Friday, 12 July 2013

The Grumpy Mole's Predecessors

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The Grumpy Mole Saloon aka Tauranga Hotel

The next few weeks will see the end of 146 years history on the corner of Harington Street and The Strand when the Grumpy Mole bar and adjacent buildings are demolished.

Three hotels have stood on that site since John Chadwick built the first Tauranga Hotel in 1867 and leased it to Alexander Cook. There was a spacious bar on the ground floor with tap room, commercial room, kitchen, sculleries and pantry, with brick wine cellars at the rear. Upstairs were 15 bedrooms and dressing rooms, water closets, lavatories and a good bath room. On the same floor was a large room 60 feet long divided by folding doors. A tank held five hundred gallons of water above the first floor. Several of the rooms opened onto a balcony with harbour views.

As well as its commercial functions the hotel provided a room for public meetings, and one such well attended meeting in March 1868 called for the setting up of a Vigilance Committee in cooperation with Constable Sanderson for the purpose of detecting horse thieves because of the ‘continuance of horse stealing’.  One visualises a ‘Wild West’ atmosphere in the town whose population was made up of traders, and discharged soldiers.1

Businesses such as the Bay of Plenty Steam Navigation Company held their general meetings of shareholders at the Hotel.2  The Licensing Committee retained a military majority, chaired by Major Mair, and including Lieut Colonel Harington JP, Dr Nesbitt RM, and Major George and they renewed Alexander Cook’s licence in 1868 for a further year. Trade may not have been doing very well as twice by April 1868 Cook was prepared to sell up his stock in trade and household goods according to advertisements and hand bills of the time.3  In June 1868 Governor Bowen, the Superintendent of the Auckland Province Mr Gillies, and later Sir George Grey met the local population at the hotel, and coroners’ inquests were also held there.

Tauranga Hotel, c.1873-77, by Herbert Deveril
Image courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library
The Licencing Committee granted the licence to William H Bennett in 1871 and the hotel became Bennett’s Tauranga Family and Commercial Hotel. Several meetings were held there in 1872 for the purpose of organising a prospecting party to search for gold in the Kaimai Range.4  It was not only legal activities that occurred as in 1873 a man called Zelman was prosecuted for holding an illegal lottery in the hotel.5  On a happier note were the meetings to organise the St. Patrick’s Day regatta that took place on the harbour for many years.

Alexander Cook regained the licence in 1876.6  By the end of 1877 the four horse coach for Ohinemutu and Taupo left Cook’s Tauranga Hotel on Monday and Thursday mornings. The return fare to Ohinemutu cost ten shillings with a 14 pound luggage allowance.7

In 1879 Chadwick saw a need to extend the premises both along the Strand and up Harington Street bringing the number of bedrooms up to 27, a new billiard room, converting the old billiard room to a dining room and “every requisite of a first class hotel”.8  Alexander Cook held the licence again until John Menzies, formerly of Auckland took it over in July 1879.9

It all came to an end in June 1881 when a fire cleared the whole block of buildings between Harington and Hamilton Streets. Thought to have started in Mr Lee’s store and raging for two hours a chain of buckets were ineffectual in controlling the fire. When the hotel caught the flames spread across Harington Street to Chadwick, RC Jordan and Wrigley’s premises and then to the Mechanics’ Institute. The Government Building had a narrow escape as the sparks and burning material reached across Willow Street. Although the Bay of Plenty Times building burned they hoped to only miss one issue of the paper before publishing again next Saturday. There was no fire brigade at the time or hand pump but  ”the Maoris who are in great force in the town, worked splendidly in trying to save all the goods.” The promptness of Mr Asher, the fire inspector helped save Mr Wrigley’s grain store.10

1. Daily Southern Cross, 24 March 1868
2. New Zealand Herald, 11 April 1868
3. DSC 21 April 1868
4. DSC 19 April 1872
5. NZH 31 December 1873
6. NZH 12 June 1876
7. Bay of Plenty Times, 29 December 1877
8. NZH 23 May 1879
9. Auckland Star, 29 May 1879
10. Evening Post 1 June 1881

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