The inns and taverns of old Maitland

The former Black Horse Inn, Maitland, April, 1973. Originally Black Horse Inn and later called Prince Albert Inn. Picture: University of Newcastle

THE following story, published in the Maitland Weekly Mercury on December 24, 1927, gives a glimpse into the inns and taverns trading in the lower Hunter Valley of NSW, between the years of 1847 and 1851.

Inns and taverns of Old Maitland, 1847 – 1851

By W. J. Goold

It will seem a strange fact to the present day reader to learn that in the late ‘forties’ there were no less than 60 hotels situated in Maitland district. The old town of West Maitland claimed 40 of these, East Maitland had 16, while Morpeth could boast of six and Hinton four.

The population of the district at this time, 1847-51, was as follows: West Maitland, in 1847, 588 houses, 2,409 persons; in 1851, 612 houses, 3,131 persons. East Maitland, in 1847, 227 houses, 910 persons; in 1851, 250 houses, 1,099 persons; Morpeth, in 1847, 154 houses, 635 persons; in 1851, 183 houses, 734 persons.

Total persons, in 1847, 3,954; in 1851, 4,964.

Hotels must have been good paying propositions in these good old days. Moreover, the licenses must have been very easy to obtain, for we find that the city of Sydney had in 1848 no less than 214 public houses, which number was increased in the following year to 311; so the comparatively large number in the district of Maitland was no exception to the rule.

When we read through the list of hotels or inns, it strikes one rather forcibly that the first difficulty that confronted the publican was the selection of a name for his house that was not already in use. Some of the titles used were ‘fearsome’ in the extreme, others displayed a quaint sense of humour in the original proprietor. Yet for all that, it is around these old inns and taverns that a great deal of the history of the Colony can be written.

The old hotels of Maitland provide a fund of information to anyone interested in the old days. They were the haunts of the pioneers who made the town, and if we could only learn the history of each of these old hostelries, what a story it would be! I make no attempt to give any thing in the way of a history of these houses, but the few items that I can supply dealing with late ‘forties’ and early ‘fifties’ may induce the reader to delve further in this interesting phase of the history of old Maitland.

Commencing from opposite the old wharf at Morpeth, and along the high road to East Maitland (it was called the old Green Hills road) thence by the Newcastle road over Wallis Bridge to High street, along this street and out of the town over the Long Bridge and Campbell’s Hill to the main road north — along this route were situated, with a few exceptions, the hotels of the district, also the stores and business establishments that flourished in Maitland between 1846 and 1851 — for this was the track travelled by the teamsters bringing wool and produce from the far north to be shipped at Morpeth for the Sydney market. Here they were reloaded with supplies to be carted many wearily miles to the up country towns and outback settlers. It was the day of the bullock drays and their big span of oxen, of the teamster with his four, six, and eight horse teams. Big money was made by those carriers in the old days, and we can readily understand that a good deal of it was left in Maitland, while they were unloading and picking up their supplies.

Some of the old hotels made it a point to cater for the teamster’s trade. We read of D. Keoghe, who ran the “Wool Team Inn” on the old Green Hills road, advertising “Good paddocks for bullocks, in addition they will be straw fed at the moderate price of 2/ per night.”


But let us first start at the old town of Morpeth, and we can briefly review the old hotels as we pass along. One of the principal hotels in Morpeth was the “Crown and Anchor,” kept by W. Graham. Here was the lodge room of the I.O.O.F. Manchester Unity (Lodge “Sir John Hunter”), which had been formed in Morpeth in 1846. Captain Griffeths was the host of the “Club Inn.” It was at this hotel that in ’49 a public meeting was held for the purpose of devising means to secure a road from Morpeth to Raymond Terrace.

A. Cornelius had the “Rose, Shamrock and Thistle.” B. Keough was proprietor of the “Morpeth Inn,” and R. Ballard of the “Wheatsheaf Inn.”

The “Globe Inn,” another of the old-timers, was under the control of W. T. Brazil in ’48, but a couple of years later F. H. Griffen took the house over. Pausing along the old Green Hills road towards East Maitland, we come to D. Keoghe’s house, the “Wool Team Inn,” which was situated about halfway between Morpeth and East Maitland. It was here that the proprietor advertised “good pad docks for bullocks, etc.”


Hunter River Hotel, East Maitland, 1920s. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

Coming into the town of East Maitland we strike the “Hunter River Hotel,” which, in those days, was kept by J. Mayo (a name that has been well-known in the Maitland district for many years). In Mayo’s paddock adjoining the hotel, shooting matches were frequently held. The Newcastle coach used to call here, three times a week, to pick up, passengers and parcels. W. B. J. Green had the “George and Dragon,” in Melbourne-street (better known in those days as the Green Hills Road).

The “Rose Inn” was conducted by J. R. Muir in ’48, and shortly afterwards (1850) N. McNeil took it over. It was at this hotel on December 8, 1849, that Mr. C. S. Pitt gave a banquet to the tobacco twisters in his employ. T. Thorne had the “Red Lion,” S.P, Rapsey presided over the “Golden Lion,” whilst J. Full ford conducted the “Prince Albert,” until C. Wilson took it over in 1850.

The landlord of the “Ferrier’s Arms” was C. Whittaker, and the “Trades Arms” belonged to R. Reddie. There were several hotels in Bank-street, East Maitland, at this time, namely, “The Cottage of Content” (S. Bailey), “The Prince of Wales,” “Union Inn,” “Blue Bell Inn,” “Victoria Inn,” “The Blue Bell” occupied the premises previously known as the old “Cottage of Content.”

Proceeding along Newcastle-road we come to the “Black Horse.” This inn was kept by H. Adams, and was near Smith’s flour mills, and close to Wallis Creek. The next tavern we mention is a famous old teamster’s rendezvous in the early days, the “Red Cow Inn.” It was just over the Wallis Bridge, coming into West Maitland. W. Winter had this house in the late “forties,” and evidently it was on its last legs, for although the name was changed to the “White Horse” (probably in contrast to its nearby neighbour the “Black Horse”), in August, 1850, it was put up for sale. Thus passed out one of the old-timers that was known throughout the North.


We are now in the town of West Maitland, and although we cannot attempt to describe all the hotels in the town, we will pick out the most prominent at this time. An historical old inn was J. Young’s “Queen’s Arms” in High street, which was next to Richard’s store and close to a large flour mill. The Wesleyan Chapel was opposite this hotel. Mr. Young had kept this house since 1839, and during that period had seen some exciting experiences.

In 1832 and 1840 floods the water broke over the river bank nearly opposite this hotel, and in the later year (1840) the flood waters were within six inches of the floor of the hotel. The old river steamer, “The Brothers” used to leave Morpeth at 12 o’clock on Saturday for West Maitland, mooring at the “Queen’s Arms,” from where it used to leave on the return trip at 2 o’clock on Sunday.

The “Rose Inn,” kept by W. J. McDonald, was in High street, near the corner of Rose-street. It was here that the Victoria Theatre was situated, and many theatrical performances were given by touring companies. The Ohio Serenaders appeared here in 1851 under the management of Howard and Reardon. Their performance was given in the saloon of the old hotel, the prices of admission being 2/6 and 1/6. Burton’s Circus also showed at the “Rose Inn” the same year. Shortly after the performers, evidently seized with the prevailing gold fever, the whole box and dice of them left for the gold fields giving performances on route. It was at the “Rose” on September 23, 1848, that a public meeting was held to devise means of securing a fire engine for West Maitland. On July 21, 1849, the hotel was sold for £795, together with two allotments opposite at £4 per foot. On the same day 39 allotments were sold in Rose street from 2/ to 7/8 per foot.

The ”Cross Keys” Hotel, conducted by E. Wright, and later by G. Toundalo, was in High street. The ”Australian Inn,” kept by J. Brackenrigg, was on the corner of Devonshire and High streets. The Maitland Union Benefit Society, which had been established in 1839, used to meet, at this hotel, Mr. E. C. Madgwick being the secretary. The society gave a dinner here on January 2, 1850 to W. P. Wall and P. J. Barnes, who were about to leave for the Californian gold diggings. A ball was held at this hotel in October ’49, the music being supplied by Mr. Fanning’s Quadrille band. Just at the rear of this hotel in Devonshire street, was the residence of Mr. C. M. Clarke, a teacher of dancing, whose long room was used as a school, lecture room, etc.

Another of the old hostelries was the “Maitland Hotel.” kept by T. B. Rossiter. This hotel was a four storey building, with a frontage of 35 feet to High street, and a depth of 230 feet; adjoining it was the residence of Mr. John Turner, solicitor. J. Wilkinson’s “Waterloo Inn” was in High street, near the building of David Cohen and Co., and adjoining the residence of Mr. Nathan Joseph. W. G. Burgess’ store was opposite. Stephens and Merrial gave an entertainment and a ball hero (in the “large room” of the hotel) on August 21, ’48. It was in this room that Smith and Son used to conduct dancing parties, the admission to which was 1/6 for gents and 1/ for ladles.

The “Angel Inn” at this period was kept by J. Stone, and next to it was a block of vacant land (known as ”Bronkon’s”) extending from Quinn’s, blacksmith shop to the hotel. J. Brackenridge’s tannery was on the other side of the hotel. A few doors further on and near to the Elgin-street saleyards was the “Fitzroy Hotel,” one of the leading hotels at this time. Adjoining, were some shops, owned by Mr. Isaac Gorrick, Joseph Taylor, baker, occupied one of these shops, and F. J. Beardmore doctor, and druggist, another.

On January 27, 1851, Mr. Gorrick opened a new racecourse at Rutherford, with a race meeting, and a pigeon match between James Neal, of Lochinvar, and Rupert Clarence, of Windermere Pit. It was at the “Fitzroy” that the Maitland Jockey Club used to hold their meetings… In ’46, The I.O.O.F. Manchester Unity Lodge, “Good Design,” No. 3933, (which was formed in 1844) had their lodge room at this hotel, Mr. T. B. Rossiter being the secretary.


An important public meeting was held at the old “Fitzroy” on May 31, 1851, for the purpose of considering the subject of searching for gold in the Maitland district. Several business men stated their willingness to donate the sum of £200 to the first person to find gold. Mr. J. Solomon (storekeeper) offered to add £25 to this amount, and stated that he was going himself to search for gold from information that he had received from two old shepherds, lately in Mr. Sempill’s employ.

Evidently the gold fever was being felt in Maitland at this time, and the tradespeople were alive to the fact that the discovery of gold in the vicinity of the town would be a great impetus to business. Their hopes, however, were doomed to disappointment, for there is no record of any one claiming the proffered reward.


Henry Reeves’ “Albion Hotel” was another of the old-timers in High street. It was at the rear of this hostelry that on April 7, 1847, the Hunter River Agricultural Society held its fourth annual ploughing match and show. Prizes were provided for ploughing, horse stock, horned stock, sheep and swine, agricultural produce, wines, ales, dried fruits, agricultural implements, and farm servants. The last event is certainly some thing out of the ordinary, and it will be interesting to re-produce the exact wording of the programme: — “For the best farm male servant, who has been the longest period of time with one master or mistress, and who can produce the best testimonial of character,” Prize £1. “For the best female servant under the same conditions.” Prize £1… The Fitzroy Amateur Theatre Company appeared at this hotel in 1848, the admission prices being— Front seats 2/6, back seats 1/6, after 9.30 half-price. We notice also that on July 12, ’49, Mrs. Chester gave a musical soiree in the long room.

Reeves, proprietor of the “Albion,” used to run the omnibus “Union,” licensed to carry 16 persons, between Morpeth and West Maitland; also the “Forget-me-not” (eighteen persons), “Rob Roy” (7 persons), and “Industry” (5 persons), between Morpeth and Singleton.

Drew’s “Buck’s Head” was in High street, near the Post Office, and two doors away from Sam Smith’s livery stables. Smith used to run the coach between West Maitland and Newcastle, three times a week — Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays leaving Maitland at 7a.m., and leaving Newcastle on the return journey at 3p.m. the same day.


The “Cricketers’ Arms” was presided over by Thomas Honeysett, who also had a flour mill in Elgin street. The worthy boniface of this hotel was evidently very keen on boosting the national game, and also incidently bringing custom to the house. He had a cricket ground near the old windmill, and it was on this ground that in 1849 West Maitland defeated East Maitland by 51 “notches”… On August 24, ’50, Honeysett is sued a challenge for his team of married men to play any team of single men. Richard Cooper accepted the challenge on behalf of the single men, and they won the match. On May 17, ’51, John Lumby, proprietor, of the “Rose Inn,” Singleton, issued a challenge for an eleven of juvenile cricketers (under 15) to play an eleven of Maitland cricketers, at Black Creek on May 31. This challenge was promptly accepted by Mr. Honeysett, the match to be for 5/ per bat.

The “Bricklayer’s Arms,” kept by T. Ashton, was near the “Cricketer’s Arms.” In the large room of this hotel a grand ball was held on December 17, 1851, tickets for which were 3/6 single and 6/ double.

The “Commercial Hotel” was in High street and near the Roman Catholic Church, it was run by W. Dunn. The “Bushman’s Home” was also in the main street. In 1850 a license was granted to J. W. Foreman for a house in High-street, to be known as the “White Hart” or “White Heart.”


The “Northumberland Hotel” shared with the “Fitzroy,” the dignity of being the principal hotel of the town. G. Yeomans was the host, and the hotel was situated in High-street, almost opposite the present Court House.

Land in the vicinity, that is, between the hotel and the Long Bridge, brought in 1850 30/, 31/6 and 34/6 per foot; at the commencement of the Long Bridge 14/6 per foot, and in the hollow 6/ per foot. One and a half acres of land facing the bridge was sold for £68. It was at the “Northumberland” that the Maitland Hospital Commit tee used to meet, Mr. John Kinsmill being the secretary. Some famous theatrical artists have given performances at this old hotel. Sarah Flower and Madame Caradine appeared here in July 17, 1850. Housen, Hydes, and Rogers gave a concert here in July, ’49, the price of admission being 3/. G. H. Rogers was one of the cleverest com edians who have ever appeared on the Australian stage. He died in Melbourne, on February 12, 1872. Monsieur La Rosiere and Mr. Jones opened their Circus Royal at the “Northumberland” on June 12, 1850. Their showbills state that families would be accommodated on the balconies of the hotel, and that tickets could be obtained at the bar — adults 2/, children 1. Noble and Mackie’s Olympic Circus (Chas. Ax-telle, manager), and the Royal Australian Circus, were also billed as having performed here in the early ‘fifties.

The “Sportsman’s Arms” Inn, kept by J. Kerrigan, was near the Long Bridge, and next door to F. Mear’s store. This name had also been used previously for an hotel in High-street opposite Bulwer street, conducted by S. Thompson. The ”Seven Stars” (formerly known as the “White Swan”), J. Richards proprietor, was at the Falls, and close by was the Maitland Brewery.

The “Light Horse Inn” was in Sempill street. In 1850 a license was secured by W. Meryn for a new stone building in Bourke street, to be known as the “Union Inn.” It was adjoining the Union steam mills. W. Collins had the “Racecourse Inn,” and it might be interesting to note the value of land nearby. In 1850 at a sale of what was known as Bourke’s land, that in Bourke street running to the back of the racecourse was sold (37 allotments) from 1/5 to 28/ per foot, in Bulwer street, 16 allotments 4/ to 10/ per foot in Elgin street, 7 allotments 3/ to / per foot, and in Catherine street 20 allotments 1/6 to 4/ per foot. The entrance to the racecourse was in Devonshire street.

Some of the other historical old taverns in West Maitland, which space will not permit me to deal with were: Plough Inn, kept by J. Callaghan; Rob Roy, J. R. Muir; Settler’s Anns, J. Ryan; Rose, Shamrock, and Thistle, J. Risby; Rose and Crown, J. Fullford; Anchor, A. Sparke; Lamb Inn, W. Drew; Governor Bourke, N. Hardy; Bird-in Hand, J. Morgan; White Bear, T. Thomas; Commercial Tavern, after wards known as the Wool Pack, W. Peberdy; Square and Compass; Caledonian, previously known as the Sir Thomas Mitchell Inn.

In 1851 a new license was issued for a house to be called the “Harp of Erin.” Just before passing over the Long Bridge and near Cunningham and Cooper’s was E. Hawkin’s “Thistle Inn,” whilst, over the bridge and adjoining the hospital grounds was the “Royal Oak,” a new house opened in 1851 by Thomas Browne. Right opposite the “Royal Oak” was the “White Swan,” kept by J. Eckford, and the last port of call was the Union Inn,” at Rutherford, opened in 1851.


The “Hinton Hotel” was conducted by N. Canvin, who also had the lease of the ferry at Hinton for the sum of £230. Under this lease he had to provide his own punt, keep it in good order, and undertake to carry passengers and carts at all times. It was at this hotel that a public meeting was held on May 13, ’48, to arrange for the erection of a church and schoolhouse at Hinton.

The “Victoria Hotel” was W. Newman’s house, and it was here that the Hinton Church Association used to hold their meetings. This hotel was on Oswald Bloxsome’s property, the rent being £104 per an num. When this gentleman sold property in Hinton and Bowthorne in January, 1850, the hotel went for £470. At this sale the farm lands sold at Hinton averaged £12 per acre.

Another old inn at Hinton was the “Farmer’s Glory,” kept by: W. Burgess,” who after he left Hinton, opened an hotel in Sydney — the “Redfern Inn” at the corner of Market and York streets. The ”Lamb Inn,” at Dunmore (on the road to Paterson) was conducted by J. Stace.

I have endeavoured in this article to deal with the old, public houses that were existing in Maitland between the years 1847 lo 1851. No doubt there are many who read this who can add or enlarge upon what I have written; If so, no one will be more pleased than myself. 

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