General Roberts Hotel, New Lambton

In 1868 the New Lambton Coal Company struck a payable seam in their mining lease adjacent to Lambton, and a new township began. Unlike Lambton where private ownership of land was promoted, the New Lambton proprietors did not offer their land for sale. With no ownership, there was no incentive for townspeople to construct anything but the most basic of buildings. In 1890 when land was first sold in the town, New Lambton had just three hotels, all of them hastily erected wooden structures.

In 1898 Frederick George Roberts purchased land on the corner of Lambton and Tauranga Roads, and built a weatherboard store, selling groceries, draperies, ironware and clothing. In July 1902 he applied for a publican’s license to open a hotel on the site of his store. Despite police objections the licensing court granted the application, in part swayed by Roberts’ plans to erect a substantial brick hotel, in contrast to the other hotels nearby that were described at the time as “a very disappointing lot indeed”.

By September 1902, the store was demolished, and the builder William Knight was constructing a new brick hotel designed by the notable local architect Ernest George Yeomans. On 18 April 1903 120 years ago this month, Roberts announced by advertisement that his “new hotel will be opened for business today, containing 20 spacious and well ventilated rooms.” He named it the General Roberts Hotel, after Frederick Sleigh Roberts, recently commander of the British forces in the Second Boer War. Within a year Phillip Byrne had become licensee, and Ralph Snowball photographed the hotel soon afterwards. Looking west along Lambton Rd and Alma Rd, the photo shows the General Roberts Hotel on the right, and beside it the remnants of a cutting where the New Lambton colliery railway once ran.

General Roberts Hotel, 15 July 1904. Photograph by Ralph Snowball. Living Histories, University of Newcastle.
Lambton Rd and the General Roberts Hotel in 2023.

The article above was first published in the April 2023 edition of The Local.


Additional Information

Map from land title Vol-Fol 1021-213, showing portion 1324, the site of F G Roberts store and then the General Roberts Hotel. Note the New Lambton colliery railway running north to south, under a bridge on Lambton Road.
Portion 1324 was purchased by Frederick George Roberts of Waratah, hotelkeeper, on 18 November 1898. Vol-Fol 1021-213.
F G Roberts Store, Lambton Rd, New Lambton, NSW, [1902]. Photo by Ralph Snowball. Living Histories, University of Newcastle.
Roof damage to F G Roberts store in New Lambton due to cyclonic wind storm on Tuesday 7 November 1899. Photo by Ralph Snowball. Australian Town and Country Journal, 18 November 1899.

At the corner of the main road and Tauranga-street another brick hotel of 18 rooms, to be known as “The General Roberts,” has just been completed. This is built with red, pressed, tuck-pointed fronts and ornamental parapets. The fronts have those useful adjuncts, spacious colonnades. The building is tastefully finished both inside and out, and standing on a prominent site is a landmark in the municipality. Formerly on this site stood Mr. Roberts’ w.b. store, which has been demolished to make place for this hotel. The architect was Mr. E. G. Yeomans. and the builder Mr. W. Knight.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 17 April 1903.
Advertisement of the opening of the General Roberts Hotel. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 18 April 1903.

Within six months of opening the hotel, F G Roberts was looking to sell the hotel business, but retain ownership of the land and buildings.

Advertisement of the sale of the General Roberts Hotel business. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 23 October 1903.
General Roberts Hotel, corner of Lambton Road and Tauranga Road, New Lambton, NSW, 15 July 1904. Photo by Ralph Snowball. Living Histories, University of Newcastle.
Roberts sold the land and buildings of the General Roberts Hotel to Tooth & Co on 25 November 1918. Vol-Fol 1021-213.
Entry in a card in the Noel Butlin archives, showing that the General Roberts Hotel was rebuilt in 1957, at a cost of £65,672.
General Roberts Hotel in 1959, shortly after the rebuild of 1957. Noel Butlin Archives.

Licensees

Variant spelling of names is shown in square brackets

  1. Frederick George Roberts (April 1903 to April 1904)
  2. Phillip James Byrne (April 1904 to June 1905)
  3. John Keim [Kiem, Kilm, Kien, Kiern, Kierns] (June 1905 to April 1913)
  4. Edward Butterworth (April 1913 to April 1916)
  5. John Drummond (April 1916 to May 1919)
  6. Oliver O Woods (May 1919 to September 1919)
  7. Frank Burden (September 1919 to July 1927)
  8. George James Embleton (July 1927 to April 1928)
  9. Leonard P Damerell [Damerill] (April 1928 to January 1929)
  10. Joseph Patrick Quinn (January 1929 to November 1945)
  11. William Thomas Garaty (November 1945 to June 1957)
  12. James Robert Rose & Mary Rose (June 1957 to January 1961)
  13. Albert Frederick Seales (January 1961 to April 1966)
  14. David Alfred James Blanch & Ann Blanch (April 1966 to March 1968)
  15. Joseph Moody & Ellen McReadie (March 1968 to ????)

Names and dates of licensees from 1919 onwards are taken from the General Roberts Hotel cards in the Noel Butlin archive.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
2 Jan 1899"A large general store, and residence for Mr. Roberts is in course of erection at the corner of Lambton and Taurangua roads."
11 Jan 1899"Mr. E. G. Yeomans was found to be up to his eyes in architectural work … A shop and dwelling for a Mr. Roberts, at New Lambton, is half completed."
18 Nov 1899
7 Nov 1899
Roof damage to F G Roberts store in New Lambton due to cyclonic wind storm.
21 Sep 1901"TENDERS are invited for the ERECTION of WEATHERBOARD COTTAGE in New Lambton for Mr. F. G. Roberts."
10 Feb 1902"I FREDERICK GEORGE ROBERTS give notice that I desire at the next Quarterly Licensing Court, to apply for a CONDITIONAL PUBLICAN'S LICENSE for Premises situate at New Lambton already erected at the corner of Lambton-road, but requiring additions and alterations to make them suitable to be licensed. These premises, if a license be granted, are to be known as the GENERAL ROBERTS HOTEL, and will contain when completed, eight rooms exclusive of those required for the use of my family."
11 Apr 1902"At the Licensing Court to-day an application was made by Frederick George Roberts for a conditional publican's license for premises situated on the main Newcastle Cardiff road at New Lambton, proposed to be used as an hotel." Decision reserved pending the hearing of two other applications for hotels in the vicinity.
4 Jul 1902"At Newcastle Licensing Court, Frederick George Roberts applied for a publican's conditional license for premises to be erected on the Lambton-road, New Lambton … Ernest George Yeomans. architect, deposed that he prepared the plans before the court. The house would have brick walls."
16 Jul 1902
15 Jul 1902
"Frederick George Roberts applied for a conditional publican's license for premises to be erected at New Lambton." The Bench had inspected the current hotels "and found them a very disappointing lot indeed, and the existing accommodation was not sufficient." Application of F G Roberts was granted.
23 Aug 1902"TENDERS are invited for the Erection and Completion of a BRICK HOTEL, for F. G..Roberts, Esq., at New Lambton."
27 Sep 1902"The work of excavating for the foundations of the new hotel which is to be built at the corner of Taurangua and Lambton roads, is well forward. The building, which is to be commodious and substantial, will, it is estimated, cost between £1600 and £1700. Mr. William Knight is the contractor and Mr. Yeomans the architect."
17 Apr 1903
16 Apr 1903
"Frederick G. Roberts applied for a certificate for a publican's license for premises at New Lambton, to be known as the General Roberts Hotel. The application was granted."
17 Apr 1903"At the corner of the main road and Tauranga-street another brick hotel of 18 rooms, to be known as 'The General Roberts,' has just been completed."
18 Apr 1903
18 Apr 1903
Advertisement for the opening of the General Roberts Hotel.
19 Jun 1903Phillip James Byrnes applies for the renewal of his licensee for the Hand of Friendship Hotel. The renewal is objected to due to unsanitary premises and inadequate accommodation. By April 1904 Byrnes is licensee of the General Roberts Hotel.
23 Oct 1903"TO Hotelkeepers and Brewers.- For Sale by tender, Free House, Lease, License, Furniture, and Goodwill. Tenders to close 12th Nov.; 1903. -Apply F. G. ROBERTS, Proprietor, New Lambton."
20 May 1904
1 Apr 1904
Phillip J Byrne issued a publican's license for the General Roberts Hotel.
20 Jun 1905"NOTICE.-Having taken over the license of the General Roberts' Hotel, New Lambton, where I hope to see all my old friends and acquaintances. JOHN KEIM, Late of Tighe's Hill."
22 Sep 1927Throughout its history, the "General Roberts Hotel" has often been erroneously referred to as the "Lord Roberts Hotel."
5 Jul 1946
4 Jul 1946
"Considerable damage was done yesterday to the balcony of the General Roberts Hotel at the corner of Lambton and Taranga Roads, New Lambton. A coal-laden lorry knocked out two of the posts on the gutter alignment and the balcony flooring sagged."
15 Oct 1947Applications for the demolition and rebuilding of 12 hotels, including the General Roberts Hotel in New Lambton.

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