis J Wilson

1897: John Copes

1898: James T Ray

1899-1908: Murdoch A Wagschall

1909-1920: Henry Benson

1921-1923: William A Collie

1924-1926: James McAteer

1927-1929: Frank Chigwidden

1930-1954: Bernard Fallon


Categories: NSW hotels, Reviews, Sydney hotels

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

What's Your Thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: