A Publican’s Licence

William Sykes originally arrived as a convict on the Fortune in 1806, with a 14 year sentence. However, by 1827 he was an established settler in Appin, and had raised a large family. This letter outlines some of the problems he had encountered in obtaining a free publican’s licence that had been promised on the basis of providing accommodation for travellers at his inn.

In requesting a publican’s licence (and expressing concern about the possibility of a licence being granted to one of his neighbours) Sykes portrays himself as a respectable family man, in contrast to some of the quarrelsome and carousing Irish residents in the district. After a great deal of bureaucratic to-ing and fro-ing (including the involvement of the Governor Ralph Darling), his request was eventually granted the following year.
Supplementary documents (last two pages below)
NRS 907 Col Sec Letters received from Individuals re Land, 1826-56 (papers of John Carey of Appin)– two items
1. Original publican’s licence issued to William Sykes, 14 March 1828
2. Sketch shewing the situation of Carey’s Inn and enclosures on the Appin Reserve, 1832 (32/8742)
The sale and consumption of alcohol was a prominent feature of Colonial life from the arrival of the First Fleet onwards. The regulation of alcoholic beverages and a strict system of licensing for publicans and their premises were significant Government functions, in an attempt to exercise a degree of control and maintain public order, and as an important source of revenue. This original licence granted to William Sykes is a rare survival in the official records. The part of the licence referring to the fee of twenty five pounds has been crossed out, confirming that Sykes was given a free licence as he had previously requested.
By the early 1830s Sykes was more than 60 years old, and the licence (and the inn itself) had passed to his son-in-law John Carey. See also 32/8742 (last page below), which illustrates the location of the inn at Appin.
Sketch shewing the situation of Carey’s Inn and enclosures on the Appin Reserve, 1832 (32/8742)
This neat sketch (along with Sykes’ original licence) was found amongst correspondence relating to land from John Carey, who by 1832 had married one of Sykes’ daughters, and had taken over the licence and associated premises.

Source: NRS 905 Colonial Secretary Main series of letters received; letter No. 28/2005 [with Letter No. 27/7344 in 4/1969] and NRS 907 Colonial Secretary Letters received from Individuals re Land, 1826-56 (papers of John Carey of Appin) – two items: Original publican’s licence issued to William Sykes, 14 March 1828; Sketch shewing the situation of Carey’s Inn and enclosures on the Appin Reserve, 1832 (32/8742)


27/7344 4 Augt 1827
Appin District
August 2nd 1827
May It please your Excellency
About twelve
months ago I applied to Government for
a Spirit licence in Appin and on the 4th Decr
1826 was favoured by Your Excellencys answer
requiring me to erect a suitable Inn for the
accommodation of Travellers ere I could be
indulged with the solicited sanction of a Licence
Gratis – I consequently immediately
commenced the building but before I had ex-
-ceeded £20 in expence I was casually told that
my neighbour living across the road had been
informed against for selling Spirits and to compensate
his loss was to be recommended for a Licence in
his present Dwelling (a Bark hut without any
out buildings whatsoever) Wherefore immediately
applied to the Revd Thos Reddall the Justice
of the Peace and detailed to him the whole par-
-ticulars – he said in reply “never mind Mr
Sykes do you go on and finish your buildings
for His Excellency the Governor on being entreated
in your behalf condescended to inform me that
you should have a twelve months Licence gratis
and (adding his own opinion) I have no doubt said he
that the public pratonage [sic] will soon repay the expence
you have been at in endeavouring to make travellers
comfortable as there will not be any
other License granted in the neighbourhood to
render abortive your undertaking” or words to that effect.
On this flattering intimation I proceeded
to complete and have completed the building –
left my farm – Entered into my new house –
gotten a stock of Spirits, Extra furniture, beds etc
and the day (viz) last Tuesday after entering into
the written recognizance and before I left the
Court at Campbelltown, my nearest neighbour
Patrick Callaghan before named was recommended
to Government for a Licence which if your
Excellency allow him to obtain will blight my
views and the last effort I had the means to effect
(after creditably rearing a family of nine children)
will be rendered ineffectual and perhaps accomplish
my ruin.
To this I respectfully beg leave to add that
although it is far from me Your Excellency
to impugn the motive of the Justices who
have recommended Callaghan yet it really does
appear that they have not seen clearly into
the evils which would be attended on a Licence
to Callaghan inasmuch as the District is
young and principally composed of Irish who
for want of regular early notions of correct
morals are known in this District to be more
seriously quarrelsome than in most others and
but lately a poor blacksmith of the name of
Lynch who had a helpless family was murdered
immediately after leaving a carousal at Callaghans
house and on the Coroners report with other
evidence this said Callaghan was fined 25£ and
the Chief Constable Ryan dismissed from Office
and yet Callaghan is now recommended for a
Spirit Licence this sad circumstance attended
with many others notorious to the Police are
such as I am sure need only to be noticed to
Your Excellency to cause an inquiry and a
result consonant with Your zealous and
impartial administration of Government
waiting Your Excellencys pleasure
I have the Honor to be
with profound submission
Your Excellencys
Most Obedient and
Humble Servant
William Sykes
To His Excellency
Lieutt General Darling
Governor of New South Wales
and its Dependencies etc etc etc
Let me
see the Minute
upon which the
enclosed letter was
written; and also which
was posted respecting a licence
to Calaghan [sic]
Mr Sykes Papers enclosed – I am not
aware of any in Callaghans Case
Mr Sykes Inform him that no such application
has been recd Informed 11th Augt 1827
Transmitted to the Bench for their report
23 Augt 1827
other papers – 27/8929

Related information

William was transported for receiving a stolen barrel of beer whilst he was a publican at Holborn in London. Transportation far exceeded the crime, but William was granted 80 acres in 1810 after 4 years as a convict and prospered, going on to own an inn at Appin which still stands. His fate and the fate of his family is detailed in the website ‘The History of the Sykes Family in Australia’ where the document you reference is also referenced … The Sykes family coats of arms has a motto that interprets as “What I do, I do with energy”. William lived up to that.

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