River Stories – Raymond Terrace to Maitland

On Tuesday 15 November 2011 I had a wonderful day recording Episode 20 of Phil Ashley Brown’s River Stories, retracing the paddlesteps of the 1801 Survey mission’s journey from Raymond Terrace to Greenhill (Morpeth) then onto Maitland (Shanks’s Forest Plains).

The Radio Show can be heard on ABC 1233 Radio’s website here:

Tracing the Hunter’s history – River Stories, Episode 20

And images from the day taken by Phil Ashley Brown are here:

Phil Ashley-Brown’s images of Tracing the Hunter’s history

Our map for the excursion was Francis Barrallier’s 1801 Survey of the Hunter.

Francis Barrallier – Coal Harbour and Rivers ..1801 (Courtesy of National Archives of the UK)

Ensign Francis Louis Barrallier. ‘Coal Harbour and Rivers, On the Coast of New South Wales, surveyed by Ensign Barrallier, In His Majesty’s Armed Surveying Vessel, “Lady Nelson”, Lieut. James Grant, Commander, in June and July, 1801. By Order of Governor King’. CO 700/ New South Wales 16/

Here is an overlay of the Barrallier map with modern day (2011) Google

River Stories Overlay (Click for larger image)

We began our journey at Raymond Terrace.

Here is a link to the 1853 engraving of the township from the Illustrated Sydney News with text:


Two versions of Francis Barrallier’s Survey Plan for June – July 1801 is here: http://hunterlivinghistories.com/history/

The 1801 Survey Mission  – The Object of the Mission



8th June, 1801

Dear Sir,

It being my intention to send the Lady Nelson to survey and examine Hunter’s River, and the Service not permitting me to be absent from this settlement, I am much gratified by your offer of going in that vessel, and making such observations as may be of public benefit to this colony.

I have directed Lieut. Grant to accommodate you in the best manner the brig will allow of, and to give you such assistance as you may require.

I enclose you a copy of my orders to Lieut. Grant, together with the object of inquiry I wish to be informed of respecting that place, [the enclosures were copies of instructions to Lieut. Grant, post, p. 390, and Governor King’s memorandum, post, p. 391.) and I have to request your information on those points on your return to this place.

I am, &c.,





9th June, 1801

As the winter is now advancing, which renders it unsafe for the Lady Nelson being sent to renew the survey of Bass’s Straits and the south-west coast of this country until the spring, and as the surveying Hunter’s River, lying between this place and Port Stephens, is of the utmost consequence to be ascertained, – you are hereby required and directed to receive Lieut.-Col. Paterson and the persons on board, as per margin, [these persons were – Ensign Barrallier, Mr. J. Harris, six soldiers, two sawyers, a pilot, a miner, and one native] bearing them on a supernumerary list for provisions, and proceed without loss of time to Hunter’s River, for which place you are provided with a pilot.  When arrived there, you will give every assistance to Ensign Barrallier, in making as complete a survey as possible of the entrance and inside of that river, its shoals, depth of water, and every other particular, as pointed out by the second paragraph of your former orders.

You will take under your command the Francis, colonial schooner, and cause her to be laden with the best coals that can be procured ; and should that vessel be laden before the survey is completed, you will dispatch her to this place without loss of time.

If the weather will admit of your going into Port Stephens, which Lieut.-Col. Paterson is desirous of visiting, you will make every observation on that place, as well as Hunter’s River, agreeable to the second paragraph of your former instructions and the directions added to this instruction.  As the Service will require your returning to this port by the first of August, you are not to make a longer delay, delivering me a journal of your proceedings, and such specimens as you may be able to collect, as pointed out by your orders from the Duke of Portland, and my instructions of March 5th.

Given, &c.,




9th June, 1801

OBJECTS to which Governor King requests Col. Paterson, Lt. Grant, and the other gentlemen going in the Lady Nelson to Hunter’s River will pay a particular attention.

The nature of the soil in general.

Whether the grounds are overflowed, either by high tides or by land floods.

Whether the place may be thought healthy or unhealthy on account of the mud banks which I am told surround the sides of the river.

If the water is sweet and good.

The size of the trees and whether there is plenty of timber for building, stone, lime-stone, or shells.

How far it may be practicable for vessels to frequent that port with safety, the quantity of coals that may be procured there, the facility of procuring them, and what proportion of labour would be necessary to keep a supply ready for vessels going thither for that article.  To assist the gentlemen in forming an idea on this head, a miner who has been there before will accompany them.

To examine where the most eligible place would be to form a settlement, both with respect to procuring coals and for agricultural purposes.


Our Starting Point – Raymond Terrace (at the junction point of the Hunter River (their Paterson’s River) and our Williams River (their Hunter’s River)

REMARKS, &c., on board His Majesty’s armed surveying vessel, Lady Nelson, in Hunter River, 1801. By LIEUT. GRANT, COMMANDER – HUNTER  RIVER (HRNSW V.4: 404-409)

Sunday, 28th June, 1801. –  Wind, N.W.  P.M. – moderate and cloudy weather.  At 4 p.m., the tide serving, we dropped up into the entrance of Paterson’s River, and at 6 came too in 3 fathoms water for the night.  At 7 in the morning we dropped up into 9 feet water, and was informed by the second mate, who was ahead in the boat sounding, that he had only 7 and 6 feet.  I immediately brought up.  In order the better to satisfy myself on this head, I went with Colonel Paterson in the boat at the top of high water, and found no more than two, three, and four feet at most, a little further above where our boat had been.  We then returned, and sounded the other entrances to this arm, but found no more water, and in many places less.  Judging that the vessel might touch at low water where she lay, the rise of the tide not being less than four or five feet, I got up the anchor and brought her back into two fathoms water, giving up the idea of getting further up this arm with the vessel.  We moored with the kedge

Morpeth – Greenhill


June 29. –  Accompanied by Mr. Harris and Mr. Lewin, I left the Lady Nelson with the launch to carry our provisions and what we thought necessary for an excursion of seven days, and a little boat belonging to Mr. H., which we found very useful ; indeed if it had not been [for] it we could not have proceeded as far as we did.  This day we got on about 16 miles, and rested the night on a rising ground which I called Greenhill.  The soil is good but does not extend to any considerable distance.  Here the water is fresh enough for use.  The tide rises about four feet.  Nearly half a mile above this the river, which your Excellency has done me the honor to name Paterson’s River, formerly called the Cedar Arm, falls into Hunter’s River.


June. 30 –  Proceeded about 14 miles, the country generally low, covered with wood ;  very little of it fit for cultivation – not from the soil but from the lowness of the situation.

Compare with the Town of Morpeth in 1865, engraving from the Illustrated Sydney News:


Click the image for a higher res version.

Morpeth 1865 - 2011

Maitland – Shanks’ Forest Plains


July 1. –  This day we concluded ourselves 12 miles higher up, and as the banks of the river in most places are very low and swampy, we fixed upon the first dry ground for our headquarters, where we built a small tent hut, thatched with grass which grows luxuriant.  Here is an extent of country for about three miles to the southward with several lagoons and rather low, but except on the banks of the river not subject to floods.  The soil in most places is good, thinly interspersed with fine lofty trees.  This I named Shanks’ Forest Plains in honor of Captain Shanks, the projector of the Lady Nelson, a gentleman much interested in the prosperity of this colony.  The wood generally known by the name of cedar does not abound much in this place.

The camp at Shanks’ Forest Plains


July 4. –  Having fixed on Shanks’ Forest Plain as our place of rendezvous, in the neighbourhood of which is a large lagoon reported to be 9 miles across, and as the weather was very variable, I thought it better to convince myself of the nature and extent of this large sheet of water as described, and supposed to be the source of the Paterson River, than to undertake a larger journey towards the mountains until the weather became more favourable.  About a mile higher up the river is a deep creek to the right, which from its direction gave us every reason to believe that it had communication with the lagoon.

Sightings of Aboriginal People


July 5. –  We dispatched the boat with three men up the creek while we proceeded by land in expectation they would be able to join us.  After traveling about 3 miles, and passing some ponds with quantities of wild ducks in them, but exceeding shy, we had from the top of a rising ground a view of the large lagoon, and was much disappointed in its appearance and extent.  It is merely a chain of large ponds, and forms several small islands covered with reeds.  The circumference may be 12 or 14 miles, but no part of it is 1 mile broad.  From the number of black swans and wild ducks were saw here, we had no doubt of killing many, and with the assistance of the boat, provided it arrived, we should be able to get them out of the water.  After waiting till late in the day, and neither hearing nor seeing anything of our people with the boat, we considered they had met with some difficulty in getting up the creek.  We therefore returned to our hut after traveling from 9 in the morning till half-past 3 in the afternoon without resting or having the least refreshment.  To-day we heard some natives, and saw a new canoe on the banks of the creek where we expected to have met our boat.  From what I observed of trees cut down by the natives, which must have been a much sharper edged tool than what their stone maga is, and from their shyness, I have little reason to doubt but that some of the European deserters are among them.  The country round this lagoon is tolerable soil, and certainly affords food for the natives.  The surface is much grub’d up, particularly where roots of fearns, orchises, and a species of arum grow, which had nearly been fatal to some of our people.  Later in the evening the boat returned, but could not find any communication the creek had with the lagoon.  The men said they had seen very fine trees of cedar and ash.

The extent of the Mission to Mount Elizabeth (today’s Mt Hudson) and Mount Ann (today’s Bolwarra Heights)

REMARKS, &c., on board His Majesty’s armed surveying vessel, Lady Nelson, in Hunter River, 1801. By LIEUT. GRANT, COMMANDER HUNTER  RIVER (HRNSW V.4: 404-409)

Wednesday, 8 July, 1801. –  Wind, S.W.  The distance we were from the ship might be 15 or 16 miles.  We started at daylight and proceeded onwards.  So far, the ground on each side appears to be less or more overflowed every fresh, and is full of lagoons and swamps.  The soil is black and good ad full of brush, with trees of great magnitude and of different kinds.  The grass is thick and long where it grows, but so far the ground is low and swampey, though, no doubt, from the height of the hills inland there is good ground free from all floods.  We breakfasted about nine miles further up on a rising ground clear of brush and swamp.  The ground appeared open, the grass luxurious and long.  I travelled a mile and a half on this sort of ground, and came to a pleasant rising mount which afforded an extensive prospect.  It was covered with long luxuriant grass and very large trees of different kinds ; some rocks are interspersed on its top, with plenty of water at hand.  The land here is high above the source of the river.  Here is plenty of land for agriculture.  The soil is black, but mixed with a sort of sand or marley substance.  However, its natural productions warrant it fit for anything.  A creek that boats might lay in clear of the violent floods runs along the foot of the mount.  The cedar grows here in plenty about the sides of the river, so that there is plenty of wood and stone with water and ground much preferable to any I have seen about Sydney for agriculture.  This is the first spot for cultivation we have yet met with since we left the ship that is desirable about the waterside.  The evening brought us up to the Colonel, where we found them in a comfortable hut and a good fire.  This place might be nine or ten miles further up.  In the morning the Colonel and Dr. Harris in his boat, and Mr. Barrallier and myself in our small boat, proceeded up the river to a mount, similar in productions and soil to the above described, but much higher and of greater magnitude.  The view was extensive and picturesque, as it commanded a great extent of country.  Colonel Paterson had before visited this place and named it Mount Ann.  [Named Mount Ann by Colonel Paterson in honor to the Governor’s wife, Mrs. King.]  On our passage up we had passed five rapid falls, which we were obliged to drag the boats over.  We proceeded onwards, and after passing four more falls, some of which were very rapid and troublesome from the trees being in many places washed right across there, we took-up for the night about three miles above Mount Ann.  On the opposite side was a lagoon, where we shot a brace of ducks in.  We saw several traces of the natives, both young and old, and passed some canoes, which are small and rudely put together.  Here the river still was extensive and wide, but the freshes had left their marks in many tops of trees not less from the source of the river than 25 feet perpendicular height.  The next day brought us to the foot of a high hill, [Colonel Paterson named this hill Mount Elizabeth, in honor of his wife] which was still higher than Mount Ann, and connected to the same by a chain of lesser hills forming a semi-circle nearly.  From the top of this we could see the island in the entrance of the harbour, all the range of blue mountains which we had now got to the nor’w’d of, and also the river for a great way inland winding in various ways.  The production and soil here is nearly what I have before described, and, like the first, is steep on one side.  Here we found some new plants of the fearn tribe, and others, particularly a sort of balm which grows here to a great size, the stem of it approaching nearly to the texture of wood, and is of a sweeter smell than the common balm.  This mount was named Mount Elizabeth.  On it will be found a tree with the letters W.P.,  J.G.,  J.H., F.B.,  [These initials evidently stood for William Paterson, James Grant, John Harris, Francis Barrallier] with the year 1801.  In another tree we cut a piece of the wood from it, which will stand a long time visible.  We saw that the river took so long a sweep and returned to nearly the same place, that it would take us the next day to get almost to the place we were ;  [it would appear from this that they went up the river to about the spot where Singleton now stands.]  therefore we determined on returning, as our stock of provisions would not allow a longer stay.  The country we saw from this hill is an immense level, extending from hence to the Blue Mountains, which we saw until lost to the eye, stretching in a northerly direction into the interior.  I presume this is about 15 or 16 miles higher up than the hut.  We passed the night, as usual, on the banks of the river, and next day proceeded downwards.  On our passage up from the hut we passed in all fourteen different falls.  We again visit Mount Ann, and arrived at the hut in the afternoon.  Mr. Barrallier, it is to be observed, had obtained the survey so far as we had been up.  Cedar grows along the banks of the river in great abundance and great magnitude.  The ash, gum-trees of all sorts, the swamp-oak, and tea-tree is also in great plenty and very large, together with various other woods.  Of minerals there appears not to be any great variety;  those that are about the river in general are volcanick.  Birds and plants nature has been bountiful in bestowing here ; fish also are plenty, and I suppose, from their leaping, are of the trout kind.  Of shells we found a black sort of bivalve and much resembling the shells I have seen searched for in the river in Scotland, particularly the Doun, which in general are found to contain small pearls.  Having now seen as much as I could up this arm, I was anxious to return.  The colonel wished much to examine the other arm of this extensive river, which runs in a northerly direction and branches out apparently towards Port Stephens.  [Doubtless the Williams River.]

Thanks to Mrs Margaret Fryer who transcribed all the original documents.

Gionni Di Gravio
November 2011

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