Collitts Inn, built in 1823, just two years after the departure of Lachlan Macquarie, is the oldest non-indigenous Australian structure west of the Blue Mountains. It serviced the road from Emu Ford on the Nepean River to the Bathurst Plains which descended from the location now known as Mount York lookout via the Coxs Road and then turned in a westward direction towards the location now known as Hartley Historic Village.
In the same year it was built, 19 year old Archibald Bell Jnr was assisting his father to farm land near Bilpin and the young man befriended local indigenous people. Using his new friends’ guidance, young Archibald was able to follow a route past Mount Tomah to modern-day Bell, turn southward onto the ridge now known as Darling Causeway, and find the westward sloping gully that took him to Collitts Inn. Thus, he became the first non-indigenous person to prove that the Blue Mountains could be crossed by the route to be named “Bells Line of Road”.
Pierce and Mary Collitts had been married in England in 1795 but in 1800 Pierce was convicted of receiving stolen goods and transported to New South Wales for 14 years, a sentence carried out with Pierce’s family accompanying him. He was to be effectively released in 1811. The family established themselves as respectable landholders in the Penrith, Prospect and Castlereagh areas before moving inland and building Collitts Inn. It was first known as the Golden Fleece, then the Royal Garter.
Pierce and Mary had nine children. The most high profile was Amelia, subject of the musical play, “Collitts Inn”, written in the 1930s. This play chronicles the events that led to Amelia’s marriage to John Skeen. Amelia and John are the ancestors of numerous people who reside in the Blue Mountains today. William Collitts was regarded by Pierce as an “idiot son”. The tragic death of William’s young wife Caroline on the road near Mount Victoria was referred to in Blue Trail number 46.
Pierce, Mary and John Skeen are all buried in Hartley Vale cemetery, accessed off Fields Road, around the corner from the inn. Today, Collitts Inn is a wedding and function venue.
© Don Morison