By MICK ROBERTS ©
AUSTRALIAN sportsmen have a long tradition of donning the publican apron.
In fact, history is littered with famous sporting publicans, who have taken advantage of their athletic fame to earn them a living behind the bar.
One such sportsman was Australian cricketer, John Louis Kettle, who established two pubs in Redfern during the 1860s and 70s – While one has long been confined to the pages of history, the other continues to trade today as the Tudor Hotel.
Kettle played three first-class cricket matches for NSW between 1859/60 and 1861/62, including notching up the highest score against the All England Eleven during their Australian tour.
Publicans like Kettle were the principal patrons of sport in early Sydney, and many of the hosts would jockey to secure their hotels as bases for clubs, like cricket, where meetings would be held and many would gather for drink after matches.
Kettle though was far from the first famous sportsman to open a pub in Sydney Town.
The Australian Cricket Club, formed in 1826, was based at Edward Flood’s Australian Hotel in George Street, Sydney. Flood, besides pulling beers, was also a member of the Australian cricket team. His pub was in walking distance to Hyde Park, where cricket competed for space with other sports, such as shinty and quoits.
In an effort to attract the sporting customer, resourceful publicans found space for billiard tables in their hotels, and in their yards, quoit pitches were added, where organised challenge matches could have involved substantial stakes.
To have a pub near a major sporting venue offered publicans plenty of thirsty customers, as well as improved chances of winning temporary licenses for beer booths at the venues during fixtures.
Besides John Kettle’s sporting reputation, his business had the advantage of being in walking distance to the famed Albert Ground, when he opened the Cricketers Rest Hotel at the corner of Pitt and Redfern Street in 1867.
The Albert Ground, a private money-making venture, opened on October 29 1864. It sat to the east of Redfern Park and Elizabeth Street, in the block now roughly bounded by Redfern, Kettle and Moorehead Streets. The site is now occupied by public housing.
Kettle advertised his new pub in the Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle on Saturday December 21 1867:
PITT STREET, REDFERN
OPPOSITE ALBERT CRICKET GROUND.
J. L. KETTLE, proprietor of the above Hotel, having just purchased a large parcel of the finest wines, Spirits, and Beers for CASH, is determined at this festive season to supply the inhabitants of Redfern and visitors to the Albert Cricket Ground during the holidays at prices not to be competed with. The Hotel being in such close proximity to the Albert Cricket Ground, affords J. K. every possible advantage of supplying Cricket Clubs and gentlemen players with Luncheons, Dinners, and every accommodation on the most reasonable terms, and being himself, perhaps, one of the oldest cricketers in the colony, he ventures to hope for a liberal share of support. N.B. -Private Entrances and Waiting Parlours for passengers by the Omnibuses, which leave the Hotel every ten minutes.
Born in Sydney in 1830, Kettle’s career as a cricketer had finished when at the age of 37 he received the license of the Cricketers Rest at Redfern.
Prior to becoming a publican, John, along with his brother, Fred had varying success on the goldfields of both NSW and Victoria. They first ventured to Louisa Creek, now know as Hargraves in Central West NSW about 40km southwest of Mudgee, in the early 1850s. While on the Louisa Creek Goldfields, the pair discovered a raw nugget weighing over 80 pounds. After Louisa Creek, the brothers’ gold fever continued, and they found themselves in Beechworth, where the two were one of 17 of the first goldseekers who broke ground there – then known as Spring Creek – in September 1852. Later that year the Kettle brothers pitched their tent amongst the assembled and assembling thousands on the far-famed Bendigo goldfields, where with other members of their family, they followed the occupation of diggers. The brothers had varying success, with Fred remaining in Victoria, where he would later establish a pub at Oxley. John made his way back north to Sydney, marrying Mary Martin in 1855 and also becoming a publican.
John Kettle made the decision to leave the long-established Cricketers Rest Hotel in 1874, and establish a new pub at Redfern, beside the Albert Ground. About the same time, the NSW Cricket Association (NSWCA) were making plans to relocate games from the privately owned, Albert Ground to a public owned playing field at Moore Park.
The cost of hosting matches there was so high that the Domain was used to stage matches whenever possible despite its disadvantages. By then inter-colonial games had become so important and popular that the NSWCA had little choice but to use the Albert Ground. In all, five first-class matches were played at the Albert Ground between the 1870 and 1877 seasons.
The NSWCA began using the publicly owned, Garrison Ground at Moore Park, later to be renamed the Sydney Cricket Ground. By the early months of 1879, the owners of the Albert Ground had let the once popular sporting field fall into disrepair, and eventually the company was wound up.
The grounds were subdivided for housing during 1879, and eventually closed for sporting events.
Kettle licensed the Australian Eleven Hotel on the north-eastern corner of Kettle Street and Elizabeth Street, overlooking the Albert Ground, in September 1878. However, the pub had large grounds, and Kettle continued to promote sports like quoits and skittles in the yard of his pub over the following years.
The old cricketer lost his wife, Mary in November 1881, however he continued on as host at Redfern until 1883, when he leased the pub to Alexander McDonald. McDonald had a short stay at the pub, and he advertised his lease, license and goodwill for sale in 1884, stating that “the old established house had changed hands only once in 10 years”. “The only reason the present proprietor has of leaving is continual illness in the family”. The hotel, he stated in his advertisement, had quoit and Skittle ground attached to the house, had a large yard, and stabling for 10 horses at rear.
Business would have picked-up for publican, Laura Creamer when the swamp opposite the Australian Eleven Hotel was filled and transformed into Redfern Park in 1885.
Redfern Park, bounded by Elizabeth, Redfern, Chalmers and Phillip Streets, was designed and constructed during the 1880s as a typical Victorian pleasure ground with ornamental gardens, cricket pitches, bowling green and a bandstand.
In 1885 twelve acres were resumed by Redfern Council and gazetted as a park. Work to form the park began immediately and just as quickly Council was inundated with requests from community groups to use the new oval on the southern half of the park for cricket and rugby union. A bowling green and pavilion were added in 1890, along with a bandstand and an ornamental fountain donated by John Baptist.
Kettle was back behind the bar of his pub in 1887 after he repossessed the business from lessee, Laura Creamer. Kettle was publican of the Australian Eleven at the time of his death, at the age of 60 on October 30 1891.
The old weatherboard pub was demolished and replaced with a large two storey brick hotel in 1902. Michael Cody, who had gained the lease of the hotel from Fred Kettle, John’s brother in 1893. Cody was at the pub for 13 years when he was given an ultimatum. In his own words, during a court case where he had to give reason why his license should not be cancelled, he explained:
“I was 13 years next door, which was the old Australian Eleven Hotel. That house was condemned three years ago, as being unfit in its structure for carrying on the business of a licensed victualler in. I had the alternative of building a new house, and this is the result. In arranging with the landlord for a new lease, I was told that I could have it only on the condition that I built a new house. I agreed, getting a 30 years’ lease. At the expiration of that term the house reverts to a gentleman living at Wangaratta, Victoria. Before I came into possession my total outlay was £3000.”
Fred Kettle, who was living in Wangaratta, Victoria sold the pub four years after Cody had it rebuilt as part of his lease agreement. The pub was described as a two storey brick building, with a bar, two bar parlours, 31 rooms, kitchen, laundry and adjoining was a two storey weatherboard office building.
Cody remained at the Australian Eleven until 1912 and was replaced by Don McDonald, a well-known boxing referee. Cody retired to Innisfail and died at the age of 78 on July 13 1922.
Business picked-up at the Australian Eleven Hotel in 1946 when South Sydney Rugby League Club made Redfern Oval their home ground. The earth mounds for spectator seating and the old pavilions were remodelled in 1947.
At this time, the bar manager of the Australian Eleven Hotel was former Australian welter weight boxing champion and middle weight champion, Alan Westbury, who held the titles in 1942. A profile story on the pub bar manager appeared in the Sydney Sun newspaper on December 13 1947:
Westbury earned thousands of pounds during the space of time he was up inside the ropes. He hasn’t any vast sums today. But he says: “I believed in fighting to live, not living I to fight. You live only once I and I decided to enjoy myself.” With the war came a halt in the career of Westbury, one of the most entertaining and busy glovemen in all the decades of the game in Australia. He sang on the radio programmes. But Gray struck him three times on the throat, all the blows being unintended, and ever afterwards Westbury has been husky… If he had not turned to the gloves, Westbury would have attained international status in Rugby League football. He was a wing-three-quarter in the Tamworth and Newcastle districts, clocking a fraction off 10 seconds for the hundred. He was a professional runner, winning some big races. When the 1937 Kangaroos were being selected for England, Westbury was chosen to come to Sydney for Country Week. But he suffered a cartilage injury in the knee. Len Dawson was selected in his place — and Dawson went to England, playing in two of the Tests. The cartilage trouble wrecked Westbury’s Rugby League career. He couldn’t run. It didn’t bother him in his fighting. These times, Westbury is bar manager at Les Flynn’s Australian Eleven Hotel, in Elizabeth-street, Redfern. He presides just across from Redfern Oval, where, legend has it Vic Trumper scored a triple century, smashing a few windows in the vicinity. Sometimes some stranger makes the casual observation, “You look to me as if you might have had a fight or two”. Alan has that unmistakable cut of the ring man about him. But Westbury responds, in his soft huskiness: “Me fight? Oh, no. Not me”. He is a placid fellow of peace. Fighting was his business — no truculent habit.
The end came for the Australian Eleven Hotel when the all the property east of Elizabeth Street, opposite Redfern Park and Oval, was resumed by the NSW Government for public housing.
The property was resumed by the Housing Commission on May 26 1950, and the pub closed for trading on December 18 1955. The last publican was Cliff Symmonds.
The license was bought by Rex Investments and was transferred to Miranda Rex Hotel at Miranda, in southern Sydney, on October 21 1957.
Today, there’s nothing to show where once the Australian Eleven Hotel traded, where countless sporting fans from cricket clubs and other organisations gathered, and socialised. The corner of Kettle and Elizabeth Streets no longer exists, and where once this largely forgotten sportsmen’s pub traded sits an inconspicuous three storey red brick public housing block – “Unit 19-27, 598 Elizabeth Street”.
© Copyright Mick Roberts 2017.
Australian Eleven Redfern, licensees
1878 – 1883: John Kettle
1883 – 1884: Alexander McDonald
1884 – 1885: George William Wood
1885 – 1887: Laura Creamer
1887 – 1889: John Kettle
1889 – 1890: Edwin Berry
1890 – 1891: John Kettle
1891 – 1893: Edmond O’Farrell
1893 – 1912: Michael Cody
1912 – 1919: Donald McDonald
1919 – 1922: Eldrid J. Jessup
1922 – 1923: P.W. Byers
1923 – 1924: Mrs M.J. Smith
1924 – 1927: John Frazer
1927 – 1928: A. H. Reid
1928 – 1930: Francis J. Carroll
1930 – 1930: A. J. Coady
1930 – 1931: Francis Carroll
1931 – 1931: Ellen McKerrin
1931 – 1932: James Jamieson
1932 – 1933: Francis Carroll
1933 – 1934:John Larrick
1934 – 1934: John T. Kay
1934 – 1934: E. El. Stephens
1934 – 1935: Ethel E. Darby
1935 – 1935: Agnes Williams
1935 – 1936: Abraham Abeshouse
1936 – 1937: H. H. Clough
1937 – 1938: Arthur Jones
1938 – 1939: Oswald E. Thurbon
1939 – 1940: Robert E. Cooper
1940 – 1942: Cecil B. Kevin
1942 – 1942: Matthew Carmondy
1942 – 1945: Mary Murphy
1945 – 1945: F. Hoffman
1945 – 1947: M. Goodman
1947 – 1947: Cyril Charge
1947 – 1947: Joseph Andrew Whelan
1947 – 1949: Leslie George Flynn
1949 – 1952: Melva Chilvers Flynn
1952 – 1953: Allan Boyd
1953 – 1954: Frederick Brereton
1954 – 1955: Keith Majarid
1955 – 1955: Langley Miller
Closed for trading 18/12/1955