The Mitchell Library has digitised a copy of one of the earliest drawings of early Newcastle when only a fledgling settlement in 1804. Its creator was artist Ferdinand Bauer, 1760 – 1826, and the drawing is located in the library’s collections at Call Number SV1B/Newc/1800-1809/1, and measures 8 1/2 x 15 3/8 inches.
They believe it was probably traced from an original sketch located in England at the time when the Bonwick transcripts were made. A circa 1860s photograph of a very similar oil painting is filed at PXA 561, f.1c.
We applaud the staff at the State Library of New South Wales in their efforts to digitise important historical documents of Newcastle and the Hunter Region.
Here is the correspondence from Lieutenant Menzies to Governor King that mentions this actual work from the Historical Records of New South Wales:
LIEUTENANT MENZIES TO GOVERNOR KING.
King’s Town, Newcastle, 19th April, 1804.
I have the honor to inform your Excellency that we arrived here on Friday, the 30th of March, at noon. Previous to the vessels entering the harbour I went in a small boat to examine the situation of the mines, and fix on a place the most suitable for the settlement, which I found to be a most delightful valley, about a quarter of a mile from the entrance and south head, and close to the mines. I immediately ordered a disembarkation to take place, and began to unload the three vessels.
The next morning I examined Chapman’s Island, which would neither answer to settle on, or for a place of confinement for the worst of the convicts. For the former it is too far distant from the mines ; and with respect to the latter they could wade to the mainland at low water ; and even allowing that to be impracticable, the natives would take them across in their canoes. Coal Island will answer much better as a place of confinement, from which it would be impossible to effect their escape; but I trust there will not be any occasion for a place of that description.
An excellent mine has been opened, the strata of which continues a yard six inches thick. This shall be worked in a regular manner, so as to enable us, at a future period, to carry it on in a most extensive manner.
The mines have hitherto been dug by individuals in a most shameful manner. Never have they been at the trouble of leaving proper supports, leaving them to fall in anyway, but until I receive your Excellency’s commands on this head, the chief miner shall take care that this is not done in future.
Fifty more convicts, if sent here, could be worked to great advantage, as I could wish to keep a quantity of cedar and coals always at hand, so as not to detain any Colonial vessel which your Excellency may send here ; and I am well assured, even with the present small military establishment, that they could be managed with the greatest security. Those already here I make work hard, and they perform it in the most cheerful manner. As their legs were getting bad from being ironed I released the greatest part of them, that I might not be deprived of their labor, and as we are always sufficiently upon our guard to counteract any schemes which they may be mad enough to form.
I have directed the provisions to be issued twice a week, so that should they abscond they will have very little to depend upon.
Mr. Bauer will present you with a sketch of this delightful spot, which I have taken the liberty of naming after your Excellency.
The storekeeper, McGuire, and the soldiers are very anxious for their wives and families. They request your Excellency will have the goodness to allow them to embark in the first vessel ; and may I beg to be favored with the names of those who are to be victualled from His Majesty’s stores.
A few guns could be placed to great advantage on a commanding height above the town so as to prevent any vessel, in case of being seized by convicts while up Paterson’s River, from getting out of the harbour.
I have, &c.,
C. A. F. N. MENZIES.
- Lieutenant Menzies to Governor King 19th April 1804 (H.R.N.S.W. Vol 5. pp. 367-368)