VIEW OF NEWCASTLE.
IN point of commerce the city of Newcastle is the second city of New South Wales, ranking next in importance to Sydney. It is situated on the slope of a hill, on the southern shore of the embouchure of the Hunter River, about seventy miles north of Port Jackson. Like its great English namesake it owes its position to ‘black diamonds.’
Twenty years ago Newcastle was an insignificant village, with but a single coal mine – that of the A. A. Company, who, enjoying a monopoly, were content with raising 25,000 tons during the year. At that time the harbour was, comparatively, an open roadstead, without even a single wharf to accommodate shipping; the town consisted of a few huts, and the military barracks; the inhabitants were all dependent upon one mining company, who thus ruled the destinies of the town. This state of things was not destined to continue long.
A few enterprising individuals who foresaw what the place could become, consulted together and, in 1844, at their own expense, commenced erection of a jetty, which was finished in October of that year, and the Julia, belonging to Capt. Towns of this city, was the first vessel that discharged alongside it.
Another important work was also commenced – the construction of a connection between Nobby’s and the point under Signal Hill – which has since been finished, and forms an excellent breakwater against southerly gales. To the efforts of Major Last and his coadjutors, Newcastle owes much of its present position.
The work which they commenced has been followed up by the action of the Government and corporate companies; the latter have invested capital in developing the mineral resources of the district, and the Government has provided facilities for conducting their undertakings to a successful issue. The Australian Agricultural, Waratah, Minmi, Wallsend, Lambton, and several other mines, are now in full operation, each having trains running down to the wharf, where four steam cranes are continually employed in loading vessels of every description – from the humble ketch of 20 or 30 tons, bound for Sydney, to the noble clipper of the largest size, for California, China, and other ports. The unpretending jetty of former years has given place to a fine spacious quay, alongside which vessels of 1,000 tons can discharge and load. Heavy screw moorings are also laid down throughout the harbour, where vessels drawing up to 20 feet can complete their loading. The quantity of coal exported during the past year is roughly estimated at over 300,000 tons.
The port can be entered with safety in any weather, except during southerly of S.E. gales, when it is advisable for vessels to stand off. Nobby’s Island, now connected with a mainland by the breakwater, forms the southern head of the harbour; the coast line is bold, rising from the sea about 90 feet. The summit of the island surmounted by a fine lighthouse, exhibiting a fixed white light discernable eighteen miles.
We cannot more appropriately close this brief article than by giving a few statistical facts from official documents, illustrating as they do the commercial importance which Newcastle is fast assuming.
Its export of coal during the year 1864 was: to Victoria, 128,959 tons; to New Zealand, 63,434 tons; to South Australia, 54,891 tons; to China, 17,434 tons; to the United States, 11,011 tons; to Tasmania, 9,258 tons; to Queensland, 2,352 tons; to Callao, Stewart’s Island, New caledonia, Guam, Java, Manila, India, Sandwich Islands, South America, Mauritius, and Singapore, 11,779 tons. Total, 299, 150 tons, of the value of £144,748.
Export of Live Stock. – Cattle: To New Zealand, 12,284, value £58,892; to New Caledonia, 846, value £2,399. Horses: To New Zealand, 185, value £3,220; to Java, 30, value, £600; to New Caledonia, 14, value £168. Sheep: to New Zealand, 7,780, value £6,547; to New Caledonia, 530, value £365. Rams: 47, £2,330. Total head of all kinds, 21,680, of the value of £74,491.
The total imports were valued at £59,656., and the exports £248,316.
Vessels entered inwards and outwards – 240 vessels entered inwards from Victoria, of the tonnage of 68,582; 282, tonnage 102,262, cleared out for the same. From New Zealand, 350 vessels of 108,794 tons, entered inwards; for the same place, 238, of 83,393 tons, cleared out for the same. From all other ports, 74 vessels, of 23,567 tons, entered inwards; and 275, of 81,873 tons, cleared outwards for various places. The total number of vessels entered inwards was 664, of 196,961 tons. The number which cleared out was 795, of 266,528 tons.
Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist & Chair, Hunter Living Histories