Deepening the Hunter River in 1857

Acknowledgment of Aboriginal Country

The Awabakal and Worimi peoples are the traditional custodians of the lands and islands surrounding the mouth of the Hunter River (Coquon) and present day Newcastle and Stockton.  This work respectfully honours the First Australian People, the Aboriginal People of this land.


Plan of the Port of Newcastle and Part of the Hunter River circa 1856
Appendix A. Plan of the Port of Newcastle and Part of the Hunter River. E. O. Moriarty

Appendix A

Shows harbour depths, Hunter River Islands: Bullock Island, Mosquito Island, Spectacle Island, Sandy Island, Snapper Hole Island, Mud Island; Pirate Point, railway terminus, proposed jetty, Stockton burnt factory, Newcastle foreshore, breakwater, Nobby Head and areas to be dredged.


Appendix B - Flats of the Hunter River circa 1856-1857
Appendix B – Flats of the Hunter River shows three cross section diagrams of results of soundings at “Low water line”


Title Page of Final Report Deepening River Hunter, 1857

Final report from the Select Committee on Deepening the River Hunter; together with the proceedings of the committee, minutes of evidence and appendix. Sydney : William Hanson, Government Printer, 1857. (24.9 MB PDF)

Special Collections, in the Auchmuty Library, University of Newcastle (Australia) acquired this Report in 2021.


A Select Committee of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly was appointed on the 4 November 1856 to examine the proposed plan to deepen the Hunter River, in those parts known as “the Flats”.

The Committee: Messrs Alexander Walker Scott (Chair), Faucett, Flood, Parkes, Jones, Nicols, Plunkett, Osborne, Weeks and Arnold.

The Witnesses examined were: Messrs Edward Orpen Moriarty, C.E., Alexander Bremner, C.E., James Scott, J. T. Strong, J. Scott, C.E., Charles Paine, i.e., Captain Paine, of “Illalong” Steamer, Alexander Livingstone, Harbourmaster, at Newcastle, G. B. White, surveyor.

The testimonies provide a glimpse into what the Hunter estuary looked like at the time, and how it ebbed and flowed with the tides.

The Committee approved Mr Moriarty’s plans to clear and deepen the Hunter River at the Flats.

Post compiled by Gionni Di Gravio, OAM,
University Archivist & Chair, Hunter Living Histories.

2 thoughts on “Deepening the Hunter River in 1857

  1. The two large groins shown on the ocean side of the Breakwater leading to Nobbys Head must have assisted the formation of the beachfront during the early days of the formation of the harbour entrance. It would be interesting to know if they remain insitu under the sand and if they have been previously exposed or documented.

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