Visit to the Archives of the Hydrographic Department, Ministry of Defence, Taunton, United Kingdom

An Eye Sketch of Hunter’s River 1797

Visit to the Archives of the Hydrographic Department,
Ministry of Defence, Taunton, United Kingdom
on the 8th and 9th May 2008. 

By Doug Lithgow

(Originally prepared for the UON’s Coal River Working Party, now Hunter Living Histories)

It was my pleasure to visit the archives of the Hydrographic Department Ministry of Defence at Taunton in the UK on the 8th and 9th of May this year. I was able to make the visit to Taunton part of my holiday in the UK following a 90th anniversary tour of WWI battlefield sites in France and Belgium.  Gionni Di Gravio’s help in making the Taunton visit a reality is much appreciated. Without his Emails to Taunton and his contacts at the archives the visit would not have been possible. As a closed naval defence establishment it takes considerable effort to obtain the necessary security clearances to gain access.

My visit was for one and a half days only and during that time I was made very welcome by the archive officer Mr Guy Hannaford and his assistant. I also met the Chief Archivist Mr Philip Clayton Gore and discussed the work of the Coal River Working Party with him. I was able to inform Mr Gore of our appreciation of the source information contained in the Surveys and Charts prepared by naval personnel and deposited at Taunton. I explained how important the original 1797 Shortland Eye Chart and the 1801 Barrallier Charts were to the University’s Coal River Working Party and the people of Newcastle and how the digital copies that had been supplied to the Newcastle University had been of great interest and help in improving our understanding of the beginnings of the settlement at Newcastle.

The Hydrographic Department of the Admiralty was formally established in 1795 with the responsibility of selecting and compiling charts from around the world for the guidance of commanders of His Majesty’s ships. Naval commanders were all required to lodge surveys and charts of their voyages. The Admiralty has collected a wealth of information and original charts to support the mercantile interests of the UK particularly since the exploratory voyages of Cook. The history of geographical discovery and exploration is a precious part of our shared heritage.

I would like to recommend that the Newcastle University Archives maintain contact with the Taunton officers and obtain further digital copies of early charts relating to Newcastle.

There are probably many items of interest to Australia in the Taunton collection but in the short time I was there I only had time to call up a limited number of charts that I thought may have relevance to Newcastle.

We have the important Shortland Eye Sketch and the 1801 Coal Harbour Barrallier (Taunton) Charts and I was grateful for the privilege of seeing and handling these and other original charts.

During my visit I was able to gain access to the following charts and documents some of which may be of interest to members of the Coal River Working Party:

  • Catalogue: Copy in the National Library Australia
  • Logs Journals and Documents letters Hydrographic Dep. Taunton 1974.
  • Miscellaneous papers Vol 69 Bc 1 VOL 70 Bc 2 Remarks and Surveys, Ref. Coast of Australia.
  • Original Documents Ships remarks books.
  • Charts of Australia. Summary of selected Manuscript Documents of Historic Importance Professional Paper No 13  1950.
  • Maritime information – A guide to libraries and resources in UK.
  • C642/1  Aust Folio 1 Shortland Chart Hunter River
  • D999  Track of the ‘Alexander’ Lt J Shortland New Georgia to {Newcaladonia} Batavia 1798 (Hunter River is shown as an opening in the coastline)
  • 541/1-6 N Charts
  • 552/1-11 Islands of NZ. Cook Sailed 1768
  • 548 C Z series Captain John Hunter.
  • Charts A2923  y 48/7
  • 435. Press 45.b Barrallier Grant Lady Nelson 1801 June/July Patterson (The Taunton chart shows the River Islands and carries the Barrallier signature).
  • A 1909 Australian Folio 2.   Newcastle Harbour, soundings and loading wharf – Original master. April 1869,  (Boat harbour west of Watt Street, Watt Street Wharf , unformed Cornish dock area. and Stockton chimneys shown). Signed Mr Howlland ?
  • E186  Aust Folio 1   Part of the hunters River, 1816  (High Street, (Watt St)  Lighthouse (Beacon) also three mine entrances to the south of Flagstaff Hill shown)  Ship wreck Dundee lost 1812, Commandants Farm at Cottage Creek .Coal Yards and two lead lights shown at Watt St Wharf.  Survey is by Lieutenant Jefferies commander of the Brig Kangaroo, March 1816. Scale is marked 1/2 “to the mile and an Insert of an Eye sketch  of Crooks Haven Jervis Bay is included.
  • L 1666 Shelf X c  Port of Newcastle at entrance to the Hunter’s River East Coast of Australia under direction of Capt. CR Drinkwater Bethune 1838  Mr Geo Johnson Master. Breakwater 417 yards completed, Saltworks at Stockton shown and Watt Street  Jetty. Also AA Coy railway and coal mines (Brown Street) Church,  Nobbys Island and windmill shown.
  • Y 62  Shelf X c  Chart of track of Lady Nelson Voyage of discovery Bass Strait by command of Governor King.
  • y 48/5  Chart of Terra Australis By M Flinders – HM Sloop Investigator 1798-1803 E Coast Sheet 1 Barrallier and Hunter charts of Coal Harbour and Pt Jackson.
  • y 49/1 Shelf Xr  Part of NSW May 1799 Flinders HMAS Reliance
  • I x  111/IV Port Hunter on Flinders Chart  shows Coal Island noted as Yohaaba
  • B 1901 Press 12 n Lake Macquarie Aust 1886 Lieutenant Francis RN March May.(Beautiful Linen tracing showing channel entrance to Moon Island.  2 charts one large the other small with all soundings of Black Neds Bay, Tidal gradients and first bridge and tram lines.
  • Australia East Coast  NSW Hunter River surveyed by Lieutenant  Gowland RN assisted by JF Coxton  Esq. (A long tightly rolled coloured chart showing the river from Nobbys to Raymond Terrace.
  • Newcastle Harbour Hunter River HMS Acheron 1851, Nobbys Head is shown as site for a Lighthouse and the former boat channel is shown. Sketch of coastline showing Shepherds Hill, Nobbys and Redhead from sea with location A B C & D pits indicated.
  • D 1737 Shelf Xc  Chart of the entrance to Newcastle Harbour acquired by Hydrographic Dep. in 1835

Doug Lithgow  Freeman of the City of Newcastle
Parks and Playgrounds Movement


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