Town Hall verses City Hall
Is Newcastle a “town” or a “city”. Most locals refer to it as “town”, and its former majestic Town Hall building is generally referred to as Newcastle’s Town Hall, as it was built in the 1920s, and opened in 1929, when Newcastle was still a town.
Newcastle officially became a “city” from August 1948; as that was the date that Newcastle’s Letters Patent arrived in Sydney, soon to make its way to Newcastle:
“Presenting the Letters Patent, Mr. Cahill said the document – the official authority from the King for the title, Lord Mayor – had arrived in Sydney during the week.
The Governor (Lieut. – General Northcott) had asked him to present it to Ald. Quinlan. Hand-written and illuminated, the document is of parchment. It is affixed with a six-inch wide seal bearing the image of the King in full robes on one side and on horseback on the other. It states that by authority of the King “it is ordered that the Mayor now and for time time being of the City of Newcastle, New South Wales, shall be styled, entitled and called Lord Mayor of the City of Newcastle.” – Wants City Called “Just Newcastle” (1948, August 19). Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved July 3, 2023, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article140351058
Therefore Newcastle’s former ‘Town Hall’ is actually also its former ‘City Hall’.
When did Newcastle’s ‘Mayor’ become a ‘Lord Mayor’?
According to Maiden, who wrote the book on the History of Local Government in New South Wales, the title of ‘Lord Mayor’ was only to be bestowed on Mayors of capital cities. (Local Government Department Report 1947-8).
Due to the population growth of the Greater Newcastle area, its outstanding position as coal port and industrial powerhouse, and status as second oldest city, the Newcastle City Council applied to have the title and in October 1947 His Majesty approved the application.
The Letters Patent conferring the title of Lord Mayor was sent to Council in October 1948 and from then on the official title was ‘The Right Worshipful The Lord Mayor of Newcastle’. (Maiden, pp.246-247)
Maiden says October 1948, but the newspaper report above says the Letters Patent from the King was already in Sydney in August 1948, making its way up to Newcastle, so who is correct?
Further reading and watching
See the following articles in the newspapers from the time:
Wants City Called “Just Newcastle” (1948, August 19). Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article140351058
CEREMONIAL COUNCIL IS POSTPONED (1947, October 10). The Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article158777762
Plain Newcastle (1948, August 26). Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article140357896
Maiden, H.E. (1966). The History of Local Government in New South Wales. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
Gionni Di Gravio, OAM
University Archivist & Chair, Hunter Living Histories