Woodford Inn

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Woodford is located 84 km from Sydney. While building the first road across the Blue Mountains, William Cox placed a marker peg near the site of the present-day Woodford railway station in 1814. He named it 'Twenty Mile Hollow' as it was located about twenty miles from the river crossing at Emu Plains and the locality retained this title until 1871. It initially served as a reserve for traveling stock owing to its good supply of water.

In the 1830s the Surveyor General Major Mitchell, at Governors Darlings request, selected a spot at 24 Mile Hollow (Lawson) to satisfy an application made by Thomas Pembroke for a site on the Bathurst Road  at that locality on which he proposed to erect an Inn. On a plan of the road prepared by Ass Surveyor W R Govett dated 23rd August 1831, Pembroke's Hut is shown; it is in the position later occupied at Lawson by the original Blue Mountains Inn.

For some unknown reason, Pembroke wished to move to 20 mile Hollow (Woodford)  and Darling agreed to the request.  Mitchell was directed in August 1830 to report on the unauthorized erection and occupation of a hut by William James, and to state the quantity of land that should be granted for an Inn at that place.  In November Mitchell recommended that Pembroke be allowed 2 acres in a location halfway between Springwood Military Depot and the Weatherboard Hut (Wentworth Falls) To this the governor agreed and 2 acres at 20 Mile Hollow was measured in July 1831 by Govett for Pembroke, who was promised that "if he established a good respectable inn, he will receive some ground for paddocks to complete the establishment.

This 2 acres is the ground on which the present Academy building was erected some years later.  The land selected by Pembroke was adjacent to that already occupied by William James.  The Colonial Secretary on 21st October 1830 informed the Surveyor General, "that it appears Pembroke's selection of two acres ordered for him at 20 Mile Hollow includes certain improvements made by William James and Pembroke has been informed that unless he compensates James he must make a fresh selection."  In September 1832, the governor advised the Surveyor General that Pembroke had taken possession of his promised 2 acres as a "Special Reserve". About this time Pembroke erected the Woodmans Inn.  An entry in an Itinerary of Roads for 1833 notes:

51.  Twenty Mile Hollow, where there is a good spring of water and the land is reserved as a resting place.  There is also a hut, kept by Pembroke on the right.

Thomas Michael Pembroke is listed as being the licensee of the Woodmans Inn, Bathurst Road for the years 1834 and 1835.

William James was allowed to keep his house and improvements pending an inquiry into a complain of disorderly conduct made against him.  In early 1835 James was convicted of selling spirits without a license and because  of his bad character, the Crown Law Authorities were instructed in April to take steps to remove James building which was on crown land.

Pembroke apparently conducted his inn in a proper manner for in July 1834 Governor St Richard Bourke allowed Pembroke  a grant of 50 acres which included the 2 acres on which his house stood and on 28th November 1835, possession of the 50 acres was authorized to Thomas Pembroke.

About this time the wife of William James hung herself, the same time that two Quakers were returning to Sydney after a visit to the Wellington Valley.  In a report, one of the James Backhouse described James house, "as a miserable hovel, adjoining a public house and having a wretched appearance...where a poor woman  hanged herself.  She was a drunkard and the husband who is believed to be one of those who sold grog on the sly is now in custody on the charge of being accessory to his wife's death by assisting her to put the rope around here neck"

On October 12th, Mary James was discovered hanging in her hut which was about 30 metres from the inn

Backhouse published a book in which this incident is again mentioned.  On 16th December 1835, while he and his companion were walking down the Bathurst Road toward Penrith, they "overtook a magistrate returning from an inquest, on the remains of a woman who has hung herself in a state of excitement from drinking.  Her husband had been committed to prison on the charge of willful murder, for having assisted his wife in the accomplishment of this rash and wicked act! - The man was afterwards tried, found guilty and sentenced to death".

Pembroke did not own the inn for long.  On 23rd March 1836, he mortgaged the property and on 24th September 1836 the mortgagees John Terry Hughes and John Hosking, sold the 50 acres including the 2 acres on which was erected the premises known as the Woodman's Inn to Michael Hogan after Pembroke was unable to pay 60 and further sums advanced to him totaling 118

Michael Hogan owned the 50 acres and the premises for 19 years. The name was changed to the Kings Arms Hotel and  wre James Nairn 1843, William Barton, 1846, John Cobcroft 1847, Thomas James 1854, Anne James, 1855 and William Buss was the last to hold the license from 1857 to 1867.

The parcel of land was not surveyed until November 1841 by surveyor Davidson.    By this time James occupation of the adjoining land had long ceased and that was made know that it was open for selection. 

On 10 acres of James land, it was later erected the 18 Mile Hollow Lockup and Mounted Patrol Station. this was right at the crest of the hill where

When Hogan purchased the property in 1836 it included premises known then as the Woodman Inn.  In 1842  an artist Oswald Brierly, a watercolour sketch was made of a hostelry  titled inn at Twenty Mile Hollow. It is a weatherboard building resembling the Collits Inn .  From this artistic  evidence it confirms that the inn was built of timber and existed until 1842.

"The Woodmans Inn" at Twenty Mile Hollow. Oswald w Briely 1842  Mitchell Library.

In 1866 surveyors during investigations to find a route for the western railway line, drew a ground plan of the Kings Arms Hotel, and what remains of the hotel buildings today is exactly as was shown on the 1862 plan

Thomas Pembroke started planning to build an Inn named the 'Sign of the Woodman' at Woodford. A grant of 50 acres of land was made by Governor, Sir Thomas Brisbane on 15 November 1826.

The land grant was the subject of latter correspondence 17 November 1829 to the then Governor, Lieutenant General Ralph Darling in which it was stated that :
"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.."
In 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

12 April 1831 - Thomas was "compelled to come on the land in consequence of being ordered to quit the Crown land he then resided on (i.e. 24 Mile Hollow which is now known as Lawson)

8 December 1831. While still residing at 24 Mile Hollow Thomas Pembroke states in a letter ......

Sir, I am instructed to erect a Respectable Inn, which is in progress, having Stone Masons, Carpenters, Splitters and Fencers employed since August last when the Surveyor General (in company with Mr. Rusden, Asst. Surveyor) was pleased to call and inform me "My Selection was approved of".

I was to consider the land as mine and consequently may commence Improvements - he has "expended near thirty pounds in building materials for the purpose of erecting an Inn...." as at this date.

By 1831,(??) he had been given a grant of land at Twenty Mile Hollow. This site included an area that William James was squatting upon..


Letter from Thomas Michael Pembroke to His Excellency Major General Richard Bourke CB

 "and I have erected a Commodious Inn comprising ten apartments tho not yet finished I have expended upwards of Sixty pounds already on two acres of a Rock and what little is received by accommodating travellers (without spirit selling)..." 2

 He writes that a large Inn is now in place.

Thomas Michael's letters went largely unanswered. The reasons are not known, however many were subsequently found July 1834 in Governor Bourke's 'oubliette' prompting a review and the question "What is the present state of the matter?" in August 1834. Authority for license to sell spirits is given in License No. 34/400.

However bureaucracy can work exceedingly slowly as it was not until - 20 October 1835 that Primary Grant 42/626 was issued to Mr.T.M. Pembroke of the Woodman Inn.

Although a further license for two years to sell spirits had been granted 23 June 1835 and issued 17 July1835 (No. 35/390). 2

Thomas Michael's fortunes deteriorated - perhaps due to the continuing wrangling with his neighbour Mr. William James. James ran an illicit grog shop. Perhaps that he like to drink the alcohol rather than sell it. His predisposition to being drunk  is recorded in court documents.  Thomas was involved with the court case when William James was charged with the murder of his wife. Thomas was a material witness for the Crown but was too inebriated to finish giving evidence. He was placed in HM Gaol on February 3 to dry out and the case adjourned until 8 December 1836 when James was found guilty, but later pardoned for reasons of fairness in regard to the Judge's wrongful discharge of the Jury in the first instance.

To make matters worse he was apprehended for stealing government property. Some logs from near the stockade at 17 Mile Hollow and sentenced to 2 years in the chain Gang.  His wife appealed for clemency and it was reduced to 1 year.  He was released in mid 1838 and by 1839 was in severe debt. Thomas Michael had been freed by an act of clemency by mid 1838, but it is not known whether he ever returned to Woodford. He later died in 1840 in an asylum

Thomas Michael entered into a mortgage by demise on the Woodman Inn and surrounding property for a consideration of sixty pounds. His initial debt was increased over the next few years to culminate in a conveyance by lease and release to Mr. Michael Hogan of Penrith 24 September 1839.

A 'severe fit of illness' resulted in his being unable to attend personally as required by law at Penrith Courthouse to secure the renewal of his liquor licence - a situation which he was unable to rectify despite significant efforts on his part.

In 1839 the 'for sale' advertisement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald "50acres, 20 cleared, well-built stone and wood house, inn known as 'Sign of the Woodman', licensed, comprising 9 excellent rooms, stabling for 6 horses, store, stock and sheep yards etc. with productive garden and overflowing spring of water". Mr. GK Bryant was the lessee and licensee presumably therefore providing some financial support for Thomas Michael who by then gave his address as simply `Sydney'. (SMH 14/6/1839, Mitchell). He sold the property to a Michael Hogan of Penrith for 450.

Thomas Michael Pembroke authorised Mr. Michael Hogan of Penrith to apply for the formal issue of the Primary Grant in his name - relinquishing all claim to the property by a conveyance on the 24 September 1839 for final consideration of 90 pounds

Buss's Inn, drawn by L.Vine Hall, March 1869 Mitchell Library


The first structure on this site was a weatherboard inn built in the early 1830s by an Irish ex-convict named Thomas Pembroke. A single-storey stone building and single-storey kitchen wing, which form the basis of the present group, were probably erected in the 1840s when the tavern became known as 'The King's Arms'. A brick second storey was later added to the kitchen and a two-storey stone wing was built, with the group completed in its present form, by 1862. Another ex-convict, named William Buss, purchased the establishment in 1855 and it thence became known as 'Buss's Inn'. A popular watering hole, it served those traveling west to the goldfields.

Bulls Camp was just before the Inn.  On the northern side of the Great Western Highway, about halfway between Linden and Woodford, is the  location known as Bull's Camp Reserve. Initially known as '18 Mile Hollow', it was set aside as a stock reserve in 1829 and became a camp for convicts engaged in repairs to the road. In conjunction with this, a military stockade was established here to supervise the repairs and maintain good order on the road, particularly with the emergence of gold shipments in the 1850s.

The reserve's present name derives from Captain John Bull (1806-1901). Bull arrived in Sydney in November 1842 and, almost immediately, was appointed assistant engineer and superintendent of road gangs on the Bathurst Road. He was respected by the convicts he supervised as he maintained order without the usage of corporal punishment and gave the convicts decent burials. Bull was moved to Blackheath in 1844 and the usage of convict gangs was abandoned in 1849. Railway workers also used the site in 1866 when the first line went through. Today Bull's is a pleasant reserve with such features as 'The Waterhole', located in a former quarry site, and, on the western side of the reserve, the 'Powder Store' and 'The Grooved Rock'

Lawson was originally known as Christmas Swamp, owing to the many sedge swamps in the area which provided water to those travelling through. Later it was named 24 Mile Hollow, before becoming known as Lawson.


1824 Sep 30 HARTY, Patrick. Per "Castle Forbes", 1824 Servant to Thomas Pembroke; sentenced to Port Macquarie for buying stolen maize. On return of fines and punishments inflicted by the Bench of Evan (Reel 6023; 4/6671 p.75)

1825 May 31 LEE, James. Per "St Michael", 1819

On return of convicts transferred in the District of Evan; from Thomas Pembroke to the Sydney Barracks on 12 May (Reel 6063; 4/1786 p.101b)


Current Google map of Woodford Inn with 1862 railway survey plan imposed.  It would appear that the building next to the Lockup was half the length of the Kings Arm and could have been the original  Woodman's Inn of 1842  In 1841 on the 10 acres of James land was later erected the 18 Mile Hollow Lockup and Mounted Patrol Station.


Tracing on butter paper of allotments at Woodford, north of the Great Western Railway with names of adjoining landholders.

Also available in an electronic version via the Internet at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-f844

Ferguson Collection Map F 844.

Subjects Real property - New South Wales - Woodford - Maps.  |  Woodford (N.S.W.) - Maps.  |  Woodford (N.S.W.) - 1880-1899.