Sir Joseph Banks Hotel/Sir Joseph Banks Hotel – Botany, NSW

The Sir Joseph Banks Hotel, Botany Road.

While spending time in Botany yesterday, I walked past the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel on Botany Road, turned down Waratah Road, and found myself staring at…the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel? What?!

The Sir Joseph Banks Hotel, Anniversary Street.

This bigger hotel stood in front of a large park, so I’ll fill you in as we explore the park. It turned out that this hotel was the original Sir Joseph Banks Hotel, built in 1844. In 1920, the second Sir Joe was built on Botany Road, and the pub license was transferred to it, leaving the original free to become private units, which is how it is today.

Running track, Sir Joseph Banks Pleasure Gardens.

That’s the dull part out of the way. The interesting part of this place is the garden, which has provided Sydney with a few major firsts since 1850. Here, at the garden’s running track, foot racing events were *yawn* held throughout the 1880s during the… professional running boom…I know, I know. We’ll get there.

Also held at this running track was Australia’s first game of representative rugby league, in which the South Sydney Probables clashed with the Possibles. I’m guessing the Likelies played against the Maybes the week after.

Okay, now, the most interesting thing about this park is that it was home to Australia’s first zoo. The site’s owner at the time, a timber merchant named William Beaumont, improved the hotel and created the ‘Pleasure Gardens’, which is a more scandalous and giggle-inducing name today than it would have been back then. The gardens included the private zoo.

Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer, Sat 27 Sep, 1856.

It’s hard to imagine tigers and elephants wandering around the grounds these days, so to assist you, the City of Botany Bay has erected a series of life size animal statues. In a way it helps, but in another way it’s kind of creepy. Judge for yourself.

The park was entirely restored and upgraded for the Bicentenary in 1988, and the effort’s corporate sponsors were immortalised in concrete at the east end of the park.

It’s interesting to note just how few of these brand names are widely visible today. Ampol and Esso were both absorbed by their parent companies, proving once again that no one is safe from the Big Oil Killuminati. Maxwell Chemical Corporation, which is just the kind of name you want to see emblazoned on your pleasure garden, has moved offshore. Seagram seems to have disappeared from the corporate environment in New South Wales, at least. Even Pascol Paints has been absorbed by Wattyl, going against all advice you were ever given about mixing paints.

The most striking thing about this place is how secluded it feels. It’s off the main road, but the whole suburb of Botany feels a world away from Sydney as it is. I suppose in that regard, it was the perfect environment for a zoo. The most important feature of the garden today are the series of ponds that form protected wetlands. The whole park sits on land reclaimed from Botany Bay, so some attempt at looking after the marine life there is better than none at all.

Meanwhile, up at the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel Pub Edition, you’d never know any of it was there. Here, they just sit, and drink, and smoke, and bet, and watch the millionth game of rugby league played since the days of probability vs possibility.
I think about it this way: the goings-on of the Sir Joseph Banks Pub on Botany Road are indicative of all that’s probable, but the Victorian wonderland and colourful history of the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel and Pleasure Gardens are all about what’s possible.

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4 responses

  1. Peter Beaumont | Reply

    Thanks Michael for going to the trouble to write such a fun article on Botany and my Great Great Grandfather, William Beaumont.

    The original hotel is directly behind the Anniversary St building and faces the Park with the “Zoo Animals”. It’s much smaller that the one built in about the 1880s.

  2. This place has a lot of lovely memories for me (The old Sir Joseph’s Banks Hotel). I remember when people would come and stop their cars to just look at the old building, I used to get annoyed as I could be sitting out in the verandah reading my book in my pyjamas. I never really did appreciate how beautiful our home (this old building) was as I was very young then. I remember my friends at school would come and stay over and they would always wanted to be escorted to the bathroom as they were scared of the ghosts ;-))

    1. When did you live there?

  3. […] An advertisement at the time boasted that this relocated menagerie featured “…a real Bengal Tiger, a Black Bear of the Himalaya Mountains, and an Ape of extraordinary size and appearance”. Read more here. […]

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