Southern Highlands First Roadside Inns

22 September 1937 The Picton Post 

The history of the establishment of road side inns which followed the extension of settlement throughout the State will always provide pleasurable reading, and that of our district, so rich in enterprise and attendant danger to life through the exploits of the bushrangers, makes special appeal to the remnants of the older members of the community and the present generation.

Mr James Jervis,author of the article in the Royal Historical Society's Journal, from which instalments are being reproduced in The Post, treats with the mushroom growth of these roadside conveniences for travellers, in an interesting manner.

The writer goes on:-

On November 12, 1832, George Cutter applied to purchase 900 acres of land on the new line of road from Little Forest to Berrima, immediately south of Gibraltar Creek.

'My object,' said Cutter, 'is forthwith to clear same and   build thereon a substantial public inn and offices and erect stockyards for the public accommodation in travelling the said new line of road.' 

In 1838 the inn was taken over by William McGrath.

An advertisement concerning the sale of land at Mittagong in the Sydney Morning Herald of,  February 19, 1841, mentions 'Mr Chalker's well-known inn at the north end of the town and Mr Cutter's well known house of accommodation at the south end." 

The Chalker mentioned was doubtless the son of William Charker, an early settler, whose name also appears as Chalker.

A correspondent in the Sydney Morning Herald of September 8, 1842, commended the bravery of John Charker in bringing to punishment certain bushrangers.

The inn was known as the Woolpack, Nattai.

The earliest innkeeper at Bong Bong was William Bowman, a member of the well known Richmond family.

Instructions were issued on January 28, 1826, to measure a township allotment of five acres for William Bowman at Bong Bong, and Surveyor Ralfe reported on February 11, 1826, that the survey had been completed. Bowman had selected another spot, but Ralfe thought it too near the river.

It is clear that Bowman obtained the land as a site for an inn, and he made an application in July or August, 1828, for a license.

The Colonial Secretary informed him on August 16, 1827, that a free license could not be granted.

The license was issued between this date and 1830.

In the records for 1830 there is a note to the effect that the Argyle Inn had been licensed before, but not in the previous year, and the license was renewed in 1830.

The Sydney Gazette for March 17, 1832, referring to the township of Bong Bong, states that:-

it has only one redeeming feature, a first rate house of entertainment, the Argyle Inn, kept by Mr Bowman. This rest for the weary is conducted on a most respectable scale and with its dashing hostess, forms an agreeable insipidity for the dull settlers. It is almost to be regretted that our new road will throw this comfortable house into the shade, as its completion will terminate the existence of Bong Bong as a township..."   

When the construction of the new line of road to the south and the establishment of a town at Berrima were decided upon, Bowman applied for a grant of land to compensate him for the loss of business.

The Government agreed to give him 640 acres of land and the grant was measured out of the area reserved for township purposes.   

Bowman advertised in the Sydney Herald on November 12, 1832, that he had given up the establishment.

In 1834, Richard Loseby was mine host, and in 1836 one John Richards was proprietor.     

Early in 1837 the Sydney Gazette  mentioned that:-

... on coming off a tedious journey at Bong Bong no place of shelter or refreshment is to be found, the only public house having thrown up its license..."         

The Royal Oak. Although Bowman gave up inn keeping he still retained his connection with the district, and an advertisement in the Sydney Herald of January 1, 1841 stated that the Archerfield Estate of' 650 acres at Bong Bong was the residence of the proprietor, William Bowman.           

In later years an inn known as The Royal Oak was established on, or close to, the site of the old Argyle Inn.

Another well known inn on the Great South Road was...   Lupton's, at West Bargo.   

This stood on Portion 65, Parish of   Bargo, and dates from 1827.

An application for a free license was refused by the Colonial Secretary on March 27, 1827. The Sydney Gazette of April 26, 1832, refers to:-     

"... Lupton's residential public house, neat and homely in its appearance within and without..."

John Lupton, the proprietor, was thrown from his horse in October, 1836, near Little Forest and killed. 

Some particulars of the accident appear in The Monitor of October 16, 1836.     

In a later issue of The Monitor, Mrs. Lupton returned thanks to the gentlemen and others who had for a series of years frequented the "Woolpack," and solicited a continuance of their support.   

Early in 1827 an attempt was made to establish an inn it Bargo.

The Australian of March 3, 1827, informed its readers that:-   A man named Burn, living in a bark hut at Bargo has hoisted a conspicuous sign of no moderate dimensions designating the Royal Oak...     

At Bargo William Byrne applied for a free license, and informed the Colonial Secretary that he was about to erect an inn.

He was informed by letter dated   March 26, 1827, that when the house was fit for the reception of travellers a license would be issued free of expense for three years, provided that   the magistrates thought fit to grant him one.

Later he was told it was doubtful whether the Bench would issue a license. In 1828, John Keighran  applied for a license for a house belonging to William Byrne at West Bargo.

He was informed that the Governor saw no reason to interfere with the decision of the magistrates, which, presumably, was adverse. 

Early in 1820 Keighran applied for a grant of about ten acres and a half for the purpose of erecting an inn at a place on the Argyle Road called Cannabygle and commonly known by the name of the Little Forest.

The Surveyor-General was requested to report on this application, and in his reply, dated March 8, 1829, said:-

"... this is the only spot for miles on the road through Bargo Brush in which cattle can find any grass during a dry season and I am of opinion that it ought not under the present circumstances of the colony be alienated from the Crown..."                   

It was suggested that an allotment of two acres on the border of the original selection might be spared.

Keighran was informed in April, 18 that an area of two acres would be granted on condition that he erected an inn and stables "calculated to afford convenient accommodation to respectable travellers," and that the license would be remitted for twelve months. 

The Surveyor-General was informed on July 1, 1829, that Keighran had selected his land between May 1 and 15, and that the selection would be resumable at the end of two years if it had not been applied to the purpose for which it was granted.

Possession of the land was given on July 1, 1830, and Keighran appears to have commenced the erection of the inn.

Some reference to it is made in the Sydney Gazette of April 26, 1832:-

"...the four miles between this spot (Mittagong. - J J) and Bargo Brush then become a harassing task to accomplish a passage over, and the said brush when entered, seems a concentration of all that is melancholy, sombre and cheerless.

One solitary uninhabited tenement is all that diversifies the scene for eleven of the longest miles weary, footsore pilgrim would desire to tramp.

This tenement is built on a spot of open land called the Little Forest which scarcely intersects the bush and was intended to have been a house of entertainment, but as in dry weather not a drop of water is to be found within several miles of the place, the building was discontinued, and the Little Forest is now abandoned and left desolate."  

Keighran had, however, obtained a license dating from July 29, 1831, and the inn continued to function for many years.

Mossman and Bannister mention:-

...Keighran's public house - within a mile of the old and new roads - good entertainment for man and beast..."     

Today all that remains of the old building are a few stones.

It stood on Portion 144, Parish of Colo, on the western side of the road near the railway bridge which crosses the Southern Road just before one commences the ascent of the long incline to Alpine.   

On September 3, 1829, Henry Badgery was informed that the Governor had approved of his receiving a license free for twelve months for an inn which he proposed to erect on the roadside about eight miles from Bong Bong, near his residence at Sutton Forest.