Archaeological Site Visit – 9 Watt Street Newcastle (Tattersalls)

On the afternoon of the 2nd April 2014 both Dr Ann Hardy and Gionni Di Gravio of the University of Newcastle (Australia) were invited to visit the archaeological excavations at the former Tattersalls site at 9 Watt Street Newcastle.

Their guide on the tour was Tim Adams, Senior Archaeologist and Excavation Director with Umwelt (Australia) Pty Ltd.


Tide Waiter’s Residence (c.1820s)

The site of 9 Watt Street has been in near continuous use since the inception of Newcastle’s European settlement, with occupation on the site recorded as early as the 1820s with the Tide Waiter’s Residence. The Tide Waiter would have acted much like the town’s customs officer of the time, and inspected ships arriving the harbour, and docking at the wharf once situated at the end of Watt Street (now somewhere under the roundabout near Newcastle Railway Station).

The residence is thought to have comprised a stone house built back from the street frontage. The adjacent block on the corner of Watt and Scott streets has been the location of a hotel since 1823 when the Ship Inn was constructed on the site now occupied by the Great Northern Hotel.

Overlay of 1830 Armstrong Plan showing Residence of the Tide Waiter.

Overlay of 1830 Armstrong Plan showing Residence of the Tide Waiter.

Reconstruction of the Convict Lumber Yard, with Ship Inn and Tide Waiters Residence (Model by Charles Martin)

Reconstruction of the Convict Lumber Yard, with Ship Inn and Tide Waiters Residence (Model by Charles Martin)

No remains have been discovered of the Tide Waiters Residence, as it is believed that the excavations in the 1930s to construct the Tattersalls Club removed all remains at that level of the site. The only remains discovered were a cesspit and a circular water cistern that was photographed in a article in the Newcastle Herald from the 22nd January 2014 p.2 and also appears in the 1897 Water Board plans.

Overlay of 1896 plan showing position of circular structure.

Overlay of 1896 plan showing position of circular water cistern structure.

"History Peeled, Site yields glimpses of the past" by Matthew Kelly (Courtesy of the Newcastle Herald 22 January 2014 p.2

“History Peeled, Site yields glimpses of the past” by Matthew Kelly (Courtesy of the Newcastle Herald 22 January 2014 p.2

Alexander Walker Scott’s Newcastle House (1838)

Bank of New South Wales in 1853 (former rsidence of Alexander Walker Scott). The residence was leased to John Bingle. The Bank occupied the residence until it was demolished in 1870. (Image is in A5094(i) located in University of Newcastle Cultural Collections. Courtesy of the Bank of N.S.W. Archives Sydney)

Bank of New South Wales in 1853 (former residence of Alexander Walker Scott). The residence was for a time leased to John Bingle. The Bank occupied the residence from 1856 until it was demolished in 1870. (Image is in item A5094(i) located in University of Newcastle Cultural Collections. (Courtesy of the Bank of N.S.W. Archives Sydney)

 

Alexander Walker Scott (an entrepreneur, natural scientist and one of Newcastle prominent business identities) is reported to have constructed ‘a fine mansion’ known as Newcastle House on the site of the Tide Waiter’s Residence in approximately 1838. (Heritas 2003: 4)

In addition Scott purchased land in Stockton where he constructed a salt works, a woollen textile mill and an iron foundry. He also owned Ash Island in the Hunter River estuary near Hexham. He and his family lived in a small cottage on the island following the economic depression of the early 1840s when they had to leave their Watt Street residence. The sandstone foundations of this structure still remain, and were incorporated as part of the new banking premises that were later erected.

Excavation Director Tim Adams (Senior Achaeologist Umwelt) pointing out the sandstone foundations (Screen capture from Video recorded 2 April 2014)

Excavation Director Tim Adams (Senior Achaeologist Umwelt) pointing out the sandstone foundations (Screen capture from Video recorded 2 April 2014)

 

Bank of NSW (1853)

Newcastle House was purchase by the Bank of N.S.W. in 1853 with the Bank relocating into the Watt Street building in 1856. In 1870 a ‘new banking premises’ was built on the site which is thought to have incorporated parts of Scott’s original Newcastle House. (Heritas 2003: 5-6)

Tattersall’s Club (1934)

In 1934 the Bank of N.S.W. building was sold to the Newcastle Tattersall’s Club. The Tattersall’s Club had been formed in 1869 by a group of bookmakers who wanted to stage races at the Newcastle Jockey Club when it was not being used for regular race meetings (Heritas 2003: 8)

Rear of 11 Watt Street Newcastle

The more interesting site was to be found around the corner at the rear of 11 Watt Street. It contains an existing rectangular structure, probably a private building, erected in the 1820s and marked on John Armstrong’s 1830 plan.

Rectangular mystery building on Armstrong's 1830 plan.

Rectangular ‘mystery’ building on Armstrong’s 1830 plan.

This building was later the premises of James Clark, Sailmaker, during the 1870s to the 1880s. The trench discovered, along with an intricate series of drainage works needs further investigation and study before we can fully ascertain what is going on there. In the trench was found much saw dust material pointing to its possible use in timber cutting or ship building possibly.

Site of James Clark, Sailmaker's premises, 1876 (Google Overlay 2013 by Gionni Di Gravio)

Site of James Clark, Sailmaker’s premises, 1876 (Google Overlay 2013 by Gionni Di Gravio)

 

Premises of James Clark sailmaker 1886 (2014 overlay by Gionni Di Gravio)

Premises of James Clark sailmaker 1886 (2013 overlay by Gionni Di Gravio)

Bricks of rectangular structure and part of the drainage works.

Bricks of rectangular structure and part of the drainage works.

Oddities

A couple of oddities were discovered on the site. Firstly at the rear of the site in a square trench was discovered an up ended baby cow, and closeby, a burial of a small pet with a crucifix(?), the remains were housed in a bottle, and may have been some sort of small creature like a bird. A chemical analysis will eventually tell us what it is.

Trench at rear of site that held the remains of a complete baby cow.

Trench at rear of site that held the remains of a complete baby cow.

Newcastle Coal Mining & Government Mines 1796-1820s

Newcastle Coal Mining & Government Mines – 1796- 1820s

By Dr Ann Hardy – April 2014
University of Newcastle’s Coal River Working Party

Public Records Office London. CO 201/32: A Plan of His Majesty’s Coal Mine at King’s Town New Castle District County of Northumberland New South Wales in its present Situation of working, July 1804. (Courtesy of the National Archives, U.K)

Public Records Office London. CO 201/32: A Plan of His Majesty’s Coal Mine at King’s Town New Castle District County of Northumberland New South Wales in its present Situation of working, July 1804. (Courtesy of the National Archives, U.K)

There is confusion about the early coal mines of Newcastle and although the Australian Agricultural Company mines are well documented there is little research on the government coal mines (particularly the coal shafts) that were worked from the early 1800s up until the late 1820s on ‘the Hill’. The Hill refers to the area we know today as King Edward Park and the James Fletcher Hospital. The following article pulls together sources associated with these early years to gain a better understanding of Australia’s first working coal mines. Government coal mines were primarily located at two separate mining precincts; the first precinct was the Coal River Precinct and second, the Newcastle Government Domain. To the south of the Government Domain was another Government coal in an area we know today as King Edward Park Reserve.

[DOWNLOAD] Newcastle Coal Mining & Government Mines 1796-1820s by Dr Ann Hardy April 2014

3D Virtual Hunter Project – Newcastle in 1818 and 1830

Here are two of the latest fly throughs of Newcastle as it looked in 1818 and 1830 respectively.

Both created by 3D artist Charles Martin in December 2013 and January 2014 as part of his work on the 3D Virtual Newcastle Time Machine. This work was made possible by the kind generosity of the Vera Deacon Regional History Fund.

This project has recently been expanded to include the entire Hunter Region, and renamed the 3D Virtual Hunter Project.

We are currently seeking partners and benefactors to make this dream a reality.

For further information on how this project has evolved please see:

http://coalriver.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/34-days/

http://coalriver.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/next-stage-of-3d-virtual-1820-newcastle-set-to-proceed/

http://coalriver.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/virtual-newcastle-circa-1800-1830-ad/

TRUE CRIME: TIERNAN, SMITH AND DESMOND: THE MEN FROM GOD KNOWS WHERE

coalrivertruecrime

ENDNOTES AND COLD MERCY: CRIME STORIES FROM COLONIAL NEWCASTLE

CASE 2.TIERNAN, SMITH AND DESMOND:

THE MEN FROM GOD KNOWS WHERE

BY DAVID MURRAY

David Murray is a university medalist with a Creative Arts Phd from Newcastle Uni. He has published two books of poetry: “Swinging from a broken clock” and “Blue bottle” (Sultana Press) alongside having work in the journals Overland and Mascara.

Murray has a keen interest in historical true crime and its protagonists, who are often marginalised or ignored by big picture history. True crime can open an intimate window on the raw violence, resilience, humour and dumb luck characterising their world.

Murray’s research into the criminal/cultural history of convict Newcastle has resulted in a series of true crime vignettes to be published in Coal River as “Endnotes and cold mercy: Crime stories from colonial Newcastle”

Transportation to New South Wales enabled the English to scatter the more hardened core of Irish rebels who survived the fighting of 1798 — execution in public just seemed to encourage them. As the popular saying went, you sometimes had to suck the eggs to kill the chicken.

Ten thousand ocean miles was never enough to silence the grog-pumped and addictive tin-whistle melodies the Irish sailed to Port Jackson with. Combining contempt, bitterness, deploring humour and moments of phosphorescent loss, the songs could make defeat sound uplifting while chronicling darker, collective memories like gang-rapes of local girls by English soldiers, or the use of artillery grapeshot on fleeing women and children at Vinegar Hill and nearby Enniscorthy; where a converted hospital was set alight and smouldered for weeks, fed partly by hissing human remains. For some the songs were all there were to never forget, while for others they kept alive a barely contained rage that erupted in an uprising on the Castle Hill government work farm in 1804.

For two clean autumn days in March a few hundred mostly Irish convicts impudently proclaimed an ‘Empire of New Ireland’ before being overrun. Nine suspected ringleaders, including the elected king Phillip Cunningham, were publically hanged. Just under thirty were arraigned and shipped north to be the first inmates of a new secondary penal outstation at the Settlement of Newcastle on the Hunter River.

Under the charge of an ambitious twenty-one year old marine officer, Lt Charles Menzies, three vessels made a forty hour voyage in sympathetic winds over a table-top smooth sea. After negotiating Newcastle’s already infamous river entrance on the incoming tide, they anchored within shouting distance of a shore-camp of men waiting with supplies left behind by a just completed survey expedition. The flotilla offloaded in the cool winter afternoon they were completely unaware that on the other side of the world a tail-flaming meteorite was thundering into the Scotland earth. Astronomers and not priests explained the phenomenon mathematically. The alien rock was a sign not of God’s spiteful wrath, but of a universe beyond the comprehension of the night eye.

Menzies’ and his generation brought a similarly enlightened, if more utilitarian, zeitgeist to their vocations. The panorama from Newcastle’s peninsula headland transfigured Menzies’ survey map into a luminous three dimensional delta of stained-glass blue water. It enclosed clean sandy islands shaped by flooding and just a few bird-flaps from each other. Through an eyeglass this miraculous blue converged into the main river tributary that disappeared into an undulating, thick canopied western forest. Despite tufts from random Native fires Menzies saw untouched, sublime nature doubling as an imposing escape barrier, while the human mess of disembarkation beneath him promised a geometrically imposed foothold that might build an industrially civilised future. The less optimistic within his mess of men might have alternatively peered into their first cold-blood sunset with its overture of wild dog howls, and felt a preface to the end of time.

Menzies had efficiently diffused the first challenge to his new authority on the voyage after a small group of prisoners openly threatened a murderous rampage against their gaolers upon landing. The belligerently articulate ringleader Andrew Tiernan was put in irons while Neil Smith and Francis Neeson were sent back to Sydney for trial, where a military jury found the clemency you experienced when once before overtaken by justice in your diabolical attempts, instead of impressing on your hearts a sense of obligation to the powers that spared you, it seems only to have furnished you with a further opportunity to debase yourselves. (i) The court could understand how obnoxious your vices may have rendered you but could find no excuse for the barbarian baseness and ingratitude motivating their actions. Smith and Neeson were flogged and returned to Newcastle where alongside fellow inmates — who numbers now included a few score of English born convicts and females of ‘bad character’ — they spent a slow but constructive winter milling timber and preparing the hard ground for the first storehouse, barracks, housing and roads. By early spring ‘the Camp’ as many now knew it, had a line of timber hardwood huts, looked over by an impressive, prefabricated Commandant’s house delivered from Sydney. Bricks for a commercial sized salt pan were arriving by instalment and offloaded on the nearly completed stone wharf. The vegetable patch had produced its first harvest of pumpkins. Rules restricting liberty of movement were enforced. These complemented the random surveillance of daily mustering and the grinding repetition of hard labour which drove the Camp’s ominous, authoritarian rhythms.

The Sydney Gazette spoke of Newcastle as a desolate, penal end-space for persons whose turbulent or infamous deportment (ii) made secondary punishment inevitable, framed by the more enigmatic imprimatur that Crime reduces all transgressors to a level (iii). Sydney even warned Menzies that the remaining Castle Hill Irish were plotting to trek north and free their brothers. Unlikely as this was, Menzies successfully tested shackling and removing his sixty odd inmates to Nobbys Island by boat, while a residual garrison force stayed behind to deal with any intruders.

Beyond being a short-term solution to the colony’s ‘Irish problem’, Governor King gambled that isolation, severe punishments and harsh, monotonous labouring would provide Newcastle with a reputation and a future. These considerations meant nothing to Andrew Tiernan, who upon release from his work-day chains bolted into the bush with Neil Smith and Bryan Riley, who in the aftermath of Castle Hill had been punished with as many lashes as he could stand without his life being endangered. The three runners returned themselves after Riley fell victim to cold, fatigue, and famine, after wandering for some time through the trackless woods, and feebly sustaining Nature with her own spontaneous herbage, which might have been impregnated with rank and deadly poison (iv). Their experience echoed many of the early escape attempts from the Camp, where the bush, starvation or Native bounty hunters saw most back in the compound within a few days. (Menzies had contracted a local chief, Bungaree, for the return of ‘Irish’, as his tribe generically tagged all runners). Despite this, running proved the most persistent misdemeanour on Newcastle’s early punishment lists, if just slightly more than assault, thieving and buggery. Apart from standard flogging or chain-ganging, a supervisor’s word could result in transfer upriver to a timber-cutting gang or a brief, if unforgettable, spell of solitary on Nobbys Island. The punishment options reflected the Camp’s uniquely evolving regime, and Andrew Tiernan had familiarised himself with most before being found face-down on a beach late in 1804, not far from a bush-still containing contraband peach-grog, government tools and stolen inmate personal effects. First thought to be a small beached porpoise, Tiernan’s body had been tame meat for wild dogs, crabs and seabirds. An inquest in early 1805 concerning this infamous Newcastle convict found no why, when or how to explain the death. He was buried on the Camp’s boundary where his crude wooden grave-marker corroded away to nothing in the indifferent and relentless salt air.

*

Professional sycophancy partly influenced Menzies calling his outpost King’s Town after his Governor mentor. It was one of many nom de guerres that Newcastle in the County of Northumberland (v) would evoke throughout its twenty martial years. Constant renaming echoed Newcastle’s transient mongrel character; a place at the whim of the colony’s mutable priorities. Mostly devoid of children, siblings, family or useable psychic gestures Newcastle had no interest or respect for personal fates or individual memories. Even the stolid rebel songs lost their old meaning and became mnemonics to measure off another black-hearted, dusty-headed, pick-axed, same-same day. Some of the original Irish inmates gave up on life after a year or so of this. Others stoically rode the rough. Tiernan’s old comrade Neil Smith slowly squared up. Age, an increasingly sloppy left jab and the haunting reality that he would never return to Ireland erased any lingering rebellious sparks. After his transportation sentence expired he drifted through various colonial employments before returning to Newcastle in 1814 as a Government employed constable, supervising mostly English inmates. By the following year he had a promotion and a de facto partner. The couple returned to Sydney after Mary Maguire’s one year sentence for drunken affray expired, and where Smith collected back wages along with a lump sum from the Police Fund for uncovering an illicit bush still. The relationship fell apart after Smith was charged with perjury in the early 1820s and Mary refused to join him in prison, having moved on to co-habit with a free settler called Swan. A heartbroken Smith eventually gave up pleading with the Governor to have Mary join him in the new Port Macquarie gaol.

It was easy to treat Irishmen like Smith as simplistic ideologues rather than complicated flesh and blood men. Not all Irish transportees were the result of English oppression, weeping mothers, acute poverty and the promise of a firm breasted, full-toothed Rose of Tralee waiting aside a crystal clear, bucolic stream. For many growing up was a vicious tangle of contact or membership with gangs of Whiteboys, Armagh maniacs, Peep O’ Day Protestants or hardened Catholic Defenders, where politics was a cover for ancient and wretched clan enmities. While English colonisation did drag most down, the folksy, Rousseauian saying that Ireland struggles ‘for as long as the well-stocked castle resents a small cabin full of hay’ c\was occasionally just a thug’s excuse saw defenceless, innocent families have their stock butchered or stolen, their homes burned down or children kidnapped. These oblique experiences made some Irish convicts tourists within their own personal histories which, conversely enough, turned the mental and geographical trauma of transportation into an unexpected opportunity.

Thomas Desmond was transported on the 1802 ‘rebel’ transport the Atlas, alongside Tiernan and Smith. A year before Castle Hill, he had come to public notice for drunkenness and insolence to his masters. He first bolted from Newcastle in late 1804 — coincidently around the time Andrew Tiernan went missing — before being found weeks later camped with a Hawkesbury tribe, stripped of his clothes and apparently in great danger; the rash adventurer would certainly have perished beneath their merciless hands, after encountering all the inconceivable distresses consequent on an improvident travel through the uncultivated country (vi). Stripping escapees treated by some tribes as a payment for entering Native country, but it also confirmed that the pink interlopers were different coloured versions of themselves, and not the translucent spirits of lost ancestors, as some of the porcupine eating old men liked to imagine. The court found Desmond endured excessive hardship before by happy accident relief was offered to him … and what he endured in his distressing travel operating in his favour, his punishment was lenient (vii).  Unlike Riley, Smith and Tiernan he acquired a taste for it and made recalcitrance a measure of self-worth and endurance. He would spend the immediate years traversing the sophisticated network of Native bush highways between Newcastle and Sydney, accepted by most tribes as a curiosity or some an out-of-season wild flower. For the colonial authorities repeated offence, however, forfeits every claim to humanity, and Justice will at length assert her own prerogative (viii) and by 1805 the turpitude of this inflexible and audacious fugitive obstinately determines him to oppose every authority that may be exercised in the lenient punishment of his offences, which by a perverse conduct are still aggravated by refractory character … the sanguine hope of reformation cannot be entertained.(ix) Desmond was a singularly unredeemable pariah in a sociopenal experiment where the participation of indulgence is attainable by those alone who by amendment endeavour to deserve it (x). In between the cycle of flogging and arrest Desmond accumulated Native bushcraft and refined his skill for fencing in a very limited black marketplace. He was known to keep bush stills which produced a vicious rot-gut cider. Usually a solo bolter, he would nonetheless run with whoever was keen, once keeping with a gang of seven bushrangers whose harassment of isolated Hawkesbury settlers made for the brief notoriety of a three pound, public reward to prevent their preying on the industrious (xi).

Rather than hang Desmond for repeat offences the authorities entered into an endurance game that would eventually outlast his determined hardihood, which has repeatedly drawn upon him those rigours to which the vicious wantonly expose themselves (xii).

As paranoia surrounding the Irish problem diminished in the first decade of the nineteen hundreds, men like Thomas Desmond, Andrew Tiernan and Neil Smith were replaced in the colony’s fickle media of scoundrels by younger and differently violent convicts. The three ex-rebels faded from the public record, but in the personal cells of their days, they momentarily transformed the mischance of their shit-box prison lives into fleetingly gilded cages.

ENDNOTES

i The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), Sunday 5 August 1804, page 2.

ii The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), Sunday 9 September 1804, page 4.

iii Ibid.

iv The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), Sunday 24 June 1804, page 3.

v The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), Sunday 9 December 1804, page 3.

vi The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), Sunday 25 March 1804, page 2.

vii The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), Sunday 9 December 1804, page 3.

viii The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), Sunday 24 June 1804, page 3.

ix The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), Sunday 21April 1804, page 4.

x The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), Sunday 21April 1804, page 4.

xi Historical Records of New South Wales:  Vol. V, King 1803, 1804, 1805. Edited by F. M. Blade, Lansdowne Slattery & Company, Mona Vale, N.S.W., 1979. (Page 571)

xii The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), Sunday 24 November 1805, page 1.

3D Virtual Newcastle – What Charles and Vera Achieved in 34 days of 2013

Overall view of the landscape of colonial Newcastle in 1818 (Artwork by Charles Martin)

Overall view of the landscape of colonial Newcastle in 1818 (Artwork by Charles Martin)

At the first meeting of the Coal River Working Party for this year, held on the 3rd of February, 3D Virtual Newcastle creator Charles Martin gave University benefactor Vera Deacon, a presentation on the progress to date on the the 3D model of early Newcastle.

Cultural Collections in the Auchmuty Library were able to provide Charles with 34 days of paid work thanks to the generosity of the University Foundation’s Vera Deacon Regional History Fund, set up in 2008 in Vera’s honour. Vera does not have much access to the internet, so Charles was able to produce (with the assistance of EJE Architecture) with a printed book containing all the illustrations in the presentation.

Charles Martin with Vera Deacon and copy of presentation, 3rd February 2014.

Charles Martin with Vera Deacon and copy of presentation, 3rd February 2014.

The presentation provided an over view of the initial work and methodology used in constructing the 3D model of early Aboriginal and Colonial Newcastle, up until 1830. Charles began work on the model in November 2012, and from August to December was employed 2 days per week continuing to add detail and features to the landscape, with special attention to the years 1818 to 1830.

Christ Church and surrounding landscape 1818 (3D Art by Charles Martin)

Christ Church and surrounding landscape 1818 (3D Art by Charles Martin)

Sir Thomas Mitchell's 1828 sketch rendered by Charles Martin 2013.

Sir Thomas Mitchell’s 1828 sketch rendered by Charles Martin 2013.

Newcastle Goal, once overlooking Newcastle Ocean Baths rendered by Charles Martin 2013

Newcastle Goal, once overlooking Newcastle Ocean Baths rendered by Charles Martin 2013

Convict Lumber Yard rendered by Charles Martin 2013

Convict Lumber Yard rendered by Charles Martin 2013

A copy of the entire presentation can be downloaded here: Newcastle 1818 – 1830 by Charles Martin (30MB PDF)

Download a copy of presentation (30MB PDF)

Click Image to Download a copy of presentation (30MB PDF)

The Ancient Corroboree Ground at Wickham (N.S.W.)

[Corroboree at Newcastle / oil painting by Joseph Lycett] Courtesy of State Library of NSW

[Corroboree at Newcastle / oil painting by Joseph Lycett] Courtesy of State Library of NSW

The Ancient Corroboree Ground at Wickham (N.S.W.)
by Gionni Di Gravio

Many have wondered about the beautiful and evocative oil painting by Joseph Lycett of the moonlight Corroboree at Newcastle. From where in Newcastle was it painted? Some have surmised the location to be somewhere along the Honeysuckle foreshore, perhaps even the area around Civic Park.

But thanks to a recent chain of email enquiries, another lost piece of the Aboriginal jigsaw has possibly fallen into place, with the identification of the Wickham Corroboree ground.

An enquirer had asked whether Wickhams’s Tree of Knowledge had any connections to local Aboriginal people. Not knowing whether it did or not, I posted a question on the Lost Newcastle Facebook group and learn’t that the tree was probably one of a series of plantings of the Hannell Family, and that it had later been the resting place of many drunks, both white and black, that would regale stories to passersby, and talk about the meaning of life. Hence its nickname as the “Tree of Knowledge”.

In early January I received another email from a researcher attempting to find out any information relating to the discovery of two infant Aboriginal burials in the vicinity of Maryville. This was accompanied by a 1963 newsclipping he had located in Local Studies, Newcastle Public Library. After providing some information about what I knew about Aboriginal burial customs, and the ancient topography, I read the article which provided information about the discovery of middens in the area, as well as the reminiscences of a former Wickham resident Mrs Farnham relating to a local Aboriginal tribe.

The 1963 article names her as “Miss Mary Farnham”, but they may have had her age confused with that of her mother, Mrs. Janet Farnham (also referred to as “Mrs. Joseph Farnham”) who did live to her 93rd year. Mary died in 1947 aged 82 years. She was born in 1865, the year that her mother married and moved to Wickham. The article describes how she:

“recalled having watched with her father, aboriginal corroborees in bushland now occupied by the St James’ Church of England, Wickham. In an interview, she told of how the blacks spent much of their day spearing and catching fish with tidal traps in a low lying area between Maryville and Carrington.” – NMH&MA 25th July 1963

Who “she” was is a little confusing from the story. As Janet’s father died when she was five years old in 1847, she couldn’t have described watching the corroboree with “her father”. Mary, the daugher, was born in 1865, and so could have witnessed a corroboree with her father, but could not have been interviewed in 1963. I have not located an interview with Mary published prior to 1947.

We have, however, managed to track down the original reminiscences of Mrs Janet Farnham published in the Newcastle Morning Herald on Saturday 28th July 1934 p.5 just prior to her 92nd birthday in August. It describes a corroboree held in 1852 that she witnessed (aged 10 years) on the grounds (now occupied at the time of 1934) by St James’ Church:

“Just over 200 yards from where Mrs. Farnham now lives, at Holland-street, Wickham, aboriginal corroborees were once held. She visited Newcastle for the first time when about 10 years old, and, although it was a hurried visit, it was very interesting. Great excitement prevailed in town that day because a piccaninny had been born at the aborigines’ camp, which was situated where St. James’ Anglican Church now stands. To celebrate this all-important occasion, the blacks decided to hold a corroboree. Mrs. Farnham and her friends, with many residents of Newcastle, were privileged to witness the ceremony.

Location of 2 Holland St former residence of Mrs Janet Farnham (1897 map overlay in Google by Gionni Di Gravio)

Location of 2 Holland St former residence of Mrs Janet Farnham (1897 map overlay in Google by Gionni Di Gravio)

Location of St James' Church in Dixon St (in 1897) now Church St (2013) (Overlay by Gionni Di Gravio)

Location of St James’ Church in Dixon St (in 1897) now Church St (2013)
(Overlay by Gionni Di Gravio)

Describing the camp, Mrs. Farnham said that it was a huge clearing, surrounded by a dense forest of trees and thick undergrowth. The floor was covered with sea shells. The only approach was a single track, which was guarded at both ends by sentinels. A roaring fire was burning in the centre of the clearing, and around it the blacks performed their weird dances. Some were painted with ochre in grotesque fashion. After the ceremony, a huge feast was indulged in, and the spectators were invited to participate. Some, braver than the others, did so, and afterwards remarked that “although the food did not look tempting, it tasted good.”” – NMH&MA 28th July 1934 p.5

If another article date 1939 she is again quoted in support of evidence of ancient streams in the district:

Further proof of the existence of underground streams was supplied by Mrs. Janet Farnham prior to her death at Wickham about four years ago at the age of 95. She recalled that aborigines held their corroborees on the present site of St. James’ Church 90 years ago because they could dance near to the water gods underneath. – NMH&MA, 22 June 1939, p. 8

If the account is correct then this corroboree ground, 200 yards from her home in Holland St, would have encompassed a huge clearing taking in the Aboriginal camp located at the corner of Church Street and Hannell Street, and everything in between, around a block. Another possibility is an area adjacent to her house in Holland Street and across the rail corridor.

Compare the Lycett painting at the top, with this painting by Alfred Sharpe, which decorated the Illuminated Address To Alderman John Gilbert Ex. Mayor of Wickham (1894). (Thanks to Sue Ryan at Local Studies Newcastle Region Library for supplying an excellent scan of this work).

Illuminated address presented to John Gilbert, former Mayor of Wickham, 1894 (Courtesy of Local Studies, Newcastle Region Library)

Illuminated address presented to John Gilbert, former Mayor of Wickham, 16th October 1894 (Courtesy of Local Studies, Newcastle Region Library)

At the base of the painting, in pen is the annotation, “View from Tower of A.J.S. Bank Wickham.”. This is the location cited at the corner of Hannell and Charlton Streets, taking in the view of the Cottage Creek cemetery, as well as City Arcade.

Location of A.J.S. Bank, from whose Tower the painting was made taking in Cottage Creek cemetery grounds and City Arcade, 1897 (Overlay by Gionni Di Gravio)

Location of A.J.S. Bank, from whose Tower the painting was made taking in Cottage Creek cemetery grounds and City Arcade, 1897 (Overlay by Gionni Di Gravio)

Janet Farnham’s description,  as well as the view of Lycett painting, and Alfred Sharpe’s painting, do provide a nice fit to support the theory that the Lycett painting was taken from the vantage point of the Wickham corroboree ground.

Photograph of site from the Church Street harbour front (Courtesy of Dr Ann Hardy 2014)

Photograph of site from the Church Street harbour front (Courtesy of Dr Ann Hardy 2014)

Notes on orientations and sight lines (Drawn by Warren Hardy)

Notes on orientations and sight lines (Drawn by Warren Hardy)

Notes on orientations and sight lines (Drawn by Warren Hardy)

Notes on orientations and sight lines (Drawn by Warren Hardy)

To a certain degree, this information adds a new dimension to explaining why the old Aboriginal men sat and congregated under the Tree of Knowledge.  It was only a stone’s throw down the road from the original Aboriginal camp, and corroborree ground, that had existed at that location up until the building of St James’ Church in 1871. We know from Mrs Farnham’s account that at least one corroborree was held there in 1852. Her observations of the Aboriginal people were based upon her reminiscences of living in Wickham, since permanently moving there, after she married in 1865. As Wickham grew, and the mines came, the Aboriginal people were moved off, and their sacred corroboree grounds now used for other purposes. If we believe that people who play soccer or football or other sports deserve a place to practice their past-times, then surely it must also be fair that an ancient culture, and its people also have a right for their sacred and cultural areas to be protected in perpetuity. It would be a good thing if in the next hundred or so years, these corroboree grounds be returned to cultural practice. It remains to see what other physical as well as documentary evidence of early human habitation come to light in years to come, in the forms of shell deposits, tools and human remains.

Images and Transcriptions of all Newclippings

Newcastle Morning Herald 25th July 1963 Located by Rob Kyte in Local Studies, Newcastle Public Library

Newcastle Morning Herald 25th July 1963 Located by Rob Kyte in Local Studies, Newcastle Public Library

Ancient Eating Ground
Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate 25th July 1963 p.6
(Ref: Located by Rob Kyte in Local Studies, Newcastle Public Library. Transcribed by Gionni Di Gravio 19/1/2014 )

Railway clerical workers at Port Waratah Locomotive Depot believe they have accidentally stumbled on to an ancient eating ground of an aboriginal tribe that once roamed the foreshores of Throsby Creek.

In recent weeks heavy rain has revealed big deposits of broken shells obviously broken and cleaned for their contents.

Clusters of whitish shell pieces have been found over a wide area, beginning with a huge mound near the corner of King and Gross Streets and extending to the low, flat areas on railway property in King-street.

The more important find has thumb-worn hand tools close to the heaps containing thousands of shells.

Cutting Edges

These tools, mostly fined down from a hard, dull green and brown shale rock, have a also been found over a scattered area.

They vary in size and shape, and all have cutting or pointed edges indicating use to open shells.

Other ancient tools found in the area include polished barbs and a stone axe-head.

Till the heavy rain this year, the presence of the shell clusters and tools had not been suspected though it was known that the foreshores of the creek at Wickham and Carrington were the haunt of at least one aboriginal tribe.

Most of the tools, some of which were found this week, are called scrapers, and they fit comfortably into the shallow area of most shells found.

Tribe Recalled

Support for the belief that the area is an ancient aboriginal eating ground is the known practice of gins collecting shellfish for their menfolk and heaping them at selected spots for cleaning and serving.

This foreshore was once covered by relatively shallow tidal water and abounded with shellfish.

The tribe remained in this area till about 1840, about which time the first borings were taken to locate seams of Borehole coal.

The life of this tribe was recalled many years ago by one of Newcastle’s pioneering families, the Farnhams, who settled in Wickham about 120 years ago.

Miss Mary Farnham, when aged 93, recalled having watched with her father, aboriginal corroborees in bushland now occupied by the St James’ Church of England, Wickham.

In an interview, she told of how the blacks spent much of their day spearing and catching fish with tidal traps in a low lying area between Maryville and Carrington.

Further proof of the long existence of this tribe along the foreshores was found by mine surveyors and engineers when sinking test shafts in the same area.

About 100 years ago, attempts were made to seek suitable locations for collieries in the Wickham-Maryville area, but it was not till about 20 years later that shafts were safely sunk.

Used Tar

During excavation in one part of Maryville, nearing the boundary of Tighe’s Hill, the remains of two infants were found bound in a broad type of rush and sealed with tar.

Geologists have since confirmed ample coal was to be found along the foreshores of Throsby Creek in Newcastle’s early days.

There is no reason, they said, to doubt that these aborigines found how to extract tar from coal and use it for domestic purposes.

Because of this, it is also believed that this tribe cooked more of its food that most aborigines did.

_____________________________

Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners' Advocate , Saturday 17 February 1940, page 16

Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate , Saturday 17 February 1940, page 16


BLACKS HELD CORROBOREE AS
THEIR “BLESSING”
Foundation Stone Ceremony at St. James‘s 68 Years Ago
[Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners' Advocate , Saturday 17 February 1940, page 16]

SIXTY-EIGHT years ago-Saturday, February 17, 1872 – Bishop William Tyrrell laid the foundation-stone of St. James‘s Church of England, Wickham. The day was extremely hot.

The ceremony, which began at 4 p.m., opened with the singing of the 145th Psalm. Mr. James Hannell, first Member of Parliament for Newcastle, read the “document of authorisation,” then placed it on the foundation-stone. After declaring the stone “well and truly laid,” the Bishop read the Belief (Creed), which was said by those present. He offered prayers and delivered an address. Then, according to the account in the “Newcastle Morning Herald,” the gathering quietly dispersed.

The highlight of this historic event for the Anglicans of the newly-formed parish was the corroboree given by aborigines at night. The church was built on their camping ground, which they relinquished in favour of the white men’s “Great Spirit.” In the presence of many church people, they executed several tribal and religious dances, as a blessing to the new building, amid the flickering light of camp fires. A feast followed, for which fish was the chief item on the menu.

The building committee comprised Revs. F. D. Bode and John Dixon. Messrs. J. Hannell, A. Cotton, J. D. Langley, W. A. Hutchinson, J. Hubbard, J. Clarkson, W. Holmes, T. Elliott. J. Gordon, J. Holmes, G. Callow, R. Trindle, J. Frouhame, J. Holmes, sen., F. Norman. Jr. J. Blackhouse was the architect and Mr. T. Smith the contractor.

The new church was not built without opposition, for the first incumbent (Rev. J. Dixon) concluded his first annual re port of 1873 as follows: “I thank those who have been friendly to our work; and we are also indebted to those who have been unsympathetic. Because of the latter we have entered our work with increased energy and greater watchfulness.” Many parishioners opposed the erection of the church because “it was in the bush and too far from the town.”

A Large Parish

The first parish of Wickham was a large one and comprised Onebygamba (Carrington), and the townships of The Foley, Islington, Waratah, Hanbury, Hexham, Woodford, the Islands of the Hunter, Lambton, Merewether, Toronto, Teralba, Rathmmies, Cooronbong, and several small places near the Hawklesbury. The clergy were Revs. Dixon (incumbent), D. Rutledge and G. McIntosh (assistant ministers), and Messrs. Walter Tollis (later Archdeacon Tollis), and W. J. James (candidates for Holy Orders).

Mr. J. Dangar gave the land – two acres – for the church and rectory. Before the church was built services were held under two Moreton Bay Fig trees, which are still to be seen on the vacant land opposite Wickham School.

Mr. Dixon was a pioneering minister. He rode a horse to visit his parishioners, and often was away from Wickham for six weeks on his parish rounds. When he was offered the charge of St. Paul’s. West Maitland, Wickham parishioners petitioned the Bishop to allow him to re main, but a few years later he was re moved to Sydney, where he became an archdeacon.

Mr. J. D. Langley had an interesting career. After several years as a lay reader at St. James‘s, he resigned his position as a bank officer to be ordained. He eventually succeeded his brother, Henry Langley, as Bishop of Bendigo.

Mr. Dixon was succeeded by Canon William Swindlehurst in 1888. Canon Swindlehurst’s ministry in the parish lasted 21 years. The present pulpit was built in his memory.

Rev. W. F. James, who was associated with the parish for several years, interested himself in the Missions for Seamen. His name became a byword along the Newcastle waterfront.

The first child baptised at St. James‘s -a Mr. Holmes – is still living, as also are Mesdames Mawley, Nutall and Geary – three sisters who were born at the same house in the parish more than 80 years ago. There are families of four generation still living in the parish, and children and grandchildren of the first church members are now active workers for the church. A few of the very old parishioners can remember the laying of the foundation-stone. One is Miss Mary Farnham, whose mother died about four years ago at the age of 95. A stained window, costing £200, was placed in the front of the church in her memory.

The present Rector (Rev. D. T. Rees) succeeded Rev. A. W. Moore last June. Mr. Moore took charge of Mr. Rees’s former parish at Dungog. Mr. Rees is a native of Newcastle.

Special services will be held at the weekend. Choral Communion will be celebrated at 8 o’clock and Family Eucharist at 11 o’clock. The Dean of Newcastle (Very Rev. T. Armour) will preach at evensong at night. After that service the congregation will adjourn to the parish hall, where Mr. George Norman will speak on the early history of the church.

_________________________________________

UNDERGROUND STREAM AND TUNNELS
Is Wickham Faced With a Subsidence Problem?
[Ref: Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954) , Thursday 22 June 1939, page 8]

Whether a certain portion of Wickham is soon to be faced with a subsidence problem has been troubling residents who live in and about the southern end of Hannell-street.

Underneath most of the area concerned are tunnels from the old Maryville Colliery or subterranean streams. Most of it is low-lying, particularly sections which during the past 50 years have been reclaimed at various intervals.

Recent subsidences in some dwellings in Hannell-street, the collapse of a newly-constructed petrol storage tank a few years ago, when the sand foundation sank without warning, and a quick fall-in of about 20 feet of the sand embankment being used as part of the reclamation scheme along Throsby Creek to a depth of 10 feet on Tuesday night, are stated to be reasons why serious trouble is likely to be experienced in the near future. It is believed that seepage, mainly caused by heavy spring tides, is the cause of subsidence in all three instances.

Swamps and Streams

The history of the reclamation of the swamp areas of Wickham, Maryville and Linwood is interesting. Perhaps no other part of the Newcastle district has been confronted with the same problem, with the possible exception of Carrington, where, however, many swamps in the early days were filled in with the solid foundation of ships’ ballast. About 60 years ago the foreshores of Throsby Creek formed a mouth for numbers streams and swamps, which covered a large portion of Wickham East. Some streams ran through areas which have since been raised, though not to a large degree. Evidence of this was found in several streets when sewer pipes and water connections were being laid. Once stream continued down Throsby-street to Wickham Park, where a large swamp remained until about five years ago. These swamps were by no means shallow; in places they were six, seven and eight feet deep. One spot was popularised as a swimming hole, where boys dived off a nearby tree. All these existed before the advent of the three pits which were later opened at Maryville and Carrington.

In those days the existence of subterranean streams was known; in fact, it was generally felt that much of the land around the waterfront would not be used for residential purposes. When the mining boom arrived at Carrington in later years – pits were sunk, firstly, on the site now occupied by the timber mills near Carrington Bridge, and later at the Dyke – land was reclaimed and homes were built to accommodate the influx of miners and their families. Both Wickham and Carrington grew. Wickham Council, realising the possible development of the municipality, undertook reclamation and drainage schemes.

With this progress houses appeared on the eastern side of Hannell-street, all of which have been demolished to make way for wharves, wool-stores and an oil pumping plant.

Church Undermined

The Bullock Island Company began operations about 60 years ago. The tunnels were not confined to Carrington and the immediate vicinity of the foreshores; instead, they extended under Throsby Creek into Wickham until Hannell-street was reached, and then continued towards the railway-station. But a halt was made when St. James’ Church of England was reached, not because the company deemed it not a financial proposition, but because the church authorities obtained an order from the Government. Inquiries revealed that the tunnels were, in some places, only about 12 feet under the surface. This closeness had caused the Church grounds to subside in places and the brick building to crack in the interior and around two walls. Large cracks which can still be seen in the building, testify to the extent which the land sank. When the mine closed, water filled the empty tunnels.

Further proof of the existence of underground streams was supplied by Mrs. Janet Farnham prior to her death at Wickham about four years ago at the age of 95. She recalled that aborigines held their corroborees on the present site of St. James’ Church 90 years ago because they could dance near to the water gods underneath.

Tunnels of the old Maryville colliery were spread in many directions, and covered areas near a part of Downie street, at the northern end of Hannell-street, and where many of the petrol storage tanks have been erected on the flat in recent years. Part of this area is now known as the “basin”, where the Greater Newcastle Council is now trying to give relief to the flooding in convenience caused by tidal waters.

Sand Wall Collapses

For the past five years the Public Works Department has been dredging the channel section of Throsby Creek from the mangrove swamp to Carrington Bridge and reclaiming the mud flats along the foreshores. For this work a pumping plant has been used to raise the levels of the flats and fill the hollows with sand and silt. As the work proceeds, a sand retaining wall, with mangrove trees as a foundation, is built. This is later made into a stone-pitched embankment after the water has been pumped from the flat and sand pumped in. On Tuesday night a strip of about 20 feet long fell in downwards to a depth of nearly 10 feet. It was not a wash-away, which are often  caused by lapping tides; it was a definite subsidence. The drop, it was stated, was attributed to the seepage caused by the spring tides, which are now at their peak.

Tenants of a terrace houses at the end of Hannell-street have also felt slight subsidences. One householder explained that a drop in the ground, which was always damp, had been noticed since the channel, immediately opposite the buildings, had been dredged. Cracks had appeared in some parts of the building, and in others wood beading had moved from the brickwork.

A former mining engineer explained that the dredging could disturb the underground streams and cause excessive seepage, probably sufficient to cause the walls of the underground streams to collapse. This could result in subsidence. Seepage also could result from the action of the spring tides. If the smallest opening were provided in the foreshores, the terrific pressure of the harbour could force water underground and possibly and possibly link it up with a running stream or an old mine tunnel. When the oil tank had collapsed at Wickham several years ago tidal waters were at their highest. This could have been a coincidence, but it was just as likely that the water could have been forced into some weak spot.

In Hannell-street a few houses have tilted over at a slight angle due to subsidence. Wickham Council Chambers has sunk a few inches in recent years.

The highest of all tides – the king tide – will not flow until the middle of next month. At present the spring tides are flooding the low-lying sections of Wickham. last night the water rose in streets to the highest level for years. Albert-street received a larger amount of water than usual.

Trove: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134183670
Transcribed by Gionni Di Gravio 19/1/2014

____________________

OBITUARY
MRS. J. FARNHAM
Wickham Pioneer’s Death

[Ref: Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners Advocate 4 September 1934 p.9]

The last surviving person of the first five families to reside at Wickham, Mrs. Joseph Farnham, who celebrated her 92nd birthday last month died in the early hours of yesterday morning. Mrs. Farnham had lived in Wickham for nearly 70 years and had enjoyed good health up till the last few weeks. She retained her faculties to the end.

Mrs. Farnham was born at Horseshoe bend, West Maitland, in 1842. Her parents migrated from Scotland five years prior to her birth. Her memory was remarkably clear, and incidents of the early convict days at Maitland, and sidelights of early Newcastle history, which she recalled, were published a few weeks ago. She was an active worker for, and had a life long association with, St. James’ Church, the foundation stone of which she saw laid 62 years ago. She and her husband contributed coins, which were placed in a bottle and put under the stone. Despite her great age, Mrs Farnham was very virile, and only three weeks ago she planted a tree in connection with the 62nd patronal festival of St James’ Church. She is survived by one daughter, Mary, and two sons, John and Joseph.

The funeral will take place from St James’ Church, Wickham, this afternoon.

Trove: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/134817441
Transcribed: Gionni Di Gravio 19/1/2014

_________________________________

WICKHAM PIONEER
Mrs. Joseph Farnham’s
Long Life

ASSOCIATION WITH ST. JAMES’ CHURCH

[Ref: Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners Advocate 28th July 1934 p.5]

Mrs. Joseph Farnham, of Wickham, will celebrate her 92nd birthday next month. She relates many vivid stories of the pioneering days, from three-quarters to half a century ago. Despite her great age, she is still remarkably virile. Although she is slightly deaf, her others senses and faculties are acute, and she carries her age well. She was born at Horseshoe Bend, West Maitland, in August 1842. Her parents migrated from Glasgow, Scotland, five years prior to her birth. Her mother came out in the Bonny Duncaster, and her father on another famous sailing vessel, Light of Age. The trip affected the health of her father, William Alexander Grant, and he died five years later, at the age of 28, and was buried in the old East Maitland Presbyterian Cemetery.

One could almost hear the clanking of the chains and hoarse shouts of the warders as Mrs. Farnham graphically described her first sight of convicts. She was only a child then, but can remember seeing the manner in which the unfortunates were treated. Her mother often told her of the life they led. They were yoked up in gangs, and had to build roads, with gravel procured from the river. If they answered back, or even murmured, they were subjected to the fury of the warders, who thrashed them with long lashes, and were liable to similar treatment if they did not reply to statements directed to them.

Mrs. Farnham says that it is only by comparing the practices of those days with the present that one realises the great work which has been performed for the country by humanitarian reformers.

WHEN BULLOCK WAS ROASTED

Mr. Farnham drove the first railway engine to Maitland. This was indeed a great day for the township. There was great excitement everywhere, and the formal opening ceremony of the railway, which was attended with much pomp and splendour, was performed by Governor Carrington. Nearly every resident of Maitland and the surrounding districts was present. The celebration was concluded with the roasting of a large bullock in the park, suspended in a sling, and from it huge slices were cut by the public.

Another exciting incident Mrs. Farnham recalled was the shooting of Prince Albert, about 84 years ago. He had just been returning from a demonstration of horse-back riding, when a man rushed out from a thicket, confronted the Prince, and then shot him through the shoulder. Immediately the incensed people surged around the assailant, and it was only the heroic efforts of the soldiers and mounted police that prevented the man from wing lynched. Under heavy escort, he was taken to gaol, and later tried; found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in prison.

Just over 200 yards from where Mrs. Farnham now lives, at Holland-street, Wickham, aboriginal corroborees were once held. She visited Newcastle for the first time when about 10 years old, and, although it was a hurried visit, it was very interesting. Great excitement prevailed in town that day because a piccaninny had been born at the aborigines’ camp, which was situated where St. James’ Anglican Church now stands. To celebrate this all-important occasion, the blacks decided to hold a corroboree. Mrs. Farnham and her friends, with many residents of Newcastle, were privileged to witness the ceremony.

Describing the camp, Mrs. Farnham said that it was a huge clearing, surrounded by a dense forest of trees and thick undergrowth. The floor was covered with sea shells. The only approach was a single track, which was guarded at both ends by sentinels. A roaring fire was burning in the centre of the clearing, and

Mrs. Farnham

Mrs. Farnham

around it the blacks performed their weird dances. Some were painted with ochre in grotesque fashion. After the ceremony, a huge feast was indulged in, and the spectators were invited to participate. Some, braver than the others, did so, and afterwards remarked that “although the food did not look tempting, it tasted good.”

THREE SHOPS IN CITY

At the age of 23, when married, Mrs. Farnham came to Newcastle to live, and chose Wickham as her place of residence. For two years she lived near what is now Railway-street: and later moved to Holland street, and has remained there ever since. Her house, built by her husband, who died 23 years ago, is of brick. There were only five houses in Wickham then, their occupants being the Ledgerwood, Walsh, Hole, Jordan, and Millhorn families.

Mrs. Farnham said that there were only three shops in Hunter-street. They were conducted by Mr. Broughton (grocer), Mr. Tom Ingall (draper), and Mr. Higgenbottom (butcher). There was no road leading to the city, only a bush track, where the railway line now is. Sometimes when going to the city Mrs. Farnham would receive a lift from the navvies in trollies. There were no houses in Hunter-street from where the old coal bridge stood until Honeysuckle station was reached. There a few houses of the railway men who worked at the railway workshops were erected. The shops were surrounded by much scrub and bush.

Mrs. Farnham’s husband bought some land, which he cleared for building purposes, before he settled in Newcastle. After their residence at Railway-street for two years, during which the house in Holland-street was built, a slaughter house was planned, but was not erected until some years later where the public school now stands. Mr White was the owner. Wickham was then a mass of swamp and forest. Boys used to catch fish from water six feet deep where the park is now situated. In later years this area was filled in. A track for driving the bullocks to the slaughter house was cleared in front of her house. Once a fiery bull escaped, and provided an exciting hunt for the men. For three days he evaded capture, which was effected by a burst of rifle fire from the hunters.

All at once Wickham began to grow, and in 1868 there were over 100 residences in the area. Most of the people were interested in Church work, and the first Anglican services were conducted in Mrs. Critchley’s home in Throsby-street by Rev. John Dixon, who later became the first incumbent of St. James’. The congregation sat on forms. Mr. Dixon brought a small hand organ, which he played himself. Visitors from Newcastle and Hanbury attended the services, which were held morning, afternoon, and night. Mrs. Farnham remembers the laying of the foundation stone of St. James’ Church in 1873. The day was terrifically hot. She and her husband, a warden, put coins in the bottle which was put under the stone.

Photograph and Floor Plan of the former St James' Church Wickham (Courtesy of Anglican Diocese Archivesm Cultural Collections (UoNCC)

Photograph and Floor Plan of the former St James’ Church Wickham as at August 1920 (Courtesy of Anglican Diocese Archives Cultural Collections (UoNCC)

THUNDERBOLT REMINISCENCE

Cappersotti, the Italian who gave information to the police concerning the outlaw, Thunder bolt, was a boarder in the Holland-street house. A few years after this event, Capersotti returned to Wickham, and told Mrs. Farnham the incidents of this exciting episode. The Italian, who frequently travelled up and down the North Coast, recognised Thunderbolt at a hotel on the night before his death. Next day, while on his way again saw the outlaw, who, this time, was reclining against a tree trunk, fast asleep. Capersotti hastily returned to town, where he notified the police. For this information he received half the reward for the apprehension of Thunderbolt.

Mrs. Farnham was present at the first miners’ picnic, held at Shepherd’s Hill, Newcastle. This outing was marred by the tragic death of a man who was blown to pieces. A big bonfire had been lit, and did not appear to burn too well. The man got up a ladder to make an inspection, and when half-way up the whole thing blew up.

Mrs. Farnham said that Holland-street was named by her husband, after the place of his birth, which was Holland-street, Hampton Hackney, London.

Mr. Farnham took a prominent part in public life. He was a foundation member of the Protestant Alliance and Grand Oddfellows’ Friendly Societies. He was Secretary of the Hamilton branch of the former for 39 years, and held the same office in the Honeysuckle lodge of the latter for 15 years. For 15 years he was a gunner of the Naval Brigade, which was successful in winning a first prize in Sydney on the occasion of a visit by the Royal Squadron about 40 years ago. On his retirement from the railways, after 39 years’ service as a machinist, he was the guest of honour at several presentation functions.

Mrs. Farnham, until three years ago, was a regular attendant to her church, and was at the Communion service at Christmas, 1932. Miss Mary Farnham, a daughter, and Mr. John Farnham, live with her. Another son, Joseph, lives in Sydney. To-morrow Mrs. Farnham will add a little more to the history of St James’ Church by planting a pine tree in the grounds.

Trove: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article135121922
Transcribed by Gionni Di Gravio 19/1/2014

UPDATE – 24th February 2014

Thanks to Lynette Hutchings who sent in this find from TROVE detailing the Pioneer Memories of Mrs C. Newling at 96, who states in the account that “There was an aborigines’ camp at Wickham, on the site of Goninan’s workshops.” (Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate, 25th July 1931, p.14) Original article: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article139615453

Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners' Advocate, 25th July 1931, p.14 (Thanks to Lynette Hutchings)

Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate, 25th July 1931, p.14 (Thanks to Lynette Hutchings)

And to Mr Russell Rigby who has created a panorama of the area of Wickham circa 1906, showing the location of the Goninans Workshops

Wickham Panorama Circa 1906.

Wickham Panorama Circa 1906.

MEDIA

The Ancient Corroboree Ground At Wickham (1233 ABC Newcastle Radio)

 Online “Wickham Aboriginal Corroboree Site Located” by Matthew Kelly 21st January 2014 (Newcastle Herald)

Online “Wickham Corroboree site – Transcripts of Herald Reports” 21st January 2014 (Newcastle Herald)

"History peeled. mystery revealed" by Matthew Kelly Newcastle Herald 22nd January 2014 pages 2-3

“History peeled. mystery revealed” by Matthew Kelly Newcastle Herald 22nd January 2014 pages 2-3

TRUE CRIME: MASON, YOUNG AND HOOPER

coalrivertruecrime

ENDNOTES AND COLD MERCY: CRIME STORIES FROM COLONIAL NEWCASTLE

CASE 1. MASON, YOUNG AND HOOPER

BY DAVID MURRAY

David Murray is a university medalist with a Creative Arts Phd from Newcastle Uni. He has published two books of poetry: “Swinging from a broken clock” and “Blue bottle” (Sultana Press) alongside having work in the journals Overland and Mascara.

Murray has a keen interest in historical true crime and its protagonists, who are often marginalised or ignored by big picture history. True crime can open an intimate window on the raw violence, resilience, humour and dumb luck characterising their world.

Murray’s research into the criminal/cultural history of convict Newcastle has resulted in a series of true crime vignettes to be published in Coal River as “Endnotes and cold mercy: Crime stories from colonial Newcastle”

Robert Young and John Hooper were indicted for the wilful murder of John Mason by strangling him with a rope at Newcastle on the 6th of July 1831; Francis Batty was also indicted as accessory before the fact, at the time and place aforesaid. (i)

Furtive inmate eyes and whispers watched Henry Canny meet turnkey Philip Joseph at the jail’s gate and followed the two men as they crossed the yard to the main building over ground trampled hard by shuffling feet.

Hospital overseer Canny paused at the entrance to consolidate his medical bag. The portico’s neo Palladian lines provided a moment of modest grandeur for a town still unsure of its identity after decommissioning as a penal outstation: six years on and the breakwall still snaked unfinished towards Nobbys Island, running almost perpendicular to the enduring, but dilapidated wharf that offloaded onto an uneven grid of streets dotted with inns, small workshops and rutting ex-inmate cottages shadowed by some domineering government buildings.

Nobby's Island from Mullumbimba Cottage, (c.1830) Courtesy of the Newcastle Art Gallery)

Nobby’s Island from Mullumbimba Cottage, (c.1830) Courtesy of the Newcastle Art Gallery)

Within this arbitrary dereliction a small boat building industry, an exporting salt works and some half-hearted coal mining had nonetheless encouraged one or two optimistic commentators to label Newcastle an ‘American’ town. The fashionable denotation suggested dynamic, entrepreneurial utility born of wild survivalism; a new world away from the curmudgeon English village organised by traditional market days, generational occupation, romantically tamed wildflowers, docile beasts, window taxes, dark seasons and knowing the limits of your station in life.

A View of King's Town by Joseph Cross (1828) Hand Coloured. (Photographed by Bruce Turnbull. Courtesy of the Newcastle Art Gallery)

A View of King’s Town by Joseph Cross (1828) Hand Coloured. (Photographed by Bruce Turnbull. Courtesy of the Newcastle Art Gallery)

Newcastle’s residual, semi-penal rituals also provided ex-convicts like Henry Canny with legitimacy. He walked with easy, official purpose through the jail’s ground floor warren of cells to its southern end strongroom where a half-circle of grizzling men contemplated John Mason’s corpse, propped upright against its concrete wall. The dead man’s livid face seemed to pale into a grey-blue in the dusky room. His eyes were so swollen it was difficult to decide if they were closed or open. A protruding tongue was fixed in firmly clenched teeth, as purple as his lips – and the colour of fresh death. Beneath the chin a prominent necklace bruise completed the frozen portrait.

Canny had watched Mason chain-marched to the jail for punishment that very morning: 100 lashes for – yet again – threatening the life of an overseer. By the afternoon he would be hanging lifeless from a rope in the strongroom suspended from a beam above (ii) with his legs dangling limp two feet under the berth-boards (iii). No one had witnessed his death and no one could confirm how some floorboards were removed from under his feet to leave him swinging air.

Canny’s tourniquet and knife extracted only a small trickle of blood from Mason’s limp arm. Canny was more and more finding himself barber-surgeon in place of the town’s intractable chief physician-magistrate George Brooks, who rarely bothered to attend injured convicts anymore. Death begrudgingly forced Brooks’ from his hospital rounds though and his ostentatious arrival at the jail involved re-bleeding Mason before pronouncing him dead. Witnesses were then tersely interviewed for an inquest recommending Mason’s death by strangulation be investigated by Sydney as a possible criminal offence. Jail scourger Robert Young and turnkey John Hooper – responsible for Mason in the strongroom and among the last people to have seen him alive – were placed in custody charged with manslaughter. A third suspect, chief jailer Francis Batty, was charged as an accessory but released on bail.

*

If John Mason’s numerous felonies for robbery and assault in England made him typical of many post-Napoleonic transportees, the broken neck of one victim, and the slitted throat of a partner’s pit-hound (over undivided robbery dues) revealed a nastier edge. The innate cruelty defined a flash ‘judgement’ that would help him to thrive the insidiously brutal penitentiary culture of the late 1820s. Various misdemeanour charges after his deportation in Sydney saw the roughly hewn and intimidating Staffordshire flash-brawler sentenced to a Newcastle town-gang.

Most convicts offloaded at Newcastle went upriver to labour on properties owned predominantly by colonial money barons or London investors of the Australian Agricultural Company. They were drawing the Hunter into large, avant-garde farming operations that experimented with scientific breeding programs and steam-combustion machinery. Convicts like John Mason were considered too dangerous for these relatively unsupervised industrial-elysian fields, and he pick-axed his days in harbour and road maintenance, living in the dirty, mustered, barracks world of victualed rations and whatever could be extorted from feebler inmates. Assaults on fellow convicts and overseers gained Mason the popular frightener of ‘Cranky Jack’. The overseer assaults also gave him experience of flogging punishments, but on the morning of his death a wide eyed and fevered pacing of the yard replaced his usual churlish calm. According to inmate Barney Doran this included bullying other inmates for a knife, saying he would stick Bob Young, or any person who came to flog him, as he would sooner be hung than receive 100 lashes; he seemed that day as if he would do anything. (iv)

There was speculation but no definitive reason for Mason’s flightiness on the day. Some said Brook’s lingering absence set him off: the magistrate had originally sentenced Mason to 100 lashes, but as chief medical officer he was expected at Mason’s punishment to ensure it was conducted within certain humane limits or be stopped. Brooks found this conflicting duty a contradictory annoyance. This flamed a rumour that jail floggings were occurring without a medical official present. This was linked in turn to further stories of indiscriminate inmate beatings by staff. For all that, general violence in the Newcastle jail was ironically pinned to its gentle chief jailer Francis Batty, who encouraged everyone to take personal care of the jail’s resident cats – perhaps admiring of their instinctive ability to convert daily survival into an artful mastery of living well. The Chief Sheriff of the colony formed a very favourable opinion of Batty’s character for kindness and humanity; believing he was not disposed to do injury to anybody. The Sheriff went so far as to say I appointed him jailer at Newcastle, and should rather have been inclined to remove him for too much softness and lenity (v). It was this compassion and kindness that the more unscrupulous jailers and prisoners sometimes manipulated.

Batty’s trusting nature gave the false appearance of naivety, but he was never ignorant. Aware of the mayhem Mason’s volatility could cause in the yard population he agreed to have him isolated in the strongroom, where, dependent on Brooks’ arrival, the flogging would take place. It took Batty, Robert Young, John Hooper and three or four reluctantly recruited inmates to physically move Mason and secure him to the strongroom’s whipping post, where a concocted series of ropes secured his hands, legs and upper torso. Central was an extended length slung over a roof beam and wrapped firmly around Mason’s shoulders and neck. The trial revealed this was a common jail technique used throughout the colony for restraining violent inmates. Leaving Mason in the care of Robert Young and John Hooper, Batty left to hunt down Doctor Brooks.

*

Trouble found the soldier-come-convict Robert Young in 1814 when a series of kitty-rig stealing went wrong and he found himself alongside around 100 other convicts at the barren, penal outstation that was then Newcastle. Like Henry Canny, Young would eventually find a home in its wistful strangeness and by 1830 he was an occupational scourger for the system that once punished him. Most had nothing good or bad to say of Robert Young, other than he was a conscientious flogger, who on the day of Mason’s death was heard telling Batty to send for Dr Brooks, for I’ll not punish him before he comes (vi).

Young’s partner John Hooper generated more divided local opinion. The ex-thief and thug served time at the Newcastle outstation around the time of its closure and in 1822 he was transferred to the new replacement facility along the coast at Port Macquarie. Like John Mason, Hooper rarely dealt in diplomacy or grey reasoning. After serving out his Port Macquarie sentence he found government work and his niche as a jailer-standover man. At the trial witnesses described Hooper threatening inmates to be silent about the hanging and the preceding ruckus. He had suggested to one frightened prisoner that the bastard (Mason) was going to get his justice one way or the other and it was Young and himself who were going to tame him or break his heart.(vii)

*

The trial centred on what was seen and heard in the strongroom. Through its window that opened conveniently onto the jail yard inmates claimed to have seen Young and Hooper provoking Mason, while at one point Hooper delivered a blow under the neck, with his fist, which did not knock him down (viii) One witness heard the two jailors threatening to murder Mason as they tightened the rope firmly around his neck. Another saw Young and Hooper stand by and do nothing as Mason swung air and choked to death before them.

The equally compelling but opposing view presented John Mason as an uncontrollable thug who went berserk after refusing to accept his predicament. Local constable Peter Riley had delivered Mason to the jail that morning. He had also been present at his sentencing before Brooks and remembered Mason yelling abuse at the magistrate and proclaiming he would rather be hanged (ix) than whipped again. Judge Dowling immediately advised the jury that heated words are not always presentiment to action.

As to the loose floorboards having moved from beneath Mason’s feet, the court was told by a jailor that the deceased could have saved himself from strangulation where I found him, by standing on the berth: if the man had been flogged, it was the duty of the jailer and one of the turnkeys to have been present; I could have heard an outcry in the room where I was, had a man been suffering; I could have heard the cry of “murder” had it been made (x). The court decided that a struggling Mason had most likely kicked them free.

Private William Burtenshaw from the stationed 57th Regiment was in custody at the time for a breach of army discipline. He offered the most complete narrative of the strongroom’s chaotic events: I was walking in the yard, and went to the window of the strong room, where I heard a great outcry from Mason; I saw him in the room; together with the prisoner Young and Hooper; Young had a rope in his hand; which he put over Mason’s head and round his neck; Mason was handcuffed at this time; when Young put the rope round his neck, Mason put up his hands to prevent it tightening round his neck; Young snatched the rope and pulled it tight round his neck, and then pulled him across the room towards the post; he could not get him up as Mason pulled against him; he then sent up to Mason, put his hand on his shoulder, and said “you bastard I’ll knock your brains out;” Hooper at this time was standing on one of the top berths, and told Young to hand him the rope and he would pull the bastard up; Young did so, and Hooper pulled the deceased up to the post at the edge of the berth, and held him there two or three minutes, and when he let him down he groaned; I saw no more…(xi)

Burtenshaw’s unfinished sentence brought the trial’s denouement. The citizen jury, still a relatively new reality for colonial courts, was left to decide if Mason’s violent character and behaviour was suicide, or whether Young and Hooper’s actions directly or indirectly caused the man’s death. The day’s progressive mayhem was about understanding whether the two jailers acted with the deliberate design of destroying life, or, with a bona fide intention of drawing him up to the post to receive his punishment, noting that in the latter case, although the act was criminal the offence would be mitigated to manslaughter. (xii) The jury found in the latter and Young and Hooper were charged with manslaughter. Both men were subsequently released after three months, taking off time already spent in custody. They returned to work under Francis Batty, who had been acquitted and discharged by proclamation.

*

Brooks didn’t appear at the trial. By the 1803s he avoided Sydney completely unless specifically commanded by superiors. The compulsively ambitious whispering rooms of the public service decided Brooks’ pettiness was a bitching slight against continually being overlooked for the job of the colony’s Chief Government Surgeon. He was left instead to rule a faint and dusty provincial dominion, his commands and rulings preserved on Newcastle’s thick salt air.

Mason’s death and trial came at personally tumultuous time for Henry Canny. He had married local currency girl Elizabeth Faulkner after taking up his hospital posting. Their relationship soured and Elizabeth left for Sydney where, in the months before Mason’s death, she was arrested for prostitution and sent to the Female Factory at Parramatta. Canny had only just taken out a newspaper notice saying he would not cover and of Elizabeth’s debts. He found himself back in court after the Mason trial when Elizabeth was arrested again; this time on a Newcastle to Sydney passenger ship travelling with a man she claimed to be her husband. It’s possible that to survive alone Elizabeth joined a small entrepreneurial group of colonial women operating as ‘companions’ for the increasing number of male commuters and businessmen now traversing the colony.

John Mason was buried in the town’s church graveyard, next to where the pigs once rooted about in the old outstation gardens. His death was a strange precursor of sorts to the colony’s ‘hanging’ decade to come; an era of the treadmill and horror prisons such as the redux Norfolk Island; a world based on the hardened morality of the new penitentiary movement, in which experimental punishment and reward techniques would reveal and remould the elusive ‘natural state’ of each individual convict.

ENDNOTES

i Australasian Legal Information Institute; Superior Courts of New South Wales R v Young, Hooper and Battie [1831] NSWSupC 4 (14 January 1831). http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/nsw//NSWSupC/1831/4.html
ii ibid
iii ibid
iv ibid
v ibid
vi ibid
vii ibid
viii ibid
ix ibid
x ibid
xi ibid
xii Ibid

IMAGES:

Page 1: Nobby’s Island from Mullumbimba Cottage (c.1830). Newcastle University Cultural Collections http://encore.newcastle.edu.au/iii/cpro/DigitalItemViewPage.external?sp=1003667

Page 2:  A View of King’s Town (Late Newcastle) 1828. Cross, Joseph. Published in Henry Dangar’s Index. (University of Newcastle Rare Book Collection) http://www.newcastle.edu.au/Resources/Divisions/Academic/Library/Cultural%20Collections/images/dangar1828a.jpg

Unanimous Support for Aboriginal Names for Newcastle’s Landmarks

Section of Matthew Flinders' Chart noting the Aboriginal names in the vicinity of Newcastle and Port Stephens on his journeys in 1802

Section of Matthew Flinders’ Chart noting the Aboriginal names in the vicinity of Port Hunter and Port Stephens on his journeys in July 1802

The Secretary of the NSW Geographical Names Board, Kevin Richards advised the City of Newcastle Guraki Committee that their application to name eight features at Newcastle has been approved.

Mr Richards stated that the application was well received. Mr Richards will now write to Council regarding their decision in the short term. The GNB will place a public notice in the Newcastle Herald and Government Gazette in February 2014 seeking comments from the general public for a period of one month.

This follows the unanimous decision taken by Council on the 23 September 2013 to endorse the proposal that eight features of Newcastle would be given twin names to recognise the Aboriginal history. The landmarks include:

Nobbys Head Whibayganba

Flagstaff Hill Tahlbihn Point

Pirate Point (Stockton) Burrabihngarn

Port Hunter (Newcastle Harbour, The Basin, Throsby Basin, North Harbour, Port Waratah and Fullerton Cove) Yohaaba

Hunter River Coquun

Shepherds Hill Khanterin

Ironbark Creek Toohrnbing

Hexham Swamp Burraghihnbihng

The proposal is available on the Council’s website here: http://www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/230570/Attachments_Distributed_under_Separate_Cover_24_September_2013_Combined.pdf

or as a separate report here:

Endorsement of Dual Naming of Major Geographical Features in the Newcastle LGA (639KB PDF File) by Lillian Eastwood (Guraki Committee)

Newcastle Rejected From Nation’s Story

Letter from Department of Environment with notification of Newcastle's rejection from the National Heritage List

Letter from Department of Environment with notification of Newcastle’s rejection from the National Heritage List

To: The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Member for Flinders
Minister for the Environment

Dear Minister Greg Hunt,

The University of Newcastle’s Coal River Working Party recently submitted a nomination for Newcastle’s Coal River (Mulubinba) & Government Domain for assessment by the Australian Heritage Council. The rejection letter(s) were incorrectly addressed twice and we are very disappointed with the decision not to include Newcastle, that, as explained by a staff member in the Office, was due to the discretion of the outgoing Minister, The Hon. Mark Butler MP.

I represent people who have diligently worked for years researching and collecting historical data for Australia’s second oldest city, with academics and community historians volunteering their time to get Newcastle’s story formally recognised by the Commonwealth of Australia through inclusion on the National Heritage List.

It is very distressing for us that Newcastle has been excised from the national story, and continues to be so, apparently due to a former Minister’s whim.

Our nomination provided compelling evidence of  Newcastle’s history, spanning 7000 years of scientifically documented human habitation. It provides documentary evidence that Newcastle is the site of:

- Australia’s first discoveries (1791 and 1796), first export (1799) and first profit (1801) of a natural resource (i.e. coal) in this country.

- Australia’s first full length autobiography and dictionary compiled by James Hardy Vaux in 1811-1814.

- First systematic study of an Aboriginal language anywhere in the country by Biraban, Chief of the Newcastle Tribe (now known as the Awabakal) and the Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld. This work forms the basis of many reconstructions of Aboriginal languages up and down the East Coast and elsewhere.

- Australia’s “Cultural Capital” during the Macquarie era from 1810 to 1821 that led to the creation of artistic objects and works of world significance such as the Macquarie Chest, Wallis Album, Skottowe manuscript, notable engravings and paintings.

- Australia’s first environmental action in 1853-1854 on behalf of a community to protect a natural landform (Nobbys)

- Australia’s first Industrial School for Girls, and later, the first hospital for the insane.

- The important transitions in Australia’s journey to nationhood; from government industry to private enterprise, from convict to free labour, from punishment to profit, from a natural to a human-fashioned landscape. The landscape tells these stories in a dramatic fashion; through its changing landforms shaped by the demands of industry, through its archaeological remains intact and in situ, and through the continued and inescapable presence of a bustling working harbor.
It beggars belief what further evidence was required for Newcastle to be formally recognised for its outstanding and enduring contribution the National story.

I know that this is not your fault, but I felt compelled to write to you to let you know the shortcomings of the National Heritage listing process and its frustrations on the people that do the hard work at collating and presenting the evidence to your departments.

You cannot understand the history of Australia without knowing about the little places such as Newcastle. They are the hinges upon which the great doors of the nation move. Not knowing its history, is like seeing Shakespeare’s Othello, with the main character missing, the story cannot make any sense.

We would deeply appreciate you investigating this matter, and letting us know what can be done to ensure that Australia’s second oldest city and its exemplary contribution to the Australian nation is formally recognized by the Commonwealth and brought back into the story of the Nation.

The nomination and story can be read here:
http://coalriver.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/newcastles-7000-years-of-achievements-before-the-commonwealth/

Yours sincerely,

Gionni

GIONNI DI GRAVIO
University Archivist
Chair – Coal River Working Party

Australia’s Heritage List is here: http://www.environment.gov.au/topics/heritage/heritage-places/national-heritage-list

University Researchers One Step Closer to Father of Australia

Results from the electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) on Macquarie Pier (Courtesy of GBG Australia and Russell Rigby)

Results from the electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) on Macquarie Pier showing possible location of human made structure in red. (Courtesy of GBG Australia and Russell Rigby)

Researchers with the University of Newcastle’s Coal River Working Party are one step closer today to zeroing in on a buried relic laid almost two centuries ago by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, affectionately known as the ‘Father of Australia‘.

The Foundation Stone to Macquarie Pier, aka The Newcastle Breakwater, was laid on a Wednesday the 5th August 1818 at 4pm in a ceremony on the shores beneath present day Fort Scratchley. Over the centuries the original foundations to this Colonial era relic were sidelined, buried and forgotten. The fate of the original foundations now lost to the world.

During the Macquarie 2010 celebrations, celebrating the period of Lachlan Macquarie’s term as Governor of New South Wales, the University of Newcastle began a quest, on behalf of the people of Newcastle and the Nation,  to find the original beginnings of the Macquarie Pier. A commemorative dedication plaque was designed by Auchmuty Library designer Danylo Motyka, and financed by the Institution of Surveyors (Hunter manning Group) and Emeritus Professor John Fryer, and was unveiled and laid in the walkway near the site, by Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, Governor of New South Wales.

The New South Wales Government provided a modest grant to assist, and on the 13th August 2013, geophysicists from GBG Australia began a subsurface investigation using ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) to locate the buried structure.

The draft results have provided some hope. While the ground penetrating radar (GPR) results proved inconclusive and disappointing, the electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) found evidence of a structure of possible human construction around 1 metre below the surface.

“The problem with these investigations is that, on the day, it was like they were using two old film ‘cameras’, where you would take the photographs, then send the film off to processing to see whether they had come out,” said University’s Coal River Working Party Chair, Gionni Di Gravio, “when the photographs came back we should have shot more using the ERT ‘camera’, since it was the one that captured the better shot!” he said.

Aerial view of target site showing sweeps of GPR (green), and area of possible relic on the ERT line (coloured blue) Courtesy of GBG Australia

Aerial view of target site showing sweeps of GPR (green), and area of possible relic on the ERT line (coloured blue with red) Courtesy of GBG Australia

The target location for a possible archaeological test trench lies to the north of the trees on the foreshore park, along the red line which corresponds with the subsurface remains identified in the image at the top of the page.

The Draft Report with the preliminary findings is here: GBG AUSTRALIA – SUBSURFACE INVESTIGATION USING GROUND PENETRATING RADAR (GPR) AND ELECTRICAL RESISTIVITY TOMOGRAPHY TO LOCATE THE MACQUARIE PIER, NEWCASTLE (DRAFT REPORT)

To this day the National Trust of Australia care for the tomb of Lachlan Macquarie in Scotland, as the “Father of Australia”, because it was during Macquarie’s period that Australia became officially the name of our country. We cannot forget his wife Elizabeth, who was by his side and inspired just as much nation building. So the University of Newcastle continues the quest for this buried testament to the “Father and Mother of Australia”.

This Friday afternoon (25th October) from 3pm onwards researchers from the University of Newcastle and The City of Newcastle Council will meet on site with Tim Adams Senior Archaeologist, Umwelt (Australia) Pty Ltd and Kerrie Grant, archaeologist from RPS (Australia & Asic Pacific) to discuss a archaeological research design to take to the Heritage Branch. “I cant express our appreciation to these people and their firms who have come forward to assist us with this quest,” said Gionni Di Gravio, “Without their professional assistance we would have next to no hope of taking this project to the next phase of actually finding this thing” he said.

Related Posts:

The Life and Times of Macquarie Pier
http://coalriver.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/the-life-and-times-of-macquarie-pier/

Quest for Macquarie Pier 2013
http://coalriver.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/quest-for-macquarie-pier-2013/

Penetrating Macquarie Pier Foundation Stone
http://coalriver.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/penetrating-macquarie-pier-foundation-stone/

Macquarie Pier Plaque Unveiled
http://coalriver.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/macquarie-pier-plaque-unveiled/

Quest for Macquarie Pier Inscription and Foundation Stone (1818)
http://coalriver.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/quest-for-macquarie-pier-foundation-and-inscription-stone-1818