Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Closed Hotels of South Australia - The Windsor Castle Hotel

The Windsor Castle Hotel


Situated on Victoria Square in Adelaide’s West End stood the Windsor Castle Hotel. For 103 years it operated as a city watering hole…but with a rough reputation, with proprietors and barman often having run-ins with the local law.

 Illegal gambling, opening after hours, selling alcohol illegally were just a few of the laws broken by staff in the bar, but also, the public drinkers were known for getting a little rowdy too!. One Mr James Turner, an elderly drinker, once caused an uproar that made the local newspapers. It was noted in the Advertiser that Mr Turner had had a little too much to drink and became enraged – he threw two glasses at the barman (smashing four other glasses at the time). In court Mr Turner admitted to being drunk before even entering the hotel. He wasn’t sure when, but someone cut a string on his waistcoat and stole his watch. When refused a drink at the Windsor Castle Hotel, he got enraged and grabbed a decanter, throwing it at bar staff before storming out of the hotel.

 In earlier years there was a near shoot out in the rear stables of the hotel when another customer refused to leave after being asked by the proprietor. The customer pulled a revolver and went into a rage promising to kill the owner if he didn’t get his way. The man was subdued, and dutifully reported to police. He was arrested and charged in a heated court case which saw the accused rant uncontrollably, and eventually be forced to serve time for his threats.

 There was a death on the hotels grounds as well. An old man who worked in the rear stables was standing on a platform some 8 feet high, when he fells backwards onto the ground below, fracturing his skull. He was taken to the hospital, but died early the next morning.
In the late 1940’s the hotel was bought by the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Co. Ltd. who intended to build an apartment complex on the site. After waiting for the hotel license to expire, the hotel was finally pulled down in 1954, with interior features sold via auction.

The hotel lasted 103 years, originally licensed by Mr Thomas Chalk on the 3rd of April 1851 – legend has it the land was originally purchased for 50 pounds and a wagon and oxen team
Now on the corner of Victoria Square and Franklin Street stands the MLC building. The building was ahead of its time when completed in 1957. At the time it was the tallest glass building in Adelaide. It also featured a weather beacon on top!!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Ghost of the Hangmans Noose

Ghost of the Hangmans Noose

 Most people take pride in their work, but Ben Ellis, Hangman for the Adelaide Gaol from around 1860 until the mid 1870's, and also hangman at Mount Gambier Gaol in the same period. Ellis took exceptional pride in his efforts to make sure he did the job precisely.
The Adelaide Gaol hangman lived on site within the gaol, part payment for being the most unpopular man in Adelaide, and doing the dirtiest job of all. Partly to keep him safe from the general public, and from released prisoners who may have made promises to condemned prisoners.
 His quarters were in a small apartment under the female dormitory. In an observation in an Adelaide newspaper in the late 1860's, it was noted how filthy Mr Ellis kept his room. It was also noted that fires would often break out inside, or near his particular dwelling.
 Mr Ellis only had one execution go wrong in his time as hang man, and that was of prisoner Charles Streitman in 1877. In this particular instance, Mr Ellis was hasty in his preparations, and didn’t not go about his job in his usual way. When it became time for the trap door to drop, Streitman, rebounded and got caught on the platform – it took him 22 minutes before death took him from hanging – an insufferable way to die.
 Ben Ellis was described ion one old newspaper as a hulk of a man with “alcohol” blemishes on his nose, a whisp of grey head and a shabby beard. A grumpy looking fellow whom lived in squalid conditions.
 Ellis went about his job without no complaint, until 1873, when Elizabeth Woolcock was due to be hung in the gaol. The first woman to be hung in Adelaide. Ellis protested her execution and from then on questioned his position as executioner.
 It wasn’t too much longer until Ellis found himself unemployed, and unemployable. Ellis ended up in the district court for vagrancy. His solicitor stated that he could not get a job anywhere in Adelaide due to his incredible unpopularity, from his previous career, and since being released from his position, had lived on the streets of Adelaide.
Ben Ellis would eventually pass away a vagrant, and be buried in a paupers grave in West Terrace Cemetery

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Celebrating South Australian's – Yett Soo War Way Lee

Celebrating South Australian's – Yett Soo War Way Lee

 Yett Soo War Way Lee was born in Tungkun near Canton in China in 1853. The son of a rice-miller, Way Lee married early and had a son with his wife, named Yett King Sum.
By 1874, Yett Soo had made his way to Sydney Australia. He had traveled alone, and whilst in Sydney lived with his uncle Way Kee. He traveled the eastern states seeking an education in schools in Sydney and Brisbane, before making his way to Adelaide.

  In Adelaide he studied the English language at the Adelaide City Mission and founded his own company “Way Lee Co.” an import company bringing in Tea, china and other imported goods and fireworks.
Way Lee's business was hugely successful in an era when the rise of racism against the Chinese in Australia was steadily on the rise (which would eventually lead to the anti-Chinese riots in gold mining towns like Ararat in Victoria )

 Way Lee's business was incredibly successful he opened stores right across the South Australian colony and in the Northern Territory and New South Wales. In South Australia his main store was located in Rundle Street, but he also had a store in Currie Street. Stores could also be found in South Australia at Quorn, Hawker, Millicent. In New South Wales at Beltana, Broken Hill, Wilcannia, Wentworth and Menindie and in the Northern Territory at Daly River.

Way Lee was a supporter of his community often giving money to local charities, and supporting local events. He always supported Chinese New Year, offering dinners for Adelaide's dignitaries and politicians and supplying fire works for for celebrations.

Way Lee was the first Australian to really open the way for trade between China and Australia. A fighter for the rights of Chinese immigrants, he fought for Chinese settlers to be offered a district solely for Chinese use.
 Way Lee also offered to bring to Australia, Chinese labourers to work at the Daly River Plantation in the Northern Territory.
 Way Lee was a great promoter of education to the  Chinese community, and worked hard to improve the working conditions and rights of his Chinese compatriots in Australia. He also worked to stop the import of Opium into the colony.
 Way Lee also raised money, and donated much of his won money, to be sent back to China to help feed people after chronic flooding, then droughts that were decimating the people of his homelands.

Way Lee was a Freemason and a respected member and leader of the local Chinese Community. He offered homes for many Chinese immigrants in Adelaide, way houses until they could afford better homes themselves.
 In 1889 Way Lee married Margaret McDonald, and together they had 4 children, Vera, Pretoria, Lily and Jack.
He spoke openly in the public about the treatment of his fellow country men in Australia by the Government, law and people and is quoted as saying “The Australian people are always very kind to me, but the law worse than the people”.
Way Lee died in 1909 of chronic nephritis and amyloid disease on August 21st 1909. Many of Adelaide's population travelled to West Terrace cemetery to witness the funeral of Way Lee, expecting odd Chinese death rites, but they were bitterly disappointed, as Way Lee was buried under common Presbyterian funeral rights.

For more on Yett Soo War Way Lee, please visit the following links: