Thursday, July 7, 2011

Edinburgh Castle Hotel: Symond Street's sole survivor

Edinburgh Castle Hotel in the centre of an Upper Symonds Street scene, 8 February 1928, photographer James D Richardson. 
Ref 4-2235, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Council Libraries.

There were at least three hotels along Upper Symonds Street in 1905: the Edinburgh Castle (proprietor, William James Brewin), Eden Vine (Maria Ballin), and the Queens Hotel - later the Astor - (Victor Cornaga). Only the Edinburgh Castle survives. It was the first, and now it is the last.

Above, thanks to the Sir George Grey Special Collections, you can see the Edinburgh Castle on the corner of Newton Road and Symonds Street, where it has remained since 1864 -- but in the days of clanging trams in the late 1920s.

On 10 August 1864, David Bunn and Richard Matthews sold Lots 9 and 10 of Allotment 2, Section 7 of Suburbs of Auckland, on which the hotel now stands, to builder and carpenter Andrew Clow for £440 15/-. We've seen seen Clow around in 1860s Auckland before -- another building he worked on was the O'Connell Street furniture factory for James Halyday. Immediately Clow took out a £600 mortgage which was discharged quickly on 31 March 1865, and a day later the land “with all buildings thereon erected” was sold to farmer Thomas Aitken for £2000. The next month, Thomas Aitken successfully applied for a license for the Edinburgh Castle Hotel, "Khyber Pass Road", according to the Southern Cross, 18 April. But not without a bit of a fight from nearby residents. After all, this was the first pub in the area at that time. Perhaps they had thought they had escaped the "dens of iniquity" in the city centre ...

On the application of Thomas Aitken, for the Edinburgh Castle Hotel , Kyber Pass Road, Mr. Weston said be was instructed by a number of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood to oppose the granting of the license. He read a petition, signed by sixty residents in Symonds street, and the neighbourhood, which contended that there was no need for a hotel in that neighbourhood, and that such a place would be likely to interfere with the peace of the neighbourhood.

Mr. Beveridge, for the applicant, stated that Mr. Weston had admitted there was no hotel within half a mile of this house, and he thought that, taking into consideration the rapid growth of the locality, such an admission might settle the question. He was sure there was not a more necessary case on the list. Granted. 
Southern Cross 19 April 1865

Aitken didn't remain associated with the Edinburgh Castle for long. While he initially held the area lead, that ended when William Galbraith built the Eden Vine in 1866. He defaulted on mortgages and lost title to the property in July 1868 to publican John Clark. During Aitken's time, at least, there were waiters employed there, and a billiards area, with games priced at 6d (or 9d if you preferred a light).

In 1868, Henry Fuller became the licensee. This was a time when prohibition campaigners were gathering strength to close the hotels down, and the Edinburgh Castle was on the list. This letter comes from Thomas Brown Hannaford to the Southern Cross, 18 April 1871.

It appears the Auckland Alliance Association have made a "trial trip," and endeavoured to shut up the Edinburgh Castle Hotel, the York Hotel [East Street, Newton], the Newton Hotel [run by widow Ellen Lawless, Karangahape Road, see below], and the Queen's Hotel. As regards the two former, they may be the hotbeds of iniquity or very patterns of propriety for aught I am aware of, being unacquainted with either the houses or their landlords; but the proprietors of the two latter I do know, and it is through that knowledge you are troubled with this my present communication.

The peculiar locality within which the foregoing hotels are situated causes me to suspect a certain fussy South Newton professor of the magic lantern as the prime mover in the crusade. [Possibly, he meant John Waddell, a baker and magic lantern entertainer in the area at that time.] If I am correct in my surmise, I think that gentleman might have exhibited more Christianlike feeling in his mode of procedure, and remembered that, although he may at the present moment be a rigid teetotaller, he was at one time an out-and-out Bacchanal (at least, he told me so one day at Mount Eden). It has been a cause of some surprise that a public-house near the Newton Hotel was not "spotted" as well as the rest. I think, however, that is easily explained: one of the members of the Alliance lives near it, and finds it handy to pop into for his supper beer (I have seen him go and get it).

Had the leaders of the movement tackled such men as Copland, Sceats, Perkins, and others I could name, although I might have my own opinion of the advisability or wisdom in shutting up known respectable and useful houses of public convenience, I should, however, have admired the pluck they had exhibited in so doing; but to single out and swoop down upon a poor unprotected widow (the landlady of one of the houses), against whom not one word of complaint has been ever breathed, and the quiet inoffensive landlord of the other, who I verily believe would as soon see the Evil One enter his doors as a drunken man, and who is well known invariably to refuse liquor to an intoxicated individual, is so mean, so sneaky, so cowardly. —I am, &c., T. B. Hannaford, High-street.
In May 1871, Fuller took a newspaper letter writer, Newton resident and land surveyor, Francis Cherry, to court on a charge of libel after Cherry's letter was published in the Evening News:

"Something has been said about the separate character or standing of the houses. Individually, I know nothing against two of these houses, the York and the Queen, except the one fact that they are licensed to sell liquors; against their keepers or general conduct I say nothing; but I have heard and seen enough against the other two. If scenes of drunkenness and cases of gross indecency in the neighbourhood of, and traceable to either of these houses, are of any consequence, then the residents would not merely have been doing their duty, but acting in self defence, in seeking to close them. If children going to, or returning from the Sabbath school are to be familiarised to hearing and seeing what no respectable parent would wish his children to see and hear, then a house at the Symonds-street end of Newton Road is a thing to be tolerated; but such is neither the wish nor the opinion of yours, C."
It appears that, in early June 1871, Cherry was found not guilty.

Auckland Star 9 September 1871

In February 1873, Fuller's license was transferred to Andrew Pollack. Pollack "thoroughly refitted" the hotel, and proclaimed that he dealt in only the best brands. But, by January 1874, Pollack's business was in trouble. Advertisements appeared for the auction of "beer engines", bar fittings, and the kitchen range, by order under bill of sale. Pollack wasn't able to keep up with his debts. Soon after, he was on the run from the police.

Andrew Pollock was charged with failing to keep a light burning in his lamp over the principal door of his licensed public house known by the sign of the Edinburgh Castle Hotel, from sunset, on the 19th inst., to the rising of the sun on the following day. The defendant did not appear in answer to the summons, and a warrant was ordered for his apprehension.
Auckland Star 24 January 1871

The owner, Clark, put the hotel up for lease in February that year. The Auckland Star, 6 February 1874, reported that Clark had applied for a transfer of license from A Pollack to himself, and that the hotel had “been untenanted for some time past.” Later in the month, Clark transferred the license to Mrs Ellen Lawless, late of the Newton Hotel. Lawless remained as the licensee until 1881, when the licence was formally transferred to John Seccombe. Seccombe, though, was leasing the property from Clark from June 1878. Seccombe was son to Richard Seccombe, of Great Northern Brewery fame, so from that point on, the Edinburgh Castle came under the wing of one of the main brewery firms then in existence.

There were three tenders called for additions to the wooden hotel in the 1880s, one in April 1881 called for by architect George Bowring, (NZ Herald, 18 April 1881) one in 1883 by noted architect Edward Mahoney (Auckland Star, 25 October 1883) and the other by architect Thomas Searell in 1886. (NZ Herald, 9 October 1886)
The Bowring-designed alterations in 1881, constructed by William Gill, was blighted somewhat by a fatal accident.
A serious accident occurred last evening to Mr James Hedley, carpenter, by falling from a ladder. Mr Hedley was engaged on the work of extension at the Edinburgh Castle Hotel, on Mr Gill's contrast. About five o'clock Mr Hedley was descending by a ladder from the upper floor, when within five feet of the ground the ladder gave way, and Mr Hedley fell heavily to the ground. Assistance was immediately at hand, and as the unfortunate man had evidently sustained internal injuries, he was carried into the hotel. By order of Mr Gill, Dr. Tennant was sent for, and on his arrival he recommended that the sufferer should be removed to the district Hospital, He received the attention of Dr. Philson and Dr. Cooper who examined the patient and found that he had sustained severe internal injuries. We learn that Mr Hedley has a wife and five young children depending upon the profits of his labour. Mr Hedley's injuries were attended to at the Hospital, but he died shortly after midnight. An inquest will be held on the body at two o'clock to-morrow afternoon.
Auckland Star 12 May 1881

John Seccombe transferred the license for the hotel to John Thompson in June 1882. In March 1885, Thompson was involved in a buggy accident which, it was feared, left him with internal injuries. His wife Christina, aged 58, died at the hotel the following August. In October 1885, the hotel was taken over by Henry Maiden, who went into bankruptcy proceedings in February 1888. The license was transferred to John Wood in June 1888, at which time the hotel was described as being of 10 rooms, exclusive of those required for the publican's family. By October 1888, however, the license had been transferred yet again, this time to Patrick Quinlan. In May 1889, Quinlan was describing the hotel as being of 23 rooms, exclusive of those used by himself and his family. No further additions to the hotel, to explain the discrepancy between Wood's description and Quinlan's has been found in Papers Past.

An Auckland Trotting Association was formed at a meeting held in the Edinburgh Castle on 21 May 1890. This led to a trotting meeting at Potter's Park, Epsom on 21 June 1890. This club changed their name to the Onslow Trotting Club a little later -- part of the origins of the Auckland Trotting Club and their racing today at Alexandra Park.

Auckland Star 9 March 1892

On 25 April 1895, there was a meeting at the hotel to form an "Inanimate Bird Club". This appears to have been a club for the equivalent of skeet shooters.

In August 1898 the Great Northern Brewery finally purchased the building outright from Clark. The brewery company gave Quinlan notice to quit in October 1903, but he resisted. The company were keen at that stage to sell the hotel. Part of the original site was sold by the Great Northern Brewery in 1914 and in the same year more additions were completed. New Zealand Breweries took over the hotel in 1971, with a change of name to Lion Breweries in 1978.

And, here is the hotel as at 29 June 2011. Surface plaster hides its wooden construction, and some of the former decoration is missing from the top, but at least these days the huge billboards hiding the top storey have gone.  It is now advertised as a 24-hour sports bar, with 18 rooms as accommodation. I wonder if the owners will celebrate 150 years of sports and beers in 2015?


  1. Fabulous post Lisa... so sad in a way. Looked so much grander in it's earlier 'setting'


  2. Hi Lisa,
    I have just discoverd your blog and I am really enjoying reading all the posts you have made on the upper Symonds Street area. In fact my residence actually features in the top photo as "the cabin" which backs onto the historic Stable Lane. If you were up for it I would love to know more about the history of my building and also the lane and how it has been used over the years as it has always intrigued me. Hope you can help, Cheers Lilli

    1. I have just discovered my aunt and uncle Rigney may have run the pub around 1915-1935. It would great if anyone can confirm that (and perhaps provide more detail. Also their neices Mary B1894?) and Margaret (B1888?) lived/worked there. LYN

    2. You've checked Papers Past, I take it?

    3. Definitely. This was word of mouth info from Mary, my grandmother.

    4. Because if you look in Papers Past, you won't find anyone named Rigney associated with the hotel. Even in the electoral rolls, the only Rigney in that period was a labourer in East Auckland.

    5. Ah. Then the Rigney may have been Aunt Eileen (Ellen) and Uncle may have had some other family name. It would have been between 1914-1919. I wonder who was licencee during that time.

    6. I still say to you -- check Papers Past. Henry Arthur Lloyd took over the licence in 1915. By 1917, the licensee was Michael Keady (Wises Directory, 1918).

  3. Hi Lilli,

    I'll see what I can do. Cheers!


  4. Thanks so much Lisa. Exciting! Lilli

  5. Hi Lisa,
    My husbands family lived in the House Ravensbourne in Symonds Street.Can you find a photo of it? Has it survived? Thank you

  6. I'm not sure it has survived at this stage. That would have been near the Winstone Stables?