In the 1920s and 30s, Sydney earned a variety of newspaper nicknames including Knifehurst and Bottlehurst but the one that stuck was Razorhurst. Blancmange Productions returns this year with another true crime event that dives into the actual locations of murder and revenge during some of Sydney’s bloodiest years.
To start the two hour tour, one of the guides (Kathryn Bendall, Kyla Ward, Philip McDonald, or Chris Miller) gathered the audience under the famous Kings Cross Coca-Cola sign for some background briefing about the laws that set the foundations for the rise in underground crime and violence from 1929. Audiences will recognise at least the two leading ladies Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh, who dominated the streets with their bloody rivalry, but throughout the tour the guide introduced a host of other characters including Jim Devine, Guido Calletti, Nellie Cameron, and Frank Green.
The Razor Wars are arguably the most well-known time period in Sydney’s history because of pop culture interest and true crime historical adaptations like Underbelly: Razor from 2011 or the musical written by Kate Mulley and Andy Peterson and performed at the Hayes Theatre in 2019. This walking tour, however, has the advantage of taking audiences up to the entrance of Blood Alley, through Kellett Street where a gang riot occurred, and right up to Tilly Devine’s brothel door (now a perfectly ordinary home).
For those new to Sydney, the tour offers a historical orientation into the Kings Cross, Potts Point, and Darlinghurst areas but local history buffs will also appreciate the authenticity of the experience and its connection to real people, places, and events. The guide, in this case Ward, was widely knowledgeable about the pertinent Razorhurst information but also other details about Kings Cross’s colourful history through the 60s and 70s, into the 1990s. Of particular enjoyment was seeing the many layered identities of Sydney as represented in the architecture. From large Mediterranean inspired buildings to the cramped workers’ terrace houses, walking through the city streets is very much like walking back in time.
Even if you’ve lived here your whole life, the Razorhurst Walking Tour is for if you’ve ever wondered “what did the building with 1925 plastered on the front use to be before it was a gym?” (The answer is a Phil Jeffs illegal bar and gambling den, but you didn’t hear that from me).
Razorhurst Walking Tour is running multiple tours each Saturday. For more information, visit their website.
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