Pyrmont Hotel / Coopers Arms / Terminus

Corner of Harris and John Streets

Pyrmont Hotel, 1841

The Pyrmont Hotel was the first recorded in Pyrmont, on the corner of Harris and John Streets. The building was owned by William Allison (who lived locally and built J.D. Lang’s Presbyterian church in Mount Street). The premises were rented by Charles Cameron. He and his Scots family were migrants brought by Lang, so the pub’s atmosphere must have been Scottish and even Presbyterian. The Pyrmont Hotel was targeted by armed thieves and more seriously by the Teetotal Society of Pyrmont. The Camerons departed in 1846. Soon afterwards the building was sold as a house, with no hotel licence. In 1853 it changed hands again, and once more operated as a pub – Land’s End, managed by James Pratt.

When the Coopers Arms crossed Harris Street in the 1860s, it took over the corner block from Land’s End, and the rump was destroyed when The Terminus expanded.

The Coopers Arms, 1845

From 1845 to 1860, Peter Brennan was the licensee of The Coopers Arms. He owned the hotel at number 86 Harris Street and the house at number 88. Peter was born in 1805 and apprenticed to a cooper.

The 1828 Census lists him as a cooper working for Joseph Clayton in George Street, making wooden casks. Joseph is also listed with his wife Elizabeth and children. In 1830 he owned The Coopers Arms in George Street and in 1833 had another of the same name in Sussex Street. In 1836 Joseph died and the licensee of the two hotels that year was Elizabeth Clayton. Peter Brennan married Elizabeth in 1837 and became the licensee of the two city hotels and later also at Pyrmont. 

Responsible service of alcohol was not a feature of pub life. A local alcoholic died one Saturday afternoon in 1865, in the bar of his local, the Coopers Arms. A witness “saw him drink three glasses of beer, … he took each of the glasses in one breath; took the three in succession as fast as they were filled out… he could not finish the fourth, so he put it down on the counter, and in so doing staggered back” [and died].

Terminus Hotel, 1900

The Terminus Hotel reflected the transformation of Pyrmont.  As The Coopers Arms, a single-storey structure on Harris Street, it resembled other pubs named for their patrons.  By 1858 it entered official records and became a local social centre, the owners built a two-storey wing and renamed the pub, cashing in on the end of the new tram line.

 The pub was bought by Tooth brewers who, in 1917, replaced the old building with the present Federation style structure. New licencing laws prompted them to add accommodation and conform to new opening hours of 10am to 6pm, six days a week.

 The Terminus served only men (in the public bar): women (if accompanied by a man) sat in the Parlour, waiting for a man to buy them drinks.  In the late afternoon the public bar was overtaken by the “six o’clock swill”.

 In the 1950s the Ladies Parlour was united with the Public Bar, though social conventions survived longer.  The 1960s and 1970s were prosperous but industries were driving out residents, eroding the pub’s core clientele.  This decline provoked new entertainment, including topless barmaids, bringing patrons from further afield.  An ultimately fatal problem was the introduction of drink-driving laws.  The last active proprietors, the MacElwaine family, closed the pub in 1983, and the building and licence were bought by Susan and Isaac Wakil as a long-term investment.  For 33 years it was occupied by feral cats and occasional squatters.

 In 2016 the Wakils began selling their portfolio, and the Terminus was acquired by owners who intend to renovate it, protect its heritage values, and restore it to vibrant life.

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