Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

The Crooked Billet


Newcastle's Oldest Building

Francis Beattie

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. He was sent to Newcastle penal settlement for a term of seven years. [1]

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 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 Petitioner 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 [2].

Francis Beattie 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. [3]

Captain Francis 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.[4]

Francis Beattie was granted a publican's licence 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 licenced house known by the sign of the Crooked Billett now paying the weekly rent of twenty shillings [5]

In 1834 Francis Beattie moved from the 'Crooked Billet' to The Australian Inn that had previously kept by James Pawsey [6]

Francis Beattie, the original proprietor of the Crooked Billet died in October 1835 age 57 and was buried in Christ Church Burial Grounds.[7]

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 [8].

The premises of the Inn may have come into the possession of Edward Biddulph at this time.

Frederick Dixon - Crooked Billet

Frederick Dixon held the licence at the Crooked Billet in 1828 - 29. The Inn was frequented by seamen in these days.

.....From 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”. [9]

William Page and Family - Miners' Arms

According to an article written in 1947 by W. J. Goold, president of the Newcastle Historical Society, the Crooked Billet, under the Page family, became known as the Miners' Arms.

Notes and Links

1). 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 states the site of the Crooked Billett to be allotment 69. (seen on the map below in King-street between the land of Parry Long and Leslie Duguid [10]

This is a different location that that of the Miner's Arms which was allotment 100 ∴ the two Inns may have been at different locations.

Map of the streets of Newcastle - UONClick to enlarge

In February 1884 the new Shipwright's Arms on the corner of Market and Hunter streets was destroyed by fire....

An extensive and disastrous fire occurred here early this morning. The signal gun gave the alarm of fire at 20 minutes to 2 o'clock. The flames broke out in the Market Square, Hunter- street, at the rear of the premises occupied by Mr. Walsh as a greengrocery and general produce store, and from thence communicated on the eastern side to Mr. Cork's confectionery establishment, thence to Mr. Somerville's at the Shipwrights' Arms Hotel, and to Mr. Charlton's drapery store. On the western side it spread to Israel's boot shop and Mitchell's fancy goods emporium, and thence to Ireland's large wholesale grocery store. The whole of the premises mentioned were completely gutted, and with the exception of a barber's shop belonging to Hingst and Ashman, the whole block of buildings extending from Market- street to the lane leading to the Hunter street Presbyterian Church was destroyed. Mr. Holcombe's large furniture depot and other buildings at the rear, had a very narrow escape, and had there been one of the usual southerly - busters we have been having lately all the properties from Hunter-street to the water's, edge must have gone. The firemen, under Superintendent Frank Gardner, were quickly on the spot, and behaved well throughout. A large quantity of gun powder was rescued from Ireland's stores just in time to prevent an explosion. No. 1 and 2 of the City fire-engines were first on the scene, being immediately followed by the Honeysuckle Point Brigade. A good supply of water was obtained from the Market Wharf, but much delay was experienced at the railway crossing by the gatekeeper not having the key, and this defect was at last remedied by the fire men's tomahawks. Mrs. Cork reports that she was awakened by the crackling of the flames; she slept in the back room upstairs, next to Walsh's ; she ran downstairs to see to her children, who slept at the rear of the premises, and -she then saw the flames at the next door. Catching up her children she immediately gave the alarm. In the confusion she lost £20 from under her pillow, put there to pay the monthly bills next day.[11]


[1] Sydney Gazette 11 October 1817

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

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

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

[5] The Sydney Gazette 25 April 1829

[6] Sydney Gazette 23 October 1834

[7] Register Book of Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle. Burials. p19

[8] Sydney Gazette 2 February 1836

[9] Sydney Monitor 14 November 1829

[10] SR NSW Archive Reel: 1583; Series: 12992; Description: Registers of Memorials for Land 1825-1842

[11] Sydney Mail 9 February 1884