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Home > London > SW3 > The Australian

The Australian

Picture source: Colin Barber


 
The Australian was situated at 26 Milner Street. This pub closed in 2006 to be redeveloped for flats. It had a long cricketing tradition due to a long lost cricket pitch where Lennox Gardens is now situated, probably pre dating the pub.
 
In 1960 almost just around the corner from our house in Moore Street was a pub named the “Australian” which had reputedly acquired this name when it had being frequented in the early 19th century by Australian cricket players who had participated in a match in nearby Lennox gardens before the creation of the Oval Cricket Ground. Prior to our crowd moving into Moore Street this pub was a quiet “local” for the people in the immediate area. We as a group were about soon to change this location for many years to come as of the most popular Saturday drinking spots in town for the young social set. Instead of appearing at the “Grenner’s” (The Grenadier), in Wilton Row on Saturday mornings we were now to be found in the “Aussie” and in a short time our friends soon joined us at the “Aussie” and also at nighttimes during the week. The owner of this Pub was extremely friendly and his level of cooperation extended to be very helpful in moments of emergency. When we suddenly found ourselves in need of some alcohol after the end of the legal licensing hours we could visit his side door and he would then sell us a bottle providing it was not too late in the evening.
Before turning the “Aussie” into a too popular a place I was able to meet some interesting older people. It was here that I met David (Fruity) Metcalfe who had been the Equerry to the Prince of Wales (Edward VIII). Although being older than myself he was a friendly to me and told me the following story as to why he lost his position as the Equerry. During a trip abroad they had occasion to visit to the town of Marseilles and the Prince having completed his royal duties expressed his desire to visit a night club. Fruity chose one that later proved to be somewhat in keeping with his name. The Prince became enamoured with one of the hostesses and by royal request Fruity arranged for the lady to later that night visit the Prince’s accommodation. The problem was that the lady quickly turned out to be a man in drag and the Prince was understandably very upset. Word of this incident got back to the Palace and when the King heard he was not at all amused with the inevitably result.
Michael Tannock (January 2015)
 
The Australian was a wonderful pub, very popular, friendly crowd and staff. Rested at bottom of Rawlings St where my girlfriend at the time lived. Ashamed to learn of its demise. Was sitting there once, waiting on a friend...i was a struggling American novelist, broke as usual, and some Englishman introduced himself to me, chatted a bit, then handed me 20 pounds, wished me luck, and left. True story. 
TJR McDowell (February 2019)
 
I was a regular from 1963-75.
While the Chelsea "set" were using the "Potters" and the "Six Bells" in the Kings Road, the Australian was the center of some of the most curious "Old Boys" action.
The Landlord - Ted Saunders, his mother Elsie, and his son Barry (with Barbara) were the best folks ever. They acted as a a Bank, post box (holding mail sometimes for months), and people that one could go to for advice.
The drinking members were something else .................
The public bar was full of Dukes, Lords and Ladies - as well as old miltary members - and of course the old boys from Eton, Haileybury, Bedford, Oundle - just to name a few old schools. Looking at them, however, you would think that they had just popped in from the building site around the corner for a game of darts.
The saloon was full of business people from around the area, who had absolutely no idea of who was on the other side of the glass partition.
There were mercenaries on leave from Africa, there were writers, composers, film directors and would-be actors (Lazenby tried at one time to be accepted but was elbowed out). One guy ran two old torpedo boats from Spain to Africa and across the channel to France for high paying "guests" and cargo, one of which carried "Lucky" Lucan on his last, fast departure to the Continent.
The mercenaries were something else - I will never forget when the "three day war" broke out. On outbreak about five of them called the Israeli Embassy - on the second day they had their papers, and on the third day, while waiting at Heathrow for their flight they were told the war is over. The next day there was one helluva party at the Australian.
Being in the center of Chelsea, it was just a walk from Knightsbrige, Belgravia, South Kensington. Maybe this is what made it so attractive to the "Old School" crowd. There was another well known pub down the road - the Admiral Codrington (The "Cod") - but it was the Australian that was the magnet for the rich and the playboys. When the pub shut at eleven, for many the "Colony Club" in Berkeley Square was the next stop.
And one last note, the Australian acted as an "employment Agency" for a lot of fun jobs. Everybody (in the public bar) knew everybody - and there was always an abundance of short, exciting jobs somewhere -
There are two pictures that I will always carry in my head - my friends paying darts with pints in their hands - and in Summer the crowd on the pavement outside on a Saturday Lunchtime/Evening.
No doubt about it, the Australian was the pivotal point of my life in the mid-sixties, early seventies. Now getting towards my eighties, it is kind of funny to send you my recollections.
All in all, one could probably write a few books on activities that began at the "Australian".
Warren Smith (July 2020)
 
For only about one year 1976-1977 my family converged at 48 Rawlings Street in London. It was odd we found ourselves in one place at one time: two parents and four children. At the time Ray was around 24, Andrea maybe 20, John (me) was just-turned 19 and little brother Mike was 14. Very quickly our attention turned toward The Australian, just around the corner on 26 Milner Street. Being native Californians made us naturally curious about local social life, plus all of us could easily share a quick pint on a moment’s notice, so The Australian became our family pub, our family hangout. New to London, The Australian and its clientele became our entry point into the English capital. But, we Americans who are so gregarious and always looking for new friends, found the customers at The Australian a bit tight-lipped, hard to understand, and somewhat standoffish. What broke the ice was our oldest brother Ray. An extremely clever and outgoing guy, he said, “John, let’s learn darts. When we can beat everyone at The Australian we will have them eating out of our hands.” I cannot say he was prophetic, but in fact we did get quite good at darts, we did utterly destroy the local competition, and within just a couple of weeks we had lifelong friends. Over the coming months one could find a member of the Sandwick family at The Australian at just about any time of day or night. Even our parents, otherwise staid people, were happy to sit for hours in that pub. I got a job at Harrods, and often stopped at The Australian on my way home from work. BTW, short side story: Our landlord on Rawlings Street offered to sell the townhouse for $75,000 equivalent. Mother was furious at father for even thinking about it. Remember, back then the pound traded at about five to one USD. It was a different, pre-Thatcher time in the United Kingdom. So, maybe my mother’s fears were founded at that time and place. In the end, we did not buy the townhouse. To our chagrin we now know it’s worth at least $4 million. Awe, Mom, what did you do? To close, we loved our sojourns at The Australian, and really felt it was our home pub. Living in London as expatriates is never easy. Sloane Rangers, the kind that inhabited The Australian increasingly then and over the years, are not known to be friendly folk. But, with persistence and perhaps a good dart game we became locals at The Australian. It is a time and place we cherish.

Within 18 months of discovering The Australian and making it our family pub, I moved to California to start university, my sister moved to Abu Dhabi to start a job, and my parents and younger brother moved to Kuwait. By then our oldest brother Ray was hanging out with a girlfriend in the neighborhood of The Australian, but he found work first in Ireland and then via Stavanger in the North Sea. He traveled constantly to job sites in the oil industry.  For the next two years we really didn’t know where Ray was on any given day, week, or month.  So, each of us would write to Ray care of The Australian, where the local barman would insure the letters were delivered to our brother/son each time he passed through London. The Australian was our means of family communication!  Our beloved Raynard Sandwick Jr. passed away about 11 years ago from cancer. He would have loved to see this website and the entries posted here. I am sure quite a few customers of The Australian from the late 1970s would remember him, a handsome, brash, outgoing, larger-than-life Californian who loved his times in London, and his many friends at The Australian.

John Sandwick (February 2021)
 

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Name Dates Comments
Pat Lomax 1962/1965 I was a customer -with by boy friend (now husband of 53 years !) We used to visit The Australian on a Friday evening - my husband played rugby at London Welsh and his fellow player & Welshman , John Jones, worked part time as a barman there. We had some great evenings there - John always wore a waist coat with tiny Guinness badge buttons and I still have a treasured memento he gave me -a Guinness badge 'brooch' !
Adrian Batten 1950/1972 Was customer ages 6 to 28. Living firstly across the street at 26 Milner St. & subsequently around corner at 42 Rawlings St. In 50s as a kid most of my lunches came on big white china dishes from the pub. I was often deposited at the table outside where I made many friends & developed a taste for pineapple juice.