Hunter Valley Inns & Hotels

The Crooked Billet


Francis Beattie Charles Booth, John Barker and John Dewhurst were tried in Lancaster on 23 March 1809 and sentenced to 14 years transportation for forging notes. They were sent to the Perseus hulk from Lancaster Castle on 23 May 1809 and transferred to the Indian convict ship which departed England on 18 July 1810.

In Sydney in 1817 Francis Beattie was found guilty of receiving a quantity of meal that had been stolen from Mr. Dixon's steam engine in Sydney. He was sent to Newcastle penal settlement for a term of seven years.

In 1823 he petitioned Governor Brisbane for a lease of land. His petition is interesting for the fact that he called the location of his house Walliss' Hill.....

The Humble Petition of Francis Beattie,

Most respectfully shewith,

That your Excellency's Petitioner arrived at this settlement upwards of five years back under sentence of 7 years transportation.

That shortly after Petitioner's arrival Captain Wallis (46th Regiment) then then Commandant was pleased to give him an allotment of ground on which he erected a  substantial dwelling house. No. 4 Walliss' Hill, and has expended a considerable sum thereon.

That Petition being an aged man and having a wife to maintain is desirous to spend the remainder of his days at this settlement. And therefore humbly hopes your Excellency will be pleased to confirm his present title to the aforesaid land by granting him a Town Lease thereof...... (4)

He was assigned to Alexander McLeod at Newcastle in October 1824 according to papers in the Colonial Secretary's correspondence. His trade was given as 'turner'. He became free in December 1824 and was recommended for a land grant by Commandant Henry Gillman so that he could build a commodious Inn with stables and out buildings which according to Major Gillman were much needed at the settlement. (5)

Captain Allman was Commandant when Francis Beattie's approval came through in 1825. He was to be allowed two allotments of land upon entering a bond to build his Inn complete with stables and out houses. (6)

He was granted a publican's license to sell spirits, beer and ale in March 1825.

He established the Crooked Billet Inn in 1825. During his years at Newcastle as well as his business running the Inn he also worked as a bailiff, gaol keeper, pound keeper, auctioneer and store keeper. 

In 1829 Francis Beattie came into financial difficulties and the following action was advertised:

Sheriff's Office 21 April 1829, Supreme Court

Smith v. Beattie

At Newcastle on the premises of the defendant and at such other places as at the time of sale may be found convenient, the sheriff will cause to be sold the following property belonging to this defendant: A dwelling house with stabling and bakehouse standing on two town allotments situated in Bolton Street at the Bottom of church hill and a licensed house known by the sign of the Crooked Billett now paying the weekly rent of twenty shillings......(1)

In 1834 Francis Beattie moved from the 'Crooked Billet' to the Australian Inn that had previously kept by James Pawsey (19).

Frederick Dixon was publican at the Crooked Billet in 1828 - 29. The following article appeared in the Sydney Monitor

(The following has been sent to us, but we consider it a mere joke. Ed.) Newcastle Police- A person in a state of intoxication having gone into the house of Mr, Dixon at Newcastle, called the Crooked Billet, and laid himself down in the tap, was robbed of two pounds and a gold ring; a month and two days after this affair, Mr. Dixon was summoned before the bench on account of a man being robbed in his house; Mr, Dixon appeared before Captain Wright, Superintendent of Police in that district, and Dr. Cunningham. During, the course of the investigation, he was asked, what sort of characters were in his house on that evening? Mr. D. replied, different characters, "Oh replied the Bench, “indifferent characters !” We fine you then one pound for keeping a disorderly house”.

According to an article written in 1947 in the Sydney Morning Herald the Crooked Billet later became known as the Miners' Arms and then Northumberland House. The building was used as a Customs House before reverting to its original role, that of an Inn in the 1860's, under the sign of the Shipwrights' Arms. Later it became known as the London Tavern. The Building was still standing in 1947 (3)

Francis Beattie died in October 1835 age 57 and was buried in Christ Church Burial Grounds. (2) John Smith was named as executor. Some of his belongings were advertised to be sold from John Smith's Stores in Newcastle: 10 cows, heifers, steers, 1 mare 1 pony, gig, cart, saddle, household furniture, clothes, sofas and a bedstead (20)


Notes & Links:

1). Select here to see an image of Northumberland House, part of which was once the Crooked Billet.

2). In February 1836 Allotment 69 also known as the Crooked Billett was conveyed from Edward Biddulph to Samuel Ashmore, John Hosking and Archibald Campbell (the executors of the estate of the late Richard Charles Pritchett.) This document of conveyance reveals the site of the Crooked Billett one of Newcastle's earliest Inns. Allotment 69 can be seen on the map below between the land of Parry Long and Leslie Duguid - SR NSW Archive Reel: 1583; Series: 12992; Description: Registers of Memorials for Land 1825-1842

Maps of Allotments in Newcastle (n.d.) Click to enlarge


(1) The Sydney Gazette 25 April 1829

(2) Register Book of Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle. Burials. p19

(3) Sydney Morning Herald 5 September 1947

(4) Colonial Secretary's Correspondence (NRS 899) Memorials to the Governor, 1810-1825 Item: 4/1834A Number: 17 Page: 109

(5) Colonial Secretary's Correspondence. (NRS 899) Memorials to the Governor, 1810-1825 Item: 4/1836A Number: 47 Page: 207-12

(6) (NRS 937) Copies of letters sent within the Colony, 1814-1825 Item: 4/3513 Page: 255

(7) Sydney Gazette 11 October 1817

(18 )Sydney Gazette 7 February 1833

(19) Sydney Gazette  23 October 1834

(20) Sydney Gazette  2 February 1836