Newcastle Hotel

The Newcastle Hotel on George Street, Sydney two years prior to its demolition in 1972
The Newcastle Hotel, a popular artists and workers pub on George Street, Sydney, 1970. (Image source: ANU Archive)
Inside the Newcastle Hotel on George Street, Sydney in 1968
The walls of the Newcastle Hotel famously lined with artwork, 1968. (Image source: Dictionary of Sydney)

On 7 October 1972 a premature farewell party was held at the Newcastle Hotel on the lower end of George Street, Sydney. The popular workers pub was the next venue to fall victim to The Rocks Redevelopment Scheme, due to be replaced by a US-owned Hyatt hotel block. On the night of the party, Jack Mundey delivered a passionate speech from the bar where he declared his intention to ‘preserve the best of Sydney.’ Nine days later he gathered with his fellow builders’ labourers at Lower Town Hall for a stop-work meeting where the issue of the Newcastle was considered. The vote came in at 2000 to 4 in favour of banning demolition just one day before the hotel was scheduled for closure. Encouraged by the ban, licensee Jim Buckley, applied for a renewal of his license and the Newcastle’s patrons arranged a protest meeting to support the ban.

The Newcastle Hotel held an international reputation as a bohemian meeting place where artists, both struggling and established, could sell and exhibit their work. It was famous for its paintings, including nudes, which adorned every wall in the building. The Newcastle was also a regular haunt of the Push, an intellectual subculture in Sydney from the late 1940s to early 1970s. It was a place where leading figures from art, academic, and literary circles rubbed elbows with wharfies, labourers, students, and working-class folk of all sorts. Unfortunately, after Buckley’s license was contested and transferred to the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority who contended that demolition of the hotel was important to Sydney’s progress. In May 1973, the Newcastle shut its doors for the last time and the building was eventually destroyed. In its place stands part of the shopping and office complex, Grosvenor Place.

Verity and Meredith Burgmann, Green bans, red union: the saving of a city, 1998; Frank Moorhouse, ‘The Newcastle Hotel,’ Dictionary of Sydney, 2014.

Research provided by Isabella Maher


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