BY Mick Roberts
|Bulli Family Hotel
The Family Hotel is something of an
institution in the former coal mining town of Bulli.
The pub's 'sign' reflects the way in which it has served the town for over 110
years with some drinkers claiming proudly four generations of family regulars!
The Family Hotel is the last of five pubs
that once attended to the thirsty miners of Bulli; a grand piece of Late
Victorian architecture, the pub is testimony to the wealth the famous 'black
diamonds' brought to the district.
Built at a cost of £3,078 for entrepreneur
and large property owner George Croft the hotel boasted a public bar, several
parlours, dining room, billiard room, and 28 bedrooms on completion in 1889. A
weatherboard entertainment hall, stables and coach house were separate buildings
at the rear of the property.
The local newspapers were impressed with the
'modern' appliances on offer such as electric bells connecting the upper floor
guests with servants working in the lower portion of the public house.
The Bulli Family Hotel was licensed on September 5 1889 at the Wollongong Court House with William Tory Dickson appointed first publican.
|The original Bulli Family Hotel
Dickson had a wealth of experience as an
hotelier previously hosting Tory's Kiama Hotel (still trading) and the Brighton
Hotel at Lady Robinson's Beach on Botany Bay. He paid the princely sum of £7 a
week rent for Bulli pub.
The greatest change to the external
appearance of the hotel came in 1910 after Resch's Brewery embarked on ambitious
extensions. The Family was almost doubled in size with the addition of a large
squat tower, lounge bar and extra bedrooms.
The most notorious of the long line of
publicans of the Family would have to be Edward Cullen who's ghost - some say -
still haunts the corridors of the popular watering hole.
Fifty-one year old Cullen was found hanged
in the first storey bathroom on November 5 1930.
Local legend has it that a heated argument
between Cullen and his wife in the public bar - after she threw a mug of beer
over him - lead to the suicide. Official reports are not so colourful and
reflect the difficulties of those times.
During an inquest at the Bulli Court House
the Coroner was told that Cullen was "very depressed on account of the
slackness of trade" and that "he was suffering from the effects of
drink and nervous depression". Tooth and Company documents confirm sales at
the pub were at an all time low because of the Great Depression. Cullen’s
death was “due to strangulation by hanging, wilfully inflicted by himself
whilst temporarily insane" the Coroner found.
The historic public house was nearly lost forever when Tooth and Company decided it was not worth renovating after failing health and safety regulations. As a result Tooth and Company surrendered the license on April Fools Day 1976.
rejoiced and drinkers drowned their sorrows as Bulli lost its last pub… well
so it seemed.
On hearing of demolition plans, the local
community successfully lobbied for the hotel to be listed on the National Trust
- preserving the Family for future generations as a historic building.
Local real estate agent, Eric Blain
purchased the hotel in 1977 restoring it and, to the excitement of many a Bulli
tippler, relicensing it on December 19 1983. The hotel was reopened to huge
thirsty crowds in January the following year.
The attractive architecture of the Bulli
Family Hotel continues to attract customers today as it has for over a century
and is well worth a visit.
Present licensee, Col Ritchie has been busy giving the Family a fresh new look since taking the reigns in 2000. The pub's name was officially changed to The Heritage Hotel on August 8 2000 and a new beer garden and renovated public bar have been recently completed.
Try a meal in the affordable bistro or restaurant, tempt your luck in the gaming room or simply relax and experience the atmosphere of yesteryear in the old world charm of the public bar.
|Part of Australia's history
George Channell's reminiscences of the
Family: A pie oven was placed in the pub during the 1950s and worked on an
honesty system. If you wanted a pie you
would place your money in a jar beside the oven and help yourself. However, the
honesty system soon faulted when the local dunny-carters, who were regulars
during their lunch break, fell into the habit of feeling through the oven for
the warmest pie. The honesty system was quickly 'canned'.
Newspaper article 1899: "Mr Farrell,
who is a early riser, espied what at first he thought was a black coat hanging
from the spiked gate of the Family Hotel, closer inspection proved that the
object hung was a near residents huge retriever. Evidently it had endeavoured to
jump the gate and had got impaled by the hindquarters. It was at once released
not much the worse. If that dog has any character it may consider such
William Evans reminiscences of the family
and 'the six o'clock swill' in the 1920s: "The Friday
night scene at the pub closing time was always attended by the kids. Right on
six o'clock the front doors were banged shut but through the side door we could
see the police sergeant moving among the drinkers. 'Right oh boys. Break it up.
Sink it and get going.' 'OK sarge. She's right.' Out the drinkers would stream
and continue their voluble arguments on the footpath…"
Mick Roberts is a journalist and hotel historian. He has had two books, The Little House on the Hill and The Local, published on the liquor industry and, besides other local history publications, is presently working on a comprehensive history of the liquor industry and hotels in the Illawarra region of NSW. His regular history feature, Looking Back, can be read in the Northern Leader newspaper distributed throughout the northern suburbs of Wollongong NSW. These feature articles also appear at his Looking Back website www.slackycreek.fcpages.com
Mick is always on the lookout for pub yarns, stories, information and old photos and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or PO BOX 5148 Wollongong 2500.
Take a break from drinking like the author of this article did - Read why and how in his book Between Drinks: Escape the Routine, Take Control and Join the Clear Thinkers