The first plans of the Newmarket Saleyards, dating from the mid to late 1850s, incorporate the size and placement of The Newmarket Hotel. This inclusion highlights The Newmarket Hotel as one of earliest hotels in the area and emphasises the central role of hotels and public bars in the economic and social fabric of Australian life.
The Newmarket was situated on Geelong Road directly opposite the Saleyards, and dates back to the 1850s when John Crawford came to Melbourne at the age of seven on the Morning Star with his mother, arriving after a voyage of 100 days in 1854. He was met by his father and taken to a dairy farm in Flemington owned by Bateman and Wilson - the site where the Newmarket Hotel was built (Vincent 1992, p.26).
Typical of 'pubs' that sprang up during the Victorian gold-rush building boom of the mid 1850s, The Newmarket was built to service the quickly growing Newmarket area. Once known as Godby's and sold to Dalgety & Co in the 1880s, The Newmarket Hotel welcomed drovers, yardmen, transporters, auctioneers, clerks, cockies and their sons who all took respite from the cold or quenched their thirst in the parched summer months. Saleyard workers tell stories of the essential role The Newmarket played as an enduring provider of drink, food, entertainment, accommodation and illegal betting; as a welcoming venue to stay warm, keep cool, meet with friends, or conduct business.
The number of hotels in the Newmarket area reflected the “thirsty” and “social” culture of the older days of Newmarket. In the late 1800s The Newmarket had an all-night licence (Peck 1974, p.53) and was known to welcome Saleyard workers to an early breakfast at 7am with steaming hot coffee “with a stick in it”. On market days, lunch at The Newmarket was known by locals as a “sumptuous affair” and one story tells of long glasses filled with boiled custard plentifully displayed on a long centre table, on offer as dessert after a meal of roasted meats such as turkey and beef (Peck 1974).
When the Melbourne City Council leased out the Newmarket Saleyards prior to 1897, the lease was carried out by public tender , the first lessee being Edward Rigby, senior, proprietor of the Newmarket Hotel. Rigby's eldest son, John, ran The Newmarket Hotel after his father moved to the Council Club at the corner of Queen and Lonsdale Streets. John Rigby further followed in his father's footsteps and leased the Newmarket Saleyards for a number of years (Peck 1974; Vincent 1992).
Local Newmarket hotels of the late 1800s and early 1900s were associated with prominent men of the day - politicians, footballers, bookmakers and local personalities; and were generally considered male-dominated establishments.
Peck, HH. 1974, Memoirs of a stockman, Stock and Land Publishing Co, Melbourne.
Vincent, K. 1992, On the fall of the hammer: a personal history of Newmarket saleyards, Lee White ed, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne.