Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

The Miner's Arms

Darby Street Cook's Hill

An old resident of Newcastle described the Darby-street in the early days of the town. "It was once the gateway to Lake Macquarie", he told an interviewer. "As I first remember it, the Lake-road was a rough, sandy track. It was only with difficulty that one could make any progress through the area extending from the vicinity of the present Tyrrell-street, near its junction with Laman street, towards the Glebe and Merewether. The countryside was thickly covered with a low, bushy growth, which was destroyed year by year, until the protection afforded by the vegetation gave free rein to the sand-drift - a terrible nuisance 60 or 70 years ago. The southerly winds would drive it along the valley between the southern heights of Newcastle and the Merewether hills, causing great damage and making everything as uncomfortable as it could be. [1]

The Miner's Arms was situated in Darby-street, just across the road from the Old Oak Inn. The location can be found on this Mahlstedt and Gee Surveyors Map dated 1886. The building was once one of eight hotels that stood between Hunter-street and Bull-street, and dated back to the days of the windjammers and clipper ships, new mining ventures and construction of the Great Northern Railway, all of which provided workers who frequented the inns and hotels of Darby-street.

Following are some of the owners and publicans of the Miner's Arms:

Joseph Walmsley

Joseph Walmsley may have been the first publican at the Miner's Arms. Previously to this, he was employed as a miner by the A. A. Company at Newcastle. By 1851 gold fever had struck Australia. Towns were left deserted as men headed to the goldfields. It became difficult to find workers as men left to seek their fortune. Joseph Walmsley, with three other men, Alexander Miller, George Burchnall and Thomas Robinson absconded from their work with the intention of making it to the gold fields, however they were captured near Singleton and returned to Newcastle. [2] They were not penalised other than having forfeited their wages, probably because labour was in such short supply. Joseph Walmsley may have made to the gold-fields eventually however, for by 1855 he had enough funds to enable him to build or buy the Miner's Arms.

He was granted a Publican's licence for the Miner's Arms in April 1855. Sureties were given by Morris Magnay another Newcastle publican. [3]

Joseph Walmsley held the licence for the Miner's Arms until 1869. Although he retained ownership of the Miner's Arms, in 1870 he took out the licence for the City Arms on the corner of Market and Hunter Street, Newcastle [4]

John Barry

John Barry junior was granted the licence for the Miner's Arms in 1870 [5]

Thomas Flynn

Thomas Flynn held the licence in 1872, 1873, 1874 [6]

John Lane

John Lane was granted the licence in 1876, 1877, 1878, 1880 and 1881 [7]

Judging by the curious article below, John Lane was also a talented artist:

On visiting the Miner's Arms Hotel, Lake Road, our attention was drawn to a lot of pictures exhibited in the bar. On inspection we found the whole number (consisting of twelve), representing, viz. the four great scullers of the day Hanlan, Trickett, Laytock, and Kelly; also the wreck of the City of Newcastle, ship Galeta, and barque Nonpariel, and Neptune, brig, also the Two Sweeps at Cribbage; Dick Whittington; the Lord Mayor of London; the Girl wait for me ; the Grandson of the Emperor of Russia; the whole comprising the enormous amount of 61310 pieces of natural colored wood - a feat that challenges any other of the Australian colonies to produce the same, and one that the inhabitants of the city ought to be proud of, being executed by the landlord, Mr. John Lane, - a bona fide native of the city; and yet, strange to say, such is the case that such talent is ignored by those who ought to be foremost in fostering it. In disgust, the landlord is about retiring from this dull and sleepy city, and it is to be hoped he may pitch upon some other spot, where his talents will be recognised [8]

William Evans

William Evans was granted the licence in June 1890 Newcastle Morning Herald 13 June 1890. In that same month the furniture, licence and goodwill of the Miners' Arms was offered for sale. Apply to W. Evans on the premises of the Castlemaine Brewery and Wood Bros & co [9]

Patrick McLaughlin

The licence was transferred to Patrick McLaughlin of Hamilton in July 1890 [10]

William Turner

The licence was transferred from William Turner to Nicholas Johns in February 1893 [11]

Nicholas Johns

The economic and financial crisis which began about 1890 reached its climax in the autumn of 1893. There were many who became bankrupt including miners in the Newcastle district, perhaps owing to the Newcastle port having an unenviable reputation amongst ship owners of being unreliable causing a slow-down in the industry. Many people could not find work and did not have money to support themselves or their families. Some men took to the road and were known as swagmen and sundowners as they walked from place to place hoping to find occasional work.

Nicholas Johns fell victim to the uncertain times. The depression in trade, losses in business of the hotel and mining speculations connected with a syndicate working the Tickhole coal bearing land threw him into insolvency. He sold the furniture and stock of the hotel and transferred the licence to his son George Alfred Nicholas Johns [12]

Offered for Sale

In October 1894 the hotel was offered for sale by order of the Trustee under the Will of the late Joseph Walmsley, deceased. The property occupied an area of nearly a quarter of an acre and extending right through from Darby-street to Railway-street. The hotel was described as a substantial and commodious brick building. Also for sale were a weatherboard cottage adjoining being No. 155 Darby-street and three two storey brick built dwelling houses at the rear known as 108, 110 and 112 Railway-street [13]

George Alfred Johns

George Alfred Johns was granted the licence in June 1894. He was fined for trading on a Sunday in October 1896. He was granted a licence in June 1898 and 1900

Tenders were called for alterations and additions to the Hotel in March 1901. Architect James Henderson

Thomas Martin

The licence was transferred from George Johns to Thomas Martin in February 1903 [14]

In 1909 architect Mr. Yeomans called for tenders for extensive additions to the Miners Arms. It was proposed to pull down the old cottage adjoining and extend the hotel in that direction, so as to bring it up to residential and local requirements. [15]

James Farley

In 1921 the Miner's Arms was one of twenty-three doomed hotels in the Newcastle district.

Licensing Board - In the matter of the Miner's Hotel, Darby-street. John Farley licensee; Wood Brothers, Limited, owners: Mr. Cohen. with Mr. J. A; Wood, for both parties. Inspector Cook said there were no convictions against the house. Sergeant McRae, Lake-road, said there were-six bedrooms in the house, four of which were available to the public. Two rooms were occupied by three boarders. According to the book shown him by the licensee about ten meals were provided weekly for casuals. The house was well conducted, but in his opinion the licence was not required. Mr. Cohen said he would not offer any evidence, but would take advantage of the provisions of section twelve of the Act, in terms of which the written consent of the parties would be furnished to the surrender of the license. [16]


[1] Newcastle Morning Herald 26 November 1938

[2] Maitland Mercury 7 June 1851

[3] Publican's Licences State Archives NSW; Series: 14403; Item: [7/1503-1504]; Reel: 1237

[4] Publican's Licences State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 14411; Item: 7/1514; Reel: 1243

[5] Publican's Licences. State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 14411; Item: 7/1514; Reel: 1243

[6] Publican's Licences. State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 14411; Item: 7/1514; Reel: 1243

[7] Publican's Licences. State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 14411; Item: 7/1514; Reel: 1243

[8] Newcastle Morning Herald 23 November 1882

[9] Newcastle Morning Herald 3 June 1890

[10] Newcastle Morning Herald 18 July 1890

[11] Newcastle Morning Herald 9 February 1893

[12] Newcastle Morning Herald 5 May 1893

[13] Newcastle Morning Herald 3 October 1894

[14] Newcastle Morning Herald 13 February 1903

[15] Newcastle Morning Herald 3 September 1909

[16] Newcastle Morning Herald 14 January 1921