Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Suiter's Hotel in Newmarket

"Looking up Khyber Pass Road from Broadway showing the Carlton Club Hotel, left, and the premises of George Kent and Sons and the Royal Cord Service Station in the Premier Buildings," ref 4-1886, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Council Libraries.

The building on the left of the image above, taken 19 September 1929, was then known as the Carlton Club Hotel. It had been known as that from 1888, and would so remain until 1992. But it had an earlier name, that of the Jubilee Hotel -- and several names after. 

The hotel started out under construction in 1887, with good foundations for success: a well-known architect (Edward Mahoney), a local builder of some note and reputation, William Edgerley; and a brewer to bankroll the whole project, one William J Suiter, who was at the time the first mayor of Newmarket Borough. The project, though proved to be a stormy one.

William Suiter arrived in Auckland in 1865, and by 1873 had set up the Eden Brewery along New North Road as W J Suiter & Co.
The new establishment, called the Eden Brewery, commenced business yesterday on the New North Road, but the event was less effective on the intellect of the people than was the opening of the new Market. On the day of the opening of the Market fifteen drunken persons were taken to the lock-up, while on the launch of the first barrel of Eden brewed of paradisaical flavour, only one drunkard was found in the streets. 
Auckland Star, 3 July 1873

The wooden buildings at the brewery caught fire on 16 March 1878, but were replaced by a brick version by July that year.
The new Eden brewery of Suiter and Company in the new North Road is so far complete as to enable the proprietors to recommence brewing on a more extensive scale than heretofore. The old building, as our readers will remember, was destroyed by fire which reduced it to ashes. The new brewery, erected nearly on the same site, is built of brick and stone, and consequently of a much more durable character, on a plan designed by Mr Suitor, in which every precaution has been taken to prevent a similar recurrence. 
 Auckland Star 23 July 1878

The thing that intrigues me about Suiter is that at this time he was an ardent member of the Newton Presbyterian Church, as well as being a brewer -- something which, I would have thought, would surely have caused more than a stir in the local kirk. He was also a steward at the Henderson's Mill Turf Club. Apparently involvement in the Sport of Kings did not preclude him from his faithful duties either. He was Chairman of the Eden Terrace Highway District in 1878 -- apparently always a busy man. He was nominated (successfully) for a seat on the Eden County Council that same year ... but in 1879 was declared bankrupt.

He bounced back from this, selling his Eden Brewery lock stock and barrel, clearing his debts, and setting up a new brewery on Khyber Pass called the Park Brewery with Duncan McNab in 1881-1882. He took over completely by late 1883. By December that year, he was taking on Hancock & Co in something of a price war, making sure his beer per gallon cut 3 shillings off the Hancock rate. An intriguing state of affairs, as the Park Brewery was set up on an acre of land leased on a 40 year term from Thomas Hancock (the Hancock & Co. brewery being adjacent). Part of the mortgage agreement for the brewery site was that McNab & Co could deal only with Hancock and partner C Sutton for supplies of malt. Sutton & Co. had already threatened to wind up McNab & Co in May 1883. (Auckland Star 10 July 1888)

During the next three years, the business was profitable, with the brewery buildings on Khyber Pass extended. It may have been during this period that rumours started as to the building of another hotel in Newmarket. In May 1886 Suiter sold 1/3 of the Park Brewery business to Frederick L Protheroe and used the proceeds to pay advances to several hotels.

Meanwhile, Newmarket Road Board had decided not to amalgamate with neighbouring Auckland City, and voted to become a borough in its own right. William Suiter, successful brewer and businessman in the area, became the first mayor of the borough from 1885-1887. In his term of office, he instigated the first local fire brigade. (Considering his fire at the Eden Brewery back in 1878, hardly surprising).

Apparently at this point -- he decided upon building a hotel in Newmarket.

Newmarket in the mid 1880s had three pre-existing hotels: the Royal George, newly rebuilt after a fire in 1884, just across the Manukau Road from the site Suiter had in mind for his new edifice; the Captain Cook, owned by Hancock & Co on Khyber Pass Road; and the Junction Hotel further along Manukau Road, where it forks away to the south. Newmarket was also well-known for brewing interests in the area, such as Hancock's, and John Logan Campbell and his Domain Brewery.

There were also those among his constituents on the side of temperance. The temperance movement in the area was a rising tide, manifested during the annual licensing committee elections in a sharp demarcation between two parties: the moderates in favour of continuance, and the total abstinence party. In 1886, both parties agreed on 10 o’clock closing, no extra hotels or bars in the district, and no Sunday trading. However, Newmarket Borough councillor William Edgerley was on the committee from at least 1886 – and it is ironic (and controversial at the time) that he was later, the next year, to be the builder of Newmarket’s new hotel. At the 1887 poll for local option, only 16 voted: 9 in favour of an increase in licenses, 7 against. A narrow win for the wets.

The hotel’s story began in earnest with a May 1887 meeting of the Newmarket Borough Council, during which the Mayor “gave notice of motion proposing that the Council should erect a £300 statue of the Queen on the top of the front corner of the proposed Jubilee Hotel, at Newmarket, with a suitable inscription underneath.” (NZ Herald, 27 May 1887) Well, the statue idea was eventually altered to that of erecting a town clock -- but the proposed hotel retained its Jubilee name, in honour of the Queen's 50th anniversary.

The Jubilee Hotel is unusual in that it had its first license granted when, really, it didn’t exist except as a muddy hole in the ground with foundations. Following their own interpretation of a sub-section of the Licensing Act of the time, the Committee granted a provisional licence to Frederick L Protheroe (on behalf of Suiter & Co) on seeing the plans for the building at the application approval meeting in June 1887. (Star, 8 June 1887)  Despite the low turnout at the local option poll, 125 signed a petition against granting a license for what was later described as “a large pit at the corner, which had been excavated a few days previously, and which contained about three feet of water … it was playfully remarked at the time that the only accommodation it could afford would be to bury the people in the neighbourhood.” (NZ Herald 6 June 1888) The licensee of the Royal George Hotel also appeared in opposition to the granting of the license for the Jubilee Hotel (NZ Herald 8 June 1887) (Suiter had tried to buy that hotel from Mr. Warnock prior to purchasing the corner site across the road, but was declined - Star 10 March 1888) but it was raised at the meeting that Warnock had been warned that his license would be revoked the previous year if he didn’t raise the standards of his establishment. It would appear that the Committee viewed the grandly-styled Jubilee Hotel as a good replacement for the Royal George (the latter, however, did keep its license anyway). Of course, the awarding of the building tender by architect Edward Mahoney to William Edgerley caused a stir -- seeing as Edgerley was one of those who had granted Suiter his hole-in-the-ground license.

The building was described as being “half up” in late August when a ratepayers’ petition was presented to the Supreme Court to ask that the licensing committee’s decision be overturned. (Star, 10 March 1888) This indeed did happen, because it was found that the committee’s interpretation of the Act was incorrect. (Star 31 August 1887) William Edgerley denied any impropriety on his part in a letter to the Auckland Star published the day after the decision.

Sir,—His Honor Judge Ward, in his decision yesterday re the Jubilee Hotel case, made a sweeping accusation with regard to myself that I am sure he will very much regret when he hears the real facts of the case stated before him. The facts are these:

I am one of the Licensing Commissioners of Newmarket, and in that capacity adjudicated upon license for the proposed Jubilee Hotel. As a builder and contractor I was subsequently the successful tenderer for the hotel against 14 others in Mr Mahoney's office, being £45 below the next lowest tenderer. The time that elapsed from the granting of the license until tenders were opened would be about three weeks. The work, on foundations referred to by Judge Ward, was done by Messrs Suiter and Protheroe previous to the granting of the license and was done with a view of ascertaining the depth the rock lay from the surface, etc. so as to give some data for contractors to tender on. For Judge Ward to even hint that there was the slightest attempt at collusion is unjust both to myself and Messrs Suiter and Protheroe, as neither they nor anyone on their behalf ever held out any inducement to me to tender for the job or, in fact, tampered with me in any shape or form.

I wish I could say as much for the parties who are working behind the scenes, in opposition to the Jubilee Hotel.—l am, etc., William Edgerley, Builder. 

Auckland Star 1 September 1887

William Suiter thus had a grand establishment he was bound by contract to complete and to pay both the architect and the builder, and an extra rates bill on top of that – but was not allowed to sell a drop of beer therein. His business venture was proving to be a disastrously expensive one. It was felt by some that Suiter had faced during the whole affair “a combination of brewers [Samuel Jagger, of Hancock & Co], the hotelkeepers, and the Good Templars against another brewer.” (Star 10 March 1888) Having faced a total cost of £4,700 for both the land and the construction of the hotel, now without any real chance of having an association, excellent for trade, with the Queen’s Jubilee, Suiter fought back via local politics by backing a list of candidates for the licensing committee of 1888 that were in favour of increasing the district’s licenses, and would look favourably at granting one for his hotel. He published a circular detailing the issues of the previous year, where he stood, and how he felt hard-done by in terms of the legal debacle over the hotel. (Star 10 March 1888) On the 13 March 1888, there was a return of a majority of those in favour of Suiter and his hotel to the licensing committee (with J C Seccombe of the Great Northern Brewery entertaining Suiter, several Committee members and Suiter’s supporters at one of his hotels to celebrate.) (Star 14 March 1888) On the 5 June that year, the new committee granted a license to the now re-named Carlton Club Hotel. (Herald 6 June 1888)

By then Suiter had already sold the hotel to a Mr. Griffiths in April 1888 at a loss, and soon after was yet again declared bankrupt. 

But, of course, William Suiter had got his way in the end, despite that set-back -- a hotel erected where once there had been just a licensed hole in the ground, and in the face of seething local temperance supporters.

 He settled up his debts, sold the Park Brewery -- and moved to Melbourne.
Friends of Mr W. J. Suiter, formerly Mayor of Newmarket and well known in town, will be pleased to hear that he is doing remarkably well over in Melbourne. Through the influence of Mr Jesse King, of this city, he was given the position of second brewer in one of the largest breweries in the Victorian capital—the West End brewery in Flinders-street. There are between 70 and 80 hands employed by the company, and the weekly output goes over 840 hogsheads a week, besides a large quantity of bottled ale and stout. Shortly after he received the appointment Mr Suiter was raised to the position of first brewer, a position he now holds, and has every probability of continuing to hold for some time. He has two of his sons over with him, and has now sent for the rest of his family. 
 Auckland Star 23 January 1889

Hancock & Co eventually obtained the hotel in 1935, then transferred to Lion Nathan in 1989. As I said before, it kept the name of the Carlton Club Hotel until 1992 -- then was renamed the Carlton Tavern and Brasserie, with an exterior paint job of yellow and blue. When I first came upon it in 2005, it was known as the Penny Black. Which might have pleased Suiter -- finally, for a while, Queen Victoria's head was on his hotel, in the form of the Penny Black stamp.

Auckland City Council scheduled the building as category B -- but today, after around 120 years, it is no longer a hotel. 489 Khyber Pass now a Nood store in pristine gleaming white livery -- a name (although quite respectable and innocent in reality) that would have raised more than a few eyebrows among the Newmarket temperance party.

I think Suiter might still get a chuckle out of that.

1 comment:

  1. And he says...they WEREN'T Colluding??? Naughty evil little men.....and darned clever at that. Love this post!