Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

The Falls Hotel

West Maitland

Before the Belmore Bridge was opened in 1866 a hand punt was in use at the Falls near the Falls Hotel at the corner of Sempill and Hannon streeets. The spot was regarded as the end of tidal waters in the Hunter. A natural shelf in the river bed where the water falls down to sea level, provided the hotel's name. It was originally licensed as The Rose Shamrock and Thistle

A history of the old hotel was provided when the doors closed for the last time in 1923.....

The Falls Hotel, Sempill-street, West Maitland, was closed on Wednesday evening at 10pm as a hotel, after having served the public as a licensed house for about 72 years. The licence was transferred at that hour to premises in Percy-street, Cessnock, where Mr. Joseph Sumner opened the Falls Hotel at 6am yesterday. The passing of the licence of the old Falls Hotel directs attention to the history of the house, and of the licence which dates back to 1850. Its history is unique, in that there never has been either a complaint or a prosecution against the licensees, who for 72 years were members of the Risby family. It is generally thought that the licence was in operation for a much longer period, some taking it back to 1839, but in that year the locality was well timbered, and there was no brick building on the site. The NSW calendar and General Post-office Directory of 1833 records that the ford across the Hunter River to Bolwarra was 124 ½ miles by road from Sydney. That ford was nearly opposite the site of the hotel, but in those days the road to the river passed through timbered country. The old mill, the foundations of which still remain opposite the West Maitland Courthouse, was in full swing grinding wheat into flour and there was a small wharf on the inner side of the mill property. The old ford, at times, was impassable, and it was proposed to construct a dam across the river with a small culvert, or bridge to improve traffic conditions.

The late Mr. Joseph Risby who came out from the Old Country early in last century, was licensee of the Wool Team Inn, on the Morpeth road, in 1843 and in the following year took up the license for the Rose, Shamrock and Thistle Inn, which some years later had its name altered to the Falls Inn. On Mr. Risby’s death the licence passed to his widow Mary Risby, who held it till her death in 1893. She was succeeded by her son, Mr. Charles Risby. On his death in 1919 his widow became licensee, and held the licence till November, 1923 when it was transferred to Mr. Sumner.

The original licensee, Mr. Joseph Risby, supervised the erection of the house. The bricks were made at the end of Bridge-street, and the old brick hole there will be remembered by old Maitlanders. The counter in the bar, the staircase, the fittings and furniture were made of cedar, cut by Mr. Risby in cedar brush near the old Methodist Church site, on the Bolwarra side of the river Newcastle Morning Herald 2 February 1923

Notes and Links

1). The Falls Hotel in the Maitland Flood in 1864 - Maitland Mercury 16 February 1864

2). Death of Charles Risby in 1920 - Maitland Daily Mercury 9 June 1920

3). In 1928 the old Falls Hotel was occupied as a boardinghouse run by Mrs. Lord. Half of the front part of the roof was torn off during a violent storm in December 1928. It was blown down Sempill-street where it blocked traffic for some time. Considerable damage was done in the first floor front rooms by rain - Maitland Daily Mercury 22 December 1928