Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The End of the Music: the Passing of the Gluepot Pub

Something I wrote many, many moons ago, in response to someone wanting info for a school project.

The Gluepot Pub, on the corner of Jervois and Ponsonby Road in Ponsonby, Auckland, started in 1903 under a more august name: The Ponsonby Hotel. However, over the 91 years it existed, it also went by the name Three Lamps, after the local landmark demarcation point for the city horse buses then trams in the first half of the 20th century, and especially after the local businessmen’s association had an imitation set affixed to the front of the building in the early 1950s, following the demise of the original set.

But, to Aucklanders in the main, it was the Gluepot, derived from a glue factory next door which “served many timber joiners and furniture makers in the area”, according to the Auckland City Harbour News (1994).

Dominion Breweries bought the pub in the early 1940s, and rebuilt it in concrete in 1947 apparently after the wooden verandah was demolished. It was later expanded to provide extra storage and cooling facilities, and by the 1970s had two bottle shops, a wholesaler and five bars. One of the bars, the Vista Bar, held special memories for quite a number of local residents. One, Kerry Bracewell of Herne Bay, wrote in June 1994 in the local paper: “[it was] one of the few old fashioned public bars in the area where a working class person can go after work and relax in a comfortable atmosphere. It also fulfils a similar role for a number of elderly, less well-off members of the community. It is also irreplaceable as a serious live music venue.”

It was as a music venue, after the advent of the “rock’n’roll era”, that the Gluepot achieved legendary status in the minds of many Aucklanders. It was a well-known base for local bands, such as Hello Sailor in the 1970s, and saw other artists and bands such as Graham Brazier, DD Smash and Blam Blam Blam play there. International stars such as Mick Jagger, Midnight Oil and Canned Heat were also hosted. The sound of drums beating into the night is still fondly remembered.

However, around the Gluepot, Ponsonby was changing. The former working class suburb started to drastically alter as the district was seen as upmarket, the place of residences for professionals and the well-to-do. Wally James, a staff member who had worked there for 24 years, told the local paper that “it was on the cards” that the pub would be sold. “Once 5 Polynesians came in for 5 crates of beer. Now you get 1 yuppy for a bottle of wine and a six-pack”. In its heyday, the Gluepot had 78 staff. By mid 1994, that was down to 30.

A concerted effort was tried at the last minute to try to save the pub. Dominion Breweries negotiated the sale of the Gluepot in early May 1994 to Westmark Investments, and from then until the end of October, when it closed over Labour Weekend, ‘Operation Gluepot” ran a frantic campaign of faxes and letters, appeals to Auckland City and local politicians, as well as appeals to the Historic Places Trust for heritage protection, especially on the grounds of a 140-year-old well believed to be under the site. The sale went through on 30 October, and in early November the Historic Places Trust announced it could only offer a category 2 status – not enough to prevent the Gluepot being gutted for redevelopment. Ironically, and perhaps tragically, the full protection status only came through in early January 1995, after the building effectively was no more.


  1. In late 1976, Eddy Cooke,promoter, and I started a disco in the upstairs bar of the Gluepot.We hired a 32mm projector each weekend and showed the limited number of song film clips that were available from the record companies in those days. Early '77 Dragon returned from a tour in Oz, just after the release of "April Sun in Cuba". Eddy managed to book them for 3 nights at the Gluepot, and they turned up with a hired stage lighting rig from Selecon Reid. Very simple stuff back then,(profile spots and fresnels) I don't think Par 56s or 64s were even available in NZ then due to the severe import restrictions of the time. NZ punters of the 70s weren't used to seeing pub bands with lightshows so Gluepot manager Les Wilson, Eddy and I decided to install an in house system.I was allocated that job, and what a job it was too. With next to no pro equipment available, everything had to be made. I bought a single Par 64 can, (brought over from Oz by someone), stripped it, then had various engineering companies manufacture the components to make up 40 of them. An early Theatrelight 20 channel dimmerboard, was coupled with a keyboard to give "flashkeys" and 2 x 4 channel chasers and a sound to light unit was installed to give movement and variety to the lightshow.Over time it became quite impressive, and bands such as Hello Sailor, The Dudes, Streettalk, Ariel, The Crocodiles,Mother Goose, Toy Love, Citizen Band, Larry Morris, Midge Marsden etc,etc all performed under those lights. I left for Melbourne in '83 to return for a weeks holiday in '95 to find no more Gluepot. Sadly, progress had taken its toll. NZs most famous rock venue was history. And, what a history !!!! Written by Jerry Sewter (now owner of The Winchester in Newton).

  2. Thank you very, very much, Jerry! Very cool to get first hand memories of places like the Gluepot. Cheers!

  3. I remenber the Pub... I went see the band called Satellite Spies Concert was a great time... I from Dunedin....Cheers Carolyn

  4. Thanks for the memory lane comments. I really loved the place. I'd been to a lotta gigs there of which one of my favourites was John Cale in the late 70s!

  5. I think that was later in 83 after I left for Melbourne.

  6. Comment accidentally deleted. From Rachel:

    "thanks for that Jerry; i was just trawling the net to find the name of a band i saw at the gluepot eons ago and came across yr piece.. I used to do theatre lighting (tho in the easy days, in the 90's) and I totally loved picturing you manufacturing your own home-bake par-cans... and I bet the punters of the day appreciated the new-look lighting you created. Good old kiwi ingenuity. On ya. Rachel."

  7. My grandfather Fred worked and drank in the Gluepot for many years from the mid 40's to the early 60's
    Fred was from Lancashire but someone drinking in the bar mistook him for a Yorkshireman, and that became an in-joke with the pub crowd. And as he spent more time in the pub both socialising and working than at home the nickname stuck and eventually followed him home, and he was known as Yorky for the rest of his days.
    On one occasion when Yorky had some holidays due he asked his son-in-law [my father] to cover his shift at the Gluepot for a couple of weeks. Dad turned up for work while Yorky was finishing his shift, and as dad took over the bar Yorky took over a seat on the other side of the bar where he stayed for two weeks until his enforced leave was over.
    Our family [and half of Ponsonby] always reckoned that the name 'Gluepot' referred to the large number of old soaks stuck to their seats from opening to closing time, day in, day out.

  8. I drank in this great hotel in the nineteen sixties what agreat hotel many years later I saw the great Australian paul Kelly perform there I am now In my 70s and live austrailia never forget the great great glue pot

  9. The K C Sunshine Band, and The Red House Rockers used to play mighty gigs down in the vista bar. It was full of total and utter alcoholics and KCs.

  10. Sorry, Lizzy Bee -- accidentally deleted your comment (too late at night!)

    "Went to many great gigs here early 90s, The Bats, Bailter Space, The Chills, The Clean, Lemonheads, LeRoi Brothers and heaven knows who else. Also remember a women's comedy festival with Lynda Topp and others."