Collits Inn

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Collits Inn started out as " A weatherboard commodious Barrack and Guard House with an enclosed kitchen garden, for the accommodation of the Military Guard stationed at this post on The Great Western Road, which was established for the keeping open communication with Bathurst as well as for the protection of travellers" (27th July 1822 list of public works  for Lachlan Macquarie at the Vale of Clwydd.)

 

On the 1st February 1824 a naturalist with Freycinet says that a "pleasant house in the Vale of Clwydd has been built for the overseer of the convicts".

 

However just 2 months later on the 25th March 1824 Pierce  Collit was noted as still being the process of building, He had obtained George Thatcher on in 8th April 1824 who was described not only as a sawyer but also as a bonded mechanic, meaning he was a skilled tradesmen. 

 

This must have set his project at a better pace, as back in 5th April 1823 he wrote about "the great loss he is for a carpenter, a man who understands the plan and scale of a building and is capable of giving the proper dimensions of timber requisite for my building to the sawyers as they are a present working without any kind of guide.'

 

Then, on the 6th September 1824, he again wrote to the Government to say "that he wishes to erect buildings and make other necessary improvements for the benefit of his large family". (Dates and letters appear to go backwards in Pierce Collits world ! )

 
 

 

in 1824 Pierce and Mary had  3 of  their youngest children still living with them and with 14 grandchildren Christmas dinner would have been quite a  large event.

So who came to Christmas Dinner in 1824?

Maria & Edward with their children  3 boys, aged 13,11 and 9,

Sarah and John and their 6 children

John and Hannah

Francis & Thomas and their first child

James and Joseph - the fun loving bachelors

 

A total of 25 being children and their children, plus Pierce and Mary.

No wonder he needed to extend the house!

 

 

 In 1824   Pierce & Mary had two young daughters Sophia aged 14 and Amelia 12years and  their son, William who was aged 9 years with them as dependants.

 

The older boys in the family boys John, aged 21, and James, aged 18, no doubt would have still been helping their father travelling between Castlereagh and Mount York. John was married to Hannah in 1822 and was still living at Castlereagh. James also was listed as living in Castlereagh.

 

Presumably Joseph at this time was aged 16 and still residing at Castlereagh (at the age of 18 he was on the census as a blacksmith living in Castlereagh looking after 20 acres)

 

THERE WAS A LOT OF COMMUNICATIONS IN THOSE DAYS  AND A LOT OF CONFUSION NOWADAYS ABOUT WHAT IT MEANT.....

 

On the 25th May, 1825 Governor Brisbane and Commissioner Bigge undertook communications about establishing a stockyard and military station at the foot of Mount York, but deciding not to because "there is an inn with natural pasture"

In the 1828 census Ellen Leach, whose occupation was listed as a house servant and who had married his son James, was staying  at the property, along with a shoemaker, a schoolmaster,  7/8 laborers, a stonemason and a carpenter.  in total 6 family members and 12/13 servants as, as well as travelers.  William Pritchard was there  with his brother John according to the census. 

With that amount of laborers It appears that he was in the process of adding on to the inn at this time. 

In 1829 he had 3 assigned convicts, which went down to 2 in 1831 and 2 in 1833, although he had applied for 4.

In may of 1829 Pierce writes to the Colonial Secretary to say he has a kitchen garden of 2 acres, four acres of stockyards, a dwelling house., detached stores. stabling. gunneries and a barn.

In the 1830 maps of  surveyors Dixon and McBrien, it shows 2 large and 3 small buildings.. with a large building on the far side of the road.

On the 13th October 1821 Pierce Collits had obtained permission to take 145 head of cattle to the Fish River.  8 years earlier Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson had cut a track though to stand on the top of Mount York. The colony was in the grip of extreme food shortages for the cattle so this exploration heralded a new opportunity for settlers.

After the trip with the cattle in 1821, Pierce then wrote to Governor Macquarie on the 28th November 1821 saying that he had found a site for an Inn and asked for a grant of land on which to build it.

He said in his letter that he had observed a situation highly adapted for the erection of an Inn for the security and accommodation of Settlers travelling to and from the interior Settlements..

He had begun building by 1822 and noted that he was at a great loss for a carpenter on the  5th April 1823. On 29th August 1823 a traveller noted that "he was determined to go on to Mr Colletts house. In March 31st 1823 there are records of him obtaining sawyers and carpenters and a bonded mechanick, who could have been a bricklayer or stonemason.

 Surveyor Hoddle states in his report of  November 1823 that "our line runs into the road near Collits Inn"

 

Collits  inn was very popular with travellers as the road down from Mt York was extremely steep and hazardous.  The sight of an Inn was most welcoming. Many a time it took  vast periods to winch the wagons down . The waggons had to have chocks put in front of the wheel and virtually wound their way down the road. The travelers simply had to wait at the Inn till the process was completed, so Pierce did very well our of the steep road.

 

But the day of the Collit Inn was numbered.  The road increasing become intolerable, so the search for a new road was commissioned.  James Collit thought he would put forward his idea a new road and was rewarded with 620 acres at Canowindra for his work., 7th October 1829.

 

In correspondence dated 17 November 1829 to the then Governor, Lieutenant General Ralph Darling in which  Thomas Pembroke wrote
"as your Excellency suggested a House of Accommodation would be more necessary at 20 Mile Hollow than where he at present resides, he humbly petitions to have that 50 acres measured there and with the offered assistance of his father-in-law at Mount York, will immediately commence and complete a Respectable accommodation.."
` 14 December 1829 - from Pierce Collits to the Honourable Alexanda McLeay Esq. "in reply to your letter of the 5th instant I beg leave to state that I am ready to assist TM Pembroke in building an Inn...." 2

 

However Major Mitchell had other ideas and he wanted his road to go straight down the face of Mt Victoria. There was heated exchange over the allocations of the reward  and the arrogance of  Mitchell who went ahead and started to build "his road". 

 

Mitchell writing from the Collits Inn, refused the order from the Government, saying he would not accept some vague notion of an illiterate clown and insisted his line of road was the correct one. In the end the Government gave up and accessed to letting the pass go ahead.  At the bottom of the letter in pencil is the words What more does Major Mitchell want?

 Ironically Mitchell's steep road of 1832 is still the only road to the west and increasing is becoming a totally inadequate road.  The current proposal to still use it and upgrade is nothing short of ludicrous.

 

When the pass was opened  in  October 1832, the fate of Collits Inn  was set in place. Pierce Collit  then started to make plans for capitalizing on  the new road.  The Inn increasingly became less frequently used. The Government acknowledged the loss of trade and gave him a grant of 320 acres to compensate him  317 acres at Canowindra and 3 acres at the Riverlett Bridge to build another Inn.

 

This inn was not of high repute and Louisa Meredith described it as being gaudy and run by people whom she described as intoxicated when she stayed there in October 1839.  Pierce put the title deeds in Sophia name.  Her taste was somewhat different to her fathers as Collits Inn was described of having furnishings of good quality .

 

Pierce was getting older. He probably was getting tired of the frustrations of running Inns. He was 70 years old and Mary was also getting on in age.  In fact Mary passed away 2 years after the Inn at Riverlett opened.

 

A couple more Inns also was opened The Rising Sun in 1835 owned by Amelia who was aged 25 and two years later the Bridge Inn/Kings Arms  in 1837 owned by Sophie also aged 25.  Joseph had the Dog and Duck in George street and then Rose Inn at Little Hartley. In 1837 Thomas was  sentenced to the chain gang for stealing "a few slabs"  Franics Wrote he is under sentence for two years in Irons on the public roads passed upon him in July last at the Windsor Quarter Sessions for removing in the open day and had to pass through the stockade at 17 Mile Hollow) a few slabs the property of Government which he did in a mistake". His sentence was reduced from two years to one. He died in 1840 in an asylum.

 

Frances had married Thomas Pembroke in 1822 and they opened the Woodman Inn at Woodford in 1834. 

 

Pierce also had a hand in a cottage now called Billesdene Grange.

 

When Pierce died in 1848 he left the Mount York Farm as Collits then became known as to his son James.  It stayed in the Collits family till 1875 when it was sold to Elizabeth Lewington.  James held onto his property at Canowindra  and Carrawobbity at Forbes.  In 1865 Shale oil was discovered in Hartley Vale and a oil boom began.  This was the first for Australia.  The area soon became a hustle and bustle about the region  and around 600 people lived in the village. Collits inn was primarily run as a farm with some of the rooms let out as boarding rooms for miners.

In 1875 Elizabeth bought Collits Inn from James Rawsthone who was aged 41 and adjoining land from Joseph Collits in 1877.James signed his name with an x on the deed  and hence was uneducated.

 

James Rawsthone was the third son of Sophia and Thomas and was born  on the 26th January 1934 at Spring Grove Cox's River . 

 Elizabeth Lewington remodeled the inn and reopened it as Mount York Hotel from 1877 to 1879 with John Kelly as the publican. It was then sold to Palmer and Oades, who resold to Fanny and John Tabrett. 

 

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The Bank then sold the building to Lavinia Heffernan  who owned it from 1896 till 1910.  The Luxton family rented the Inn from 1901 until it was sold  to Job Commens in 1910. when it was run a farm. In 1910 the Common family was running it as a guesthouse . They owned the Inn till 1925.

William and Isobel Welch bought the Inn in 1925 and it was ran as a successful holiday home till 1939. In 1947 it was bought by Steve Piarcik from Croatia. When he died his wide Katie lived there alone and living on vegetables and showing visitors through the old Inn for a  token  fee. 

 

 

Katie sold the Inn on 1st May 1998 to Russell and Christine Stewart and this was the beginning of the long restoration project.  It opened again as a restaurant and guest accommodation, but again closed to the public in 2008 when it was bought by the Macdonalds and now is a private house again.

 

Many thanks to the mammoth effort in undertaking the research for Collits Inn to Christine Stewart, who laid down the foundations for all future historians.

The following photos are a credit to Russell and Christine's effort on restoring this historic building.

     
   

 

 

 

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n the year of 1829, their eldest daughter Maria died at the age of 33and this must have been devastating to them both. Mostly Mary would have had a special bond with her eldest daughter and with her leaving 6 children still requiring care. Mary must have given a lot of time to them . Maria died on the 23rd September 1829 leaving a 1 year child Edward Field. and the eldest child being just 11.

Marias sister Sarah was living at Castlereagh and had 3 children of her own