FACING Sydney’s George Street, stark and unwelcoming concrete stairs, replace where the Prince of Wales Hotel at Haymarket once traded for over 115 years.
Demolished in 1970, the Prince of Wales Hotel sat between Rawson Place and Barlow Street, opposite the landmark Sydney pub – The Great Southern, which thankfully continues to trade today (2021).
The Prince of Wales Hotel was established in the early 1860s – more than likely in 1861 – and started trading on shaky grounds.
The pub was owned by Irishman, Patrick Ryan Larkin, a successful Sydney businessman who operated a produce store on George Street, between what is today Rawson Place and Barlow Street, Haymarket.
Larkin was born at Glengarriff, Ireland in 1834 before making the journey to Australia as a 24 year-old man in the late 1850s. Immediately after he settled in Sydney, he entered into the produce business, in what was then known as Parramatta-street, Haymarket, and is today, George-street.
At first, Paddy leased the hotel to Daniel O’Driscoll, who boasted of his “many years’ experience as overseer in the Spirit Department of Her Majesty’s Deptford Victualling Department, London, and as a licensed victualler in the colonies”.
In March 1865, O’Driscoll advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald that his new pub had stabling for horses, and cattle yards for country farmers and settlers, as well as timetables for the nearby Sydney railway station.
The publican also advertised “the best room of any hotel in Sydney for public or private meetings, being 70ft by 20 feet”.
Despite his experience in the trade, O’Driscoll had a short stay as publican, and was declared insolvent by the end of the year. Thomas Dixon and Terrance Gorman were licensees in 1866 and 1867 respectively.
Patrick and Mary Larkin, who had married in 1864, became hosts of the Prince of Wales Hotel in 1868.
Tragedy struck the publican and produce merchant in 1873 with the death of his young wife, Mary at the age of 30. But, Paddy’s grief was compounded with the death of his son, John, aged just two years and seven months, less then eight hours after his wife.
Paddy, now 39, was left to care for three young children, while juggling his pub and produce businesses. At the age of 41, less than two years after the death of Mary, the Irish publican remarried 21-year-old Ellen Purcell, and they would go onto have another four sons while at the helm of the Prince of Wales Hotel.
Paddy Larkin’s pub was a roaring success, and while at the helm he was described as the best-known businessman in the busy Haymarket precinct, where his enterprise amassed a large fortune.
Along with the pub he also operated a wholesale and retail wine and spirit store from the site. He also became a shareholder in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, and owned extensive properties in the Richmond River district. Paddy was described as “a free giver towards charitable and religious institutions”, and was president of the local school board and a vice-president of the Randwick Rifle Club.
After an amazing 36 years as host of the Prince of Wales Hotel, Paddy, at the age of 67, retired to his residence, ‘Glengariff,’ (named in honour of his birth place) in Avoca Street, Randwick, in 1901.
The sale of the Prince of Wales Hotel in 1901 was perfect timing for the shrewd businessman.
The construction of the present Central Railway Station, replacing the terminus further south, was underway. The old railway station, towards Redfern, had become too small and too isolated from the city by the 1890s.
Paddy Larkin’s hotel, as it was commonly known, was perfectly located around the corner, and in easy walking distance, from what would become one of Sydney’s major public transport hubs when it opened for passengers in August 1906.
Larkin was said to have made a small fortune selling the Prince of Wales Hotel and surrounding property to S.J. Bryen when he retired.
Paddy Larkin died at ‘Glengarriff’ Randwick at the age of 75 in 1910, worth over £30,000. His wife, Ellen died three years later at ‘Glengariff’, at the age of 59 years, in 1913.
Meanwhile, Harry Walters, who had hosted the Grand Hotel, further up on George Street, near the old rail terminus, was granted the transfer of the license of the Prince of Wales Hotel from Paddy to himself in 1901.
Walters had been host of the Grand Hotel since 1894, and when he took-over the Prince of Wales in 1901, he had grand plans.
Walters reportedly secured a lease of the hotel from the new owner, S. J. Bryen, for 21 years, in 1901. As part of the agreement, Walters was to build a new hotel at a cost of about £10,000, for which he was to pay £800 annual rent to Bryen.
The foundations of the new hotel was excavated and part of the footings laid, when in 1902 the NSW Government resumed the pub and a number of adjoining businesses to construct what is today Rawson Place.
Rawson Place was to connect Pitt Street and George Street to allow easy access to Central Railway Station.
As a result, Walters’ lease was cancelled, and he agreed to compensation from the NSW Government of £2,000 for loss of money. As part of the agreement Walters was also granted a lease from the NSW Government of a new hotel to be built immediately to the south of the old Prince of Wales Hotel. The Sunday Times reported on December 21, 1902:
HARRY WALTERS, PRINCE OF WALES HOTEL.
What Mr. Harry Walters, of the Prince of Wales Hotel, Haymarket, does not know about the conduct of a first-class hotel is hardly worth knowing. He is as well acquainted with the requirements of the public as is a schoolmaster with the alphabet. Mr. Walters is now quartered in temporary premises at 780, 782, 784, and 786 George-street, where he is doing what might be described as a ‘ripping’ business. The stock of wines and (spirits is of the best and most comprehensive character, as anyone will admit who tries his assorted Xmas cases, which range from £2. Another special line just now is his Prince of Wales Whisky, in three grades, as follow: Fine Old Scotch, 4/6 imperial quart; Fine Old Special Scotch, 5/ ; and ten years old (Three Thistle), 6/. Mr. Walters, Like other sensible business men, buys in the cleanest and best markets, and is thereby enabled to sell at a minimum profit for cash. An idea of the low prices which prevail at his establishment may be gathered from his announcement in another column in this issue or from his catalogues, which contain full information concerning his bargains. In February next Mr. Walters will remove into the new and handsome premises which are being erected adjacent to the new Central Railway Station for him by the State Government. No expense is being spared that will tend to the comfort of visitors. Hydraulic lifts, fire escapes, reading and smoking rooms and other up-to-date accommodation will ‘be provided, and there will be an excellent cuisine and first-class attendance.
The new Prince of Wales Hotel, owned by the NSW Government and leased by Walters, opened for business in 1902, and became a popular public bar and place of resort for folk staying in Sydney during the early part of 1900.
The pub was described in 1903 as the only Government hotel property in the State. Located a stones throw from the Sydney Central Railway Station, the Prince of Wales had 35 rooms, in which country visitors found the best of accommodation, on completion. The cuisine of the dining apartments were arranged to seat 120 guests, and were in the hands of a first class chef.
The bars at the Prince of Wales were fitted in an up-to-date style, and were upholstered in solid mahogany and Russian leather, including a lounge bar and ladies’ refreshment room. The bottle department was one of the largest and best stocked in Sydney. The Sydney Evening News reported on December 23, 1904:
PRINCE OF WALES HOTEL, HAYMARKET.
The Prince of Wales Hotel, Haymarket, is one of the finest of the modern buildings that have been added to the city of late years, and may well be regarded as among Sydney’s leading hostelries. It was built by the Government for Its popular proprietor, Harry Walters, a well-known Sydney Boniface, and no expense was spared in its construction. Situated close to the present Railway Station, and within a stone’s throw of the one now in course of erection, it affords special facilities for country visitors. The internal arrangements are on a splendid scale, and could scarcely be excelled. On the first floor, approached by a. broad, easy staircase, are large and lofty drawing-rooms, elegantly furnished, with grand piano, lounges, easy chairs, etc, and sumptuous carpets. Leading from these is the lounge hall, artistically decorated, and in summer time a delightfully cool retreat. The dining-room on the same floor is a spacious and well-ventilated apartment, and the cuisine, under the supervision of an excellent chef, is all that could be desired. A feature of the establishment is the commodious airy bedrooms, also the large bathrooms, and the lavatories conveniently near. On the ground floor the extensive bottle department is furnished with all the best brands of wines, ales, and spirits. One of the latest specialties in connection with this hotel is a ladies refreshment room, situated in Gipps-street, and having a separate entrance. Afternoon tea and refreshments of all kinds are supplied there.
Not much is known about Harry Walters, except that he hosted the Prince of Wales Hotel for 20 years before his retirement and sale of the business to Sydney hoteliers, the Deaton brothers for about £60,000. The license was transferred from Walters to George Henry Deaton in July 1921.
Sydney brewer, Tooth and Company bought the freehold of the hotel at auction from the NSW State Government in 1934 for £55,000, and the pub continued to trade for another 36 years from the busy intersection.
Barman K. W. Tan, who once shook cocktails on Burns, Philp steamers, became popular pulling beers at the Prince of Wales Hotel during the war years 1940s. Tan, a refugee from Malaya, was placed at the hotel in 1942 to allow the release of a barman for military service. During his days as the number one barman on Pacific Island cruise ships, his “Tan Special” cocktail reportedly made passengers “blink and ask for more”. See The Time Gents story HERE.
Peter Vaubell posted on the Time Gents Facebook Page: “My Grandmother, Ethel Balfour (nee Young) was a barmaid there for over 40 years until her untimely death in the late 1950s. The pub became briefly famous for the murals upstairs painted by ‘The Witch of Kings Cross’, Rosaleen Norton. They were commissioned by the then publican Don Deaton; a member of the well-known family surname in the hotel industry.“
The Prince of Wales Hotel sadly closed for business on June 30, 1970, and Tooth and Company sold the property, including three adjoining shops. The entire block was demolished soon after to make way for a large office tower redvelopment.
The license of the Prince of Wales Hotel was transferred to the Centrepoint Tavern at the corner of Pitt, Market and Castlereagh Streets on July 14 1972.
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