Denise Porter has transcribed and compiled information relating to the Southon Family of builders, responsible for the construction of a number of notable buildings across the Hunter Region and beyond. She has decided to cease work on the project for the time being and share what she has done with the wider research community in the hope that some will find it useful and continue the work. In her introduction she writes:
“I have always known that my great grandfather, Thomas Charlton Southon built the bank on the corner of Maitland road and Hanbury Street, Mayfield; that he built the Mayfield post office and the Adamstown post office.
Thomas also told my father that he built the Mayfield Hotel (I have also found out that his brother William had the contract).
It is recorded, via word of mouth in my family, that he built the confessionals at the Monastery at Mayfield, as Thomas had this joke to tell: – quote from dad – “the brother said, did he want to be the first one to use the confessionals?….Thomas said that he had committed every sin bar one – murder”. It is not known if he built the whole church or just the confessionals. (I have not been able to locate any documentation)
I didn’t expect to uncover so many buildings that Thomas, his brother William, and father Richard built… many of them demolished or heritage listed. I was not prepared for 150 years of building sites from Newcastle to Singleton and beyond. I will never find them all, especially Richard’s contribution, as it was early days. Mostly everything I have found has come from Trove’s Digitised Newspapers, so if tenders were not called, you wouldn’t know what they built.
Dad told me on several occasions that the two storey home at the corner of Elizabeth and Bull Streets, Mayfield was a school, and his grandfather Thomas built it. (I have located evidence that it was indeed a school). No documentation that Thomas built it, just hearsay. This school was called, the Hunter College, and was a day and boarding school for boys. It was quietly closed after several years due to child sexual abuse by the principal and another. This was not recorded in Newcastle papers; however, the court case (in Sydney) was covered by the Truth newspaper. (Ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article168715948)
This Southon family of builders contributed much to the built environment of our region, as well as William’s contribution as Mayor of Waratah, President of the Master Builders Association, President of the Waratah Bowling Club, President of the Waratah fire brigade, and Trustee of the Waratah School of Arts.
Further information relating to the National Bank of Australasia building in Mayfield, including confirmation from the Minutes, Monday 11th July 1921, Bank Premises, Mayfield (N.S.W.) that the “Tender of Thomas £2770 for the erection of new premises, was accepted”, was kindly supplied by their archives in Springvale, Victoria.
If any researchers, work integrated learning (WIL) students, community historians are interested in continuing this research work, please contact our Living Histories Co-ordinator, Dr Ann Hardy by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone, on 49 215824.
Gionni Di Gravio
Chair Hunter (Living) Histories Initiative