The Horse & Jockey Hotel is proud to celebrate its rich history, with the original licence dating back to 1809.
Throughout it's more than two centuries the Horse and Jockey Hotel has be known by a number of different names. It started in 1809 as The Half Way House Hotel, followed by The Britannia Half Way Hotel, The 'Red' Half Way House, The Homebush Inn, Abrahams Family Inn and Horse and Jockey Club Hotel.
It can be difficult to imagine Parramatta Road being anything other than a busy thoroughfare lined with car sales yards and honking horns, however 200 years ago the scene was vastly different.
Edward Powell, a fisherman born 1762 in UK was one of Australia's first sponsored settlers. Powell and the other free settlers were granted land in the area now known as Homebush/Strathfield (christened by them as 'Liberty Plains' the first free settled land in the colony), and named his farm Dorset Green. Powell built a hotel and orchard here, where it is believed he was trading unlicenced from around 1804.
Powell's Hotel was 50 metres east of the present hotel, Australia’s First Highway Hotel with the first recorded licence of Powell's hostelery was in 1809. Powell's out houses and quarters for helpers were known as 'The Half Way Houses' and he named his hotel "The Half Way House Hotel".
In 1810, Gov Lachlan Macquarie and his wife stopped at Powell's Hotel, which is when Macquarie capped the number of publican licences in the colony in a successful attempt to close down the illegal Rum trade. Powell's Half Way House was the ONLY licenced Public House between Sydney and Parramatta.
Ideally suited between Sydney and Parramatta the "The Half Way House Hotel" quickly became a haven for weary travelers to quench their thirst and rest their horses.
In these early days Parramatta Road had no defined name. If travelling west it was the Parramatta Road. If you were heading east it was the Sydney Road or Sydney Row. Also often just called the Western Road or the High Road. Powell’s Hotel became a welcome landmark, a point that mounted police would use as a reference when patrolling for bushrangers.
Powell's Estate surrounding the Hotel grew to 500 acres and after his death in 1814 this eventually passed from his wife to son Edward Junior, who sold it to James Underwood (Edward Powell Snr's son in law). Underwood was an ex-convict who had made good through ship building and a brewery interest.
Underwood leased the Hotel to various tenants over the next years and at this time it was re-named “The Britannia Half Way House”.
As more Inns opened on the Parramatta Road, the old inn was struggling for it’s survival. In 1842 it was re- leased to one who gave the hotel it’s current name. . JAMES KERWIN aka - Jemmy the Milkman – Jemmy the Jockey. Occupation – Irish born Convict, Horse Groom, Jockey, Publican, Racehorse owner & breeder.
Kerwin was transported from Ireland as a convict in 1825 on the ship “Ann and Amelia” under a life sentence. The charge is unclear except for the notation 'Burglary and Felony'.. His convict papers show he was a "Groom" ( Groomer of Horses).
Kerwin's expertise as a jockey was quickly noted and while still officially a convict, was racing under the nickname "The Milkman" on the old Colonial Racecourses in the employ of the legendary colonial horse breeder Charles Smith. The first indication confirming James Kerwin’s earlier nickname was via a court case in 1831.
In 1832 Kerwin took the lease of the old "Cottage in the Grove" Inn at the Duck River Bridge on Parramatta Road (Lidcombe/Auburn area) and re-named it "The Horse and Jockey Inn". The property included extensive land on which Kerwin utilised as a coach stop and horse stud.
In 1841 the new Racecourse on Darcy Wentworth's private "Home Bush Estate" saw it's first meet attracting a crowd of over 8000 spectators. This was a huge crowd for the small population of the day. The Australian Jockey Club (AJC) formed at this time for the races at Homebush) Kerwin quickly made the decision to be closer to the Homebush Course. Putting up the lease of his "Horse and Jockey Inn" at Duck River, he took the lease of the old "Powell's Half Way House Hotel" in 1842, re-naming it "The Horse and Jockey Inn".
Taking the lease of Powell’s old Hotel overlooking the new Homebush Racecourse, Kerwin was in his element. During Race Meetings, which lasted 3 days during events, the Hotel was guaranteed huge crowds, and Kerwin was where the action was amidst Australia’s premier Race Course.
A special thank you to David Patrick for compiling the history of the Horse & Jockey Hotel.