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THE WOMEN BEHIND THE BARS Featured
17 November 2020 Posted by 

THE WOMEN BEHIND THE BARS

Early days of Parramatta's inns
GARY J CARTER
“Behind every successful man there is a woman running the show.”
THIS was certainly the case in the early days of Parramatta farms and inns.
 In the early 1800s a great female Parramatta pioneer and currency lass named Jane Watsford (1796 - 1886) was leading the way. 
 
Jane and her husband James were valued helpers on John and Elizabeth Macarthur’s properties in Parramatta. In 1815, they were given the opportunity to run one of John Macarthur’s farms in Camden Park. 
 
This area was considered wilderness and the local Aborigines were not that welcoming.
 
In 1816, James was speared in the back when heading back to the farm, around the same time Jane was hiding their child in a trunk, bolting the door and firing warning shots over the heads of attacking natives. 
 
When this failed, she scampered up the chimney to hide, but unfortunately lost her footing and exposed her legs. 
 
This resulted in a spear through her leg and a limp through life. The attackers were chased off by other shepherds and the Watsfords had to be taken to Parramatta for treatment of their injuries.
 
They stayed in Parramatta and became big players in the business of beer, rum, and horse carriage services. 
 
Jane showed great courage and spirit in her 90 years. She gave birth to 12 children and was a remarkably successful business lady. 
 
From 1820, the Watsfords were running the Coaches and Horses Inn in Church Street. This was followed by the Union Inn from 1836. James died in 1845, but Jane and her sons went on to run many of the other inns in Parramatta.
 
Jane was one of many lady publicans in Parramatta with most applying for licences following the death of their husbands. 
 
In 1826, Hannah Walker managed the Red Cow Inn, Eliza Smith managed the Cross Keys, and Anne Andrews managed the Straggler. 
 
Even the wife of John Williams, the first Mayor of Parramatta Borough Council got into the pub game as she was the proprietor of the famous Woolpack in1862.
 
Coaching services was also deemed an acceptable business for woman. After her husband James death in 1845, Jane was a successful proprietor in her own right, together with her sons, ran Inns, stables and the Lion Coach services from Parramatta.
 
An advertisement in the 1845 Parramatta Chronicle said: 
 
"Cheap travelling, then go by Watsford’s four horse coach, one shilling from Parramatta to Sydney coaches from Parramatta at 7:30 pm and 8:30 am from Sydney at 3:30 pm and 4:00 pm."
 
Footnote: 
 
James Watsford (1787- 1845) arrived in Australia in the Ship Guildford in 1812, transported for life for horse-stealing and he was pardoned in 1826 when he married colony born Jane Johns (1797 - 1886). James Snr owned the first stagecoach in Australia and carried the first regular mail from Parramatta to Sydney.  While Jane and their sons looked after hotel interests and other coach services in Parramatta, James Snr went on to become one of the first Royal Mail pioneer coachmen in NSW. On 6 April 1832 he pioneered the first mail coach run from Parramatta to Bathurst via Mt York via the Hartley Valley and the treacherous downhill run to the Vale of Clwyd, attaching logs to drag behind the coach and slow it down. The mail route over the Blue Mountains followed from there.
 
GARY J CARTER is a local historian.


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