We recently received a call for help from Tourism Newcastle relating to an enquiry (presumably from a Tasmanian) questioning Newcastle’s claim of being Australia’s second oldest city:
“I was recently visiting your “visitnewcastle.com.au” website and was surprised to see that it is claiming Newcastle to be Australia’s second oldest city. I would like to point out to you that Hobart is in fact Australia’s second oldest city being founded in February 1804 which is prior to the founding of Newcastle in that same year. I would suggest you may want to update your website as to not mislead people. http://www.visitnewcastle.com.au/pages/newcastle-snapshot/“
Here is some historical information to assist in answering this question. The links contain transcribed excerpts from the Historical Records of Australia and the Historical Records of New South Wales.
Newcastle has a number of birthdays. Its first European “discovery” was in September 1797.
Evidence exists that Newcastle’s earliest settlement was founded at Fresh Water Bay, (now Stockton) as early as April 1801 to May 1801:
Newcastle’s second European settlement was founded in July 1801 under the leadership of Corporal Wixstead, arriving on the 23rd July 1801.
There was a mutiny, and the military guard appears to have been there until April/early May 1802.
After this episode it is unclear what became of the settlement, but it is generally assumed that it was abandoned, not to be re-established until March 1804.
However, there is evidence that coal continued to be discovered, mined and transported from there during the years 1802 and 1803. For example the Sydney Gazette reported on the 8th May 1803 that a new mine had been found there by John Platt, the convict miner who established the first Government mines, so we can assume he was still there working for private traders.
Newcastle’s third (and ongoing) settlement was founded in March 1804 under Commandant Menzies.
At this point it is also important not to forget Newcastle (Mulubinba) ‘s Aboriginal past, and its various names across at least 7000 years.
Here is some info:
The Many Names of Newcastle-Mulubinba
With regards to Hobart’s claim, this comes from Historical Records of Australia (commentary – page 685):
The name Hobart was applied to the settlement at Risdon Cove in the
Derwent River, and was used by Lieutenant Bowen in his second despatch
to Governor King, dated 27th September, 1803 (see volume I, series III),
written after the arrival of the first establishment. When the establishment
for Port Phillip was removed to the Derwent River, Lieutenant-Governor
Collins named the seat of his government at Sullivan’s Cove, Hobart Town.
The first use of the name by Collins in general orders was on the 15th of
June, 1804; the preceding order was dated at Sullivan Cove, River Derwent,
on the 9th of June, 1804. The modern city of Hobart is situated at and
around the latter site.”
So, it appears that Newcastle’s claim to be Australia’s second oldest settlement is justified. Let the new motto be:
Newcastle: First Among Seconds
Gionni Di Gravio
2nd September 2014