THE Beauchamp Hotel, at the corner of South Dowling and Oxford Streets Darlinghurst was once one of Sydney’s favourite gay pubs, and is still a favourite with the LGBT community.
Ironically the pub was named after an Englishman, William Lygon, 7th Earl of Beauchamp, who later in life was ‘outed’ as a homosexual and was forced into exile.
The Beauchamp Hotel was built in 1867 as the Ice Hotel – not after the drug, but the frozen ballast imported from the Great Lakes of North America, and carried in ships with sawdust, as insulation, at the time.
In 1900 the Ice Hotel was renamed the Beauchamp Hotel after 26-year-old Lygon, who was the Governor of NSW at the time. He was an unpopular Governor, described as “a progressive” who enjoyed the company of writers and artists, including Henry Lawson and Vitor Daley.
After a short stint as Governor from 1899 to 1900, Lygon returned to England, where he married and had seven children before being “outed” as a homosexual (a criminal offence at the time) to the King and Queen by his Tory brother-in-law, the Duke of Westminster. There was no public scandal, with Lord Beauchamp quietly resigning his offices and slipping into exile. He lived the remainder of his life in Italy, Germany and France before his death from cancer at the age of 66 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.
The irony of it all, a pub named a closeted gay man in 1900, would 80 years later become one of Sydney’s most popular gay pubs.
The Beauchamp Hotel was completely renovated 2004 and now boasts an airy main bar, with lounges and sofas, while retaining plenty of old world charm.