In 1938 an article written by Newcastle historian W. J. Goold gave a history of the buildings and businesses that had once lined Newcastle's streets including some of the famous old Inns in Watt Street. From King Street corner to the water
front there were several, including McGreavey's Victoria Inn
, Commercial Inn
, Ship Inn
and the California Inn.
The California Inn was opened by Maurice Magney
formerly part-owner of liquor Stores in Sydney and licensee of several Inns in the Singleton district, including the Robin Hood
at Jerrys Plains, Prince Albert
at Mt. Thorley, Queen Victoria Inn
at Glennies Creek
(1847) and, Lady Mary Fitzroy
at Chain of Ponds in 1849; and Queen Victoria Inn at Glennies Creek again until March 1851 when he relinquished the license and moved to Newcastle.
According to later prison records,
Maurice Magney was born in Hamburg. He arrived as a free passenger in Australia on the Captain Cook in 1834.
Although little has emerged about the life of
Maurice Magney before he came to Australia, he was entrepreneurial and community minded so that over the years his name became well known throughout the district. He possessed enough fortitude to see him through several set backs including three bankruptcies.
Maurice Magney formed a partnership with Scotsman James E. Stephenson (came free per ship Duckenfield 1834) in Sydney some time after their arrival. Their circumstances were similar to many other new chums
arriving in the colony before the gold rush days; some were chancers for sure, but there were others too, men who envisaged a new life full of potential. They were adventurous and enthusiastic and came in their thousands to settle; to create a better way of life for themselves and their families.
Magney and Stephenson operated a business selling oaten hay, from premises in George Street Sydney opposite the Royal Hotel; they began advertising early in 1839. By April 1839 they were selling cognac, brandy, rum and other spirits from the same premises . A few months later they advertised as a Wholesale Wine and Spirit Store (same premises). By September 1839 they had been in business for about 15 months according to one article, however at this time they came into financial difficulties and a receiver was appointed. Goods from the Store were auctioned that same month.
There was quite a bit of controversy about the collapse of their business. Several letters and comments in various newspapers were published including the following in The Colonist:
We have often
been surprised at the number of stores which are
opened for the sale of wines and spirits, and that
mostly by young men, who also dub themselves
general agents. An instance of the folly of the
course pursued by merchants, and its effects, was
shown the other day in the Insolvent Court, in
the case of Magney and Stephenson, whose
creditors were left minus some 5000/.
many others we doubt not who would be found
in the same predicament if tried. The first step
towards establishing a house of the sort has something suspicious on the face of it. A young man
is anxious to go into business; he takes a
house ; a merchant supplies him with a certain
quantity of goods, and takes a warrant of attorney
over his whole stock. Once established "in
trade," that is with his name on a door, and
sundry cans and casks in his "stores," this
embryo merchant gets credit here, there, and
everywhere, the merchant who first set him going
still holding the warrant of attorney over the
whole of the property, and perhaps waiting the dis-honouring of the first bill to make a clean sweep.
In the meantime the young merchant sells as
much as he can, and gets ready money "to carry
on the war with," and treats his friends, and so
forth, and at length closes his shutters, and leaves
his secondary creditors in the lurch. This is the
credit business in wines and spirits. The same
system is pursued in other callings, but they are
not so fruitful in "consequences" as the one we
have been speaking of
Stephenson and Magney were taken to court -
Honor directed the defendants to be committed to jail for two months under the
8th clause of the local Insolvent Act, for
having contracted with the opposing
creditors without any expectation of being
enabled to liquidate the same
. Records reveal they were sent to Sydney Gaol and from there may have been transferred to Carters Barracks to serve time as this was often where debtors were held. They were released 25 March 1840.
Following his release from gaol Maurice Magney moved to the Hunter district. He married Honoria Mullane at Black Creek July 11, 1842.
In 1843 while residing at Jerry's Plains he fell victim to the disastrous depression that had befallen the country and was declared insolvent. He overcame this however and by 1847 had been granted a publican's license. He spent another four years in the Singleton district before moving to Newcastle.
The Maitland Mercury reported in 1851 that he had opened the California Hotel next door to Dr. Bowker
in Watt Street Newcastle
, the license date being March 15, 1851. James McGreavy's Victoria Inn
was on the opposite side of the street. The land and building of the California Hotel belonged to Beresford Hudson
and according to records dated 1856 it was situated 30 yards from the nearest hotel. 
From 1849 when gold was discovered in California, Australia was gripped by gold fever. Thousands of optimistic gold diggers departed New South Wales, mostly from Sydney but some from Newcastle as well. The towns were depleted of men and labour. There were others with wiser heads who could see a living was to be made from the gold rush other than by prospecting. One of these was Captain Francis Lodge
of the Eleanor Lancaster, who, after taking a ship load of gold diggers to San Francisco late in 1849, remained in harbour, dis-masted the Eleanor Lancaster and converted her to a store ship where he intended to remain for some time.
Many never made the fortune they longed for and returned every bit as poor as they left, however the lure of California remained and when Australia announced they had their very own gold fields in March 1851, the rush was on. Gold diggers from around the world arrived in Australia in their thousands to try their luck.
Hopeful diggers departed Newcastle and the Hunter in droves in any way they could, even those who were bonded left if they could although penalties could be harsh if they were caught. Men who owned businesses in town were less able to leave but they could still increase their livelihood in other ways.
Maurice Magney in naming his hotel The California
may have hoped to tap into the romance and excitement of the gold rush. He probably hoped it held nostalgic appeal to those returning from California.
Soon after opening the California, Maurice Magney teamed up with Samuel Smith, a feisty, combative but successful coach driver from Maitland who ran a three-horse coach daily to and from Newcastle. The following year Magney also took up a contract to provide a two-horse mail cart to and from Newcastle Wharf and the Post Office at Newcastle and East and West Maitland daily.
By 1853 he was running a four horse coach to Maitland and back.
The Caledonia was another Newcastle coaching inn in the fifties. One coach set out from the California at 7 a.m. and arrived at Gorrick's Fitzroy Hotel
in Maitland, at 10 a.m., three hours before the despatch of the up-country mail. An opposition coach left the Caledonia at 3 p.m. for Yeoman's Northumberland Hotel
in West Maitland.
In 1859 Maurice Magney announced he had rented extensive premises near the Market Wharf which he had fitted up in first rate style and opened as The Market Wharf Inn
The Albion Hotel
The name was changed a few years later from the California Hotel to the Albion, and under this name it was known for many years. Robert C. Watt held the license for the Albion in 1866. 
Robert Watt's brother Alexander Watt
took over the license and remained publican until he took over the license for the Criterion Hotel and then the Great Northern Hotel.
Many coroner's inquests and community meetings took place at the Albion Hotel over the years.
The Albion was put up for auction in February 1876 however was passed in, the bidding only reaching £1700 Newcastle Chronicle 17 February 1876. The Albion and two brick houses at the rear were to be auctioned again in March 1884. 
George A. Whyte
George A Whyte took over the license from Alexander Watt in March 1876
Edward Scott and William Greenway's Closet System
The license was held by Edward Scott in 1878.  It was in this year that a solution to Newcastle's appalling waste disposal system was offered. This
was William Howard
Closets system which was installed at the Albion in that year....
The other day we visited Scott's Albion Hotel, Watt-street, where Mr. W. H. Greenway's patent closet is in operation. Some time ago a description was given in these columns of the system as it worked in Croasdill's estate, Hunter and Perkin. streets, where all cleanliness is observed by residents in private houses, and now we are enabled to turn to a place where of necessity the closets are more indiscriminately and largely used, viz., in a much-frequented hotel. In Croasdill's estate the cleanliness and absence of offensive smells in working the patent are most remarkable.
At the Albion Hotel, and in fact any place of constant and multifarious resort, such a high state of perfection is absolutely unattainable, but the comparison enables one to gauge the immeasurable superiority of Mr. Greenway's system over the pestiferous, but legalised, cesspits of Newcastle. When the old pit at the hotel was filled in by Mr. Fisher, the contractor, he had one of the most odoriferous jobs he ever
under took; not because cleanliness was neglected by Mr. Scott, but because the place was in constant use. There has been no diminution in regard to the number of lodgers, etc., in the Albion Hotel since Mr. Greenway's' patent has been constructed--some two months--but the change for the better is most noticeable
According to an article in the Newcastle Morning Herald, James McIntosh held the license in April 1885, however his name does not appear in the licensing records. The license was transferred to Robert Morgan in June 1886 
Mary Ann Ralph - Ralph's Family Hotel
In 1891 the license for the Albion was transferred from Robert Morgan to Mary Ann Ralph. She was also granted permission to alter the sign of the house to that of Ralph's Family Hotel. 
Robert Morgan took out a license for the
in Market Square. He died from complications of carcinoma of the tongue in July 1892
Thomas Martin Kerney
In 1903 the license for Ralph's Family Hotel was transferred from George E. Garratt to Thomas Martin Kerney, the house to be known as the Suburban Hotel. 
In August 1904 the death was announced of Mrs. Elijah Abell of the Junction. She was a former owner of Ralph's Family Hotel and for several years was the licensee. She left a family of six sons and three daughters, one of the former being Mr. Frederick J. Ralph who had left Newcastle for South Africa. She was a sister of George E. Joseph and A. W. Garratt. . George Garratt died at Cooks Hill in December 1914 having been a publican for many years in Newcastle.
The Suburban Hotel
Frank Silva applied for a license for the Suburban Hotel in 1906. 
The Suburban Hotel closed in 1933 - At 11 oclock last night by order of the Special Licensing court, the license of the Suburan Hotel, in Watt street expired. This is the first hotel in the Newcastle electorate to close as a result of the Local Option vote, and the occasion was taken as an opportunity to farewell the licensee Mr. F. Silva and Mrs. Silva. There was a large attendance of friends of both
Notes and Links
The children of Maurice and Honora included :
Maurice b. 1843 died 18 April 1852 aged 9 years and 14 days-
The advancement he made at his early age in his studies and his quick abilities stamped him as an intellectual and intelligent child (Maitland Mercury)
Honoria born 1844, died 27 February 1853;
John Bede b. 1844, died 9 March 1911;
Herman Augustine b. 1848, died 1 August 1897;
Thomas b. 1852;
Honora b. 1853, died 27 February 1853;
Martin b. 10 April 1855 at the California hotel;
Mary Ann born 4 May 1857; died 29 September 1858
Rosalinda died 1925
Honora Magnay nee Mullane died at Tarella, 46 Edgecliffe Road, Waverley on 7 June 1900.
 Sydney Monitor 8 April 1839
 The Colonist 1 February 1840
 Australasian Chronicle 31 January 1840
 Certificates for Publicans' Licenses. State Archives NSW; Series: 14403; Item: [7/1507-1508]; Reel: 1239
 Certificates for Publicans' Licenses. State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 14411; Item: 7/1514; Reel: 1243
 Newcastle Morning Herald 13 March 1884
 State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 14411; Item: 7/1514; Reel: 1243
 Newcastle Morning Herald 24 September 1884
 Newcastle Morning Herald 11 June 1886
 Newcastle Morning Herald 3 July 1891
 Newcastle Morning Herald 13 February 1903
 Newcastle Morning Herald 13 August 1904.
 Newcastle Morning Herald 18 May 1906
 Newcastle Morning Herald 9 September 1933
Cite This Page
Willetts, J (n.d.) "California Hotel at Newcastle". Free Settler or Felon
. Accessed [insert current date]