Parramatta Road’s Oldest Pubs
A SUNDAY drive along Parramatta Road took us to rediscover some of Sydney’s oldest pubs. The plan was to visit seven pubs between Sydney and Parramatta, with lunch at the Rose and Crown. Come with Time Gents on a special pub expedition to Parramatta.
First stop along the well-trod path that is Parramatta Road was at one of Sydney’s longest operating pubs – The Bath Arms at Burwood.
Established by James Comer at the corner of Burwood and Parramatta Roads in 1829, the license of the Bath Arms Hotel was given to his son-in-law Emanuel Neich as a wedding gift in 1834. The Neich family ran the pub for 68 years before it became the property of Tooth & Company brewery.
Emanuel Neich was a licensee for 63 years, during which time there was not one mark or charge brought against him by the licensing inspector or the police.
Neich’s first license was for “The Black Dog” at The Rocks, Sydney in 1830. In 1834 he took his publican skills to Burwood, and took over the Bath Arms Hotel, in which he presided until his death in 1893 at the age of 83.
Neich joined the Italian Merchant Marine at 14 and mistakenly found himself coming out to New Holland (Australia), and not Holland and decided to stay.
The Bath Arms was demolished in 1937 and the current pub replaced the little single storey coaching inn on the site.
The Bath Arms feels more like a club then a pub. While the outside facade is typical of a pre-World War II tiled pub, inside is a different story. The pub has been gutted of all its history and is a modern venue with a large bistro, gaming room and lounge area. For further history on Neich and the Bath Arms visit: Sydney’s Oldest Publican
I had a beer, and my wife a lemon lime and bitters, before we battled the traffic again along busy Parramatta Road to our next destination – The Horse and Jockey Hotel at Homebush.
The Horse and Jockey was built in 1940 by its then owners Tooheys Brewery. Sitting on the corner of Parramatta Road and Knight Street, the hotel is a two storey building constructed of light coloured brick and a tiled roof. A circular brick tower faces Parramatta Road bearing the name of the hotel.
The ground floor external walls are encased in the original moss green tiles, a feature which continues in the internal stair cases to the first floor. Vintage style beer advertisements from the 1930s to 1940s have been restored to the external walls in recent years.
The bar and dining areas occupy the ground floor with the addition of outdoor dining area at rear. Like many hotels of its period, the upper floor contained accommodation.
There have been three Horse and Jockey Hotels at Homebush. The original pub was built by Edward Powell in 1809 as ‘The Half Way House’ about 30 metres to the east of the current pub. Old lithographs also show the original pub just east of the crest of the hill.
The second Horse and Jockey hotel was built in 1883 two blocks to the east and the old hotel was demolished. In 1940, the second hotel was demolished and the current building replaced it on part of the land on which the previous Horse and Jockey stood, though road widening of Parramatta Road altered the frontage by about 14 feet.
In the late 1990s, Toohey’s Ltd sold the hotel.
We enjoyed a drink at the historic watering hole before continuing our journey onto Auburn and the Keighery Hotel.
Greg Keighery hosted the Auburn Hotel in the 1920s, and later built the pub bearing his name in Station Street. Born in 1869 in Dandenong, Victoria, he became host of the old Her Majesty’s Hotel in Pitt Street, Sydney, before becoming licensee of the Auburn Hotel.
Although replaced with a different building, the Auburn Hotel also survives today.
A well-known sporting identity, Keighery saw 69 Melbourne Cups during his long life. He first attended a race meeting when he was nine years of age, and raced many prominent horses, and greyhounds. Keighery was a member of the Australian Jockey Club, Tattersall’s Club, Victorian Racing Club, Sydney Cricket Ground, Royal Agricultural Society and Auburn Bowling Club.
In 1931, Keighery built a new pub on the corner of Station Road and Rawson Street Auburn. Keighery’s Hotel was built at a cost of £30,000 and was described at the time of opening as being the most “up-to-date” in the State.
“A feature of the building is the use of a special brick, made by Wunderlichs at Rosehill … It is the first time a brick of this nature has been used in a building. This type of brick may also be found in the fireplace in the men’s lounge. Leading to the 20 bedrooms on the first floor, is a stairway of the old fashioned type-made with Queensland maple. It is an excellent piece of work, all hand-made.”
Keighery died at the hotel at the age of 84 in 1953. Twelve of his children and 35 of his 50 grand children were in the hotel when he died, the Sydney Morning Herald reported at the time.
Keighery left £100 for his friends to drink to his memory at his hotel after the burial ceremony, which was attended by many sportsmen, businessmen and parliamentarians.
Keighery Hotel has been modernised and is one of the biggest poker machine revenue pubs in Sydney.
From Auburn, we continued onto Granville where we visited two pubs that were borne out of the railway – The Royal Hotel and The Granville Hotel.
Granville’s Two Pubs
The Royal Hotel was built for Ellen Goddard in 1883. A landlady from Kent, who after arriving in Sydney in the 1850s, married three times and hosted at least seven pubs. Four of those pubs – Bulli’s Heritage Hotel, the Newtown Hotel, Bald Faced Stag at Leichhardt and Granville’s Royal Hotel – remain trading today.
Ellen Goddard, a widow, purchased land in South Street Granville in 1883.
On 23 October 1883, the Parramatta Licensing Court granted her application for a conditional publican’s licence. Police opposed the application, but Ellen had brought some high-powered support to the hearing. Letters were read to the court from prominent local and Sydney identities, including Judge CE Murray of the District Court, Henry Hudson of Hudson Brothers engineering works, wealthy land owner AS Low, the general manager of the Sydney Meat Preservation Company at Homebush, Alban Gee, Messrs John and Thomas Harris, the Honourable FA Wright, and the Reverend Canon Stephen. All provided a character reference, and several wrote of the need for a first class hotel in Granville.
Ellen gave notice of her grand Granville plans in the Sydney Morning Herald on June 3 1884:
Royal Hotel, Granville. June 2 1884. Mrs Ellen Goddard (late proprietress of the Duke of Cornwell Hotel, Harris-street, Ultimo) begs to inform her numerous friends, patrons, and the public generally that, with a view to meeting the necessity of a first-class modern hotel in the immediate neighbourhood of Sydney, she has had the above premises built and splendidly furnished with every modern and scientific luxury, regardless of expense, and whilst thanking them for their past liberal patronage and support, she earnestly solicits an increase of their favours, which will meet with the most careful attention and a vigilant regard for their comfort and convenience.
Architect Thomas Butement of Pitt Street Sydney designed the new Royal Hotel, and the builder was Henry William Stokes, the business partner of Ellen’s late husband. Stokes began construction of the Royal Hotel in 1883. On 2 June 1884 police informed the Parramatta Licensing Court that the hotel had been built in accordance with plans and specifications, and that the accommodation was first class. The court complimented Ellen on the standard of her hotel and wished her success. The hotel’s bar was one of the best in the colonies, according to an article published in May 1884 in the Cumberland Mercury. In addition to the bar, the ground floor contained four parlours, a ‘splendid roomy dining room’ and a private bar. A billiard room, a drawing room and sitting room ‘not to be equalled’ were on the first floor, together with four bedrooms and a bathroom. According to the Mercury, the second floor contained “11 of the best furnished and best ventilated bedrooms that can be found in or out of the city – also a bathroom, wherein you can have hot or cold water when you require it”. There was also a large first floor balcony extending around three sides of the building, “just suited for aspirants in the new municipality now about to be formed”.
Ellen advertised the Royal for sale “owing to ill health”, in December 1890 and the following year she sold out to Joseph Evans. Ellen developed a relationship with her builder, Henry Stokes and they married him in April 1893. The pair went on to run Leichhardt’s iconic Bald Faced Stag Hotel and Bulli Family Hotel on the NSW South Coast.
For more on Ellen visit: Career Publican.
Parramatta’s Oldest Pubs
The oldest pub in Parramatta today is either the Rose and Crown at Victoria Road and Sorrell Street, dating to 1823, or the Royal Oak at Church and Ross streets, dating to 1829. We edged our bets and visited both, including the Woolpack Hotel.
The Woolpack is said to hold the oldest licence (issued by Governor Phillip in 1796) in Australia. Originally with the sign of the pub was the Freemason’s Arms, and it was re-built across the road in the 1890s and named the Woolpack.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Rose and Crown before taking in the history at the Woolpack and Royal Oak. Sadly, the Royal Oak is earmarked for demolition as it stands in the way of the NSW Government’s new light rail project.
The Royal Oak is a classic Australian pub. When I walked into the public bar it was lined with men on stools, chatting, watching the football, or having a punt on the horse races. The loss of this pub would be a tragedy.
A beer at the Royal Oak – one of Australia’s oldest pubs – completed our Parramatta Road pub expedition, and we tackled the traffic again on what is Australia’s busiest thoroughfare, for our return home.