A town of N.S.W., in the county of Northumberland and parish of Maitland originally called the Green hills; it is situated at the head of the navigable part of the Hunter River, 29 miles by water from Newcastle; it at present contains about 635 inhabitants viz: 334 males and 301 females, an Episcopalian church and parsonage, a Wesleyan chapel a ladies' school, and two day schools; five inns, one steam flour mill, a soap and candle manufactory, five large stores, some excellent shops, 37 stone and brick buildings and about 117 wooden dwellings; steamers constantly ply between this place and Sydney; coal promises to be abundant at a very short distance from this river. The land is the property of E. C. Close Esq., who has from time to time disposed of portions of it on building leases. The extensive wharf of the Hunter River Steam Navigation Company is here, and throughout the greater part of the years there is a daily communication to and from the metropolis by the steam vessels of the Company; a considerable number of sailing vessels also trade between this place and Sydney. There is a pretty church erected dedicated to St. James ; the land was given by Mr. Close, who also bore one half of the expense of the buildings, the Government bearing te other half; the clergyman from East Maitland officiates every Sunday afternoon. A coal mine is in actual operation under the direction of Mr. Close Jun., also the extensive steam flour mill of Mr. John Portus. About two acres on the bank of the river are used as a Government wharf; an officer of the Custom house from Newcastle is stationed here...Well's Gazetteer 1848
Early Morpeth Inhabitants 1820's - 1850s
John Anlaby - Publican at the Morpeth Hotel 1840 - 1847
A correspondent to the Australian described a visit to The Green Hills on the Sophia Jane in 1831.....
It is delightful to escape occasionally from the dull monotony of Sydney, and luxuriate for a while in the pure air and healthful breezes of the country; its exercise and amusements of riding, fishing, shooting, swimming, boating etc to say nothing of fresh eggs, milk and cream, turkeys, fruits, vegetables and a host of little matters only to be obtained in town at great expense and in very inferior condition. I have visited nearly every part of the colony, and although each place has its peculiar charms yet I do not know a more pleasant excursion than that afforded weekly by that beautiful steamer, Sophie Jane.
Leaving Sydney about the usual hour for retiring to rest, you are quickly installed into a very comfortable sleeping berth, and on awaking early next morning, find yourself in the port of Newcastle, celebrated for its abundant supply of coals, and as the estuary of the Hunter's River.
On landing at Newcastle some painful emotions are excited to find it in a ruinous and nearly deserted state, although a finer situation for a town so far as regards health and scenery can scarcely be conceived. it is now almost wholly possessed by the Australian Agricultural Company and may be fairly estimated as their most valuable possession, coals being now extensively consumed as fuel and rapidly increasing in demand. Departing from Newcastle, you glide rapidly into a spacious and beautiful bay, studded with numerous little islands, thickly wooded to the water's edge and abounding with pelicans, curlews, plovers, cormorants, ducks, teal, widgeons, sandilords and other birds, and the place may be seen where formerly prisoners were sent from Newcastle to burn lime, as a punishment for misconduct, and hence its name of Limeburners's Bay. From hence you proceed swiftly and majestically along the verdant bank of Hunter's River, adorned with the most luxuriant vegetation, and studded occasionally with the primitive abodes of new settlers, and the temporary habitations of parties of the aborigines, whose grotesque and singular appearance add not a little to the extraordinary nature of the scene. You reach the Green Hills, where the steamer discharged her cargo into the store ship St. Michael which affords a most commodious warehouse, being roofed in and divided into compartments for the reception of goods for the steamer, for and from Sydney, and at the place the passengers land and rally forth to their various destinations filled with praises of the steamer, and her skilful and experienced commander, who, notwithstanding brusquerie of manner, unites gentlemanly conduct with good seamanship and proper management.' - The Australian 14 October 1831.
Interview with Joseph George White of Morpeth
In 1912 a series of articles about the history of the Newcastle and the Hunter Valley were published in the Newcastle Morning Herald. Included is the results of an interview with Joseph George White who was related to the Brazill family and who first came to Morpeth in 1839......
Probably the oldest resident of the Hunter River district is Mr. J.G. White, of Morpeth. Mr. White arrived in Morpeth in 1839 and even at that time it was a busy place. He was then only 17 years of age. He has lived in the town for 73 years and on the 30th June will be 90 years of age. Mr. White had made one trip to the river before deciding to settle at Morpeth. He came from Sydney in the little schooner Ariel, which belonged to Mr. Russell of Sydney. On the morning that they arrived at Newcastle the Rob Roy was wrecked on Nobbys. She missed stays in coming round and ran on to Nobbys. The crew and passenger all got safely on shore. She was one of the little boats which traded regularly between Newcastle and Sydney. The schooner Ariel was a tiny vessel of only 15 tons, and on the voyage made by Mr. White in her to the Hunter River, they filled up with 500 bushels of corn, and returned with it to Sydney. The corn was obtained at Mr. J. Pearce's place.
In those days Newcastle was a place of very little account, and Mr. White said people would not live there if they could possibly get away. All the business was done at Maitland and Morpeth. Newcastle was as dull as any place well could be, and 'a vessel going ashore was a godsend to the residents of the place'. The boats from Sydney ran up to Morpeth and, as stated, it was a busy town. Everybody going north, and all the merchandise from Sydney went through Morpeth and Maitland.
A fairly good idea of the difference between Morpeth and Newcastle in those days from the business point of view, is afforded by the fact that in the early days of Mr. White's residence in the former town, land was sold at the rate of 150 pounds an allotment, while in Newcastle it was selling for 10s per allotment. Mr. White has the receipt that was given to the purchaser of the piece of land at the corner of Perkins street. It was bought for 4 pounds by a Mr. Meiklejohn, a tailor.
But although Morpeth was a busy place when Mr. White came to live there in 1839, it was a town of only one street, and there was only an odd house or two back from that thoroughfare. At that time a Mrs. Luke had a young women's boarding school in the town. Since then Morpeth has grown somewhat but compared with Newcastle or Maitland, it has stood still. Some of the allotments which brought the big price mentioned were never built upon. The trade gradually drifted away from the town. Maitland became a more important centre; and when the railway was opened between Newcastle and Maitland, Newcastle became the seaport of the north, and Morpeth's sun had set.
Mr. White says there were several reasons why people did not settle at Morpeth in numbers. One was that Molly Morgan and Joe the Mariner two veteran settlers at Wallis Plains were living at the time in what is now West Maitland, and were practically giving land away. Another thing that contributed to the commercial ruin of Morpeth was the fact that the teams coming down country for loading and returning, stayed at the site of West Maitland for preference, as the place was swampy, and there was plenty of water and feed. They would camp at Maitland overnight, travel to Morpeth the next morning unload anything they may have brought down, and taken in fresh loading for the return journey and then get back to Maitland for the next night's camp.
The whole of Louth Park was practically a swamp at that time, drained by Wallis Creek, and the place presented in fine weather an ideal camping ground for the teamsters. Many teams were on the roads in those days. There are stories extant of as many as 100 coming to Morpeth at one time; but Mr. White says that it is not true. He had seen a dozen teams in Morpeth at one time in the early years of his residence there, and it was not till later that the wool teams made their appearance.
The chief business in the early days was in connection with the carriage of wheat to Morpeth to be ground. In 1839 the mill belonged to John Portus, and Mr. White worked there at that time. It was the central mill for the districts above Maitland, and so the farmers and others brought wheat down to Morpeth had it ground and took the flour and other loading back again. Later, Mr. Hickey built a mill a Swan Reach but he did not do well with it. When Mr. White landed in Morpeth a good deal of farming was done around the place, for the earliest settlers and also the commandants at Newcastle had recognised the value of the soil at Morpeth and Maitland for agricultural purposes. At that time, however Phoenix Park was in a rough state. Much of the timber and brushwood had certainly been removed, and some of it was under cultivation, but scarcely a stump had been taken out.
A man named Robertson had a farm across the road from where Mr. White now lives and practically on the site of the railway station, and a Mr. Robertson (a brother of Sir John Robertson) had a farm further back. As mentioned above, Mr. White came to Morpeth in 1839 (he thinks it was in the month of April), and since then he has witnessed the growth of Newcastle and Maitland and no one knows these towns and Morpeth better than he does. He was in the big flood of 1840 and has seen every flood that has swept down the Hunter River since that time; and has also seen the many droughts that have afflicted the district. He can remember well the days when the small steam vessels - the King Billy, William IV, Mary Nichols, Clonmel and Cornubia traded regularly between Sydney and Morpeth; and although they were small, they helped to make Morpeth a busy place. He knew Newcastle before it had started to grow, and he can remember when Mr. Archibald Hay and Mr. Joseph Creer, and other old residents first came to the place.
Soon after coming to Morpeth, Mr. White entered upon the cabinet making business, and in this connection his name is known throughout the State. In the early days he supplied much of the cabinet work needed in Newcastle and he also built the cedar seats to be seen in St. James' Church, Morpeth. Mr. White says the wood for those seats was cut in the district, and he considers that the cedar to be found on the Hunter, Williams, and Paterson Rivers in the early days was the best timber in the world. He says he never saw any other timber that would compare with it. Mr. White has seen the palmy times of Morpeth, and he has also witnessed its decline; but it is a town so situated that it may yet become a busy industrial centre, and the head of navigation on the Hunter. That time is not yet; but there can be no mistake as to its natural advantages, placed as it is on the edge of the great Maitland coalfield overlooking one of the finest agricultural districts in the world and standing at a point that can now be reached by vessels of fair size, without any artificial aid in the making of the waterway. Mr White said Morpeth might not have gone down so completely had Maitland been less clannish than it has been during the last fifty years. Had the residents of that town shown a spirit of helpfulness so far as Morpeth was concerned, both towns would have been better off for it. Mr. White was an alderman of Morpeth for may years, and Mayor for several terms.- Newcastle Morning Herald 27 March 1912
Morpeth Wharf Dismantled 1951
Morpeth Wharf Being Dismantled Workmen are dismantling the old Morpeth wharf. It is one of the few remaining links with the history of the Hunter Valley. The days when the wharf was the centre of the commercial life in Singleton, and for that matter most of the other settlements in the district, are still clear to some of the older residents.
Bullock waggons with straining teams would bring all of the goods from the Morpeth wharf to Singleton. Few residents, however, can still remember the days when wayside inns lined the route from Morpeth to Singleton. When teamsters would line their teams along the route waiting until the Hunter River became crossable so that they could go on to other districts. Singleton, in the days when bullock waggons were the only source of supply, was a very strange place. It was centred around Campbell Street and extended only to Hunter Street. The extension of the railway line to Singleton marked the gradual demise of the old wharf. However in its hey day the wharf's tally in wool, one of the varied items of freight handled, averaged between 85,000 and 90,000 bales per year.
Not only was the wharf used for loading and unloading merchandise. Many a visitor to Sydney and Newcastle used the old paddle steamers and their modern sisters for transport. It is hard to imagine this old weather-beaten spot as a centre for the gay comings and goings of history in the last few decades.
Although it is sold the wharf retains it's place in the history of Morpeth. Now her timbers older than the memories of most of us will continue service in different fields - The planks of the wharf have weathered well the last few floods. Those below the water level have six feet of silt against them but show no signs of shifting. Slabs of flat roofing iron of the type not manufactured to day, are still fit to face many years of hard handling. Morpeth today has no real future. The Hawkesbury Bridge stole its main source of wealth. It will remain, however, as a mark in the history of Single ton. - Singleton Argus 6 May 1951