INNER west Sydney’s diminishing art-deco architecture was the focus of our road trip when Time Gents visited four pubs in and around Marrickville late last month.
A relatively short drive from our inner-city base, is the destination we like to call the ‘lager loop’ – a road trip to admire four former Tooth and Company pubs noted for their architecture in Marrickville, St Peters and Sydenham.
Three of the pubs visited came from the mind of Sidney Warden, one of the most prolific of Tooth and Company architects, whose work encompassed 392 hotels. He was responsible for the Town and Country at St Peters, Henson Park Hotel, at Marrickville and the General Gordon at Sydenham – all the subject of our visit.
The fourth pub on our journey was the Golden Barley Hotel at Enmore, designed by architects Joy and Pollit.
First stop on the ‘lager loop’ was the Town and Country Hotel at St Peters. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the landmark pub, made famous by the late Slim Dusty in his 1981 hit tune, “Duncan”, had re-opened for business.
The pub’s taps flowed again with little fuss, unlike another similarly designed pub by brewery architect, Sid Warden. After sitting vacant since its closure in 2015, the Lansdowne Hotel at Chippendale was reopened in June 2017 by Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham, who had revived Paddington’s Unicorn Hotel. While the Chippendale pub had reopened with much fanfare, its architectural sister, the Town and Country at St Peters – a pub also known for fostering local bands – also reopened two months earlier with little media coverage.
The Town and Country Hotel, St Peters
The heritage-listed Town and Country Hotel was sold in 2015 for a reported $1.8 million – a far cry from the $3 million it changed hands for in 2000 and nearly 20 per cent less than its last selling price of $2,235,000 in 2004.
The owner of the pub was refused an application to transfer the license to Marrickville in August 2016, and the pub closed after a legal wrangle with the new owner. Thankfully though, the pub re-opened in April 2017, although a battle over its pokies is still being fought in the courts.
The Town and Country was established on the site in 1881, although the license dates back to the late 1870s when a coaching inn traded near the Cooks River at Tempe.
The original Town and Country Hotel opened at the corner of what is today, the Princes Highway and Union Street by William Stephens in 1879. It didn’t remain there for long though, and he transferred the license to the corner of Unwins Bridge Road and Campbell Street, St Peters on September 23 1881 to enable a new pub to open.
The new Town and Country Hotel was built by Henry A. Crause, an experienced hotelier who had operated pubs since the mid 1860s. Crause hosted Tom’s Cabin in Gosford in 1865, before making his way to Sydney where hosted a number of pubs, including the Bank Hotel at Newtown.
William Stephens, who had hosted the original Town and Country at Tempe, became the first publican at St Peters, and he remained there until 1885.
Henry Goodsell’s brickworks operated down the road and with other industries, provided Stephens’ new pub with plenty of thirsty customers.
Crause also had terraces built beside his pub, in which he lived for a number of years. Between 1890 and 1895 he had another six terraces built on his land on Unwins Bridge Road. He died in one of the terraces in 1899 and the hotel was sold to Tooth and Company sometime before 1915. Sidney Warden designed a new three-storey hotel for the site, with plans dated January 15 1923.
The brick pub was surmounted with a heavy cornice with elaborate neoclassical detailing and the lettering of the hotel’s name picked out in gilding. The public bar area took up the Unwins Bridge Road/Campbell Street area of the ground floor. The bar area was tiled and a leadlight canopy suspended over the bar.
Fight in Coal Yard
TWO ARRESTS MADE
While near the Town and Country Hotel, Unwin’s Bridge-road, St. Peters, at 12.20 a.m. to-day Con-stable Wiley had occasion to chase two men. Two shots were fired at Wiley, who returned the fire, and wounded one of the men. However, the fugitives made for a coal yard close by where another shot was fired at Wiley. It struck him in the mouth, breaking his teeth. He fought single-handed for a few minutes, and finding that he had fired his last shot, had to resort, to other methods of offence. Picking up a piece of coal, he hit the second man on the head, and quietened him for the time being. Constable Fernside, who was also on duty in the locality, arrived a few minutes later, and the two men were, taken to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, where John McIvor, aged 19 and Arthur Bell, aged 20, were at-tended to. McIvor was shot in the left foot and in his right arm, while Bell was attended to for scalp wounds. Constable Wiley also received attention for the injury to his mouth.
DOWN HOTEL CELLAR
Within the past two ‘weeks there have been several robberies from hotels, the cellar doors on footpaths being broken open. Inspector Nelson (New-town) had Wiley and Fernside on special plainclothes duty. They were in Unwin’s Bridge-road, when they saw two men acting in a suspicious manner in front of the hotel. The policemen separated, and walked for a few minutes, when they saw the cellar door opened, and the two men disappear. Wiley ran to the side door and knocked loudly. On being disturbed the suspects in the cellar ran out of the back part of the hotel to the street. Wiley went after them. It was then that shots were fired at the policeman, and he returned the fire. Seeking, refuge in the coal yard, the two men were told by Wiley to stand. Another shot was fired at Wiley, who fired in return, and commanded the two men to drop their firearms, which they did. One of them moved towards a gate, when Wiley hit him with a piece of coal.
– Sun (Sydney, NSW), Saturday 3 March 1923.
The Town and Country’s national fame came about from a song by the legendary late country singer, Slim Dusty in 1981.
An insurance salesman, Pat Alexander, who dabbled in song writing, often took potential clients to the Town and Country to talk business over a beer or two. One of those clients was Duncan Urquhart, who met with Alexander three times at the pub before the insurance salesmen realised that he had no intention of buying; he just enjoyed a drink and a yarn.
Alexander, as writers do, jotted the line: ‘‘I love to have a beer with Duncan ’cause Duncan’s me mate’’, and eventually the music and lyrics to the whole song followed. He recorded ‘Duncan’ and sent it off to Slim Dusty –and the rest, as they say is history.
In 1981 ‘Duncan’ became Slim Dusty’s biggest hit after ‘Pub With No Beer’, and in turn immortalised the Town and Country Hotel.
Duncan Urquhart died of a heart attack shortly after the song became a hit, without ever buying insurance from Alexander.
When Time Gents called by on our road trip, we didn’t have plans to eat there, rather to sink one or two lagers, and move on to the Golden Barley at Enmore for lunch.
A change of plans and a decision to buy a steak at the Town and Country was a good choice. We enjoyed a delicious, reasonably priced meal and a couple of drinks before moving onto Enmore.
The Golden Barley, Marrickville.
The license of the Enmore Hotel, at the corner of Camden Street and Edgeware Road, enabled Tooth and Company to build the Golden Barley in 1939.
In 1938, Tooths signalled their concern about the dilapidated nature of the Enmore Hotel by buying the block of land where a timber yard traded, with the intention or removing the license from the Enmore Hotel to build a new pub across the road – The Golden Barley Hotel.
August 1939 saw the opening of The Golden Barley Hotel, as it now stands. Designed by architects Joy and Pollitt, The Golden Barley Hotel is now recognised as a prime example of Art Deco architecture and many original features are still in evidence throughout the hotel, although its magnificent tiled bar has been confined to history and removed.
FREE BEER IS POPULAR
Mr. J. Palmer, a well-known Hurstville identity, commenced business in the new Golden Barley Hotel, Marrickville, on Monday. To celebrate the event he advertised that beer would be served free for half-an-hour. He had so many callers that 108 gallons were consumed in thirty minutes, there being a helter-skelter, for “ring side” positions. Mr. Palmer also entertained many of his friends privately.
– The Propeller (Hurstville NSW) Thursday 17 August 1939
The original counter followed the length of the public bar, continuing to the rear of the hotel, where it curved around to a finish where the lounge area currently is located. The huge length of bar was essential to accommodate the thirsty men during the ‘six o’clock swill’ era.
The current TAB area was once the ‘ladies’ lounge’ or ‘hen pen’, and is still where the women’s toilet for the main bar is situated. At the rear of the hotel was the saloon bar, where the lounge bar now operates. The upstairs area of the hotel comprised of accommodation – four single, and three double rooms, as well as lounge and dining areas. There was also a sun room and two bathrooms. All these areas remain very close to their original configuration and condition today.
The hotel’s website state: “A hotel can’t remain unchanged by time, it must follow the needs of the people around it in order to be useful and thrive. However, we blend the old with the new and are proud of the building that is The Golden Barley Hotel, and never fail to be stunned and surprised by its beauty and detail.”
When we visited the pub there were a few men seated at the bar, enjoying a beer and watching the footy on television, while another group of men were solving the world’s troubles at a ‘table of knowledge’. The Golden Barley was welcoming, working class, and well worth a visit.
From the Golden Barley we travelled a short distance to the former Henson Park Hotel.
The Henson, Marrickville
A pub has been trading on the southern corner of Chapel Street and Illawarra Road at Marrickville since the 1860s. Originally the Marrick Hotel, it was known as the Town Hall Hotel from 1880, taking its name from the nearby Marrickville Town Hall, which had opened in 1878.
The Town Hall Hotel was sold by R. Thompson to Tooth and Company brewery in about 1906 and the building demolished to make way for the current pub.
Harry Thorpe was licensee in 1935 when a new hotel was planned for the site. It was designed by Sidney Warden, with plans approved by Marrickville Council on May 28 1935 and by the Licensing Court on May 29 1935. It featured a large public bar taking up most of the Illawarra Road frontage.
A new Marrickville Town Hall had been built on Marrickville Road, opening in 1922, rendering the old hotel’s name obsolete. When it opened in 1936, the name was changed to the Henson Park Hotel, inspired by the building of nearby Henson Park on a former brickworks site. Henson Park opened in 1937 and was used as a cycling venue for the 1938 Empire Games. The ULVA Review reported in June 15 1936: “Brightness is one of the great features of the new building and materials have been used to aid cleanliness Special attention has been paid to lighting, which has been concealed. Before this system was used by Mr Warden he had tests made in order to ascertain if the effect would be as anticipated. The public bar is particularly roomy and well-ventilated.”
A Tooth and Company manager reported in 1936 that the hotel is “a credit to all concerned. All modern ideas had been incorporated and all must have been impressed by the splendid taste shown in the selection of colours of the various rooms.”
The unofficial headquarters of the Newtown Jets for decades, the Henson Park Hotel fell on hard times after the NRL team were regulated from the first grade competition. In 2013 the Henson Park Hotel closed.
To the delight of the locals who had been campaigning to save the pub, Ray Reilly of Trinity Bar in Surry Hills, bought the pub in May 2014. He reopened it after renovating the back bar and beer garden, leaving the front bar – thankfully – largely untouched.
Much of the originally art deco fittings remain in the front bar, as do on the outside.
When Time Gents visited the hotel was bustling with locals, who have made Sydney’s inner west home. The eatery was doing a roaring trade, and the main bar was buzzing with a relaxed Sunday afternoon crowd.
The Henson, as it’s now known, also sells a good selection of craft beer for those so inclined. For me though, I enjoyed my Reschs, before heading off to our last destination – The General Gordon at Sydenham.
The General Gordon, Sydenham
The General Gordon was recently sold, and has a modern interior, which reminded me of a club, then a pub. Nevertheless, it was comfortable, and friendly, with its sofas, lounge chairs, and low coffee style tables. The young barmaid was cheerful and friendly, and shared a smile and, albeit, brief chat.
The pub was named after Major-General Charles George Gordon, a British army officer, also known as Chinese Gordon, Gordon Pasha, and Gordon of Khartoum. He saw action in the Crimean War as an officer in the British Army. But he made his military reputation in China, where he was placed in command of the “Ever Victorious Army,” a force of Chinese soldiers led by European officers.
In the early 1860s, Gordon and his men were instrumental in putting down the Taiping Rebellion, regularly defeating much larger forces. For these accomplishments, he was given the nickname “Chinese Gordon” and honours from both the Emperor of China and the British.
In a land far away, he was honoured with the naming of an Australian pub. Six months after Major-General Charles George Gordon’s death in Sudan during battle, John S. Paris was granted a license for a two storey brick hotel on the corner of Sydenham Road and Bolton Street, Sydenham.
The pub traded on Sydenham Road, opposite what was then a level crossing, for almost 50 years before the license was transferred to another site in an updated building.
During the time the General Gordon traded on Bolton Street there were three prominent publicans.
John Paris had the pub for 10 years, from the day it open until 1895 when Tom Smyth took the reins. Smyth was publican for over 10 years until his death, when his wife became licensee. The owner of the hotel, Tooth and Company replaced Mrs Smyth with Margaret Gleeson.
Gleeson was an experienced Irish publican with plenty of knowledge of the industry when she took the license of the General Gordon in 1922. She was a widow, who lost her husband Tom in 1911 when they were hosting the Australian Hotel on the corner of Wellington and Botany Street, Waterloo, opposite the Cauliflower Hotel. They had only gained the license of the pub in 1910 when Tom died, and his wife, Margaret took over the running of the pub.
Margaret later was licensee of the Arncliffe Hotel on Rocky Point Road, and the Oxford Hotel in Petersham before becoming host of the General Gordon at Sydenham in 1922. She died after a stroke at the pub in 1929 at the age of 45 in 1929.
After her death, her daughters, Kathleen Tansey and Margaret Clarke became hosts. Tansey and Clarke were both widowers. Mrs Tansey lost her husband, who was a barman at the General Gordon, in a car accident in 1926 and the two women were canny publicans.
NOT BOOZERS, BUT BEAUS.
Were Walking-out With Widows
AFTER HOURS CHARGE
THEY came not to worship at the shrine of Bacchus, but to make their obeisance before the altar of Cupid. In other words, Gregory McCue and Frank Harris, two Marrickville beaus, did not pass through the portals of that well-known Petersham hostelry, the General Gordon Hotel, for the purpose of imbibing beer after lawful hours. NO, no; theirs was a rosy mission of romance. They had found considerable favour in the eyes of mine hostess, Kathleen Tansey, and her sister, Mary Clarke, two estimable widows. The two couples are walking out And what more delightful present could a lady offer her admiring beau, on a hot Saturday night, than a foaming glass of “beer straight”? At any rate, that was the picture that met the offended eyes of Sergeant Fogarty when he entered the front door of the General Gordon Hotel about 8.15 p.m. on March 21. And that was the reason for Mrs Tansey, McCue and Harris appearing before Magistrate Cohen at Newtown Police Court one day last week. Mrs. Tansey, as the licensee, was charged with having supplied liquor after lawful hours, and the two men were charged with having been illegally on the premises after lawful hours. “My Friends” Sergeant Fogarty said he knocked on the door, which was opened by Mrs. Tansey. “I told her that we had seen two men enter the hotel, and I wanted to know what they were doing there,” said the sergeant. “Mrs. Tansey said, ‘They are my, friends, and they have come to take me and my sister out for the evening.’ “I saw McCue standing in the passage, near the entrance to the bar, and Harris was in the bar with his coat off. On a ledge, at an opening to the bar, were two glasses of beer,” went on the sergeant. “I said to McCue. ‘What are you doing here?’ and before he had time to answer, Mrs. Tansey said. ‘I’ve told you they are my friends, and I am giving them the drinks. Surely I can have my friends here, and give them a drink?” “I took their names then and left,” added Fogarty. Constable Shepherd corroborated his colleague’s evidence. He admitted to Mr. Finlay that Mrs. Tansey conducted the hotel extraordinarily well. Rotund and radiating good will, Kathleen Tansey was the next to enter the witness-box. She said she was a widow, and also licensee of the General Gordon Hotel. Her sister, Mrs. Mary Clarke, also a widow, occupied the premises with her. On the night of March 21, Harris and McCue came to the hotel. She was keeping company with McCue, and her sister was keeping company with Harris. After having poured out two glasses of beer straight for the visitors, she asked McCue to empty the refrigerator tank. He took his coat off, and entered the bar. It was at that moment that the police knocked at the door.
“I placed the drinks on the ledge leading from the bar, but they drank them in the private dining room. They had made arrangements to take my sister and myself out that night,” declared Kathleen. How long have McCue and Harris been coming to you?— I have been going with McCue for about 12 months, and Harris has been going with my sister for a couple of months. Do you know anything about their drinking habits?— How do you mean? Well, I put it to you that they were worshipping at the shrine of Bacchus and not Cupid. You see, I put it to you that they come there for a drink — not for love. — I believe that they came there to see us.
Frank Harris was the next witness. He said he was a stevedore, and had been walking out with Mrs. Clarke for about two month. He saw her two or three times a week. Sergeant Stinson; Do you put it before the court that you have a genuine feeling of love for the lady?— Yes. And on this date, I don’t want to involve you In a breach of promise action, did you go to the hotel for the purpose of seeing Mrs. Clarke?— . Yes. You didn’t so for a drink! — No, certainly not.
Gregory McCue also stated that he went to the hotel for the purpose of taking Mrs. Tansey out for the evening. He had been keeping company with her for over a year. Sergeant Stinson: You are a single man? — Yes. And you both like each other?— Yes. When the police asked you what you were doing at the hotel, don’t you think you should have told them before Mrs. Tansey spoke for you? “I don’t care what he thinks, I think that he should have,” broke in Mr. Cohen. “There are too many of these cases where the licensee speaks up for defendants. Why didn’t these men tell the sergeant their story without the assistance of Mrs. Tansey? They have only got themselves to thank for the position they find themselves in today. However, I am not going to say that they were there for an unlawful purpose,” added Mr. Cohen, in dismissing the charges. Beaus and belles left the court In high mood. Anyway, how was a poor police man to know?
– Truth (Sydney, NSW), Sunday 5 April 1931.
After the Sydenham Road level crossing was closed and replaced with an overhead bridge on Gleeson Avenue, Tooth and Company decided to rebuild a new pub to replace the General Gordon on what was now Bolton and Hogan Avenues. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on June 1 1932:
Proposed New Hotel.
It was stated In the Metropolitan Licensing Court that the construction of a new hotel, to cost £7850, at the corner of Burrows-avenue and Swain-street, Sydenham, would be commenced shortly. The statement was made when an application to the Court by Kathleen Tansey, licensee of the General Gordon Hotel, Sydenham, for a transfer of the licence of the hotel to the proposed new premises, was being heard by the Metropolitan Licensing Court. The application was granted on condition that the building was completed within twelve months.
A final order of removal to premises erected at Burrows-avenue and Swain-street, and fronting Gleeson Avenue, was granted to Kathleen Tansey in December 1932. The Sydney Sun reported on Tuesday December 13 1932 that “news travelled like wildfire, and thirsty individuals scrambled for places in the bar” at the opening of the General Gordon Hotel, Sydenham, when free beer was served between 5.15pm and 6pm. “They stood seven and eight deep, while 10 barmen served them.”
The old General Gordon was demolished in 1936, and Kathleen Tansey remained as licensee at the new hotel for 22 years. She died in 1963.
Like most of its huge property portfolio, Tooth and Company sold the General Gordon in the early 1980s. Earlier this year the listed Lantern Hotels Group sold the pub to Sydney publican Stan Pappas, backed by White and Partners for $18.1 million.
Sitting directly opposite the Sydenham train station, the General Gordon Hotel is the perfect spot to drop by for a cold beer, tasty meal and laid-back atmosphere any day of the week. Often referred to as “the pride of Sydenham”, the pub is a testimony to the architectural skills of Sidney Warden – the bloke behind the classic Light Brigade in Paddington, the Lansdowne at Chippendale and The Old Clare and Broadway Hotels at Ultimo.
Finishing our drinks, we called it a day, giving a tick of approval to the four pubs on a lager loop, and looking forward to the next pub expedition.