Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

The Trades Arms

East Maitland

According to this article in the Sydney Herald, Robert Keddie arrived in Australia on the Stirling Castle. He was in Maitland before 1838 as he purchased town allotments in Maitland in that year.

He was a builder by trade and in April 1839 he opened a cedar yard in Maitland for the sale of windows and doors and other timber goods. [1]

Despite the difficult financial times in 1843, Robert Keddie decided to construct a two-story building at Raymond Terrace intended for a hotel and to be conducted by Mr. Dee.[2]

He was also selling coal from Coal Hill East Maitland in 1843. [3]

By 1844 he had opened an Inn in East Maitland in the Building formerly occupied by the Bank of Australasia which he named the Trades Arms Inn [4]

He attended many public meetings in Maitland and served on committees. In 1847 he presented an address to Sir Charles Fitzroy on his visit to Maitland[5]

He was charged on several occasions for breaches of the Licensing Act. Innkeepers were often required to evict troublesome characters from their premises. They were entitled by the law to do so however using only necessary force in doing so. This law was to Robert Keddie's advantage in 1847 when he was accused of assaulting Henry Reuban a Ginger Beer and cordial manufacturer seeking payment for ginger beer he had supplied. Although Keddie was convicted of assaulting Henry Reuban he was fined a mere 1/-.

The eviction of another troublesome character - Pitnacree punt owner Malcolm Turner resulted in a charge of manslaughter against Keddie when Turner was later found dead in a barn at the Inn. There was a lengthy trial and at the conclusion Robert Keddie addressed the court. He stated that he was convinced that the jury would see that there was no foundation whatever for the charge against him, and their verdict would disabuse the public mind of the false and injurious reports circulated against him. He had no hand in the death of the unfortunate man further than filling the glass that made him drunk although he admitted that Turner had died from an injury after a fall on the verandah of the Inn. He reiterated that he was entirely innocent of the charge and criticized the committing magistrate and coroner. When the jury returned with a verdict of not guilty after twenty five minutes deliberation, loud cheering took place outside the Court causing the Judge to sentence an old servant of Keddie's to 48 hours in the cells for contempt of court.[6]

In November 1849 Robert Keddie was advertising to organize voyages to California. He stated that he would not be able to make Passage money less than £12/10- because agents and ship owners charged most exorbitantly for their vessels as the sailors abandoned them to look for gold on arrival. He vowed to provide a much more liberal allowance of fresh provisions than any of the ships sailing from Sydney and would charge £20 for the freight of a horse with owners to provide their own groom and fodder. Each passenger was allowed half a ton of luggage free of charge. [7]

On 29 December 1849 Robert Keddie was admitted to Newcastle Gaol as 'a lunatic'. He was sent from there to the Tarban Creek Asylum. [8]

James Ferguson

In December 1849 the licence for the Trades Arms was transferred from Keddie to James Ferguson[9]

In 1850 the premises of the Trades Arms in East Maitland as well as four stone cottages and five brick cottages and the Freemasons Arms in Raymond Terrace were to be sold by the Sheriff.

Robert Keddie died by his own hand in 1851. [10]


[1] Sydney Herald 10 April 1839

[2] Maitland Mercury 18 February 1843

[3] Maitland Mercury 1 April 1843

[4] Maitland Mercury 6 July 1844

[5] Maitland Mercury 6 February1847

[6] Maitland Mercury 22 September 1849

[7] Maitland Mercury 7 November 1849

[8] Gaol Description and Entrance Books, State Archives NSW; Roll: 138 (Ancestry)

[9] Maitland Mercury 5 December 1849

[10] Maitland Mercury 26 April 1851