Home' Hospitality Business : HB DEC 2017 - JAN 2018 Contents Duke of
A place in
he Duke of Marlborough began its life in 1827 as “Johnny
Johnston’s Grog Shop”. The owner Johnny Johnston was an
ex-convict who came good; he became fluent in the language of
Te Reo Maor i, and was very well regarded by local Maor i. This
relationship led to Johnny being able to purchase the freehold site of the
Duke – which was one of the first land sales to a European in New Zealand.
In the 1830s, Russell, or Kororareka as it was known then, was the
biggest whaling port in the Souther n Hemisphere and it tur ned out to
be a bit of an eye opener for the missionar ies. Up to 500 whalers at a
time would ar r ive in Russell after twelve months at sea, with Russell
having no effective law enforcement agency, the scene wasn’t ideal.
Prostitution was one of the area’s largest industr ies and many local
women frequently entered into 3 week mar r iages.
Johnny changed the name of his hotel to the Duke of Marlborough
(at the time the Duke of Marlborough was the world’s r ichest man) in an
effort to bring respect, and an air of elegance and opulence, to the “Hell
Hole of the Pacific”. By all accounts, Johnny was a well-trusted man who
assisted in the translation of the Treaty of Waitangi to the Maor i language.
It is rumoured he was wor r ied that the Maor i version did not quite
equate to the English version (it still pays to listen to your publican!).
After the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed in 1840, New Zealand’s
first gover nment was for med just down the road in Okiato, and started
to bring the famed lawlessness to an end. With Johnny being so well
known in the local area, it is no sur prise that he managed to swing the
ver y first licence for his establishment (the Colonial Treasurer was a
close friend), so after 13 years of serving whalers, traders and prostitutes,
Johnny the ex-con was now all legal!
The licence now hangs proudly in a gold frame in the bar, where
shar p eyed history buffs have pointed out a reference to the succession
of Queen Victor ia from her father.
The first Duke building was bur nt in 1845 dur ing the battle of
Kororareka, but Johnny quickly rebuilt and his family retained the
Duke of Marlborough to 1878. From 1878 to 1923 the Duke passed
through eight different private operators.
Between 1923 and 1974 the Duke was owned and run by Hancock
Hotels (these days part of the Lion Brewer ies empire). In 1931 the
second Duke building caught fire and bur nt down, the third and
cur rent building was built in 1875 and housed the telegraph workers
at Cable Bay, it was shipped down the coast and dragged into place by
steam traction engine in 1932.
In 1974 a young entrepreneur, Wayne Young, managed to wrestle
the Duke away from the brewer ies in exchange for several of his
Taranaki bars. Wayne lifted service and food standards significantly
and the business was near bursting at the seams, so in a controversial
but commercially savvy move he built another building behind the
Duke and managed to convince the author ities that his licence should
cover his business across the road as well. This was the start of the truly
golden Duke of Marlborough trading days.
In 1983,Wayne sold the lease of the Duke to Karl Andersen. The
early 80s was all share market hype, where fun was easy and money no
object to it. Karl took the Duke to the Auckland A-listers, with Dom
Per ignon and Crayfish lunches regularly being trotted out to customers
ar r iving by Sea plane.
Karl set up the “Duke of Marlborough South Pacific Bill fish
tour nament” with over 500 anglers aiming to win over $100,000 in
prizes – for a 25 room hotel in a town of 800 people the guy was
certainly aiming for the stars!
Sadly with the share market crash a lot of people lost their businesses
and Karl was one of them, the following recession along with the mass
granting of new liquor licences in 1991 saw a big loss in revenue for
the Duke of Marlborough and Russell in general.
The Duke was sold on to the late Dell Gifford and a few of her
friends. They advertised heavily on radio and made the Duke famous
for her Devonshire teas.
In 2003, a young Frenchman, Ar nauld Kindt bought the Duke and
renovated the accommodation areas significantly, adding a sprinkler
system and en-suites to the all the rooms which lifted the star rating
of the hotel. He came from a hotel background and focussed on
improving the accommodation side of the business.
After falling in love with the Duke in their summer vacations from
Otago University, your cur rent hosts (Jayne Shirley, Riki Kinnaird,
Bridget Haagh and Anton Haagh ) purchased the Duke from Ar nauld
in 2010 and have been busy bringing their view of what’s great about
Northland back to the Duke.n
14 | December 2017 - January 2018 | Hospitality BUSINESS
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