By MICK ROBERTS ©
THERE’S a feeling of longevity, a sense of durability at the Glenroy Hotel.
The Alexandria pub, in Sydney’ inner-southern suburbs, a stone’s throw from Redfern, has been quenching thirsts for as long as anybody cares to remember, in what was once the industrial heartland of Sydney.
Alexandria, with its dwindling pubs, is a much different suburb from the days when the area was an industrial dormitory in Sydney’s south. The hordes of factory workers who packed the bar of the Glenroy Hotel weekday afternoons have gone, replaced by new customers. Gentrified customers. A different crowd, who, are catered for in a way the drinkers who once packed its bar, swallowing as much beer as possible before the taps turned off at 6pm, couldn’t believe, but would no doubt welcome.
The place is civilised, while retaining a traditional pub feel.
We visited the Glenroy Hotel at the corner of Botany Road, and Retreat Street on a Sunday afternoon. It was quiet; there was a couple discussing business over drinks, a cabbie with his eyes glued to the horse racing on the screens in a well-equipped sports bar, and two blokes intently chatting over beers, when we pulled-up our stools.
The pub was recently  bought by Trevor and Simone Walker, who own the nearby Parkview Hotel in Mitchell Road, Alexandria. While Trevor remains as licensee at the Parkview, wife Simone has taken the reins at the Glenroy.
Ian, the manager, was friendly and accommodating on our visit, during which time we enjoyed a couple of drinks and a bite to eat. Most mainstream beers are on tap, including – to my delight – Resch’s draught.
Delving into the history of this landmark Sydney watering hole, I soon discovered that not much of its story has been told. So I went to work.
The pub was established by 43-year-old Thomas Barber Goldfinch in July 1856 on the main road between Sydney-Town and Botany Bay. It was a busy thoroughfare, dotted with market gardens, homes and factories.
Tom, his wife Hannah, and four children, aged from seven to 13, arrived in Sydney as free settlers on-board the ship, Emperor in 1848.
They had come from Deal, a town in Kent, England, which lies on the border of the North Sea and the English Channel, eight miles north-east of Dover. Its a former fishing, mining and garrison town.
Tom established a butcher shop in York Street, Sydney, and later, it seems, opened the premises as a pub. The Friendly Port Inn was licensed on March 1 1853 and traded until 1856 when Tom closed his pub and established a “commodious suburban house of call, the Salutation Inn, on Botany Road, where the same attention to the comfort and convenience of visitors, and the same excellence of cellarage will be preserved as were carried out in York Street”.
Tom opened his new pub in Alexandria in April 1856, and he continued the tradition at the corner of what later became Retreat Street for five years. He closed the pub in 1861 and returned to butchering.
Hannah died at the age of 75 in 1885, and Tom was buried at the age of 86 in 1898.
The Salutation Inn was reborn in 1878, when career publican, John Spicer Paris had the premises re-licensed on February 12. While Paris only had the pub a short while, he brought plenty of experience in the trade, first hosting the Queens Arms on South Head Road in the early 1860s.
John Paris arrived in Moreton Bay at the age of 18 in 1854 as a free settler, and with his wife Maria, who he married in Sydney during 1860, they embarked on a lifelong career as publicans.
After the Queens Arms the couple, with their large family of children, went on to host the Sportsman’s Arms in Goulburn, and the Tattersalls Hotel in Crookwell, before moving to the corner of Reservoir and Mary Streets, Surry Hills in the late 1870s.
Paris successfully applied to have the old Salutation Hotel, on Botany Road, which had been shut for 17 years, re-licensed on February 12 1878.
After leaving the Salutation Hotel in 1879, Paris went on to host the Royal Hotel at Croydon (1880-85) and the General Gordon Hotel at Marrickville from 1885-1894. He retired with his wife, Maria to a villa at 48 Clarendon Road, Stanmore, where he died on May 10 1918 at the age of 79. Maria died in 1885.
Meanwhile after John and Maria departure from the Salutation Hotel in 1879, William and Marian Hawkshaw hosted the Botany Road pub for seven years before their deaths in 1885.
The name of the Salutation Hotel was changed briefly to the Benham, Kent Hotel in December 1895, before Charles Glendenning gained permission for its current name, the Glenroy in December 1898.
The founder of the pub, Thomas Barber Goldfinch died on June 28 1898 at Bargo Brush at the age of 86. His wife, Hannah had died in 1885.
The original Glenroy, or the Salutation as it was previously known, was a two storey brick corner pub, with a cast iron railed balcony popular with politicians on the hustings. It was demolished in August 1906 and its subsequent rebuilding into the current two storey Federation Arts and Crafts architectural style, with references to “Olde English” mock Tudor style was fashionable at the time.
Here begins the Glenroy’s modern day story.
Tooth and company began eyeing off the grand new pub in 1907, and eventually gained the head lease. In 1934 the quaint post supported awning over the footpath was replaced with a cantilever awning, and the familiar bathroom tiles, a signature of so many Sydney pubs of that era, were plastered over the street frontage.
Tooth and Company officially purchased the pub in April 1938.
To complete the fascinating look back at the Glenroy, I can’t go past a publican, who hosted the pub at the height of when it catered for the heavy drinking factory workers who called Alexandria home during the 1940s and 50s.
An unlikely host to blue collar workers, former opera singer, Roy Glasheen received the license of the Glenroy in October 1940. The Sydney Truth newspaper reported on August 5 1945:
A CHEERY BEER
Out in Alexandria, that smoky, dusty heart of industrial Sydney, weary war workers popping into the Glenroy Hotel in Botany Rd., for a beer on their way home have been hearing the rich lyric tenor voice of Australian opera star, Roy Glasheen, free with their drinks. Roy Glasheen, whom Emilio Rossi, one of the famous conductors of the equally famous La Scala Milan Opera House in Italy, claimed would reach world heights if he studied on the continent, is licensee of the Glenroy these days. This brilliant young Australian artist who played in Sydney operas with singers of world-wide fame, such as Lina Paliughi, soprano, Pedro Mirrasou, tenor, Apollo Granforte and John Brownlee, baritones, and Michele Froni, bass, says Australian singers have no chance for success in their own country. He instanced John Brownlee, Peter Dawson, Marjorie Lawrence, Dame Nellie Melba, and Luigi Forte as cases of Australians who had to go overseas to make their names. These days Roy makes only records. Reckons taxation too high to encourage him to do a season. Prefers to entertain his friends in his private lounge at his hotel where he accompanies himself on his £1000 Bechstein grand. Roy knows 400 songs and practically all the parts of 20 operas. He sings in seven languages which include Russian, Italian, German and Spanish. Critics who should know liken his voice to that of Alfred O’Shea.
Another amusing story about the opera singing publican is reported in the Evening Advocate on October 24 1945:
WHAT MEN DO FOR THEIR BEER SYDNEY.
Local workers in Alexandria did not intend to be denied their usual beers at Roy Glasheen’s Glenroy Hotel because of the electricity rationing black out in the recent Bunnerong strike. Like most publicans about 5pm, Glasheen turned the beer off because he could not see to serve and closed the doors. Came a knock at the door. He opened it. “Sorry, it’s all off, boys. No light to serve!” “That’s OK Roy. We brought our own,” and they lugged forward portable lighting apparatus. He served them.
Like the current owners of the Glenroy, Trevor and Simone Walker, the 1940s hosts also ran two Alexandria pubs.
The former opera singer ran the nearby Lord Raglan Hotel in Henderson Road from 1947, while his wife, Mary hosted the Glenroy through their company, Glasheen Hotels up until the 1955.
History is repeating itself at the Glenroy with the Walkers and their stewardship of the nearby Parkview Hotel at Alexandria; although we’re unsure if Trevor can hold a tune.
© Copyright 2019 Mick Roberts
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