Very little happened in Hartley Vale before the 1860's. Then began the development of the kerosene shale mines, and the industry brought new life to the area.
Importation of whale oil was a very costly form of lighting, and the new discovery was hailed enthusiastically. The Hartley Kerosene Oil and Paraffine Company built houses for the workers on a 30 acre site they acquired as a 'private Township'. They built a school for the children and a residence for its teacher, both of which still stand.
Work in the shale mines was dangerous. Men worked behind shield-like guards for protection from flying fragments of shale. These men needed relaxation, and beer-drinking has long been recognised as a form of medication to replace sweat lost in mines.
For many years the miners were obliged to make their way to the Kerosene Hotel at Little Hartley to quench their thirst. John Kelly licensed the old Collits' Inn in 1877 as the Mount York Hotel, but it was still too far from the village.
It can well be imagined that Ann Curnow was a very popular lady when she opened her Vale Hotel in the village proper in 1879. Thomas Thompson provided competition with the Comet Inn later in the same year.
A brief history of Hartley Vale and some of its historic buildings. Hartley Vale, part of the wider area of Hartley Blue Mountains Australia, is in the valley of the River Lett situated on the western slopes of the Blue Mountains NSW. Beautifully restored Historic Inns with accommodation and restaurants, allow you to travel back in time to the early 1800's.
The Comet Inn was licensed to Thomas Thompson. The Comet was named after the brand name of the kerosene which was produced from the shale. The village was growing and in 1880 Jonathon Blinkensopp became the Comet's licensee and remained so until the shale mines closed. There were twelve pubs in the space of about a quarter of a mile of the road in Hartley. There were also dwellings for the miners and their families, a post office, the Company School, a Temperance Hall (much needed after the drinking marathons on payday!) an Oddfellows Hall and Mr. Skelly's butchery and bakery establishment. Balmain's Store was said to be a miniature Anthony Horderns, supplying anything you needed (much like the old Healey's of Hartley - Now Adam's Shed - is today). By the 1880's there were at least three bootmakers and a saddler named Mr. Madden. By 1913 the mining operations ceased. The mining families moved away.
In 1910 The Comet was advertised as the ideal retreat for rest and recreation. Guests would be met at the train by appointment and hunting and fishing were described as sports available. "A fine table, with fresh vegetables, milk and eggs from the farm." It was a Guest House with charm. "The House for a Happy Holiday" T.F. Pettitt, proprietor (late of Hurstville).
The Comet has retained its name and has been converted into a lovely guest house. The verandah was added some years ago but it retains the character of an old colonial 'Pub'.
This extract courtesy of - Juliette Palmer Frederick -