LIKE Melbourne, Sydney too had its gold-rush pubs.
The former Bridge Hotel at Forest Lodge, in Sydney’s inner-west, was established in August 1877 by Irishman Tom McInerney.
A pioneering member of the Irish National League in Sydney, Tom built an elaborate two-storey brick pub with balcony that sadly has been dry for over 60 years.
The Bridge Hotel, on the corner of what was then Pyrmont Bridge Road and Junction Street came about after Tom’s success on the Gulgong gold fields, in western NSW.
Gulgong was gazetted as a goldfield in 1866 with small finds, but when the precious metal was discovered at Red Hill, 500 miners flocked to the town in six weeks.
By 1872, Tom was among a population of 20,000 seeking their fortune on the Gulgong goldfields. And wealth he did find.
A cashed-up McInerney came to Sydney, and with a new bride, Margaret – who he had married the year before – they built and opened the Bridge Hotel on Pyrmont Bridge Road.
Unlike the goldfields of Gulgong though, Tom’s new pub never brought the Irish nationalist much luck. His wife gave birth to two daughters, the first, Mary, in 1877 and later in 1879, Margaret while he was licensee.
The McInerneys second daughter, five-year-old Margaret died in 1884.
Tom’s bad luck continued in 1886. His wife, Margaret also died in December 1886.
Less than three months after her death, the publican was also in his grave, leaving a 10-year-old daughter, Mary to grieve. His funeral in February 1887 was large, with over 200 people attending his graveside ceremony at Rookwood.
Tom’s estate was declared bankrupt the following year.
The pub was eventually bought by one of the two big breweries, who were always eager to swoop on a bargain when it came to bankrupt or insolvent publicans’ estates.
Tooheys Limited bought in November 1892 for of £2,800.
The pub was described as having a 29feet frontage to Pyrmont Bridge-road and 72feet to Junction street. The pub had nine rooms, a bar, kitchen, stables, and outhouses, and returned a rent of £5 a week. The bidding for the pub was said to have been fierce, with Tooheys rival, Tooths no doubt eager to purchase the busy corner pub.
The end came for the historic pub in 1950 when Tooheys and the licensee, Joseph Kerr began preparations to move the license of the Bridge Hotel to Sydney’s booming western suburbs.
Tooheys employed Arthur Bennet to manage the pub until a new hotel could be built at Enfield. The replacement pub – architecturally – is a sad inditement on its predecessor.
The Boulevarde Hotel continues to trade at Enfield. Today that pub, in a suburb known more for a different culture, is known as P.J. Gallagher’s Irish Pub, while the obvious glares from the corner of Bridge Road and Junction Street at Forest Lodge. Where better suits the license of this pub? I know where. And I’m sure you wouldn’t disagree.