Chasing the Ghosts of The Old George and Dragon

The Old George and Dragon Restaurant at East Maitland will hold a special place in my heart not only because I have had a number of special paranormal experiences there, but, I also met two wonderful people Jenni, the owner and Chef Gavin, the chef of course!

The Restaurant occupies the former coaching inn named the George and Dragon (pictured) in Melbourne Street, East Maitland. Now called the Old George and Dragon, it is a boutique guesthouse with fine dining and a ye olde world signboard outside.

The brick pub was named after a legendary soldier saint, a crusading knight who became the patron saint of England after slaying a dragon, possibly in Libya of all places.

Or maybe, St George was just a convenient piece of propaganda, to raise morale during the bloody Crusades. Anyway, there's a tradition in this East Maitland pub that boxing legend Les Darcy (who once worked opposite as a blacksmith) trained in its former stables.

"Our former hotel dates from 1837, despite what some signs say," licensee Jennifer Nichols said.
"It gained the fourth liquor licence in NSW and later was extensively renovated in 1905. Then in 1977, the licence for George and Dragon pub was moved to a newly-built tavern at Green Hills, now called the George Tavern," she said.

"Our building's got a lot of history. People now even want to start ghost tours. I mean, things definitely go bump in the night here. There's more spirits around than spirits in bottles, if you know what I mean."

  (from Mike Scanlon - Drinking up Pub Folklore 22 Feb 2013)

We had Halloween, Gothmas ( my quirky take on Christmas in July) discussion evenings with people like Bill Chaulker (seen below with me)...

as well as numerous Psychic High Teas and Bridal High teas there. We had a brilliant time with the opportunity to eat amazing food and form new friendships who would turn up to many events over the past three years of our association with the restaurant.
We also investigated there.

We've conducted a number of small and private investigations since that very first phone call from Jenni, when she asked me to come out because 'strange things have been happening'.

From a phantom hand appearing from under neath a curtain when no one was on the other side to a tray of ramekins lifting off a kitchen bench and crashing to the floor to apparitions making their way down hallways and through rooms.

It hasnt been only us investigators encountering things but over the years I have also witnessed patrons talking about hearing the voices of children around them as their ate their meals and also of the sensing of spirits around them.

                                                              Above - The Furber Family
The George & Dragon was built by George Furber who was a son of Mary (Furber) Smith. 
Mary's second husband was Gentleman John Smith of Newcastle and Maitland.
George Furber married Mary Ann Muir on 29 February 1832 (40).  Mary Ann was a daughter of George and Elizabeth Muir of the Family Hotel.  

When Mary Ann died in April 1837 aged 26,  Furber married Hanorah Curtain. Later he moved to the Mary River district in Queensland to erect a store and it was here in 1855 that he was attacked by natives and died after receiving blows to the head with an axe and a waddy. His son-in-law Joseph Welmshurst was also murdered.

George Furber suffered financially in the depression of the 1840's and premises of the George & Dragon were offered for sale in April 1841. At that time they were leased to John Henderson at £ 140 per annum and were described as a brick built, nine room establishment. There was a cellar, 60 ft. stable, gig house and large shed. 

Coachbuilder William Benjamin Johnston Green was publican at the 'George & Dragon Inn in 1843 (10) and was undergoing insolvency proceedings that year. He remained publican until at least 1848. 

(from the amazing Jen Willets - Free Settler or Felon site)

 I mention George because we do feel that George may, on occasion, visit the Restaurant. A very dapper gentleman has been seen a number of times walking through the Restaurant, wearing a top hat and long coat.
                                                       The Black Horse Inn - East Maitland
 Gentleman John Smith was an interesting character with a rather colorful past.

He was a twice convicted felon who arrived for the second time on the General Hewitt in 1814.

He later married widow Mary Furber and together they opened an Inn in Newcastle in August 1823. The Inn was known as the Newcastle Hotel
Many convicts were assigned to John Smith by 1828. Although some were employed as stock keepers probably on this land near Maitland, others such as William Worlock (servant), Jane Cameron (Housemaid), Hugh McKenzie (gardener), Catherine Swift (servant), Thomas Jordan (Baker) and Richard Bannister, (Ostler) were probably employed at the 'brick verandah cottage' that was his Inn at Newcastle. 

Also living with John and Mary Smith and their seven children in 1828 was 18 year old George Furber, the son of Mary and her first husband.  John Smith also owned the hotel called the Black Horse Inn ( shown above) which was not far away from the Old George and Dragon.
(From the Jen Willett's site - Free Settler or Felon)
Maybe we were seeing Gentleman John Smith?
A self made man his character would have been  large and looming.
Also there were the children who other heard in the main dining room as well as a servant woman who would be seen walking through the middle room of the restaurant sometimes carrying food or clothing and other transient energies, maybe coming back to finish off a glass of rum or conduct a deal.

Our final visit last weekend had us connect with a man who apparently had been delivering alcoholic beverages to the Hotel in its early days.
he told us that he would collect the alcohol from the wharves at Morpeth and then would take them up the road the few miles by bullock and dray.
This was a common event that he repeated often and at times had quite a bit of trouble getting his money from the licensee.

 I know that a new chapter in the life of the Old George and Dragon will begin soon. I know that a new chapter has begun for Jenni and chef Gavin too and I wish them well.
I do hope that the spirits of the Old George find their new owners as dedicated and loving of the place as Jenni certainly has been.
But...I guess will they remain?
Jenni has said that ever since she has left the restaurant ( its now closed) when she has re entered she has felt nothing... it has lost its soul. She has also disconnected.
In doing so have the ghosts also disconnected?
I had one of my most intense experiences at the Old George - one I will remember for a very long time to come. I feel honored to have spent time within the walls of this very historic building.


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