Cross Keys Hotel

From Hotels of Ballarat
Cross Keys Hotel
Picture needed
Town Ballarat
Street Dawson Street
Known dates 1862-1864
Demolished Destroyed by fire 19 July 1864

The Cross Keys Hotel was a hotel in Ballarat, Victoria, 1862-1864.

Site[edit | edit source]

The Cross Keys Hotel was in Dawson Street.[1] The arson trial gives the location as the corner of Armstrong and Macathur Streets.

Background[edit | edit source]

The first license for this hotel was issued in 1862.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

The large wooden hotel was destroyed by a fire in July 1864:

Shortly before twelve o'clock last night, a fire broke out in a building known as the Cross Keys Hotel, at the corner of Armstrong and Macarthur streets. The Western Brigade fire-bell immediately afterwards tolled out the alarm, and the brigade were soon upon the scene, followed with praiseworthy promptitude by the sister brigade; but as the fire had then obtained too good a hold upon the premises, any attempt to save them would have proved ineffectual. In fact, when the brigades arrived the building had been nearly wholly consumed, and the efforts of the firemen were then directed to confine it within its own limits. Before their arrival, however, a little private dwelling adjoining the hotel caught fire and was soon destroyed, and in order to prevent several other similar tenements catching fire one was pulled down between. The hotel and private dwelling-house destroyed were empty, and so also at present are the several other dwelling-houses in the vicinity. The whole of the properties, we understand, belong to Messrs Mitchison Brothers, of Lydiard street. The hotel, which was built of wood, large and commodious, was formerly occupied by a person named Griffiths.
It was discovered to be on fire on the 3rd instant, but through the exertions of some of the neighbors the fire was then extinguished. Rumor was then rife as to the cause of the fire, and a suspicion appears to have existed that it was not accidental. Last night the whole building was in a blaze before anything could be done. We are informed that the building was insured in the Colonial Insurance Company's office for the sum of £250. The Ballarat Fire Brigade was slightly detained in reaching the fire, in consequence of the long distance to traverse, and the fact of the men having to haul the apparatus up Mair street for nearly the whole of the way. The police were present in numbers, and under the superintendence of Inspector Ryall they were distributed where most required. A large crowd of persons were also assembled from all parts of Ballarat, the sight of a fire being now something unusual to witness, at least for some time back, this being the first fire of any consequence which has occurred this year. The night being fine, the conflagration was visible a long distance off, and illumined a great portion of Soldiers' Hill.[2]

One week later the publican, John Griffiths, was refused bail on a charge of arson:

John Griffiths, in custody under the coroner's warrant, charged with setting fire to the Cross Keys Hotel, has been refused bail. Application for his release on bail was made on Saturday, but was opposed by the representatives of the insurance company, and the magistrate has for the present refused bail.[3]

The trial took place in April 1865. Griffith was found not guilty:

John Griffiths pleaded "Not Guilty" to Laving, on the 19th of July, 1864, set fire to having, on the 19th of July, 1864, set fire to and burnt down the Cross Keys Hotel, at Soldiers'-hill, with intent to defraud the Australian Alliance Assurance Company. A second count charged the prisoner with firing the premises with intent to defraud one Mitcheson.

Mr. DUNN having laid the case before the jury, called James Montgomery, who deposed he was the agent of Mr. Mitcheson, who had some property at the corner of Armstrong and M'Arthur-steets, of which the prisoner was the tenant. He produced the lease between the prisoner and Mitcheson, the former having leased the premises for five years, from June 1863. In June, 1864, prisoner came to witness and paid one month's rent, and said he should give up the premises, as he could not make them pay. About the 30th June, witness saw him again. He said then he was going to clear out of the colony, and put the keys of the property on the table. A few days after that, saw Griffiths at the Western Hotel, Bridge street. His wife and furniture were there, and he seemed to have taken the place. Witness said he was surprised at seeing him there. He replied it was a country of changes. Witness asked him to pay the balance due the insurance company. Prisoner promised to call up and pay it. Witness afterwards told him he should not cancel the lease, as Mr. Mitcheson was not in the colony. On the next morning the 24th of July-witness heard that the hotel was burned. Had threatened to sue prisoner for the rent as it became due. To Mr. M'DERMOTT.-Mr. Mitcheson has received the money due from the Insurance company. Prisoner had got nothing.
Rohert Cummings, a labourer, deposed that about ten o'clock on the night of the fire, he saw the prisoner stop at the door of the Camp Hotel. He spoke to him, and left him there. He was going, as it were, from the Western Hotel towards the Cross Keys Hotel. Henry Lloyd, butcher, was living at the time of the fire within 200 yards of the Cross Keys Hotel. Knew a girl named Agnes Roper. Was speaking to her on that night. Saw two men walking from Mr. Purnell's towards the Cross Keys. One of them was exactly like the prisoner. This was about half-past ten o'clock. Watched the two persons for some time, as they seemed to be watching for something or somebody themselves. Watched them for half an hour. One of them went into the hotel. That was the man like Griffiths. The other watched outside. The man like Griffiths then came out, and joined his companion, and they both went away together. In about half an hour afterwards the hotel was on fire. He was induced to watch the two men, because the same premises had been set fire to some short time before.
Ellen Furnell deposed,-I remember the night of the fire at the Cross Keys. Saw two persons going into the back part of the Cross Keys Hotel on that night. I am certain the prisoner was one of the two persons. I have known him for two years. The other man was a shorter man than the prisoner. They remained on the premises some time, and then left. Agnes Roper deposed to being in company with Henry Lloyd on the night of the fire, and to seeing two men come up near to where (?????) of the Cross Keys Hotel about a quarter of an hour, and left. In about an hour afterwards, she heard of the fire at the hotel. Thomas Hording recollected the night of the fire. As he was coming out of the Royal Highlander Hotel he saw smoke in the direction of the Cross Keys Hotel. On going up there he saw the prisoner standing among the crowd, within about thirty yards of the fire. Asked him if he was burnt out. He said he was not living there now ; he was living at the Western. Asked him if he know how the fire had originated. He said he supposed some one must have set it on fire. He seemed to be taking no interest in putting out the flames.
Detective Hudson deposed that he knew the prisoner well, and recollected the night of the fire. After the fire, the next day, Constable Cotter and witness called at prisoner's house-the Western-and asked if he knew of any one that would be likely to do such a thing as set fire to his old house. He replied, he did not. Witness asked him if he had been out on the night of the fire. He replied that he had not ; the house-the Western had been so full all the previous night that he had no time to leave it for a minute. He also said he had never been up at the Cross Keys Hotel since he had left it. Constable Cotter corroborated Hudson's evidence.

Mr. M'DERMOTT addressed the jury for the prisoner, and with a view to establish an alibi, called several witnesses. Alexander Brun, coachmaker, deposed to seeing prisoner in his own house-the Western-from ten minutes to eleven o'clock to five minutes to twelve o'clock. The fire bell began to ring at ten minutes to twelve. John Robinson, landlord of the Welsh Harp Hotel, was in the Western Hotel at about five minutes before the fire-bell began to ring. Griffiths was there. He served witness and a man named Bream with nobblers and tobacco. Witness went to the fire. Griffiths did not, that he saw. James Betts went to the prisoner's house on the night of the fire, about half-past ten o'clock, and remained there till the fire-bell rang. Griffiths was there all the time. Other witnesses gave similar evidence. Mr. DUNN replied on the evidence produced by Mr. M'Dermott in support of an alibi. The jury retired, and returned into court with a verdict of " Not Guilty."[4]

Community Involvement[edit | edit source]

The People[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1862 'DISTRICT POLICE COURT.', The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), 25 June, p. 4, viewed 17 February, 2014,
  2. 1864 'NEWS AND NOTES.', The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), 20 July, p. 2. , viewed 04 Jan 2024,
  3. 1864 'NEWS AND NOTES.', The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), 25 July, p. 2. , viewed 27 Sep 2018,
  4. 1865 'BALLARAT CIRCUIT COURT.', The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), 22 April, p. 6. , viewed 04 Jul 2021,
  5. 1863 'BALLARAT WEST LICENSING BENCH.', The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), 19 June, p. 4, viewed 29 April, 2014,

External Links[edit | edit source]