John Rae and Newcastle

John Rae (From the Illustrated Sydney News 17 December 1853 p.84)
John Rae (Biographical Text from the Illustrated Sydney News 17 December 1853 p.84)

It was an accidental delight this morning to come across an engraving of John Rae in the Illustrated Sydney News of December 1853. John Rae captured Newcastle in two famous panoramas, one painted in 1849, and again in a photograph circa 1880. These two images capture the changing landscape of the town and are among our artistic treasures. I have scanned the image and the accompanying text below to provide some insight into the artist and his work. It comes from the edition of the Illustrated Sydney News 17 December 1853 page 84, just a few years after he completed his painting of Newcastle. For further information please see Ann Hardy’s essay “A Timepiece of History” links are below. Click the panoramas to see the larger images.


Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist and Chair Coal River Working Party


John Rae (1849)

Rae, John, 1813-1900. Newcastle in 1849.
(Courtesy State Library of New South Wales.)

John Rae (c.1880)

Rae, John, 1813-1900. [Panoramic photograph of Newcastle, 1878-1882, possibly taken from Jesmond House] — 4 albumen photoprints
from Sketches in New South Wales in the olden time 1842 – 1859 by John Rae, M.A. / album of watercolour panoramas and photographs of watercolour sketches.
(Courtesy State Library of New South Wales.)

For further information see:

Hardy, Ann. John Rae’s Newcastle “A Timepiece of History” (244KB PDF) Please note: The reader of these documents should be aware that further copying and use of images from collections of the State Library of New South Wales, National Library of Australia and the Newcastle Region Art Gallery, should not be done without reference to the particular institution from where they come. Images in this document that belong to the collection of the State Library of New South Wales should not be used or copied without reference to the Library Council of New South Wales, via the Mitchell Library. The Coal River Working Party thanks Ann Hardy for allowing us to publish her research papers on the Coal River Website.

5 thoughts on “John Rae and Newcastle

  1. There is another contemporary panorama (by John Rae?) in the middle of being discovered. Possibly from Claremont House, Newcomen Street like the original painting. Two frames dated 1882 (as is the Rae photo pano above) due to the presence of the Sailors’ Home. See

    And flickr notes and comments –

    I thought you guys knew about this work in progress. Any corrections, guidance, ideas, information etc, gratefully received !


  2. This photo:

    John Rae (c.1880)

    Rae, John, 1813-1900. [Panoramic photograph of Newcastle, 1878-1882, possibly taken from Jesmond House] — 4 albumen photoprints

    It was created between 1882 and 1885.

    When the photo was on exhibit in Newcastle, many years ago at the Art Gallery I informed the staff of the actual date of creation. It is somewhat easy to establish.

    It’s ashame some people do not listen!

    I will have to check my notes and get back to this reply later as to post a more accurate date that I do not have at hand currently.

  3. Four years later …

    13 October 1883
    Australian Town and Country Journal, Page 13

    “We have the pleasure of inspecting a very interesting series of water colour drawings, illustrating the early series of the colony, from the pencil of Mr. John Rae, Under-Secretary for Public Works, and comprising views of Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong, and Upper Murray. They are six in number. … ”

    “… In the case of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, they will be accompanied by photographs of the same scenes at the present day, …”

    “… The view of Newcastle was sketched in 1849 from Newcomen-street. A few scattered houses and a few small vessels in the river represent what is now a large city and a port crowded with big ships.

    Some of the more prominent buildings are recognisable and still exist, such as the barracks, court-house, and gaol, and Nobby’s is still there; but the rest of the view has changed in the intervening 34 years as by the wand of the enchanter. …”

    Judging by the lack of comments over the last four years I must be talking to myself in regards to submitting comments!!!!

    It would appear that the John Rae panoramic photograph shown above was created in 1883.

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