Collits' Inn: Uncovering the Past Surprises found in restoring this 1823 Australian icon by Christine Stewart Illustrated by Christine Stewart

Collits' Inn:
Uncovering the Past

Surprises found in restoring
this 1823 Australian icon

Collits’ Inn sits at the foot of Mount York in Hartley Vale just on the other side of the Blue Mountains.

The Inn was built by Pierce Collits, an ex-convict, in 1823.

This book is my personal story of restoring one of Australia’s earliest Inns. All travellers crossing the Blue Mountains in 1823 had to come down the notoriously dangerous Cox’s Pass past the Inn on their way to the settlement of Bathurst and other lands to the west.

There were many surprises in doing the research: The Collits’ Inn Operetta, the early nearby Cemetery, the story of a murder, the many beautiful linoleums, two strange mediaeval customs, and more.

When we acquired the Inn in 1998 it was very derelict. By 2002, several awards had been received both for the restoration and for the restaurant.

The project was often challenging, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately rewarding, and so has been the process of putting this story together. Many people have encouraged and assisted me with the telling of our story and I am most grateful for their help.

Reader reviews


Thank you for your fascinating and interesting talk. It was so professionally prepared, presented and enjoyed by all at the meeting. Collits Inn is now a credit to your vision and drive for the next few 100 years. Brilliant! Thank you.
Kind regards, Dr. Linda Sharpe Ph.D (Springwood Garden Club, 2022)

Oh Christine, this book is flipping amazing.  You have done an outstanding work of art!  you have also given our family something to treasure and pass down.  

Thank you so much, Janette Heinze (descendant)  Managing Director,                        Aussie Gold Natural Spring Water


How does one express their appreciation for the wonderful effort, dedication and enthusiasm you have shown in restoring such a precious part of our history? A simple ‘thank you’ does not seem to be enough.  The endless hours you have spent and the professionalism you have shown is second to none.

As a descendant of Pierce and Mary Collits through their daughter Amelia, I attended the reunion held at Hartley in 1988.  This was when I first visited the Inn so I know what you were confronted with when you took your first step across that historic threshold.

The restoration is superb and your book is a treasure.  I confess that I was so eager to read it that I downloaded it to my iPad – it kept me awake all night reading. Now I have to have a copy for my bookshelves and would love it if you could sign it for me.

Thank you again

Rose (Rosemary Owens)

PS. Ian Evans is a cousin of mine so he had told me all about the shoe and the cat.  His project re evil spirits was an exciting adventure for him.


(Email addressed to my husband)  I have just finished reading Christine’s marvellous book on her journey resurrecting Collits’ Inn.  I was enthralled and think she (and you with funding) have done a magnificent job both on the house and with the book detailing all the history and administration hassles involved.    I want to congratulate both of you, but in particular Christine, for wanting to save Collits’ Inn and for achieving this aim together with the documentation.

I really did enjoy the book and we shall look out for Collits’ Inn when we are next in the general area.

Barry Baker


Emeritus Professor, University of Sydney.

Hi Christine
I bought your book this morning and it is a wonderful read, so well presented and sourced. I was very impressed by the wide range of your research and the references to all of the Collits Inns, including, of course, The Woodford Academy.

Kate O’Neill, Chairperson, Woodford Academy Management Committee.

I’m meant to be reading (a book) for my book group, but instead reading your book!  Fascinating.  I love what I call the Thread, when all those serendipitous happenings fall into place.  It takes me back to our visits and that heart-breaking little cemetery.  Congratulations.

Caro Davis.

I am stunned by the scope and depth of your research.  What an extraordinary achievement!  I feel it deserves an official recognition for its contribution to the history of our wonderful country.  Love the quality of the paper as I always feel it adds to the aesthetic qualities of the text.

I have not read a more lively history. I am so grateful to be re-visiting the inn and the cemetery through the pages of your book.

Margaret Krimmer, Toowoomba, Qld. December 2021

(Margaret added that she is descended from Maria, the eldest daughter of Pierce and Mary, who married Philip Strickland, an assigned convict to Pierce.  They had three sons, John,  Pierce and Josiah.  Josiah married Mary Higgins and one of those children was Virginia – her great, great, grandmother.  Philip was killed by a bushranger, aged 32 and after his death Maria married Edward Field with many descendants.)

Thank you, thank you, thank you for “Collits’ Inn: Uncovering the Past”.  I collected it from the Post Office and spent a good part of yesterday looking through it page by page. It is a beautiful book.  It was so good to see it with all the photos, paintings, maps and drawings which bring the text so much to life.  Congratulations …you have done a splendid thing, first in restoring the Inn and now in producing a book about it for posterity.

The book brings home what a mercy it was that you bought the Inn in the first place and restored it with such diligence in regard to its history.

Elsie Brimblecombe, Maleny, Qld. November 2021  

Your amazing book has been on my kitchen bench since arriving here and whenever I have a few minutes I have been reading it chapter by chapter and loving it.  I have sensed that you are beside me telling the story.  It is such a personal record of your enormous venture.  I finished it this morning and have found it completely fascinating.  I am in awe at the amount of research and the hours you have spent producing such a wonderful work, keeping so faithfully to the truth behind the eventual history of this significant building.  I was excited to see the pictures of the finished restoration and so impressed with your tenacity of purpose during the ten years of your involvement with the Inn.  Loved the chapter about the little cemetery, also the chapter about the the opera – it would be wonderful to see that performed…….you have certainly shone a light on the excitement and fascination of the journey.

Pippa Cotton, Riverside, Tasmania. November, 2021

“Collits’ Inn was the first inn west of the Blue Mountains, on the road to Bathurst. It was built nearly 200 years ago by ex-convict Pierce Collits, and it opened for business in 1823. As such, it is one of Australia’s earliest surviving buildings, and is rich in history.

However, the building and its history were nearly lost. When Christine Stewart and her husband, Russell, bought the Inn in 1998, it was severely run down and almost on the point of collapse – its history forgotten, distorted or dispersed. Over the next four years Christine researched, recovered and collated its history, and painstakingly restored the Inn and its outbuildings, saving them from disappearing completely.

By Australia Day 2002 the project was complete, and a grand opening day was held to celebrate the beautifully restored buildings. Collits’ Inn then came to life again as a guest house and award-winning French restaurant over the following five years. The Stewarts sold it in 2007, with its future secured for the enjoyment of future generations.

This book is Christine’s story of her family’s long association with the Mount York area, including those ten years as owners of Collits’ Inn, and how she went about recovering its history and restoring the buildings, with all the associated discoveries, excitement and frustrations. In her lucid and clear prose, Christine has here created a unique, fascinating and very readable record of this important colonial era inn, and her own enormous contribution to its story.”

Bob Wright

Collits’ Family Historian


“I have just finished reading your delightful, interesting book about your journey at Collits’ Inn.

I travelled the journey with you. It was as if you were sitting next to me in a comfortable chair telling me your amazing story.

Many thanks also for your rigorous investigation. You have created a gem that will bring joy to many.”

Dr. Tony Andrew, Mosman, NSW

“It was so very special to be part of the excitement of the book launch. I was so enthralled that I have downloaded a copy of the e-book – can’t wait for a hard copy, too. I have enjoyed delving into the story over the weekend – in fact, I almost forgot to leave to meet a friend for a walk this morning!

I am so in admiration for your tenacity and depth of research, but most of all the wonderful personal journey you take us on throughout.

As I read, I can hear your voice like a true storyteller of old, which adds to the magic. Thank you for the opportunity – I can’t wait to continue the journey.”

Prue T. Cammeray, NSW 

Where to buy

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Book Excerpt

[dflip id="128" ][/dflip]
Collits' Inn at junction of five roads
Collits Inn at junction of five roads
Collits' Inn: Uncovering the Past Surprises found in restoring this 1823 Australian icon by Christine Stewart Illustrated by Christine Stewart
Collits' Inn: Uncovering the Past Surprises found in restoring this 1823 Australian icon by Christine Stewart Illustrated by Christine Stewart



Publication date

17 August 2021



Collits' Inn: Uncovering the Past Surprises found in restoring this 1823 Australian icon by Christine Stewart Illustrated by Christine Stewart