The Bayswater Road building we now know as The Hampton began life more than a century ago as a stylish residential apartment block – which it is again today.
But for around 60 years in between, it was the Hampton Court Hotel, one of Sydney’s most famous and glamorous hotels.
The first building to occupy the site at 9 – 15 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross, was Goderich Lodge. The two-storey villa, designed by architect John Verge, was built on Woolloomooloo Hill (as the area was once known) between 1830 and 1833 for Thomas Macquoid, Sheriff of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. After Macquoid’s suicide in 1841, Goderich Lodge was occupied by William Grant Broughton, the first Anglican bishop in Australia, until he returned to England in 1852. The house then passed through several owners, including brewer Frederick Tooth and shipping magnate Captain Charles Smith, before being demolished around 1915.
From Hampton Court Flats to the Hampton Court Hotel
Shortly after Goderich Lodge was knocked down in 1915, the Hampton Court Flats were built in its place. In 1936, while the building was still a residential apartment block, a liquor licence was applied for. Judge Curlewis granted the licence because he believed “the experiment of having a residential apartment building in which residents might obtain liquor on the premises was worth trying.” In 1937, work began on converting Hampton Court Flats from a “well-known block of flats to a modern residential hotel.” Four flats on the ground floor were removed to make way for “a small bar, a spacious lounge, manager’s office, and other facilities.” The bar had a separate entrance on Pennys Lane.
By 1939, the Hampton Court Hotel was being promoted in The Farmer and Settler newspaper as offering “unique diversity in accommodation for the country visitor. Furnished flats, suites, or private bedrooms are all available. The whole equipment of this hotel is designed to add to the comfort and pleasure of patrons. Spacious lounges, a complete dining room service, and the full facilities of the saloon bar are available to visitors.”
The criminal element
Inevitably, the transition to hotel meant that now and then, a crime was committed at the Hampton Court Hotel.
In February 1939, a jury acquitted the Hampton Court Hotel’s head waiter, John Jones, of assaulting hotel patron Frederick Medhurst. Medhurst and his friends had been drinking in the hotel’s lounge for several hours, and he and Jones had come to blows after Jones refused to serve the party more drinks. Newspapers of the day reported that Medhurst’s ear was almost severed. Several months later, in September, a 24-year-old barmaid, Alma Williams, was held up in the hotel’s “bottle department”. The thief made off with £4, but not before Williams gave chase in a taxi. The thief escaped when the taxi was forced to stop behind a bus.
There was another theft at the hotel in 1950, when burglars broke into a hotel room and stole clothing and jewellery belonging to a wealthy grazier and his family who were in Sydney for the Royal Easter Show. And the Hampton Court Hotel’s hairdressing salon was the scene of an awful crime in 1955 when 24-year-old Phyllis Estriech was wounded by an attacker wielding a tomahawk. She was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital, where she received 15 stitches; a 44-year-old man was charged at Darlinghurst police station with assault causing actual bodily harm.
Fame and fortune
The Hampton Court Hotel came to be one of Sydney’s best-known hotels. A 1953 article described it as a “highly respectable haunt of the bourgeoisie.” In late 1954 it was announced that the hotel was to receive a £100,000 facelift, with plans for “new, ultra-modern bathrooms and new suites and bedrooms with private baths or showers” as well as redecoration and refurbishment of the existing accommodation. When the Hampton Court was sold in 1957 to a Melbourne hotel chain, £250,000 had already been spent on the renovation project – and it wasn’t finished. But the hotel’s buyer didn’t seem deterred, saying, “The object of the takeover is to provide a new-type hotel with all-American style facilities to encourage a bigger volume of United States and Canadian tourists.” The hotel certainly attracted big-name guests, including Elizabeth Taylor and her husband, Mike Todd, in 1957, as well as dancers from the Bolshoi Ballet.
The Hampton Court Hotel also played a role in Australian arts and culture, providing a backdrop for some of the scenes in the classic film ‘They’re a Weird Mob’, filmed in 1966. In the 1970s, it was the site of the first-known recording of iconic Australian rock band AC/DC, and in the 1980s, it was home to uber cool nightclub and live music venue Propaganda.
Tragedy at the Hampton Court Hotel
Over the years, the Hampton Court Hotel also saw its fair share of tragedy. On 21 January 1943, 20-year-old Keith Frederick Hughes, a RAAF airman, fell to his death from a ledge on the building’s seventh floor. Hughes was a keen photographer, and the coroner found he accidentally fell while trying to get a photo of the city views. Three years later, in 1946, there was another accidental death at the Hampton Court Hotel when an elderly man died from injuries he sustained falling down the stairs.
In 1953, “leading turf identity and wealthy property owner,” Frederick Williams, plunged to his death from the hotel’s fourth floor. Williams, a director of Hampton Court Limited, lived at the hotel. He had been in poor health for several years and rarely left his suite. Police theorised that he had accidentally staggered through an open window during an asthma attack.
The Hampton Court Hotel fires
In the 1990s, the Hampton Court Hotel’s fire safety came into question. Tragedy was narrowly avoided two days after Christmas in 1992 when, around 6.20pm, a fire broke out near the bar and grill area on the hotel’s ground floor. Fifty people were evacuated, with four taken to hospital suffering smoke inhalation. This was not the hotel’s first fire – only 18 months earlier, in 1991, 60 people were evacuated during a fire that was later deemed to have been deliberately lit. After fire officers attending the 1992 incident reported that the hotel’s fire doors were locked and its alarm detectors were not on, South Sydney Council attempted to have the hotel closed down while safety work was carried out.
The Hampton Court Hotel today
The Hampton Court Hotel closed its doors for the last time in 1998. Following an extensive redevelopment in the 2010s, the block has returned to its residential roots. The 126-apartment building is now known as The Hampton. But its hospitality past is not gone and forgotten. The New Hampton Hotel pub can be found on the ground floor, on the corner of Pennys Lane.
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