Sunday, 14 July 2013

Richmond's Black Horse Inn

During the early days, the colony was teeming with hotels that provided meals, drinks and sometimes accommodation for travellers. Rum, followed later by beer, was the main drink in the colony. Operating hours varied and the hostelries usually had big wooden signs defining the name, hanging on hinges outside. A light burning outside was kept on until a late hour. A lamplighter went around and lit the lamps and kept them burning. Prices ranged from 6d for a glass of rum and 3d for beer. Shouting a drink or round, popular these days, was pretty much unheard of. Entertainment was also scarce. Sometimes dances were held in the tap room, someone would play a fiddle and fights were fairly popular.  

Located in Richmond, the first license was issued 15 Feb 1819 to Paul Randall and recorded in the Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1825 and issued for the ‘Black Horse Prince.’ In later years it became known as the ‘Black Horse.’ A copy of the exact certificate was transcribed in the Windsor & Richmond Gazette in 1919.

Paul Randall was a convict who arrived in NSW in 1791 on board the “Admiral Barrington” Back in England, his brother William was involved in a robbery while his wife Mary was also implicated. Mary arrived on the “Bellona” in 1793. It appears their daughter Margaret (born in 1799) took over the operation of the Black Horse in the late 1820s leading the hotel into its heyday. Margaret had married in 1820 to Dr Henry Seymour, a convict who arrived in 1817. Following the death of her parents, Mary (1832) and Paul (1834) Margaret inherited the inn. Her parents are both buried at St. Peter’s, Richmond. It was during the 1830s that Margaret had constructed, in Windsor Street, a more established two-story building. It is thought that the original single-storey residence remained adjoining the new structure and certainly surviving photographs correspond with this theory. Margaret ran the Black Horse for forty years. 

As Henry and Margaret did not have any children they adopted Sophia Westbrook who was a daughter of James Westbrook and Eliza Phipps. Sophia married in Richmond in 1844, William Sly a convict who had arrived on the “Moffatt” in 1836. She inherited the Black Horse from the Seymour’s and the Sly’s operated it for many years. Sophia died in 1900 and son William became the licensee. Over the next twenty years or so, William Sly Jnr leased the hotel to a number of individuals including Sportsman O’Keefe who was a champion cross country rider. In the late 1920s the license was transferred to a newly established hotel at Kurrajong Heights. In the early 1930s the old inn site on the corner of Windsor and Bosworth Streets, was purchased Mr Grimwood and operated as a garage for many years.  

Black Horse Service Station, Windsor Street, Richmond, ca. 1935
Searle, E. W. (Edward William) 1887-1955
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia nla.pic-vn4655360

Years later, the building was modernised, and more contemporary alterations hid the significant historic hub. It functioned as service station until the 1960s. It was possibly in the 1970s when the service station business ceased and that the false fa├žade constructed. It was divided into commercial premises but the nucleus of the Black Horse remains, hidden.

Much romance is associated with the Black Horse and the newspapers of the 1890s and 1900s are filled with nostalgic recollections. Windsor & Richmond Gazette 16 May 1919.   It was also famous, according to the early newspapers, and many “journeyed from all parts of the colony.”  According to the Australian Town & Country Journal in 1906, the register apparently “recorded the names of many eminent people who have been identified with the wealth and progress of NSW…spent their honeymoon at the famous Black Horse Hotel."

The wooden sign that hung out the front of the hotel showing a running black horse, is now part of the collection of the Hawkesbury Historical Society. From the late 18th century, hotels were required to be licensed with some records surviving and held by State Records.

Other Sources:
Hawkesbury’s Black Horse Inn by Ken Moon (Research Publications, 1988)
Documentation of ‘The Black Horse Inn’ … prepared by Graham Edds & Associates (1994)
Hawkesbury Journey by D. G. Bowd (Library of Australian History, 1986)


  1. Westbrook - that's my family. Missed this post while I was overseas -pleased to have found it.

    1. I can trace my family all the way back to Paul Randall through the Sly branch (my mother's maiden name). A great read thank you.

  2. Hi,

    Really great information.Thanks for providing us such a useful information.

    Richmond accommodation

  3. William Sly (snr) is my 3rd Great Grandfather. I have often gone past to look at this building when passing through Richmond. It was coloquially known as The Honeymoon Inn.