The Dunghutti people are the traditional custodians of the land surrounding the Macleay River catchment and the Apsley River catchment. This work respectfully honours the First Australian People, the Aboriginal People of this land.
Special Collections, in the Auchmuty Library, University of Newcastle (Australia) acquired this Report in 2021.
The Report on the Entrance to the Macleay River was prepared by Sir John Coode, an English civil engineer. It concerned proposed improvements that could be made to the River Entrance; such as installing two breakwaters and training banks to regulate the river’s entrance.
Sir John Coode, K.C.M.G
Sir John Coode (1816-1892) was a respected harbour engineer, who visited Australia in 1878 and 1885 to inspect and eventually report on possible improvements that could be made to the rivers, harbours and port infrastructure around the country.
Post compiled by Gionni Di Gravio, OAM,
University Archivist & Chair, Hunter Living Histories.
6 thoughts on “Report on The Entrance To The Macleay River (1890)”
These maps and the accompanying report are of great interest to me. I have known the Stuarts Point and Grassy Head area since 1958. The history of the area was always of interest and in the early days of our visits there were people of our acquaintance who had first hand knowledge of the 1880s and1890s.
I was told that a massive flood in about 1892 blocked up the old river entrance at Grassy Head (called North Head) on the map, necessitating the cutting through of the current channel to the river mouth near South West Rocks, designated Option 3 on the map. This change in the river’s course eliminated Stuart’s Point as a river port and eventually destroyed its flourishing timber milling industry. By 1958 most indications of the milling had disappeared except for some piers left from the extensive wharfage which must have existed in its heyday.
To the west of Grassy Head itself stands another small hill which must have sat beside the river, probably several hundred metres from the actual bar. The top of this hill had been flattened and remnants of steps led up to the flattened area. I was told that this was the site of the pilot station. I find this difficult to accept as the Macleay would not have been busy enough to necessitate employing a pilot. However the hilltop had been flattened for some purpose.
A couple of kilometres south of Stuarts Point is an area which has been called “the old store” from timber trade times. One assumes that logs or sawn timber was stored there to be loaded onto trading vessels. Evidence for such activity is located in the vicinity, in the actual, remnant river in the form of piles of ballast stones, in an otherwise sandy environment.
When we first went to Stuarts Point many of the original mill houses still existed along the main street. Most of these dwellings have disappeared. At my last visit, probably two years ago, there were only one or two left.
The steps definitely were used to access the Pilot Station.
When New Entrance was opened at South West Rocks the pilot station was physically moved to it’s present location at South West Rocks.
The Macleay River in the 1800s was an extremely busy waterway.
Kempsey had a number of shipbuilders working from Scots Town which was located where the shopping complex is in Belgrave St just over the bridge.
Our grandfather Frank Range of South West Rocks built the harbour works associated with the New Entrance. He must have been familiar with this report, as he would have been implementing its design. The rock came from the quarry not far from Spencer’s Creek. It was transported by a drogher down the creek to the Macleay River. Remains of the drogher are still in the creek.
The quarry was actually over the causeway near what is now known as Quarry Rd and was transported by rail lines to the river.
The drogher wreck in Spencer’s Creek is the “Urunga”.