Road Trip: Killingworth Hotel, Killingworth

killinworth hotel 1903

Arthur North’s Killingworth Hotel 1903. Photo: Glass negative taken by Ralph Snowball. It is part of the Norm Barney Photographic Collection, held by Cultural Collections at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia.


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Former Killingworth Hotel 2017. Photo: Time Gents.


WHEN a group of men went to the Killingworth Hotel, a few days before Christmas 1952, asking for bottles of beer, the bar had been closed for an hour and half. It was way past the official closing time of 6pm.

Killingworth was a coal town, and it was unwise for publican Sydney Charles Emanuel to refuse the miners service.

Sid was put on the spot. If he didn’t serve the miners, he would become unpopular, and would risk a boycott of his pub.

Police Sergeant Walton, who found the men in the hotel after hours, was told by Sid that the miners were going on a three week holiday and were getting a few bottles to take away with them. The Sergeant, of course, had to do his duty, and charged the publican.

Sydney Charles Emanuel pleaded guilty, and as he hadn’t fronted the courts for a liquor offence for 20 years, the magistrate dismissed the charge. That was the complexities of running a miners’ pub for publicans like Sid. They were torn between keeping the throats of the miners well lubricated or breaching the strict liquor laws of the day.

Sydney Charles Emanuel must have done something right. He was the longest serving publican of the Killingworth Hotel, serving the miners for over three decades. The pub was located about 15km south west of Wallsend, near Newcastle, and was licensed for almost 70 years before closing over 50 years ago. Today it’s a private residence.

At the age of 10, Sid’s father, Herbert Emanuel was hosting the Enterprise Hotel at Old Junee. Sid knew the industry well.

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Enterprise Hotel, Old Junee NSW. Photo: Australian National University, Noel Butlin Archives.

An Englishman, with a Kanak father – the native people of New Caledonia – Sid’s father, Herbert came to Australia in 1888 at the age of 20, first settling in Melbourne before making his way to Junee where he joined his brother Henry in the carriage building trade. Herb later went into the hotel business, first hosting The Enterprise at Old Junee, and later going onto running the Cosmopolitan Hotel, Bunnan, and the Empire at Young.

AS a young man, and later in life, Sid helped his father run the hotels, before the family made their way to Killingworth.

The Emanuels, Sid and his parents, Herbert and Mary, moved into the Killingworth Hotel in 1930. Sid at the age of 26 gained the license and a lease on the pub from the owners, Tooth and Company in October 1930, for £2 a week. He would remain at the pub for almost 30 years.

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Killingworth Hotel 1924. Photo: Australian National University, Noel Butlin Archives.

Before we get ahead of ourselves though, let’s go back to the origins of the pub. Arthur North, who was born in Campbelltown, established the Killingworth Hotel. He moved with his family to Apple Tree Flat, later to be known as Killingworth, in the late 1880s.

Coal had been discovered in the area and a mine was opened there in 1888. A town developed and was named Killingworth, after the English coal mining town, north of Newcastle Upon Tyne.

North, who was 38 at the time, purchased land at the corner of the Boulevarde and Railway Street Killingworth and was granted a conditional license for a hotel in October 1890.

From the very beginning North encountered problems establishing his pub. Those problems would plague the publican for the remainder of his stay at in the coal mining town.

The bricks for North’s grand two-storey brick pub, opposite the coal company’s rail line, were first laid at the beginning of an intense economical depression, and immediately he encountered difficulties, first with his building contractor, John Quigley and later with a lack of customers.

Work stalled on North’s business venture when he took legal action against Quigley for failing to complete the hotel. He engaged a new contractor, who completed the pub at a cost of £2,800 in 1891. Police Sergeant Grennan told the Waratah Police Court that the proposed Railway Hotel was an excellent building, and North’s conditional license was confirmed ready for trade in October 1891.

However, the colliery was abandoned due the economical depression, and North, with no customers, was forced to close his pub. His 14-year-old daughter, Blanch wrote to the Australian Town and Country Journal on Saturday December 14 1895 explaining her father’s difficulties in establishing the pub.

I have three sisters and one brother. Two of my sisters and myself attend school. We have to walk three miles-a day. The population here at the present time is very small, owing to the mine being closed. My father built a large hotel here, and was compelled to close it, owing to the stoppage of the mine; so, therefore, it makes Killingworth very dull. But mother always finds us plenty of recreation, such as assisting her in her household work, and other amusements. I take music lessons, and my music teacher considers I play very fluently. I have two pretty crimson-wing parrots. The male bird sings very prettily. We have got about 40 fowls, and a beautiful vegetable and flower garden. Sometimes we drive down to Lake Macquarie to bathe. It is a most beautiful place, and safe for bathers…”

The Railway Hotel remained unlicensed for seven years before the Caledonian Coal Company re-opened the mine, resurrecting Killingworth and North’s pub. The pub was licensed as the Killingworth Hotel on April 20 1898.

North surely must have regretted his decision to open the Killingworth Hotel, as he struggled to draw a living from his business venture; Trade was extremely slow, as the colliery struggled through the latter end of the depression. North, with a young family, was forced to take drastic measures to survive, illegally opening his bar to generate business. He was caught and fined for Sunday selling in March 1899, pleading guilty and telling the magistrate that on account of his hotel being situated, “completely in the bush, the only chance of doing business was on Sunday”. He was given a fine of £2, and 5 shillings, with 6 pence costs.

A few of unwelcomed customers visited North’s pub in 1901, when Thomas McWilliams, Matthew Bloomfield, and Samuel Brown stole bottles of alcohol and cigarettes. The publican was awakened by smashing glass and found the trio in his downstairs bar. He fired a revolver through the balcony window in order to frighten the trio. At the top of the stairs the revolver accidentally exploded in the host’s hand, and the bullet lodged into the timber. The three men were later arrested and charged with burglary.

The Killingworth publican was left to raise his four daughters and a son alone when his wife, Rubina Hannah died at the hotel just short of her 52nd birthday in February 1903.

Arthur North sold the freehold of the pub to Castlemain Brewery in 1906, and later bought property known as Northville, situated between Barnsley and Young Wallsend, on the Cooranbong-road, which he subdivided into a township. He remained there until his death on January 4 1909 at the age of 57. The Newcastle Morning Herald reported on January 13 1909:


The funeral of the late Mr. A. North took place on Tuesday afternoon when the cortege left the house of the deceased’s son-in-law, Mr. O. E. Nelson, of Barnsley, where he had resided for the last few months during the time of his illness… During the whole term of his life the deceased had always been hard working and industrious. He was a good citizen, and was much respected. About eight months ago he met with an accident, which eventually resulted in his death. His wife predeceased him six years ago. The funeral was largely attended. The deceased’s remains was interred In the West Wallsend portion of the Church of England Cemetery

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Killingworth Hotel host, James McGeachie (far right) with his family

James George McGeachie followed Arthur North as the second host of the Killingworth Hotel.

Jim was one of five brothers who played a large part in the development and management of the mining industry in NSW. His eldest brother was Duncan McGeachie, a former general superintendent of collieries in the Caledonian Mining Company, and took a leading part in the pioneering of several properties which were among the largest and best equipped on the Northern coal fields. The other brothers were John, George and David McGeachie.

James McGeachie was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland and came to Australia in 1890 before becoming a colliery engineer at Wollongong and Newcastle districts. He was for a long period associated with the Caledonian Company’s Killingworth Colliery, at which his brother David was accidentally killed in 1898. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on May6 11 1898:




A magisterial inquiry respecting the circumstances surrounding the death by drowning of Mr David McGeachie, colliery manager of the Killingworth mine, was conducted by Dr Hocken JP , at the Killingworth Hotel, West Wallsend, this morning. The body was identified by Mr Duncan McGeachie, manager of the Waratah Colliery, a brother of deceased. The evidence tended to show that deceased whilst engaged in the mine on Sunday afternoon was drowned in a sump, and dragging operations were continued for a considerable time before the body was recovered. A finding of accidental death was returned. The funeral took place at the West Wallsend Cemetery this afternoon, and was largely attended by colliery officials and employees.

At the age of 42 James became host of the Killingworth Hotel in 1906, where previously the magisterial inquiry had been held into his brother’s death.

Jim had two stints as licensee, from 1906 to 1913, and again from 1918. While he was licensee, Castlemain Brewery sold the pub to Tooth and Company in March 1921. The following year McGeachie left Killingworth to manage a colliery on the NSW South Coast, near Wollongong.

While on the South Coast, he was president of the Corrimal Bowling Club for many years. He retired at the age of 67 to Toronto in 1931 before his death at the age of 79 in 1942.

Of all the publicans of the Killingworth Hotel, the longest serving was Sid Emanuel. He was at the pub for 30 years, and became quite an identity in the area. He was a single man, who remained that way until after the deaths of his parents.

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Killingworth Hotel 1949. Photo: Australian National University, Noel Butlin Archives.

While at the pub he lost his mother Mary in 1944, and the following year his pioneering publican father, Herbert. Sid married Adela McDonald at the age of 45 in 1949. He remained at the helm of the pub until 1970 before he went on to become secretary manager of a licensed club in the Cardiff area of Newcastle. He died at the age of 75 on May 8 1979.

The Killingworth Hotel closed for business on November 9 1970 with Tooth and Company selling the license to Lake Shore Investments. In turn the license was transferred to Budgewoi, enabling the Lake Shore Motor Inn to open. Today the Lake Shore Motor Inn trades as the Coast Hotel.

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Lake Shore Motor Inn, Budgewio 1979. Photo: Australian National University, Noel Butlin Archives.

Licensees of the Killingworth Hotel

Oct 7 1891: Arthur North (Railway Hotel)

April 20 1898 – 1905: Arthur North

1906 – 1913: James G. McGeachie

1913 – 1919: Alexander Stewart

1919 – 1922: James G. McGeachie

1922 – 1923: J. McLead

1923 – 1926: George Blackwell

1926 – 1930: Donald McLean

1930 – 1961: Sydney C. Emanuel

1961 – 1963: Iris Jean Willmott

1963 – 1964: Doris Rivett

1964 – 1965: Ronald Renfrew

1965 – November 9 1970: Leila May Wittig


© Copyright 2017 Mick Roberts

Categories: Newcastle hotels, NSW hotels, review, Reviews, Road Trips

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6 replies

  1. Some student friends of mine rented the old pub in the 1970s, A great place for parties with all kinds of stimulants being imbibed.

  2. Another excellent article Mick – I also liked the 1979 photo of the Lake Short Motor Inn at Budgewoi. Not many would recognise it today with the now huge fig tree which was just a sapling in the 1979 photo and the drive through reception area now a beer garden. See Cheers Mark.

  3. My uncle was Syd Emanuel

    • Hi Jennifer. Can you share any additional information, or a photo of Syd? I would like to know a little more about him for inclusion ion the story. Can you email me at slackyflat at hotmail dot com?

  4. Sid became sec manager of Cardiff Workers Club till he retired

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