Highlands History | Queen’s Arms Inn traded south of Berrima from 1844 to 1871

Between Berrima and Paddy’s River, at least five inns traded at intervals along the Southern Road (now Hume Highway) from the 1830s to the 1860s. The opening of the railway through the district in 1868 put them all out of business, as the line bypassed Berrima and caused a serious decline in road traffic between Sydney and Goulburn. 

A history of the Kentish Arms Inn, located two miles south of Berrima, was presented in the last article. Next down the road was the Queen’s Arms Inn, situated at Hoddles Crossing or The Crossroads, where a cart track from Sutton Forest (now Illawarra Highway) joined the main road.

The Queens Arms Inn opened in 1844 and continued trading until 1871. Its history is somewhat vague, not least because by the 1920s the inn was reduced to ruins and the site overgrown. During Hume Highway excavations in 1986 for a new overbridge at the Crossroads, a well was uncovered about 200 metres south of the bridge. It was badly damaged and filled with bottles and debris. Built from sandstock bricks, four metres in diameter, it was bonded with bush sand and lime, and lined with cement render. Records revealed that the Queens Arms had occupied the site.

DECREPIT: The Queen’s Arms Inn site in 1920s. Photo: BDH&FHS

DECREPIT: The Queen’s Arms Inn site in 1920s. Photo: BDH&FHS

UNEARTHED: The well at Queen’s Arms Inn found near Hume Highway in 1986. Photo: BDH&FHS.

UNEARTHED: The well at Queen’s Arms Inn found near Hume Highway in 1986. Photo: BDH&FHS.

One photo of the Queens Arms has come to light, taken in the 1880s after it had been renovated as a residence. It shows a two-storey, Victorian Italianate villa with a fine cast-iron balustrade decorating the first floor verandah.

ELEGANT: The Queen’s Arms Inn in 1890s after it became a fine residence. Photo: BDH&FHS

ELEGANT: The Queen’s Arms Inn in 1890s after it became a fine residence. Photo: BDH&FHS

When first licensed in 1844, the Queens Arms Inn was a modest, single-storey building, with detached kitchen, stables and blacksmith shop. It may have also been a general store. James Purvis was licensee until 1846 and then Kenneth Munro until May 1848 when he died and his wife Isabella took over, remaining until 1852. 

Munro had married Isabella in Scotland and they arrived in NSW around 1834. They had emigrated with Reverend Lang who was bringing Scottish tradesmen to the colony. Lang started a newspaper, The Colonist, and employed Munro as editor but he left in under a year, being constantly harassed by the Sydney Gazette with threats of libel. 

In 1836 Munro received land grants totalling 2,500 acres at the Crossroads and had four convicts assigned to him: a labourer, carpenter, brick maker and tanner. In 1838 he opened a general store. Records indicate that in 1841 and 1845 his store was robbed, two of his employees being indicted. Munro was declared insolvent in 1844 and ordered to sell his property. As the inn opened that same year, perhaps he converted his store residence into an inn and sold it to Purvis. After Munro’s death in 1848, aged 43, an inquest declared him to have been insane, frequently becoming lost in the bush for days. His widow Isabella then became licensee of the Queen’s Arms. She was an attractive, strong-minded woman who made regular appearances in court charged with a number of misdemeanours, one serious enough for her to spend a few months in Goulburn Gaol. She re-married in 1852 and moved to Queensland. 

Joseph Badkin, who had been transported from England in 1829 at age 18, became licensee in 1852 and moved in with wife and family. He remained as publican until 1857 when the family moved to Tamworth. 

Andrew Donohue was licensee from 1857 to 1861 and most likely added the two-storey extension. He sold it to Thomas Brennan for 1100 pounds in 1860, who then, in 1863, put it up for auction, described as “a two-storey brick and sandstone building with large cellars, a stone blacksmith shop and store on 43 acres of land”. 

Evidently business had dropped off by this time as it didn't sell, although Brennan made clear he would accept any offer.  He continued to operate the inn until 1871 when it was de-licensed and sold. Edward Mitchell, a Mittagong land-owner, bought it for 450 pounds as an investment property and advertised it for sale in 1873, noting that it was roofed with patent tiles and piped, and had a neat flower garden in front. The house contained 16 rooms and a space used as a post office/store. 

In 1874 the Queen’s Arms was purchased by Robert Yund and it served as a family residence for perhaps several decades. By the 1920s it had become ruins. 

Without the unearthing of its brick well in 1986, the memory of the old Queen’s Arms would be even more faded.

  • Berrima District Historical & Family History Society – compiled by PD Morton. Part 3 of a 5-part series. To be continued.

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