Emu Hotel was a favourite with the inmates of the Parramatta asylum

Christian Stein’s Emu Hotel, Parramatta C1890. Picture: Supplied.


LITTERALLY sitting on the banks of the Parramatta River, the quaintly named Emu Hotel had gained a reputation as a disorderly house during the 1890s.

The pub was frequented by inmates from the nearby benevolent asylums and numerous licensees were regularly facing the courts for illegal Sunday trading, and doctoring their liquor in the lead-up to the turn of the century. Also during the final months of the pub’s trading life, sanitary conditions were far from desirable. In fact, they could be described as atrocious. Publicans were often facing magistrates and fined for the filthy state of their putrid backyard dunnies.

By 1900 the Emu Hotel had seen her best days. The pub was home to numerous shady lodgers from diverse backgrounds and with varying notoriety.

One such character was an old bloke by the name of Charles Barton. An Englishman, who had arrived in Australia in 1854, Barton made the Emu Hotel his home during the late 1890s.

Charles Barton. Picture: NSW State Archives Gaol Inmates Photos

Little did host Daniel McNeil realise that his lodger had a criminal record as long as his arm.

Barton had spent many years in prison for various offences, including assaulting police, stealing, and armed robbery. His most serious offence though was highway robbery. Barton was sentenced in 1861 to 10 years hard labour in prison, during which time he reportedly escaped from Berrima Gaol and was at large for a couple of years before his eventual recapture.

After working for a time in Dubbo, Barton made his way to Parramatta in the 1890s where he gained accommodation at McNeil’s Emu Hotel. He wasn’t long in Parramatta before he landed in trouble with the law.

The old man was nabbed after he stole two £5-notes out of the pocket of another Emu Hotel lodger, while he slept, on the night of January 7, 1897.

Edmund Leahey, a labourer told Parramatta Court that he put the money in his pocket, and placed his trousers under the pillow before he slept. When he woke in the morning he found that his trousers had been pulled away from the pillow and hanging over the side of the bed. When he searched his pockets, the notes were missing.

At the age of 67, Barton was arrested at the Emu Hotel, where he also was found to be in possession of skeleton keys suspected of being for a robbery.

After his arrest, publican, Daniel McNeill gave Barton a positive character reference for the period of time he had lodged at the Emu Hotel. When appearing in court, the Cumberland Free Press described Barton as “an elderly, crabbed, and weather-beaten specimen of the humanity that works hard, lives hard, dies hard, and has then, (according to popular pulpit prescription), another hard row to hoe all the time that eternity endures.”

In sentencing, the magistrate said Barton had “worked hard, but stupidly frittered his money away in drink”. If his Dubbo employer would take him back as a cook, the magistrate would consent to his release after four months. However, Barton was unable to secure work with his previous boss in Dubbo, and was eventually released from Parramatta Gaol in August 1897. The old career crook disappears from the records after his release from prison. However, it seems he may have died in Sydney in 1900 at the age of 70.

Meanwhile McNeill and his wife, Margaret left the Emu Hotel shortly after Barton’s arrest, and in May 1897 took the license of the Royal Hotel at Springwood in the Blue Mountains.

The Royal Hotel, Springwood, 1935. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

McNeill’s wife, who reportedly was fond of a drink, died at the Springwood pub in suspicious circumstances in January 1900.

A coroner’s inquiry was told that Margaret McNeill was found dead in a room of the hotel by her husband. She had been staying in a separate room then her husband because she had been drinking heavily.

McNeill told the coroner’s court that he found his wife lying on a bed with her arms crossed over her breasts. She had several bruises on her arms and back. A jury eventually found that Margaret McNeill died of “exhaustion, accelerated by the diseased condition of her heart and lungs”. 

Daniel McNeill went on to live a long life, hosting a number of pubs, before his death in Manly at the age of 85 in 1938.

McNeill’s colourful story is just one of many coming from the halls of the Emu Hotel that traded for over 60 years beside the Queen’s Wharf on the Parramatta River.

The inn was first licensed by George Loveridge as the Elephant and Castle in 1844. Loveridge opened the inn on the northern side of George Street close to the government run wharf, about 100 metres east of the Steam Packet Inn.

The Steam Packet Inn was built in 1838 by Edye Manning, close to Parramatta River, behind the Paddle Steamer Wharf, close to the present day park monument to the ship “Parramatta”.

William Bryant has been researching the Steam Packet Inn and Emu Hotel for many years. He tells me the Emu Hotel was a brick building with verandah on three sides and serviced the steamers travelling the river between Sydney and Parramatta. Although early photos appear to show a one storey building, Mr Bryant says the Emu Inn had an attic in which there were upstairs rooms and a downstairs cellar.

Loveridge disappears from records in 1847 when a John Loveridge took over the license for about 12 months.

John Loveridge had previously hosted The Bird in the Hand at Kellyville in 1839, and the Steam Packet, next door to the Elephant and Castle, from 1840 to 1843. There is no record of John Loveridge’s death but Clara Johanna Loveridge, his widow, married Henry Farmer at Araluen in 1851.

James and Jane Cranney bought the freehold of the Elephant and Castle Inn and took over is license in 1854. The Cranneys (sometimes spelt Cranny) were both in their early 40s when they took over the management of the Elephant and Castle.

A year after gaining the license, James Cranney was approached by Richard Scott in August 1855 for work.

Scott wanted to earn money to enable him to catch the steamer to Sydney. However, the unfortunate man would not make the river journey and died in the pub’s yard. Scott had just been released from the Parramatta Gaol after serving a sentence of six months when he approached Cranney for help.

The former prisoner was about 50 years of age when he explained to Cranney that he had been released from prison the day before, and had no money. He asked the publican if he had an odd job, so he could earn money to buy a ticket on the steamer to Sydney.

Cranney gave Scott a glass of ale on the house, and offered him a job chopping wood. After about five hours, a servant at the inn found Scott lying on his back and speechless. Before a doctor could be sent for, he had died.

A coroner’s inquest at the pub found Scott died of natural causes.

By the time the Cranneys hosted the Elephant and Castle, the government railway had been opened from Sydney to Parramatta, and the reliance on river travel had significantly decreased. Although the steamers continued to take passengers from the government wharf near the Elephant and Castle, the opening of the railway had an immediate negative impact on trade at Cranneys’ inn.

The rail line connected Sydney and Parramatta Junction near Granville, and opened on September 26, 1855. It was extended to the current Parramatta station on July 4, 1860.

The Cranneys remained hosts of the Elephant and Castle until their retirement in 1869. They sold the Elephant and Castle to John Kell, the engineer aboard the steamer Emu.

Jane Cranney died aged 69 in 1883, while her widower, James lived to the age of 85. He died at his son’s pub, the Royal, on Sydney’s North Shore, in 1896.

Meanwhile John Kell had been the engineer on the Parramatta River steamer for 18 years when he took the license of the Elephant and Castle in 1869. He immediately changed its name to the Emu Inn, a sign it would retain until its closure almost 40 years later.

Buying the pub beside the government wharf seemed a perfect fit for Kell, who in conjunction with his new pub, and despite the government railway operating between Sydney and Parramatta, continued operating a passenger steamer on the river. However, he had a short stay at the Emu Inn, and within a year ill-health forced him to sell his steamer, Premier. He died aged 49 in 1871, just a few years after his new business venture.

His widow, Mary, though continued operating the pub for another six years. She took the license and hosted the Emu Inn until 1877 when the license was transferred to Mary Ann Rhodes.

Rhodes, a widow, was an experienced publican having previously hosted Rhodes Family Hotel in Woolloomooloo, the Commercial Hotel, Margaret Street, Sydney (later named the Maritime Marine Hotel), and the Daniel Lambert Hotel, Newtown.

Soon after acquiring the license, Mary Rhodes was killed in a tragic accident at the riverside pub. She fell to her death down the back yard stairs of the pub in 1880. She was 57.

The license of the Emu Inn lapsed in 1881 after a technicality in newly introduced licensing laws. Mary Kell still was owner of the pub when the NSW Government introduced a freeze on new pub licenses in the electorate of Cumberland in 1881.

Although the pub had been previously licensed, Kell was unable to gain a new license for the Emu Inn because it had lapsed with the death of Rhodes in 1880.

The newly introduced ‘Temporary Suspensory Bill’ recognised Kell’s license as “new”, and as a consequence she was prevented from gaining permission to open the pub.

At the age of 68, Mary Kell was eventually allowed a license for the pub after the local member of parliament took up her case. Kell opened a freshly renovated pub in 1882, officially dropping the word ‘inn’ from the Emu’s sign, and replacing it with the much more ambitious ‘hotel’.

Although Mary Kell held the license, she never hosted the new Emu Hotel on its reopening. Instead, her son, James Loban Kell managed the pub on her behalf.

In James Loban Kell’s obituary, published in the Cumberland Argus on Saturday August 1, 1908, he was described as hosting the Emu Hotel, as well as running a line of buses to and from the steamers’ wharf on Parramatta River.

He ran an opposition coach to ‘Bob’ Dunn, and there used to be some lively times between these two Jehus, and, as a consequence, police court cases were frequent. Loban was an exceedingly muscular man in his palmy days, was proud of it and had no objection to put-ting himself up in feats of strength against the best man that could be brought along. We remember some amusing incidents in connection with Jim that happened about 40 years back. At that time a phrenologist and mesmerist named Selwyn was carrying the town by storm, and Jim was one of his pet subjects. Selwyn once sent him from the hall to get a loaf of bread, and as the baker’s shop was shut, Jim actually broke open the door and helped himself. He arrived back at the hall with the loaf of bread and a policeman at his heels. Some few years back Loban made a journey to Scotland to claim estates in the city of Edinburgh, worth some millions, but he did not succeed in establishing his title to the satisfaction of the powers that held the estates in trust. He had many good traits, and in his palmy days was an ideal host and a generous friend. His vocabulary was most original, and visitors were often taken to the old Emu to hear Jim’s flow of language. He had a way of affixing the syllable ‘ancy’ on to all kinds of words. Jim would refer to the strike as a ‘strikeancy’, and unconsciously adorn words that Webster never dreamt of.

While hosting the pub ‘Loban’, as he was known, nearly blew himself to kingdom-come when tapping a barrel of rum in the cellar.

The Parramatta Fire Brigade were called to the Emu Hotel when Kell ignited fumes from the rum while using a naked flame. The Sydney Evening News reported on January 17, 1884 that the publican was severely burned about the body, but recovered from the ordeal.

Kell was in the news again in March 1886 when he was charged by police for assaulting his mother, the licensee, Mary Kell. Evidence was given from Kell’s wife, Eliza and a servant at the pub that Mary Kell – who was now 72 years of age – had caused a disturbance in the bar after buying a bottle of gin.

The old landlady began calling her son names, according to Eliza.

Kell claimed he caught his mother by the wrists, and told her to go home. She went outside to the gate and fell, before throwing stones at him, and then coming back a second time, making a scene in the bar. Kell was forced to put his mother out of the pub, pushing her by the shoulders.

Mary Kell’s memories of the event though were much different. She claimed her son used abusive language, caught her by the wrists and “knocked her about”, throwing her off the verandah, down two steps. As a result she suffered wounds and bruises on her hands and wrists.

The court agreed with the elderly woman’s version of events, with the magistrate stating her son had “behaved in a most unnatural way”.

As a consequence Kell spent one month in Parramatta Gaol with hard labour.

In what can only be described as a sad sequel to the events, the old landlady, Mary Kell fell ill shortly after the court case, and in May 1886 was forced to sell her pub to Michael and Jane Kinshela. The following month she was dead at the age of 72.

Mary Kell’s son, Jim, lived to the age of 65, and died at Parramatta District Hospital in 1908 after “suffering from internal troubles for a considerable time”.

The Emu Hotel’s new owner, Michael ‘Mick’ Kinshela was 42 – and his wife, Sarah Jane, 33 – when they took over as hosts.

Kinshela had been one of the largest contractors working on the nearby Prospect Reservoir, employing hundreds of men. The Reservoir was the first earth-fill embankment dam in Australia, which was completed in 1888. 

The Emu Hotel property was described as comprising of two houses — a brick-built house, with bar room, cellars, seven rooms, kitchen, outhouses, yard and stables; also, adjoining, was a large verandah cottage, containing nine rooms, and kitchen.

The Cumberland Mercury described the property on May 5, 1886 as having a frontage to George-street of 157 feet, and was bounded on the north by the Parramatta River. Trams ran from the nearby steamer wharf to Parramatta Park and stopped at the hotel.

Less than a week after Mick Kinshela was granted the license of the Emu Hotel, tragedy struck the family when their two year old son, Geoffrey, drowned in the Parramatta River. The child was playing at the rear of the hotel, and fell over a fence into about four feet of water, the river being at high tide.

The publican heard cries for help, rushed out and plunged into the river, bringing young Geoffrey to shore alive, but unconscious. However, attempts to revive the toddler failed.

The Kinshelas stay at the Emu Hotel was short, and the pair sold the license to Christian Stein in 1889.

The Kinshelas eventually relocated to Western Australia where two of their sons had gained prestigious positions on the railway.

While in Western Australia the Kinshelas lost by death their sons, Herbert and Edgar to typhoid. Mick Kinshela also died under tragic circumstances while doing contract work in the Western Australian outback in 1904.

Mick reportedly accepted a position with a gang that went to build a rabbit-proof fence in the Murchison, one of the hottest places in Western Australia. He was taken ill, and he was carried to the nearest hospital, a distance of over 160 kilometres.

Mick was in a raging high fever during the three day journey to the hospital, rambling about his days at Parramatta. He died at the age of 60, the day after arriving at the hospital, and was buried at Mount Magnet.

A subscription was raised for his widow, Sarah who at the time was said to have been an ‘invalid’. Sarah died in 1907 at the age of 57, leaving four adult children.

Meanwhile the new hosts of the Emu Hotel, Christian and Emily Stein moved into the pub with their nine-year-old son, and eight-year-old daughter in 1888.

The Steins were experienced publicans previously hosting the Cricketers Arms at the Crossroads, Baulkham Hills from 1876, and later Mack’s Hotel at North Parramatta prior to gaining the license of the Emu Hotel.

Christian Stein was the brother of Katherine ‘Kate’ Cloke who, at the time, was also a well-known hotelkeeper at Liverpool.

Stein hosted the Emu Hotel until late in 1893 before taking over the White Horse Inn, Parramatta in 1894, where he was declared bankrupt.

The Steins later went on to host Mack’s Hotel, North Parramatta before their retirement.

The old publican died at the age of 77 in unusual circumstances in 1923.

During fierce westerly winds, Stein was leaning against a power pole in North Parramatta when the safety wire leading to the ground fused.

The wire came into contact with Stein, and he was electrocuted. He died before the arrival of an ambulance. His widow, Emily, was awarded £100 damages from the Parramatta Electric Supply Company. Emily Stein died aged 83 at Parramatta in 1934.

By the mid to late 1890s the Emu Hotel had lost much of its shine, and had developed a somewhat shady reputation. The pub had become a favourite haunt of the inmates of the nearby Parramatta lunatic and benevolent asylums.

Parramatta Benevolent Asylum, George Street, Parramatta, 1911. Picture: State Library of NSW

Andrew Kerr, employed as a laundryman as the George-Street benevolent asylum was found dead in the Emu Hotel’s stables in February 1895 after dinner and a glass of beer.

The barman had gone to the stables to collect eggs when he discovered the dead body of Kerr. The jury found that he had died of heart disease.

When James Shackleton applied for the transfer of the license in 1898 the police licensing inspector told the magistrate that the Emu was not a well-conducted hotel. There had been numerous complaints of illegal Sunday-selling to the inmates of the institutions. Shackleton committed to conduct the pub “honestly and properly in every way”, and rebuild its reputation. The transfer was granted.

James Lawson had been camped in the stables behind the Emu Hotel for three days before the publican, George Stone found him bleeding from wounds to his neck and arms. Lawson had tried to kill himself with a pen knife.

Lawson was said to be in Parramatta trying to gain entry to one of the asylums and attempted suicide because he was “tired of life”.

Despite losing a lot of blood the 75-year-old survived and as a result was charged with attempted suicide by police. Lawson eventually returned to his home in Forest Lodge where he died two years later in 1905.

Soon after George and Elizabeth Stone became hosts of the pub in 1900 an announcement was made that a sewerage pumping station was to be constructed beside the Emu Hotel. The announcement was likely exciting news for publican Stone.

The pumping station beside his pub would employ over 100 men, and undoubtedly would have provided a welcomed boost to business. However, the pub’s reputation continued on the decline during the early 1900s with Stone fined several occasions for selling liquor at prohibited hours.

The Emu Hotel on the edge of the Parramatta River about 1900. The chimney of the sewerage pumping station can be seen in the distance. Picture: Parramatta Cumberland Argus May 13 1927

After Stone’s death at the pub, aged 64 in 1907, the writing was on the wall for the historic inn. There had been numerous complaints about its sanitary conditions, and the filthy state of the water closets or backyard dunnies.

The freehold of the hotel was bought in 1907 by Edward Garth, who put his son-in-law George William Williamson in as licensee. Williamson was reportedly away from the pub for long periods of time looking after his contracting business and his wife, Laura Williamson was the manager.

Licensee George Williamson was fined numerous times for the putrid state of the backyard water closets. The Williamsons said the outside dunnies were used by men working on the pumping station beside the hotel, and it was difficult to keep them clean.

On one inspection of the hotel, police allegedly found dog faeces in the dining room! It seems the old inn had dropped to new lows.

When Williamson applied for the renewal of the license in April 1908 the police unsurprisingly gave “a somewhat derogatory report” and recommended the pub’s closure. However, Williamson stated that he had big plans for the Emu Hotel, with additions and repairs.

The magistrate allowed his license renewal on condition that the improvements were completed before the next licensing meeting.

The end finally came for the pub on May 19, 1908 when a special licensing court ordered the closure of seven hotels in the Parramatta Electorate under the NSW Local Option Poll. The poll, held at state elections, gave voters the option of reducing the number of pubs in electorates across the state.

Among the seven pubs to close in the Parramatta Electorate was the Emu.

Other pubs forced to close in the Parramatta Electorate were the Currency Lass, Parramatta North, Oriental Hotel, Phillip-street, Parramatta, the Volunteer Hotel, corner Pennant Hills Road and Church-street, Parramatta, Cornstalk Hotel, Church Street, Parramatta North, Town and Country Hotel, Parramatta North, Federal Hotel, corner of Church and Factory streets, Parramatta-North.

The Emu Hotel was allowed to trade for another three years before its forced closure.

To rub salt into the wound, the following month, licensee George Williamson was charged by the contractor of the sewerage pumping station, next to the Emu Inn, for stealing a quantity of timber and coal.

The contractor, who rented a room at the Emu Hotel, denied he had given Williamson permission to help himself to the timber and coal for use at the pub. Williamson was fined a whopping £10, with £2 2 shillings witness expenses. The publican appealed the decision. However, the appeal was dismissed and the conviction sustained.

Williamson was ordered to pay an additional £5 5 shillings costs.

Edward Garth took over the license of the Emu Hotel from his son-in-law, Williamson in June 1908. He would be the Emu Hotel’s last licensee.

While Garth held the license, it was his daughter, Laura Williamson who hosted the hotel during its final months trading.

The Parramatta Police Licensing Inspector received a letter from Garth on October 5, 1908 informing him that the hotel had been closed for business.

The Inspector visited the Emu Hotel and found the premises locked up.

Laura Williamson, who was at the hotel, told the police that she had been instructed by her father, the licensee to close the Emu Hotel.

As a consequence, the licensing bench cancelled the license.

The Emu Hotel never reopened as a pub again, and was condemned by Parramatta Council in 1908. The weatherboard section was demolished in August 1908, and the Emu Inn, a brick building with a verandah on three sides, was demolished a few months later in 1909.

* With thanks to local historian, William Bryant.


Elephant and Castle 1844-1870

1844- 1847: George Loveridge

1847- 1848: John Loveridge

1848- 1854: Mark Frederick Dunn

1854 – 1869: James Cranney.

Emu Inn 1869-1880

1869 – 1871: John Kell

1871 – 1877: Mary Kell

1877 – 1880: Mary Ann Rhodes

Emu Hotel 1882-1908

1882- 1886: Mary Kell

1886- 1886: Arthur William Laws

1886 – 1888: Michael Kinshela

1888 – 1893: Christian Stein

1893 – 1894: Robert Horwood

1897 – 1898: James Venters

1898 – 1898 James Shackleton

1898 – 1898: Ann Shackleton

1898 – 1899: John O’Neill

1899 – 1900: Herbert Hugh O’Neill

1900 – 1907: George Stone

1907 – 1908: George Williamson

1908 – 1908: Edward Garth

© Copyright Mick Roberts 2022

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Categories: Australian Hotels, NSW hotels, Parramatta Hotels, Sydney hotels

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2 replies

  1. In 1869, when John Cowan Kell purchased the Elephant and Castle inn, he also purchased the Steam Packet Inn, next door, which was immediatly behind the Steam Packet Wharf, (built in 1831 by Henry Gilbert Smith and brother Thomas Smith). He then amalgamated to two inns to become one big enterprise and named it the Emu Inn.The Steam Packet Inn consisted of a two storey brick section, on the Western end, and a 56 feet long weatherboard section on eastern end. The bar room and Ballroom was in the brick section. After John Kells death in 1871, his wife Mary sold the brick section (of what was the S P Inn) to the Parramatta Gas Company and they used it as their Office. Mrs Kell retained the weatheboard section of the S P Inn, which had 9 bedrooms, and a kitchen attached to the rear, and used it as her residence. This section was demolished with the rest of Emu Inn, in late 1908, early 1909.


  1. Emu Hotel, Parramatta – TIME GENTS

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