The London Hotel is one of the oldest pubs in Sydney and has been operating non-stop since 1870. It started life as a small corner shop in 1857 and became the Golden Eagle Hotel. Its name was changed to The Circular Saw, the London Tavern, and eventually The London Hotel in 1883. The building’s smooth sandstone is typical of 1850’s Victorian style and was built on 550 acres of land which was granted to Surgeon William Balmain in 1800. In 1836, the land was sold in parcels at auction and stonemason John Hardman was the first to move in and develop property on Darling Street in 1857.
The stonemason and the merchant
Hardman’s building was listed as a shop, and there is evidence to show that he operated as a corner supplier, but later records show that he was listed as a stonemason and owned five more houses on Darling Street. In 1869 a timber merchant named John Booth bought the property and converted it into a hotel the following year. Booth lent it to Christopher Bate and after refurbishment, the Golden Eagle became the first pub on Darling Street to open its doors to thirsty patrons. Two years later its name changed to the Circular Saw due to the noise of steam driven circular saws echoing around Balmain as they cut planks for boats being built at Mort’s Shipyard down by the waterside during the 19th century.
The London Tavern
It became the “London Tavern” in 1874-78. Booth sold the Darling Street portion of the land with the hotel to Elizabeth Isaacs in 1876. She let the building to James Alexander Brodie in 1880. A seven year lease was formalised in 1883 and included the “London Hotel” and bar fittings, bar engine, billiard table. Brodie bought the property in 1890 and let the premises to Fred A Allen. A number of other licensees followed. Brodie returned to run the Hotel in 1909 and continued until 1914 when he sold to Tooheys Ltd. In about 1928 the brewery demolished No. 232 and extended the hotel. Public records suggest that the rendered parapet and awning were added about this time.
Locals say that The London Hotel had a couple of famous regulars in Germaine Greer and Clive James when they lived in the area. It is said that they are best remembered for pursuing a Sydney pub guide, which was said to be put together in The London Hotel.
The London Hotel today
Today the Stevens family try to keep the hotel as authentic as possible, retaining an old-world feel, but at the same time brimming with Balmain’s positive vibe. The pub is dog friendly and offers sports on TV, five quality deals a week, a bar menu, a fine dining restaurant, great beers on tap, an extensive wine selection, cocktails, bottled beer, ciders and more. Above all else The London Hotel is a place to make friends and a place to bring your friends.