The Shifting Sands of Newcastle

Plan Shewing the Shifting Sands by John Edward Newell Bull, 4th August 1850 (Digitised Version Prepared by Charles Martin) Courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales

The “Plan Shewing the Shifting Sands” by John Edward Newell Bull,  on 4th August 1850 was recently provided to us by Mr Charles Martin. It is provided courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales, and provides us with an insight into Newcastle’s past problems with the shifting sands that threatened to engulf the town.

The Select Committee of the Legislative Council, appointed on the 15th June, 1852, “to inquire into and report as to the best means of preventing the injuries likely to arise to the cities of Sydney and Newcastle by the influx of sand from the neighbourhood of those cities,” recommended the sum of £250 be granted towards reclaiming the Sand Hills. The also suggested that “two fences or scrubs of brushwood be erected from twenty to thirty yards apart, parallel to the beach, a little above high water mark, from six to ten feet high, sufficiently stable to stand the force of the strongest gales, and to protect from the trespass of cattle the space they enclose.” (Read the transcription by Jen Willetts of the report by Edward Flood, Chairman in the Maitland Mercury here  “Sand Drifts at Newcastle 1852“)

Back in 2004, whilst on the hunt for the Convict Mines of Newcastle in New South Wales State Records we came across the design for the fence that would be erected to hold back the sands.

Fence to be erected at the Sandhills, Newcastle 1868

The plan is entitled “Design for Fence To be erected on the Sandhills at Newcastle” the description of the file NRS 12419 Public Works Special Bundles 1846-1963 is “Newcastle — Fence at Sand-Hills, 1868 [2/893 part]“. Click on the images for a closer view.

This provides a wonderful example why we need our coastal bush regeneration works to continue.

Gionni Di Gravio
Chair, Coal River Working Party