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Theatre Royal, Hindley Street, Adelaide, 1874

Photo taken 31 August 1874

State Library Catalogue Reference: B 1012

Hindley Street, Adelaide, north side. This view was taken in September 1874. The right side of the Theatre Royal Hotel is 24 yards east of Peel Street. The Theatre Royal Hotel was established in 1868 by Samuel Lazar, at the same time as the Theatre itself. The hotel and theatre were rebuilt in 1878. The hotel operated until 1916 but the theatre continued until the building was demolished in 1962 to make way for a car park...

[By a Midnight Rambler]
Adelaide life is many-sided, and one of its darker sides has of late been becoming so black — or so much talked of— as to cast its sombre shadow over the whole. Within, the last month or two a deputation of ministers and others waited on the Government to complain of the real or fancied increase of the social evil in the city; and now the cry is once more raised that some of the public-houses where abandoned women and dis-solute men most do congregate have become such plague-spots as to seriously endanger the moral welfare of the citizens, and particularly of the rising generation. The Press has teemed with letters on the subject, the pulpit has referred to it in tones of solemn warning, and the police have increased their wonted vigilance, and have made raid after raid upon women and men of notoriously bad character. Still the hydraheaded evil remains apparently unchecked — the Augean stable being too large and too foul to be readily cleansed — and lately the Superintendent of Police has been personally inspecting some of the public-houses complained of. The other evening I accompanied him in his visitations. It was Saturday night and the houses were all in full swing. Our visits were not ceremonious, as we were conducted by a detective who seemed quite familiar with the means of entrance to and exit from the different places, as well as the characters and histories of many of the persons found there. Happy the people against whom there is no record in such cases Let none imagine that the ' sights' were not seen because we were accompanied by the majesty of the law. The entrances to most of the places were very open — in fact far too open — and in two or three instances the crowd of libertines and pleasure - seekers was so dense and so actively engaged that the presence of two or three extra visitors was hardly noticed. In a few other cases there was the slinking into a corner or the sidling gradually out of the room that betokened either the guilty conscience or the desire to avoid observation and comment. But each operation was about as successful us the ostrich's proverbial method of hiding itself from the view of its pursuers. The first of the resorts of the demi monde we visited was| the much-talked of saddling paddock in connection with the Theatre Royal Hotel. It was then only half-past 9 o'clock and the place was not filled as it nearly always is after the opera is over — or the drama, or whatever there has been on the boards at the Royal But even at this comparatively early hour it was half-filled with the gay and fair (if I may use such words in their popular and not their literal signification). The room is a small one — perhaps 15 ft. by 20 ft— and at one end is a counter at which drink is supplied to the women who frequent the place. and who are absolutely refused any refreshment whatever in the front bar. This restriction is a two-edged one. While it keeps the front bar decent it concentrates the defilement, and makes access to it more easy and toleration of it more seemly. While the 'saddling paddock" is not the scene of such conduct as is often described as going on there— it being an ordinary bar-room without sitting accommodation — it is undoubtedly the chief rendezvous for what may be termed the fashionable class of fallen women. The word 'fashion' in such a sense seems incongruous, but I let it stand. Probably the inordinate love of dress and idleness may have led to the fall of some of the gaudily dressed women to be found in this back bar-room. Anyway the girls seen here are a different class from those met later on in our travels. The air stifles one with its sickly perfumes mixed with the inexpressible flavour of an overcrowded and heated bar-room. Some of the women are dressed in satins and silks, and some are ' plastered with white and raddled with red,' as Thackeray says of the Court beauties of the time of the first gentleman of Europe.' But of these and their paramours more anon… [edit]

The houses near the Theatre are allowed to remain open half an hour later, and it is during this half-hour that the 'saddling paddock' becomes such a hotbed of evil. The front bar of the Royal is crowded by scores of men— over a hundred I should say— but they are all men, and most of them when they have taken their 'nightcap' leave the place, and let us hope go home. But not so with some of the visitors to the 'paddock' behind. That place is literally crowded — crowded with wanton women and their 'friends', or newly made acquaintances. An old man remains at the door and in a fatherly way keeps out the boys, though a glance at the interior shows there are many youths there who have not yet passed the early stage of manhood. There are many of those young swells who affect low shoes with eyelets nearly to the toes and wide-bottomed trousers. These are the young gentry, be it said, who give the police most trouble. There are free lovers there, or rather let me use the words of Joseph Cook, of Boston, and say 'free lepers.' And the women, though they may wear lavender kid gloves with diamond rings outside, are most of them not unknown either at the Hospital or the Gaol, whence many sickening stories come. They are certainly not fit company for sons of respectable members of society, or for those whose past excesses have already led them once into embezzlement and seem likely to utterly ruin them. Even here there are grades among the women as there are ages— from the wretched old hag whom we saw outside strutting with two girls (having murdered two of her own daughters in the past, one dying in a state too awful to picture and the other committing suicide) to the young creatures not more than sixteen or seventeen, just entering on the abominable life, and to the older one whom we just see purchasing her bottles of spirits wherewith to supply herself and her guests after the 'paddock' shall be closed and the Christian Sabbath morning shall have been ushered in. I shall not speak of the hansom cabmen and the part some of them play in this repulsive drama of real life. I shall not even refer to the very few years that these unfortunates live after they have given themselves up to a life on the streets. It is undoubtedly a short life, and it is not a merry one. My object, however, is to state facts, and not to moralize. It is a melancholy satisfaction to be informed by the detectives that prostitution is not nearly so bad as it was in Adelaide ten years ago; that it was worse even five years ago; and that the dark side of life is not so disgusting here as in some other cities. It may not be; but there is an infinitely more terrible enemy than the Chinese at our doors. Until men are changed I know it cannot be entirely removed, and that I suppose will be about the time when Oliver Wendell Holmes advises us to order our ascension robe, when legislators keep the law, and so forth But that the evil may be mitigated does not admit of question. Perhaps some good might be done and an infinitesimal amount of hardship it may be indicted by not allowing the 'saddling paddock' and the whole of the houses near the Theatre the extra half-hour which they now seem to employ so industriously. If, as Canon Kingsley says, human welfare is founded on morals and not on intellect or the senses, the experiment, might be worth the trial. Certainly the remedy could not be worse than the disease. '
South Australian Register, Monday 20 January 1879, p6

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