Stockton is Newcastle’s First Settlement?

Fresh Water Bay (Stockton) from Ensign Francis Barrallier's Chart of "Coal Harbour and Rivers." 1801
Fresh Water Bay (Stockton) from Ensign Francis Barrallier’s Chart of “Coal Harbour and Rivers..” 1801

While researching references to the early settlement at Coal River (Newcastle) in a previous post, we were directed (thanks to Jen Willets) to a very interesting footnote in the Historical Records of Australia Vol III p. 772 – 773 which provided an interesting aside. There appears to be evidence that Newcastle had an initial settlement at Fresh Water Bay  (now the coastline of present day Stockton), see detail from Barrallier’s 1801 chart above. The extract from the Note 66 (p. 773) says:

A brief attempt at settlement at Coal Harbour (now the port of Newcastle) was made by Hugh Meehan, of the Anna Josepha, on a voyage to procure coal and timber. He constructed a saw-pit at Freshwater Bay, within the north head of the harbour, and after obtaining a cargo, he returned to Port Jackson on the 29th May 1801, after a stay of nearly a month.

"Coal River, N.S. Wales 1807" by I.W. Lewin.Courtesy of the State Library of NSW
“Coal River, N.S. Wales 1807” by I.W. Lewin.
Courtesy of the State Library of NSW

The painting above is by Lewin, and dated 1807. Compare it to the Barrallier Chart above (housed in the National Archives of the United Kingdom see: 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/

Lewin had accompanied Barrallier and others on the June-July 1801 Survey Mission, so in all likelihood, it is a painting conceived on the spot.

So, it appears that Newcastle may have had three settlements. Stockton being the home of the first European settlement founded sometime around late April 1801 to 29th May 1801.

Gionni Di Gravio


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