St. Albans Settlers Arms Inn.
 

The Settlers Arms Inn as seen today.

A Brief History of the Settlers Arms Inn.

In the township of St. Albans there are several noticeable stone buildings of which the most prominent is the Settlers Arms Inn. This is a fine two storey sandstone coaching inn who’s licence was issued to John Sullivan of Wollombi in 1836. The building would seem to have been erected later, soon after the first land sales in 1842 in the newly gazetted Village.
There has been some confusion as to the construction date of the Settlers  Arms as 1836 however this would appear to be the time that the license was issued, number. 36/10, but the next record is 37/251 to John on 5th. July 1837. Record taking at that time was erratic at best. However a report by the Hawkesbury correspondent in the Sydney Morning Herald of 1st. March 1848 probably finalizes the date later. It reads. "The township which a few years ago was marked out upon this river, has been built on by only one individual, Mr. Sullivan. He has erected a very reasonable stone house two stories high, which we understand he intends to open as an Inn." [Implying that it was not open then.] Remembering that the first land sales were held in July 1842. Initially it was called the Travellers Arms.

John Sullivan, died intestate in October l849 and is buried, along with his wife Catherine, at Our Lady of Loreto cemetery in the valley.
John's son, John Sullivan Junior inherited the property, and in 1855 he sold it to Richard Jurd. Then began a tradition lasting almost 80 years, whereby the Jurd family were licensees of the Settlers Arms Inn. Drovers,  travellers and Cobb and Co. coaches all stopped at the Inn or "Jurd's Hotel" on their way to and from the North Coast and Hunter Valley. The Inn was a popular meeting place and the centre of the district's social life. A magnificient white cedar grew at the front. A separate building adjacent to the Inn was the local ballroom where many an enjoyable night was spent. People would walk or ride from as far away as Wisemans Ferry, Windsor and Wollombi to attend socials. One dance, described in the local paper in 1895; began at 8 o'clock with dancing till midnight. Then there was a supper break for about an hour and the dancing began again and continued until 6.30 in the morning.

By the 1930s however, passing traffic was infrequent and the local population had declined to such an extent that it was no longer viable to run the hotel. Mrs. Jurd, the licensee, applied to surrender the licence but there was an outcry from the remaining residents, who felt they might "die of thirst". The Inn remained open a few more years, but in 1939 the licence was transferred to the Clarendon Hotel between Windsor and Richmond.
For over thirty years the few travellers through the valley saw the Settlers Arms merely as a store, or a private dwelling, but rumour has it that the locals never went thirsty at the back door. In the 1970s a liquor store licence was transferred from across the river by Ian Robinson the owner at that time and the Inn began to dispense alcoholic beverages again, although because of the licence, one had to go outside to drink one's purchases. At this time the Inn also functioned as the local Store, Post Office and Telephone Exchange. Ian, [ now Wisemans Ferry Real Estate] and his wife and sons [Local Builders] still live in the valley and are active in many village activities.

In 1983 David and Sharon Thompson obtained a special Historic Inns licence that enabled the Settlers Arms to function as a fully licensed inn once again. The dance hall and white cedar tree have gone, but the dancing still continues on occasions under the equally magnificent Camphor Laurel tree behind the Inn. The stone-built store adjacent to the Inn was built of local sandstone blocks recovered from nearby dilapidated buildings, and re-cut and dressed to match the existing building. This was added in 1982-3. the work being done by local craftsmen. In spite of the fact that the Inn is situated well above the river, floodwaters have entered the Inn on several occasions. It is claimed that the 1889 flood, the worst in the valley's history rose almost to the eaves of the hotel. However, since the building has been continuously lived in and maintained, it has not suffered in the way that many of the old ruins of the valley have done.
The current "mine hosts" are Ian and Gabrielle Burns-Wood and the Inn enjoys a healthy patronage from locals and the many weekend visitors that come to visit the "Forgotten Valley" and the Village of St. Albans.
The Inn now boasts an extensive tree lined garden at the rear for the enjoyment of patrons who can also enjoy the delicious Australian food prepared fresh in the Hotel kitchen, not forgetting to mention a good winelist and home cooked cakes and deserts.
 
 

The Settlers Arms Inn Public Bar and a typical bedroom today.
 
 

Links
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