Barman charged with smuggling gold: Metropolitan Hotel, Paddington

Paddington Community Centre
E.J. Ward Paddington Community Centre, formerly the Metropolitan Hotel.
Metropolitan Hotel Paddington 1943 ANU
Metropolitan Hotel, Paddington, 1948. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.


A YOUNG barman at Paddington’s Metropolitan Hotel was lucky to have escaped with a £75 good behaviour bond after he was caught smuggling £200 worth of gold out of Australia in 1948.

While visiting the subcontinent on a business trip, John Perryman was said to have been “persuaded” to line a couple of saddle bags with gold on his return to Australia to send them to India. This is just one of the many tales that emanated from an architectural beauty that traded for less than 75 years in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

James Alfred Saunders opened the Cosmopolitan Hotel on the corner of Underwood and McGarvie Streets, Paddington in 1881.

A magnificent building, it survives today as the E.J. Ward Paddington Community Centre.

There are many stories that can be told about the Metropolitan over its 73 years trading as a pub. Just seven years after the pub opened, it was already gaining a reputation as a notorious ‘bloodhouse’.

In the Sydney Central Criminal Court, 25-year-old Arthur Forest, 26-year-old William Hanrahan, and 24-year-old George Forest were brought-up after being charged with having feloniously killing James Brown in October 1888.

The dead man was a native of England, single, about 45 years of age, and a miner. He was reportedly a quiet man. He was in the Metropolitan Hotel having a drink, when a row broke-out between some of the men in the bar.

The three men charged attacked Brown, knocking him to the ground and kicking him. Brown was taken to the Sydney Hospital where he died.

Hanrahan was sentenced to three months behind bars, while his two offsiders were sentenced to nine months’ hard labour.

Another interesting story is told when police officer Inspector Henry James Hughes paid a visit to a number of hotels in Sydney’s eastern suburbs for the purpose of sampling liquor during March 1903. As a result a number of publicans were brought before the Paddington Summons Court charged with selling adulterated spirits.

James Kenwick, publican of the Metropolitan Hotel, was fined £1 10s with 5s 6d costs, in default seven days’ imprisonment for selling watered down whiskey.

Metropolitan Hotel Paddington 1930 ANU
Metropolitan Hotel, Paddington, 1930. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

One of my favourite yarns from the Metropolitan is that of 21-year-old barman and part-time smuggler, John Perryman.

Perryman received a £75 bond to be of good behaviour for three years after attempting top smuggle £200 worth of gold out of Australia in saddle bags in 1948.

While Perryman was in India in 1948, investigating the possibilities of trading horses from Australia, he met an Indian, Shah; who told him a big profit was to be made on the sale of gold. When Perryman returned to Sydney he had two saddles made on Shah’s instructions. One of Shah’s men gave Perryman the gold to put in the saddles to send to India.

The pub was bought by brewery giant, Tooth and Company in 1929, and continued to trade until the license was transferred to Beverly Hills in Sydney’s west to enable the Bennelong Hotel to open there on November 1 1954.

The last publican of the Metropolitan Hotel was Molly Anne D’Argeavel.

The Bennelong Hotel now trades as the Beverly Hills Hotel on King Georges Road.

One last interesting tale can be told shortly after the Metropolitan Hotel closed its doors in 1954.

Albert Thompson, secretary of the NSW Milk and Ice Carters Union approached the media to reveal that the pub owner, Tooths had left the 12-room Metropolitan Hotel empty since the licence was transferred to Beverley Hills for 17 months. The Sydney reported in April 1956:

A Tooth’s Brewery official told Tribune he “wouldn’t think of letting rooms” to needy families. “It’s too hard to get them out,” he said. “We’re the last card in the pack as far as being able to get tenants out is concerned,” he added. A Housing Commission official told Tribune he “could do nothing”. The Commission “had no power to take over private property”. Mr Thompson said: “It’s high time brewery influence and stand-over in high places was ended. “Lack of housing is a national emergency, and the Government should legislate the power to take ever such places”. Communist Alderman Bon Maxwell said the State Government had recently evicted residents of College Street to “make way for an RSL club”. “The Government amended the Landlord and Tenant Act to get these people out of their homes,” he said. “If they can throw people out of their homes, they can just as easily legislate to take over empty brewery properties to make homes.”

All the controversy over the empty building prompted the City of Sydney Council to step in and purchase the property for £6974 in 1957. The old pub was later transformed into a community centre by the Council.

© Copyright Mick Roberts 2018

Bennelong Hotel Beverly Hills NSW 1970 ANU
Bennelong Hotel, Beverly Hills, 1970. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.
beverley hills hotel king georges road beverley hills nsw
Beverly Hills Hotel, formerly the Bennelong Hotel, Beverly Hills, 2018. Picture: flickr

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