Hidden heritage uncovered in bid to save the Cranker

A well and tunnel beneath the Crown & Anchor front bar and a lengthy stone wall, all believed to be more than 170 years old, are being highlighted in a bid for state heritage listing to prevent the Adelaide hotel’s demolition for an apartment block.

May 24, 2024, updated May 24, 2024
A well and tunnel believed to be at least 171 years old are located beneath the Crown & Anchor's front bar. Photos: InDaily/Jason Andrews/Facebook

A well and tunnel believed to be at least 171 years old are located beneath the Crown & Anchor's front bar. Photos: InDaily/Jason Andrews/Facebook

A campaign to save the historic East End hotel and live music venue from being gutted for a 19-storey tower is now highlighting built heritage aspects of the site, which dates back to the first decades of Adelaide’s founding in 1836.

While the development bid which planned to leave just a two-walled façade has prompted wide community debate about the Grenfell Street hotel’s cultural heritage, motions in parliament and a protest march, it is the built heritage aspects which must be assessed under existing planning and heritage laws.

Evidence of the Crown & Anchor’s well and tunnels emerged recently on social media.

Hotel patron Jason Andrews said on Facebook that he took the photographs about 20 years ago, documenting a hidden history nestled beneath the pub’s floorboards.

A well photographed under the Crown & Anchor front bar. Photo: Jason Andrews/Facebook

The rock-lined well filled with clear water is located in the front bar’s north-east Union St corner, below where pool tables are now located.

“The well looked beautiful with a thin slick of colourful oil that glistened over the surface,” Andrews wrote.

“It was possible to crawl from one cellar to the other older one via a tiny tunnel running under the bar.

A tunnel photographed under the Crown & Anchor hotel front bar. Photo: Jason Andrews/Facebook

“I remember being impressed that the ceiling had done such a great job of holding up the pool tables and thousands of customers over all these years.”

The first hotel at the corner of Union and Grenfell streets was established in 1838 as ‘The Union Inn’.

The hotel, along with the adjacent Grenfell St site now hosting Roxie’s and Chateau Apollo, backed onto what was once the Union Brewery.

When the Crown & Anchor Inn was established 171 years ago in 1853, it’s believed the well was already in use from The Union Inn.

A brick and bluestone wall about four metres high and 30 metres long is also part of the State Heritage Listing bid.

A surviving stone wall from stables built more than 170 years ago. Photo supplied

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The little-known wall running north from Grenfell St along Roxie’s boundary with Chateau Apollo survives intact as part of the original hotel stables listed on the hotel title.

Built heritage of the hotel and wider intended development site to Frome Street are now being used in an application being prepared for submission to the SA Heritage Council.

The council, which is an arm of the Environment Department and reports to the Environment Minister, granted the Crown & Anchor provisional listing on the State Heritage Register on April 26.

Valid for three months, the listing protects the site from development and gives time for heritage assessments to be prepared and public submissions made for consideration of full state heritage listing.

The Environment Department said its own assessment of the Crown & Anchor site was underway.

“Heritage SA is preparing an assessment report for the SA Heritage Council that will consider the Crown and Anchor Hotel against all 7 criteria under Section 16 of the Heritage Places Act 1993,” a spokesman told InDaily.

“This report will be presented to the SA Heritage Council, along with all public submissions received.

“The SA Heritage Council will be guided by this assessment report and the submissions it receives when it decides whether to confirm or reject the Crown and Anchor Hotel’s provisional entry in the South Australian Heritage Register.”

Submissions can be made to the SA Heritage Council until August 3, with forms and information on its website.

The State Commission Assessment Panel is due to consider the planning application from Singapore developer Wee Hur Holdings in September.

The 19-storey student housing block proposed for the Crown & Anchor site and Grenfell St frontage between Frome and Union streets. Image: Plan SA

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