John Roberts had been in farmer in Northcote in the early 1860s before opening the Carters’ Arms Hotel on the corner of High Street and Separation Street in 1867. Roberts owned a 1,000 foot frontage along the north side of Separation Street and he used this to his advantage when high quality clay was discovered in the land immediately behind the hotel.
Roberts sold off the land to the Groom brothers who began the early commercial development of the site that was later to become the Northcote Brick Company. Roberts remained the publican of the Carters’ Arms Hotel until 1870 when he stepped aside for Edwin Witton, who changed the name of the hotel to Witton’s Arms Hotel.
In 1876 Roberts returned to the hotel, changing it back to its original name. He remained there until 1881.
Roberts lived on Arthurton Road and in the 1880s worked as a contractor from premises on High Street next door to the Carters’ Arms Hotel.
In 1882, Roberts and fellow publican George Plant became the only Northcote residents to invest in the Northcote Brick Company when it was launched in 1882.
He died in 1887.
Cole, Robert K. Index of Hotels 1841 – 1949. Unpublished manuscript.
Edge, Gary (2004). Surviving the six o’clock swill: a history of Darebin’s hotels. Melbourne: Darebin Libraries.