Hunter Valley Inns & Hotels

The Albion Inn

West Maitland

 


The Albion was the fourth Inn to be built in West Maitland. The first was the Angel Inn, then the Rose Inn and another one built of slabs, logs and bark on the corner of Hunter Street were all established in the late 1820's.

Henry Hewitt who arrived free on the Andromeda in 1823 built the Albion Inn on land granted by Governor Burke dated 8th January 1835, possession having been given from January 1831, and the quit rent being fixed at seven pence per acre. The grant was of four acres, one rood 16 poles and had a frontage to High Street. Hewitt also received a grant of a half acre adjoining the Albion Inn property, bounded by High, Church and Moore Streets.  (1)

Henry Hewitt's first Inn was the Angel Inn. He moved from the 'Angel Inn to his newly built Albion Inn in September 1831. He remained publican for three years before announcing his departure.  The Albion Inn was frequently mentioned as "Hewitt's Inn, near the head of the navigation of the Hunter," in old colonial publications.(1)  Convicts assigned to Henry Hewitt in Maitland at this time included Mary Darney, William Mason, Henry Parker and Mary Ann Murphy.

In 1924 the Albion Inn was replaced with three new shops and at that time a history from D. J. Ryan, in "The Voice of the North" was included in the Muswellbrook Chronicle.

Some of the information came from an old pioneer Frederick Crewe who arrived in Maitland in 1831 on the Katherine Stewart Forbes......There were only 14 houses in the settlement, then known as Wallis Plains, on the west side of the creek from the newly proclaimed town of Maitland, now East Maitland. The Albion Inn, therefore, was, the fifteenth house built on the site of the present town of West Maitland.  Small steamers plied to and from Newcastle and Sydney, and there were several wharves on the river bank for delivery of goods and shells; the shells being extensively used for the manufacture of lime.

Hewitt's grant had a frontage to High Street and in 1924 when the Albion was replaced with the three new shops, there was also a chemist's shop and Weston's store on the site of the grant. The land extended back to Olive Street, at the rear of properties fronting Church and Elgin Streets. (James) Mudie's grant was on the Elgin Street side, and the grants of George Turner and George Yeomans were on the Church Street site. Mary Hunt's grant of 159 acres adjoined Mudie's, and extended from the river bank to Cultivation Road, with Bulwer and Elgin Streets at one side and Hunter Street

The Albion Inn was a well built structure of brick, in the form of a cottage, with a spacious attic, and this attic in the good old days was used for prize fighting, cock fighting, and dog fighting. Prize fights were also fought in the Inn yard, but there were no gloves used in those days. In 1924, the billiard room still existed at the rear of Mr. Weston's store and had quite a history of its own..... The first Wesleyan service was held there, and it also served for some years as a courthouse, and as a place for meetings. The first Maitland Race Club was established at a meeting held in this room in 1845, and many of the old public movements had their origin there. The stable was a brick building of two storeys, 72 feet long and 32 feet wide, with a dividing wall of brick extending from end to end; The rear half of it served many purposes. At one time it was used by Messrs. Tinson and Berry as a brewery; but in 1840 this firm removed to a brick building in Bulwer Street. The bricks in the building of the Albion Inn were made at a kiln on or near the site of the Club Hotel, in Elgin Street.

Benjamin Cox moved to the Albion after leaving the Rose Inn in January 1834.  'The Albion', was described at this time as a well built structure of brick with a spacious attic and situated on the main thoroughfare through town (High Street). It was 70' long with extensive sitting rooms, seven bedrooms a bar, tap and cellar. Outside there was a blacksmiths shop, a nine stall stable, coach house and a granary. There was a spring with excellent water and a brewery was also attached  The premises were purchased by John Eales in 1834.

Wickes Norton took over the lease and running of the Inn in 1837. Wickes Norton later entered into an agreement with Mr. Grove of Newcastle to take over the running of the Commercial Inn in Newcastle .

Richard Cornelius took out the licence for the Albion in 1840. Cornelius had been manager of the store hulk St. Michael at Green Hills (Morpeth) where supplies for constables, soldiers and others requiring government supplies were held. He appointed a manager to oversee the store ship however this was not a success as in 1841 the Hunter River Gazette recorded that the St. Michael had been allowed by some mismanagement to capsize and would become useless if she could not be righted. Cornelius advertised her for sale late in 1841 while proprietor of the Albion'

Richard Cornelius decided to dispose of the license of the Albion and enter business as an auctioneer in 1842. He leased, with James Wolfe, stockyards previously occupied by the Hunter River Auction Company nearby the Albion. Richard Cornelius died aged 33 in October 1842 and was buried in Glebe cemetery.

The lease of the Albion passed to Henry Reeves in 1842. Henry Reeves arrived on the convict ship Hercules in 1825.

On taking over the Albion in 1842, Henry Reeves advertised a large stock of 'choice wines, with spirits always on hand'. He had commenced a 'splendid stable' to have every convenience; good hay, corn etc.

In 1844 he raffled a billiard table at the Albion; cues and all complete, executed by the celebrated Thurston and which originally cost 200 would be raffled at the Albion Inn when the lists were filled up with the names of forty persons at 2 each. The putter-up and the winner were to hand over to 'mine host of the Albion' 2/10/- each to defray the expense of a supper to be given on the occasion.

In 1847 Henry Reeves announced he was selling his horse stud prior to moving from the Albion and by July of that year he advertised his move to the Fitzroy Hotel on the corner of High and Elgin streets.

By 1849 the old Albion Inn had surely seen better days. The premises had not been used as an Inn for quite some time and lodgers had moved in and claimed their right by virtue of prior possession. A case was brought before the Maitland Bench when lodgers Michael Brenan and John James Penny both claimed possession. Penny had been in the house about two months having paid Mr. Jones the tobacconist an amount for the two back rooms, the shop and a tap. However Mrs. Brenan took forcible possession of the tap and kept guard over the door in a threatening manner; she ordered her husband to hand in their furniture and they slept by the tap that night. The Penny family barricaded themselves in the shop. The Maitland Mercury recorded that the formidable Mrs. Brenan broke in upon the Pennys while they were at breakfast the following morning, carrying part of her bedstead which she proposed to set up. Mr. Penny seized hold of the bedstead and Mrs. Brenan immediately struck him on the chin and eye with it. Penny ran for an axe which he brandished, threatening to chop up the bedstead. He was later  disarmed by the Constable and when the case came before the Bench it was dismissed and assistance to Penny in maintaining possession was denied.

An amateur theatre was established at the rear of the Albion in the 1840's. In 1848 Mrs. Arabin and the Maitland Amateur Company assisted in giving a performance including the drama of the Rent Day and the farce of the Unfinished Gentlemen.

In 1869 a correspondent to the Maitland Mercury visited Maitland from Sydney as he had done thirty years before around the time Henry Reeves was proprietor. The correspondent wrote of his fond memories of the Old Albion Inn.....Yonder is the old Albion Inn. It has retired from public life, and is paled off from the intrusion of its old constituents. A young stranger would scarcely imagine, from its modest look behind that green fig tree, that its rafters have often rung with jollity which was echoed back, on the midnight air, from Campbell's Hill.

As I gaze across the road, I can fancy I see the warlike Valentine on his bright bay charger, trotting out at the hall door, after a sporting ride round the snuggery table. And there stands his official superior, the aforesaid Thomas V........, laughing himself purple and beside him is his booted book-keeper. There stands the merry miller too, and the dashing young lawyer, and the portly Devonshire yeoman, who was familiarly called Ned S...., and many other choice spirits all roaring with fun. There is the Host of the Albion, too, in his green coat with bright buttons; and peeping over the bar door, enjoying the sport, is a blooming damsel, with eyes far brighter than her brother's buttons. Many aspiring youths have felt a momentary palpitation of the heart while glancing at that bewitching face. If it were not dead against my reformed principles, I should try to fancy I was sipping over again the glass of sherry negus, which I once received from the fair hands of that young lady.

Where are all those merry men now? I cannot tell. Where is that flashing eyed maiden? I do not know. But this I do know, that if she be living she is thirty years older than she was on the day she mixed my negus so nicely. She may be a grandmother, or she may be.....; but I cannot afford to speculate on the subject worthy though it be, for my space is almost done.......( Maitland Mercury 21 December 1869)

 

 

Links and Notes:

Portrait of Henry Reeves

*possibly Thomas Vawser

** possibly John Portus

***probably Henry Reeves

**** probably Emily Reeves the sister of Henry Reeves (Emily Reeves died in 1852 and was buried in the Campbell Hill burial ground alongside her brother Henry)

 

 

 

 

 

References:

(1) The Muswellbrook Chronicle 19 August 1924

 

 

 

 

 

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