Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Sea Grave Yard - Newcastle Harbour

Vessels at Newcastle 1800 - 1830

In the early days before the coming of steam boats, the picturesque coastline up from Sydney and welcome sight of Nobbys on a clear day were an event to be looked forward to by the crew of the little 'sixty milers'. However if the weather turned foul and a south easterly gale whipped up mountainous waves, it was a different story and the narrow passage became a nightmare. The channel was tortuous and shallow, and full of shoals. The deepest water that could be expected at low tide was 15 feet, and that was limited to a narrow, tricky channel. The dangers were well known from earliest exploration and settlement.

In 1801 Lieutenant James Grant on a fact finding mission with Colonel William Paterson recorded the following description of Nobbys and the entrance to Hunter's River ......

'Sunday, 14 June, 1801. - At 6 a.m. bore up and made all possible sail, the Coal Island (an island in the entrance) N.N.W. 6 miles. At half-past 10, I went on shore with Dr. Harris, to examine the entrance, which we found very narrow.

On the left hand side going in was a reef of rocks from the island, with much heavy serf breaking on it; on the right was an extensive flat, with a tremendous roll of sand breakers over it. The channel in was troubled with much heavy swell, and did all but break, so that I hove the boats head round and pulled out again; sounded 5 fms. On considering the risk we run of bringing the vessel in without well ascertaining the channel, I pulled in, carrying from 5 to 4 and 3 1/2 fathoms close to the island. On our getting on shore we climbed up this steep island and hoisted a flagg as a signal this was the right place.' Ensign Barralier who accompanied the expedition to make a survey of the harbour wrote 'Such a fearful passage one has to clear to arrive in this fine harbour.

The roaring of the waves thrown one upon the other, breaking with a fearful noise on the steep rocks of the isle and furiously rolling on to the sands of the opposite shore, inspire with awe the most intrepid seaman

Despite these dangers trading vessels had been sailing up to the Coal River for cargoes since 1797 when Lieutenant John Shortland brought news of his discovery of the river. Timber, coal and other resources such as lime, and salt would keep the intrepid mariners returning again and again.

In 1830 the Sydney Gazette gave the following report of the wreck of the famous little packet the Lord Liverpool

We regret to announce the almost total wreck of the Lord Liverpool on the evening of Tuesday last. She left Sydney, for Newcastle on the preceding Saturday, having on board, Mr. and Mrs. Cobb, Mr. Hosking, Mr. Parker, Dr. Parmeter, and about forty assigned servants, and after a smart gusty passage of about seven hours, arrived off Nobby's Island, where she was obliged to cast anchor, owing to an adverse wind and a tremendous surf which rendered it impossible to make the harbour of Newcastle. The pilot, Mr. Hughes, came off immediately, and Captain Taggart lost no time in sending the passengers ashore, who were safely landed after undergoing a very severe ducking.

The prisoners were put ashore on Nobbys. The little vessel weathered the storm pretty well until Tuesday, when after making several ineffectual efforts to tack in, in the course of the day, she became entangled among the rocky shoals, about seven o'clock in the evening, and soon began to fill through two great fissures in her bottom. Her masts were cut away and all the usual methods resorted to in order to get her off, but without success; nor was the removal of the cargo, consisting principally of sugar and soft goods, effected before it had sustained considerable damage from the sea water. Every assistance was afforded by the authorities at the settlement; - the government boats, well manned, were ordered out, and several private boats, among others, one belonging to
Dr. Moran rendered every possible aid on the distressing occasion. A number of gentlemen, also, amongst whom were Mr. Commissioner Therry, Dr. Moran, Mr. Solicitor Williams etc encouraged the boats' crews by their own example, and liberally distributed grog and other refreshments to the men, to excite and reward their exertions.

Captain Taggart is almost inconsolable at the misfortune; and it is but justice to that very clever mariner, to state that no blame whatever is attributable to him. At the period of the latest accounts, the vessel was on her beam ends, and some hopes were entertained that the very great efforts which were then making, would succeed in getting her afloat again, and that the damage would not ultimately prove to be so great as to render her repair impracticable.

(*The Lord Liverpool was floated and in December it was reported that she was being taken to Sydney for repairs.)

The treacherous waters around Nobbys became known throughout the world and mariners sighting the infamous island in stormy weather often knew what they were up against. With luck they made it through the narrow passage, however over the years many mariners have been consigned to a 'watery grave' as their tiny vessels failed to traverse the fearful passage.

Some of the Vessels at Newcastle in the first thirty years of settlement



Admiral Gifford
- colonial schooner, 43 tons. Taking coals to Sydney. Captain John Taggart in 1830. Lost while on a voyage between Port Macquarie and Sydney in October 1834...

"We are sorry to hear that beside the crew, the Admiral Gifford had on board when she left Port Macquarie six weeks since, seven or eight passengers - Mrs. Thompson and two children; Mrs. Tregurtha, the wife of the Captain, Mr. Marriot; a young lady, and two or three steerage passengers. Her cargo consisted of 120 bushels of maize, and a quantity of wheat and pork. The day after she left a very severe gale came on from the southwards and it is feared that she had not survived it" [1]

Amelia - In 1827, seized at Newcastle for having arrived with a cargo of liquor without permission or port clearance from Sydney. Later liberated and cargo permitted to be landed [2]

Amity - Taking three pairs of sawyers to Newcastle to commence a cedar ground in 1830 [3]

Anna Josepha - 1801 - Spanish vessel, owned by Simeon Lord and Hugh Meehan; crew of 28; 170 tons. Bound for Hunter River in April 1801. In October 1801 with Hugh Meehan as Master, the Anna Josepha took 100 tons of coal and 4000 feet of timber from Newcastle to Sydney. [4] Lieutenant Grant departed Sydney bound for England on 9th November 1801 on the Anna Josepha, however the ship had been poorly provisioned in Sydney and when she became becalmed Lieutenant Grant transferred to the American ship Ocean. The Ocean too became becalmed and with little water and hardly any food left, their situation became dire. James Grant remarked that he had but one biscuit more

Australia - Owned by Australian Agricultural Company. Arrived in Port Jackson in January 1827 under Captain W. Wilson, from, Portsmouth 27th July, Cape of Good Hope 31st October and Hobart Town 28th December. Lading sundries and goods for the Company and six cabin and 24 steerage passengers. Select here to find some of the passengers. [5] Captain Wilson of the ship Australia, formerly commanded the Royal Admiral and the Duff. Indisposed on this voyage of the Australia. Saxon sheep brought out for the A.A. Co., in good condition [6] Taking 2 steam engines to Port Stephens in 1827

Australian Lad - Cutter. Trader between Newcastle and Sydney. Totally lost and crew perished October 1827 [7]


- Sloop belonging to A.A. Company. Wrecked off Port Stephens in 1826.
Loss of the Balberook - The present state of Australia: A Description of the Country, Its Advantages ..By Robert Dawson

Boyd - In 1812 lost on a beach between Hunter River and Port Stephens known as the sandhills. Full freight of wheat.

"The Boyd, a small colonial vessel, whose bottom was originally the long-boat of the ship Boyd, which was captured at New Zealand, was last week unfortunately lost with a full freight of wheat from Hawkesbury, on a beach between Hunter's River and Port Stevens, commonly called the Sand-Hills ; two persons drowned, and one saved. The sufferers were, James Wallis, who belonged to the vessel, and - Hubbard, son of a Mr. Hubbard, settler on the River Hawkesbury, whose intention of coming round was to take care of a quantity of wheat belonging to his father, and which of course has perished with the vessel". [8]


Calder - The Calder, Captain and owner Peter Dillon was engaged as a convict ship in 1822 and arrived in Port Jackson from Calcutta via VDL in November 1822 with four prisonersof the Crown

Still owned by Peter Dillon but sailing under Captain William Worth and pilot William Eckford she was almost wrecked at Newcastle in 1823 [9]

Carabeen - Captain Reeves, bound for Newcastle with sundries in January. [10]

Charlotte - In 1826 took 10 days from Sydney to Newcastle. Wrecked on the beach five miles from Newcastle in September 1827 -

"A small sloop, the Charlotte, of about ten tons burthen; the property of an industrious man of the name of Bradburn, which sailed from Sydney on the seventh instant, was discovered on Friday last lying on the beach about six miles to the northward of Newcastle, a total wreck: She was loaded with cedar, wheat, maize, butter, eggs, &c. part of which are now scattered over the beach in melancholy confusion. That which renders the circumstance more deplorable is, that the crew, consisting of two men, are supposed to have perished, together with two, passengers (a native youth named Lambe, and a man of the name of Malcolm), as no tidings can be obtained of them. It is presumed that the little vessel upset in the gale which came on immediately after her sailing from this port, and that from her cargo being of a buoyant nature, she was drifted by the violence of the gale to the place where she how lies. The owner of her (Bradburn) was at Wallis' Plains when the unfortunate event took place. Two constables were forthwith ordered to the wreck by the Police Magistrate here, to secure the property lying on the beach from plunder" [11]

Contest - 45 tons, 6 crew, length of keel 35 feet. In 1805 owned by Underwood and Kable

"The Sloop Contest was launched from Underwood's yard in May 1804. She was the first vessel lain down in the colony, permission having been previously obtained from Gov. Hunter in 1798 in order to reduce the carriage of wheat from the Hawkesbury from 15d to 10d per bushel. The plan was originally intended to be executed by twelve tradesmen; but after the permission was obtained all but four thought proper to continue; these men entered into a joint obligation to proceed in the design or forfeit the sum of £40. Mr. Stephen Tadd, carpenter of the Barwell, left his ship purposely to build this vessel with wages at 7s 6d per diem and under him one of the proprietors worked as a labourer [12]

In October 1805 bushranger Thomas Desmond, on his way to the settlement at Newcastle on board the Contest, escaped from that vessel and remained at large for some time

Cumberland - In 1830 the Cumberland was the largest vessel to have entered the harbour. Piloted by Captain Livingstone

Currency Lass built for T.W.M. Winder at Captain Livingston's farm in 1826; 100 tons. Planned and laid down by John Irving [13]Launched October 1826. Four hundred people attended.

In 1830 she was almost wrecked off Newcastle. Captain Taggart - "I am the master of the cutter Currency Lass, and sailed in her from Sydney in the morning of Saturday the 19th of the last month, bound to Newcastle for a cargo of coals. I arrived off Newcastle the same afternoon, the wind being at south and squally ; the pilot boarded the cutter at three o'clock, at which time it was high water, but I should have had no difficulty in reaching the anchorage under Nobby's Isle had the usual mooring ground been properly indicated, but the buoy heretofore placed on it for that purpose having been removed, I had no object to guide me in the selection of the anchorage, and I afterwards found I had taken, comparatively speaking, an insecure berth to that which I might have had had the buoy been in its accustomed place.

Towards sun-set, there was every appearance of fine weather, and shortly after it blew in heavy squalls from the southward, with thunder and lightning. About 10 o'clock, the mast of the cutter was struck by lightning, and shivered in three places from the head of it to the deck ; there was not any other material damage done, and providentially no person on board was seriously hurt. The following morning (Sunday), I attempted to warp the cutter to the anchorage off the town of Newcastle, but it continuing to blow strong at south- west, I was unable to effect that object, although, had there been any warping buoys laid down, the operation might have been performed with the utmost facility.

The crippled state of the mast deterring me from making sail on it, I had no alternative but that of anchoring in the same ground I had before occupied. About two o'clock that afternoon the Lord Liverpool Packet rounded the reefs off Nobby's Isle, and attempting to keep up the harbour struck on a sand bank on the north shore of the river. I did not consider my vessel to be in perfect security, but seeing the very dangerous situation in which the packet was, with her deck crowded with passengers, I consented (with the impression that it might be the means of saving her, or, at all events, the lives of the persons on board) that the pilot I had with me should go to her assistance, and I also sent my boat with a warp and a kedge anchor.

To wards evening, the weather wearing a more threatening: aspect, I let go the second anchor, and made the vessel as secure as possible for the night. A little after two o'clock, I found that one of the anchors had broke, and immediately fired several muskets, as signals of distress, and I have good authority for stating that their report was distinctly heard by numbers in the town of Newcastle, but no help whatever was given to me, nor, I believe, attempted to be given. At day-break I hoisted my ensign, union down, and fired a gun. The signal, I am informed, was seen and the gun heard by the watchman at the signal post, by the pilot on board the Lord Liverpool, and by several persons in the town of Newcastle, but not the least assistance was in any shape rendered, and we were left to our own resources.

About six o'clock it blew in heavy gusts from the southward, with a furious sea rolling in- our boat was washed from alongside, and soon after the cutter drove in for the beach, on which the surf was breaking as high as our mast head.-Finding nothing could save her, and consequently our lives, except getting her to sea (although I had every reason to fear the mast would give way the moment sail was made on it), I caused sail to be made, at the same time cutting the cables, and I had soon after the satisfaction of seeing her in a good offing- I then bore up for Port Stephens, on my arrival there, not having an anchor on board, I was under the necessity of running the cutter on a mud bank, opposite the establishment of the Australian Agricultural Company at that settlement. The cutter had not been ten minutes on the mud ere a boat from the shore was brought alongside with an anchor for our use, and early the next morning the cutter again floated in at a safe anchorage.

Every assistance was given by Mr. Ebsworth (the gentleman in charge of the Company's establishment at Port Stephens), as well in regard to the securing of the mast, as in putting the cutter in a fit state to return to Newcastle, which I was enabled to do in less than forty-eight hours after my arrival at Port Stephens. I gladly avail myself of this opportunity thus publicly to request Mr Ebsworth, and the gentlemen residing at the establishment of the Australian Agricultural Company at Port Stephens, will accept my grateful and sincere thanks for their kind, prompt, and efficient attention to me under the distressed and helpless state in which I was thrown upon their humanity; indeed I feel it to be beyond all praise, when contrasting it with the listless apathy and apparent disregard evinced by the inhabitants at Newcastle to the perilous state we were in throughout the whole of Sunday night, and more especially of Monday morning, during which period, I have great reason to believe, not a single exertion was made on shore either for the preservation of our lives, or for the succour of the cutter. I am, Sir your most humble servant, John Taggart" [14]


- Colonial schooner owned by Thomas Street in 1826. [15] Taking Passengers and goods from Sydney to Newcastle in January 1828.

Dove - Sloop. Lost in a storm to the north of Port Stephens in June 1828. Master William Vurrell. Owned by Thomas Street of Darling Harbour.

The master, a seaman, a Newcastle constable and a prisoner of the Crown after suffering great privations were brought into Newcastle by Natives. Seven lives lost including two seamen, a free man John Delaney and four prisoners of the Crown [16]

Dundee. Captain Cummings. In 1808 the Dundee was wrecked at the entrance to the Hunter River where the Francis and Governor King were also wrecked. The Sydney Gazette reported - "On this distressing occasion, Captain Cummings acknowledges the most grateful sense of obligation to the prompt and efficacious exertions of Charles Throsby, Esq., the Commandant of His Majesty's settlement at King's Town, by whose humane assistance, seconded by all who acted under his orders, the lives of many of the crew were saved. The two whose destiny it was to perish in the storm, were sepoys, who had joined the ship at Penang. As soon as possibly after captain Cummings returned to this port, he engaged a colonial vessel to go to Hunter's River, to examine the wreck, and to save whatever might remain of her. For this purpose the Endeavour sailed from hence on Friday, with hands sufficient for the purpose"[17]


Eclipse - Regular cutter. Sydney to Newcastle every week. In March 1823 Major Morisset at the Newcastle settlement was informed that John Cheers and settlers Robert and Helenus Scott and Surgeon James Mitchell who would later have such a great impact on the development of Newcastle and the Hunter region had taken their passage to Newcastle on the Eclipse. In 1824 the Eclipse was owned in partnership by John Bingle and Mr. Atkinson [18] The Eclipse was Seized by escaping convicts 1825

Edwin - The schooner Edwin was owned by John Palmer; 16 tons; 3 crew. In 1803 the Edwin took a sample of coal from a new mine at Newcastle to Sydney.

Under the command of Captain R. Matthews when it departed for the Hawkesbury on June 10, 1816. A violent gale blew the schooner off course, destroying its rigging and sails, and ultimately driving it into a massive surf eighty miles north of Port Stephens. The schooner was forced ashore near Cape Hawke in late June or early July 1816. Captain Matthews, his wife, young child, and two crew members managed to reach land, but local aborigines took their clothes and provisions and leaving them to survive on shellfish and grass while trekking 100 miles southward towards Newcastle. When they were just fifteen miles from their destination, Mrs. Matthews and the child collapsed from exhaustion. The others pressed on to Newcastle and sent out a rescue party, which retrieved the exhausted mother and child. [19]

Eliza - Sloop. 25 tons burthen. Owner Joseph Underwood. Advertised for sale by Underwood in May 1811. Wrecked at Port Stephens in July - "Tuesday came in from Hunters River His Majesty's colonial vessel Estramina, Mr. Watson master, with accounts of the wreck at Port Stevens of the colonial vessel Eliza, Mr. Joseph Underwood owner; no lives lost. Mr. Underwood had, it appears, chartered or hired her out to a settler of the name of Brown, at Hawkesbury, in whose charge the vessel was lost. She was bound to Hawkesbury; but from the state of the wind could not get into Broken Bay, and was blown off"[20]

Elizabeth - Purchased by John Smith of Newcastle. Trader between Newcastle and Sydney in 1826. [21]

Elizabeth and Mary - Owned by Joseph Underwood in 1816. Employed by Underwood in April 1821 for the procurement of cedar at Port Stephens. Reported to have gone on shore at Newcastle

Elizabeth Henrietta - Launch of the Elizabeth Henrietta, govt. vessel 150 tons in June. Master John Ross. -

"On Thursday the 13th June, at noon, a Government Vessel, of about 150 tons burthen, was launched from His Majesty's Dock yard at Sydney, amidst a numerous assemblage of all classes of the inhabitants, who had resorted there to wit ness a scene altogether so novel on the Coast of New South Wales. The style in which this fine brig left the stocks was peculiarly graceful, and enhanced the effect of the ceremony of consigning her to her new element, with the name of the " Elizabeth Henrietta" which His Excellency the Governor was pleased to give her in the usual form of breaking a bottle of wine on her bow.

The Band of the 46th Regt. attended and played several favourite tunes, commencing at the moment of her starting with " God save the King !" followed by " Rule Britannia !" " Hearts of Oak !" and several other cheerful and appropriate airs ; until at length the scene closed with the Elizabeth Henrietta riding safe at anchor in Sydney Cove. The keel of this vessel was originally laid by Governor Hunter, in the year 1800, but very slow progress was made towards completing her during his and the succeeding administration of Governor King. Some alterations in her general construction took place by order of Governor Bligh, which during the assumed Government were no further proceeded in ; until at length we had the gratification of witnessing a very hand some and valuable acquisition to our maritime concerns, in the brig Elizabeth Henrietta built on our own shores, and apparently well calculated for the service of Government " [22]

John Thomas Campbell revealed in correspondence to commandant Captain James Wallis dated 18th July 1816 that the Elizabeth Henrietta had been dispatched to Newcastle on her first voyage to load a cargo of coal and cedar for government. [23]

A disaster took place during the above voyage - "An open boat, with five of the crew of the brig Elizabeth Henrietta, arrived from Hunter's River on Wednesday afternoon, with the very disagreeable intelligence of that vessel's having upset at her moorings in the River on Tuesday the 30th ult., between 4 and 5 in the morning; by which melancholy accident the wife of Mr. Ross, the master of the vessel, was unfortunately drowned; as was also one of the crew, a young man named Patrick Fitzgerald. Mrs. Ross was in the cabin when the fatal accident occurred, and had no possible chance of avoiding her dreary destiny; and the young man, Fitzgerald, was as unfortunately below, in the fore part of the vessel. The body of Mrs. Ross was drawn out of the cabin in the afternoon of the same day, but that of her fellow sufferer had not been found when the unwelcome information came away. - On receipt of the melancholy information His Excellency the Governor immediately dispatched His Majesty's brig Lady Nelson, accompanied by the Nautilus, of Calcutta, to proceed to Hunter's River for the purpose of recovering the vessel, the accomplishment of which, with such efficient aid, will, there is no doubt, be very soon effected". [24]

The Elizabeth Henrietta was raised with only minor injuries and was to return to Sydney with a cargo on the first fair wind. She made numerous voyages up and down the coast carrying military personnel, cargo and settlers and as well transported many prisoners convicted of colonial crimes to the Newcastle penal settlement in the years 1816 to 1825. In 1818 Governor Macquarie, Mrs. Macquarie and Staff, embarked on Elizabeth Henrietta to conduct an inspection of the penal settlement at Newcastle.

She was wrecked at Newcastle 1825 - "The Elizabeth Henrietta was on the return voyage from Port Macquarie, having called at Newcastle on the 17th instant; Captain John Rodolphus Kent got under weigh for Headquarters, the brig being in charge of the Pilot. In endeavouring to work out of the harbour, she struck between the outer and inner reefs, off the N. E. end of Nobby's Island ; the wind was at N. E. and the tide ebbing, when she was nearly abreast of the reefs; and the boat was ordered to he cast off by the pilot, as he considered the vessel considerably high to clear every danger. Unexpectedly the wind suddenly shifted to the E. N. E when the pilot attempted to pull the vessel about, but not coming round quickly, and gathering stern-way at the same time, she soon struck, the rudder became unshipped, the cabin dead-lights stove in. and in less than ten minutes she was filled with water, and remained fast the rocks.

By the prompt, seaman-like, and gentlemanly attention of Captain Livingstone, of the Lord Liverpool, as well in conjunction with the crews of other Colonial vessels, then lying at anchor in the harbour, the whole of the military, passengers, and prisoners, were safely landed, and such stores as could be got at were saved ; but, in consequence of the surf increasing, Captain Kent was reluctantly obliged to leave her at 12 o'clock ; and up to the latest advices received, it had been impossible to approach the wreck, though Capt Kent continues on Nobby's Island, awaiting the first favourable, opportunity to save the most valuable articles. The whole of the baggage, together with the library of the Rev. Mr Hassall, was on board, and we are sorry to say, that this gentleman's loss will be particularly severe.

In closing this hasty account, it would he unjust not to bear testimony to the value of the services of those who were instrumental in extricating such a number of our fellow-creatures from destruction, which we beg to do in the language of Captain Kent. " I cannot close this without stating that had it not been for the perseverance of Captain Livingstone, and the boats' crews, the ship's company would not probably have been saved, his unremitting attention to the safety of the people, deserves our warmest thanks." [25]

Endeavour - Brig, owned by Kable and Co., 31 tons; 6 crew. Employed in the Bass Strait and Newcastle trade [26] In February 1814 Lieut. Thomas Thompson arrived in Newcastle on the Endeavour to commence his appointment as commandant of the settlement. A detachment of the 46th regiment accompanied him

Endeavour - New schooner owned by John Black. Lost on Nobbys in a southerly gale while taking in coals in December [27]

Estramina - Select here to read more about the Estramina and how she came to be in Australian waters. In 1809 the Estramina was driven by strong winds to Port Stephens when taking Lieut. William Lawson to his command at Newcastle in February.

Joseph Ross was appointed master in September 1814. Robert Whitmore was piloting the Estramina into the harbour on 25 October 1815 when it ran aground remaining trapped for three hours. The master of the Estramina, Joseph Ross refused to take in coals as part of his return cargo because the vessel had been damaged and was taking more water than usual after the incident. [28]

"A double disaster occurred on the 14th January, 1816, and in comparatively fine weather. Mr. Thomas Underwood's schooner, Elizabeth and Mary, of 86 tons, loaded with coal for Sydney, was leaving the port, when the north-east wind and ebb tide caught her, and carried her on to the Stockton shore. Captain James Gordon was master, and he and his men got her off, but unfortunately her rudder broke away, and the current and wind caught her again, and threw her back on to the point. There she was driven high on the shore, and was knocked to pieces.

Only a few minutes later the Government schooner Estramina, 120 tons, went on the same shore close to the Elizabeth and Mary. She had a cargo of coals and cedar. By the time night fell the sea was breaking over her, and she became a total wreck. Next morning the beach was strewn with wreckage from the two boats. Lieutenant Thompson was commandant o was commandant of the settlement and he and the residents did gallant work in saving the lives of the crews. They also managed to save some of the cargo. When the Elizabeth and Mary went on shore, there were hopes that she might be got off safely, but the heavy sea that came in before the north-easter treated her in the same way as it did the Estramina. The schooner originally belonged to Messrs. Samuel Thorley and Jonathan Griffiths. By them she was sold to Mr. Underwood, who lost a number of vessels in trading between Sydney, the Hawkesbury and Newcastle. [29]


Fairy - 28 tons. Taking coals from Newcastle to Sydney in September 1830. [30]

Fame - Trader between Sydney and Newcastle in 1822. A letter signed by Mr Brent Clement Rodd, a settler of the Hunter River district: - About 68 years gone by (1822) I left Sydney for Patricks Plains, on the Hunter River, in charge of six convicts, to take possession of land to farm for my employer at a salary of £13 per annum. It took 17 days to reach Newcastle in the brig Fame, and nine days to reach Patrick Plains with a team of eight bullocks. The only residents were Ben Singleton and an overseer of Mr Dangar's, by name Morris, and the celebrated Major Mudie [31]

Thomas Young was master in 1824. "Among some old records are found letters relating to the coal shipments in these early days, when coal was carried from Newcastle to Sydney and Port Macquarie for consumption in the Government departments and for public use. In July of 1825, we find the master of the colonial brig Fame addressing a letter to the military commandant at Newcastle, in which the former complains that his vessel has been lying in Newcastle. harbour twelve days, and that such delay entailed less upon his owners, which those gentlemen did not anticipate when chartering the vessel for the voyage. The master asks for prompt despatch, and points out that coal is badly needed in Sydney. This letter evokes reply from the military commandant in which the latter states that as H.M. brig Princess Charlotte arrived in port prior to the Fame, the prisoners had been instructed to load that vessel first-about three weeks, being occupied in getting out 180 tons-and as soon as she was, finished the Fame would be loaded" [32]

Captain Cromarty and the Fame - "Though he built a home at Soldiers' Point, Capt. William Cromarty remained a sailor to the last. With the brig Fame, of 139 tons as early as 1826, he engaged in a coastal run between Sydney and Newcastle and to the headquarters of the A.A. Co., situated at Stroud. In addition to passengers, provisions were conveyed from Sydney and Newcastle to Booral, and on the return large quantities of cedar were shipped. One of the earliest timber mills in Sydney, owned by Mr. Lord, was regularly supplied from this source. The aborigines of the Karuah River were hostile, and members of the crew had been injured by spears thrown from behind cover whilst the brig lay moored. As it was feared that the blacks might try to rush the vessel at such a time, Captain Cromarty fitted an iron cannon to the brig, and this was loaded with grape shot. During one desperate affray it was fired point-blank"[33]

Francis -The convict ship Pitt arrived in 1792 with a military guard of the New South Wales Corps commanded by Lieut-Governor Francis Grose. The family of Francis Grose accompanied him. On board the Pitt was the frame of a small vessel. When completed in 1793 this vessel was launched as the schooner Francis. In March 1805, having just a short time before disembarked the new Commandant Charles Throsby at Newcastle, the Francis was wrecked on the shore opposite Coal Island (Nobbys). Select here to read about the wreck of the Francis


- Sloop, 13 tons. Taking coals from Newcastle to Sydney in 1830. Hauled to safety near Nobbys by Captain Biddulph and the Sophia Jane in February 1832 [34]

Governor Arthur - In 1824 "Saturday last, a new sloop, about 45 tons, which had been built at New-town by Mr. Robert Bostock, was launched, and afterwards brought down to the harbour. She is named the Governor Arthur" [35] The Governor Arthur traded between Sydney and Newcastle

Governor Hunter - Owned by Isaac Nichols. 33 tons, 6 crew. Arrived in Sydney from Newcastle with 20,000 lbs of salt in September 1805. The salt-pans, were established by Gregory Blaxland. Ensign Draffen in his orders from Government was instructed that the salt pans were to be kept constantly at work night and day, and the salt made to be sent to Sydney. Great care had to be taken of the salt meat casks and iron hoops for that purpose

Governor King - Owned by Kable and Underwood in 1804. Freighted coal and 64 logs of cedar from Hunter River to Sydney in February 1806. Wrecked at Hunter River in April 1806 [36]

Gurnett - 15 tons. The Gurnett, owned by Thomas Street of Sydney, was driven past Newcastle in a gale of wind in April 1826. By good luck she succeeded in making Port Stephens where they remained for another day. Several prisoners were on board and proceeding to Newcastle, have arrived over land, in charge of two constables, and report that they had a narrow escape from being totally wrecked [37] While the vessel was moored at Newcastle early in April 1826 she was seized by escaping convicts


- In May 1808 the Halcyon, manned with 10 privates of the New South Wales Corps commanded by Serjeant Windsor was towed out of Farm Cove to pursue the brig Harrington. The Harrington, under Captain Fisk had been seized by desperate convict absconders and sailed out past the South Head. The Halcyon was accompanied by a fleet of boats with military and inhabitants who had volunteered, however owing to such calm waters progress could not be made before dark and the Halcyon was forced back. In November 1808 the Halcyon while loaded with coal and cedar from Newcastle was driven back from Broken Bay to the Hunter River in a heavy gale. Her situation being alarming a boat was sent from the settlement and the vessel was saved, however Thomas Shirley, a convict of the Royal Admiral who had been sent to Newcastle for a colonial crime in 1805, was drowned in the effort of saving the vessel

Hawkesbury Packet
Owned by Solomon Wiseman in 1816. Commanded by Edward Watson. Sheltered at Port Stephens in inclement weather. Due to low supplies 2 men dispatched for Newcastle. George Yates and Nicholas Thompson stripped and mistreated by natives on their way to the settlement - [38]

Hope - Taking cedar and coal from Newcastle in 1806

Hope - 24 tons, Captain Brown. Taking coal from Newcastle to Sydney in 1830


- Owned by Thomas Reiby in 1803. In April 1804, the frame of a house, dimensions 24 feet by 12, was put on board for Newcastle. The whole was morticed, tennanted, and ready for putting up when landed; the doors, windows and roofing accompanied the frame, together with sufficient bricks for the erection of several chimneys. The work was executed at Parramatta in less than one week [39] Note - This may have been the makings of the first premises used by Lieut. Charles Menzies when he re- established the settlement at 'Coal River'

Jessie - Crew man lost overboard in March 1830. The Australian 12 March 1830. In March 1831 at Newcastle while taking corn from Paterson, driven onto rocks near Hog Island between Webber's and Nowlan's estates. Sank. Cargo lost. Crew saved. [40]


- Joseph Ross acted as pilot for the H. M. brig Kangaroo, Captain Jeffreys, in and out of Newcastle harbour in 1816.


Lady Nelson - Lieutenant James Grant directed by Governor Phillip Gidley King to take the Lady Nelson to Hunter River in June 1801. Taking Lieutenant Menzies, James Mileham, Ferdinand Bauer etc. to the new settlement at 'Coal River' in 1804

Lambton - 82 tons. Cutter, purchased around March 1827 for £1500 by the A.A. Company. Captain James Corlette. Based at Port Stephens. Offered for sale by Henry Dumaresq of A.A. Company: the cutter 'Lambton'. Built in 1825 by Mr. Wright of West Cowes. [41]

Lord Liverpool - Owned by William Effingham Laurence in 1823. Purchased by T.W.M. Winder and George Williams in partnership. Alexander Livingstone master. The Lord Liverpool was coppered, copper fastened cutter established as a regular packet for passengers and goods between Sydney and Newcastle. In 1827 took the first load of coal from Lake Macquarie to Sydney


- To Newcastle with sundries in January 1830. [42]

Maid of the Mill
- 14 tons. Captain Mosman. To Newcastle September 1830. In February 1831 crew thrown into the surf near Nobbys after the vessel capsized [43]

Magnet Owned by Thomas Wilson in 1822 - "17 September 1822 - During the heavy gale that blew from the south- west quarter on Sunday evening, about 5 o'clock, an open boat was discovered making for this harbour, having apparently on board no more than two men. - In her endeavour to enter the inner passage, the violence of the surf upset her, and the two men perished. The boat has been recovered. On her stern she has a board, with ' Magnet, Thomas Wilson, No. 67' marked on it." [44]

Marcia - Owned by Kable, Lord and Co; 26 tons; 5 crew. In 1803 the schooner Marcia brought the first cargo of Fiji sandalwood to Sydney

Mars - "In 1823 Major Morisset, late Commandant of the Settlement of Newcastle, arrived in Sydney, on Monday afternoon, in the new Government sloop Mars, a very handsome vessel of 30 tons, and built at Newcastle" [45] Mars was wrecked at Port Stephens in 1826

Mary - Owned and built by John Redmond, Chief constable at Sydney. Loading coal for the Indian market in 1812


Nautilis - In May 1803 the brig Nautilus under Captain R. Simson arrived in Port Jackson from the Society Islands after an absence of about 13 months, bringing a cargo of pork from Otheite. She sailed for the Hunter River under the Chief Mate, James Black to freight in cedar and other building timber for Simeon Lord in August 1803 and returned to Sydney in October [46] [47]. In October 1803 the Notice of her intended departure from the colony was published in the Sydney Gazette, noting that she had been re-named l'Enfant d'Adele [48] It was reported in December 1805 that no word had been heard of the l'Enfant d'Adele and it was presumed that she had been wrecked at sea.

Nautilis - In 1816 ran aground at Newcastle. Said to be blocking the clearing channel.

Early in March 1816 the Nautilus was driven to the north and severely damaged in gales and Captain Edward Edwards, brought into Sydney, was said to be in a state of severe indisposition. The damaged vessel lay in Botany Bay by the next week. The following notice appeared soon afterwards....."Notice is hereby given that the very fine Coppered India Brig Nautilus, burthen exceeding 100 tons, built at Calcutta, and now upon her first voyage, having two Suits of Sails, three Cables, and well supplied with all necessary Stores, is to be disposed of by Private contract, should any acceptable Proposal be made previous to her intended time of departure, which will not exceed 21 days. - She sails fast, carries a great burthen, being built by an European Architect on the plan of a London Trader, equally consulting velocity and accommodation. If not Sold, she may be either chartered or freighted for Calcutta or elsewhere ; and particulars known of Captain Edwards." [49] This Map executed by Lieutenant Jeffries and dated March 1816 has the location of the wreck of the Nautilus (March wreck).

After being wrecked again in November 1816 the remains of the vessel were put up for Sale (for the Benefit of the Underwriters) - " the Hull of the Brig Nautilus, wrecked at Hunter's River, with her Masts and standing Rigging, two Cables, an iron stocked Anchor, a Number of Sails, and other Articles of the first Consequence to Ship Owners." [50]

Captain Edwards died by his own hand in November 1818d in November 1818

Nereid The Nereid, Captain Boyes sailed from Sydney to Hobart with a full cargo in March 1825 [51] She was wrecked 10 miles north of Newcastle in 1826 -

"The cutter Nereid, Captain Forbes, left this port on the 18th instant, upon a trading voyage, bound to Manilla, Singapore, and other places. Captain Forbes had occasion to put into Newcastle in his boat, leaving the vessel outside in charge of Mr. Brimer. The flood-tide setting in, prevented the boat leaving Newcastle till half past two in the morning, at which time the cutter was in safety, having fired a swivel off the lighthouse, and, then tacked to sea. Captain Forbes proceeded to join the vessel at three o'clock, and when he got out to sea, could perceive nothing of his fine little barque. After pulling about till six in the morning, he returned to the signal post, and remained in a state of anxiety till near noon, when one of the men came to the settlement with information that the vessel was stranded about ten miles to the Northward of Newcastle. Every assistance was promptly afforded by Francis Allman, the Commandant and Capt. Forbes proceeded to the wreck. The vessel was discovered to be stranded, the mast gone, and the decks stove in, and bilged. The mate reported that he stood off the lighthouse about three miles, and laid the vessel to with the wind N. E. expecting the Commander on board ; when it was ascertained, upon the approach of day-light, that the vessel was within the influence of the ground swell, and the land not perceptible, as the weather was quite hazy. Before the anchor could be let go, though all was ready, the breakers rolled in upon her, and quickly drove her on shore; the third sea stove in the decks. Very little, if any thing, was saved from the wreck. The vessel is insured ; but Captain Forbes, has by this second misfortune, lost somewhere about £500 of personal property[52]

Nereus - Barque. "The Nereus barque, in working up the harbour from Newcastle, on Tuesday evening, struck on the Sow and Pigs, where she remained fast all night, but by cutting away her main mast and lightening her, was floated off on Wednesday. The Nereus has had an unlucky trip of it, as she lost besides at Newcastle her anchor on leaving" [53]

Newcastle Built at Hunter River in 6 months. 3 1/2 ton schooner. Owned by Thomas Street in 1826. Fears she had foundered at sea after leaving Newcastle heavily laden

Norfolk - In November 1800 the Government owned vessel Norfolk was seized by escaping convicts at Hawkesbury and lost at Pirate Point, Newcastle

Northumberland - Owner Garnham Blaxcell. Missing for 5 weeks since sailing to the Hunter. [54]


Pandora - Trading craft between Sydney Newcastle and Paterson in 1830. Master David Brown. [55]

Perseverance Master Robert Murray. Ran aground at Newcastle in 1811. A seaman belonging to the ship was charged by Robert Murray with having on the night of 20 February 1811 refused to comply with orders to due his duty on watch after the grounding and was afterwards sentenced to 30 days hard labour in the gaol gang [56] In May 1812 she arrived in Sydney from Macquarie Island under Captain Holding with a cargo of 9000 skins and 65 tons of elephant oil [57]

Princess Charlotte - The brig Princess Charlotte, 60 tons, was built at Newcastle and launched in 1819. She transported cargo and convicts on the east coast and under master Edward Devine made the voyage to Newcastle with Commissioner John Bigge in January 1819. A list of thirteen crew members on this occasion can be found in the Colonial Secretary's Papers dated 1 February 1820. Lachlan Macquarie in his diary on 29 January 1820 reported the ship's delayed return to headquarters - "Late this Night H. M. Colonial Brig Princess Charlotte, having The Honble. Commissr. Bigge and Suite on board, and also the Govt. new Schooner Prince Regent, anchored in the Harbour from Newcastle but last from Port Stephens - whither they had been driven by contrary winds" [58]

In September 1820 Princess Charlotte departed Hobart bound for Sydney with crew, passengers, soldiers of the 48th regiment and cargo and was never heard from again [59]


Raven - Sloop owned by Thomas Reiby. Sailing to Hunter River in May 1803 - "On Wednesday morning arrived the Edwin and Raven from Newcastle. The latter freighted with 22 fine cedar logs and one ton of coals. She is only 11 tons burthen and made the passage down in fourteen hours with 24 persons to join the establishment besides her own people carried 17 casks of provisions besides water, baggage etc [60]

Recovery - Master Peter Hibbs. Wrecked at Port Stephens in July 1816. "The Recovery, Peter Hibbs owner, on her passage from Hawkesbury with grain about a month since, was blown out to sea, and at length wrecked near Port Stevens. The crew, two men accompanied by a woman, walked in to Newcastle, which is a distance of about fifty miles, keeping by the sea coast. On their distressing journey they unfortunately encountered a horde of natives, who stripped them of their clothing, and left them to the rigours of an inclement season. Their distresses were humanely relieved by the Commandant of Newcastle; and obtaining a passage for Sydney in another small vessel, the sloop Windsor, of about twenty-two tons burthen, belonging to Henry Major, were again cast away, this vessel having been unfortunately wrecked upon the Long Reef, from whence they walked in" [61]

Resource - In pursuit of escaped convicts near Newcastle in May 1806. In 1814 lost shortly after leaving Newcastle. Owned by Messrs Redmond and Cullen

Richmond - Owned by Morley and Watkins; 18 tons; 3 crew. Employed in the Hawkesbury and Newcastle trade [62]


Sally - Master James Brown. The sloop Sally, less than two years old, was advertised for sale in February 1810. She was 31 tons burthen; and one of the strongest and most useful vessels of her size ever built in the colony. Owner was Mr. Redmond, Chief Constable [63]. In March she was engaged in taking Lieut. John Purcell and a detachment of the 73rd regiment to relieve the detachment of the 102nd doing duty at Newcastle [64]. She returned to Sydney with William Lawson former Commandant at the settlement.

Sally was wrecked after springing a leak near Reid's Mistake in 1812 - "This morning accounts were received of the loss of the Sally colonial vessel, the property of Mr. John Redmond, which foundered at sea on the 16th of the last month, with 34 tons of coals and some cedar on board This vessel left Hunter's River the 11th ; but from the prevalence of south-west winds was blown upwards of 60 miles to the south eastward, the weather so exceedingly hazy as to be five days without sight of land. At 3 in the morning of the 16th a leak was discovered, which gained so powerfully as to render exertion ineffectual, and at 9 A. M. she went down. The people, 3 in number, saved themselves by means of their boat. They made the land the same evening at Reed's Mistake, entirely without provisions, and next day set out for Hunter's River, where they arrived the evening of the 17th. The Sally was a remarkably strong, fine vessel, and her loss is attributed to a shake in her stern post, occasioned by intense labour in a heavy sea." [65]

Sally - In November 1821 sold to government by Messrs Peat and Smith for £600 - "The sloop Sally, belonging to Government, arrived from Newcastle on Thursday morning, having left that settlement the preceding evening. On clearing the heads of Hunter's River she was spoken by His Majesty's colonial brig Elizabeth Henrietta, with His Excellency Governor Macquarie and Suite on board, all well. His Excellency reached Newcastle that evening; and his return to Head-quarters may be looked for the first favourable wind" [66]. Departed Sydney for Moreton Bay in March 1825 with provisions and stores, however returned to port in a leaky state, having called Newcastle on her way [67]. May have been wrecked off Cape Portland in 1826 [68].

Samuel 50 tons. Captain Greig. Taking coals to Sydney in September 1829 [69]

Snapper - In 1821 launched from His Majesty's dockyard, a fine strong built handsome vessel of 40 tons burthen, named the Snapper. Sydney Gazette 19 May 1821. She was dispatched soon afterwards for the first time to Newcastle, having on board 30 prisoners under sentence of transportation. Commanded by Stephen Milton, boatswain of His Majesty's Dockyard and was later reported to have made the shortest trip between Sydney and Newcastle - 38 hours [70]

Sophia - The Australian reported in December 1825 - "The Sophia, the property of Mr. Edward Cory, a respectable settler near Newcastle, is now ready for commencing operations as a constant trader between that port and Sydney. Her length is 42 feet; the breadth of the beam 10 feet 6 inches; and the depth of her hold 5 feet 10 inches." [71] In July 1826 she went ashore near Newcastle - "the schooner Sophia, belonging to Mr. E. Cory of Patterson's Plains went ashore about 4 miles north of Newcastle; there is no chance of saving her from being a total wreck; it is expected some art of the cargo will be saved. No lives were lost [72]

Speedwell - Schooner, 21 tons. Master William Johnston. Taking supplies and convicts to Newcastle in January 1810. In 1814 Speedwell was seized by convicts. Master William Patten in 1814.

St. Michael - The sloop St. Michael was built in Ireland in 1819 and owned by Captain Peter Dillon. In 1820 she was commissioned to bring convicts from Calcutta to New South Wales. In 1826 she arrived in Newcastle having lost her sails in a storm. Purchased by the owners of the Lord Liverpool.

Surprise - Owned by Kable and Co. In April 1805 lost in a heavy gale north of Coal Island after a dangerous and fatiguing passage, the three latter days of which she was out of water. Wrecked within two miles of where the Francis was lost [73]


Venus - Sloop - Brought samples of wheat from Newcastle to Sydney in 1805. Owned by J. MacArthur


William and Mary - Owned by William Miller. 12 tons; 3 crew. "In 1806 four prisoners that had imprudently absconded from the settlement at King's Town and had surrendered themselves to the people belonging to the William and Mary, were brought in from Broken Bay on Friday by the Francis. They had with eagerness embraced the first occasion of deliverance from the dangers that had threatened them, and from which they had but narrowly escaped. The day following that of their departure from the settlement, it was their fate to fall in with a body of the bush natives, who very cordially approached them, however afterwards article by article stripped them of their clothing, having previously demanded their whole remaining stock of provisions, as the price of their ransom from immediate death. They afterwards met a second group of natives, by whom though unassailed, yet they were also unassisted, and the hand of famine was already raised, when providentially noticed, and received on board the William and Mary" [74]

Windsor - Owned by Henry Major. Wrecked at the Long Reef after departing Newcastle for Sydney in 1816


[1] Sydney Monitor 12 November 1834
[2] The Australian 10 October 1827
[3] The Australian 6 February 1830
[4] HRA, Series I Vol. III p. 452
[5] The Australian 10 January 1827
[6] Sydney Gazette 9 January 1827
[7] The Australian 12 October 1827
[8] Sydney Gazette 1 August 1812
[9] Sydney Gazette 6 February 1823
[10] The Australian 9 January 1830
[11] The Australian 21 September 1827
[12] Sydney Gazette 27 May 1804
[13] The Australian 12 August 1826
[14]Sydney Gazette 12 January 1830
[15] The Australian 27 September 1826
[16] The Australian 13 June 1828
[17] Sydney Gazette 4 September 1808
[18] Sydney Gazette 14 October 1824
[19] Sydney Gazette 20 July 1816
[20] Sydney Gazette 20 July 1811
[21] The Australian 28 June 1826
[22] Sydney Gazette 15 June 1816
[23] Colonial Secretary's Papers. Series: NRS 937; Reels 6004-6016
[24] Sydney Gazette 10 August 1816
[25] Sydney Gazette 25 December 1825
[26] HR NSW Vol. V, King 1803, 1804, 1805. p. 741
[27] Sydney Gazette 20 December 1817
[28] Colonial Secretary's Papers, Series: NRS 897; Reel or Fiche Numbers: Reels 6041-6064, 6071-6072
[29] Newcastle Morning Herald 1 November 1911
[30] The Australian 3 September 1830
[31] Singleton Argus 3 May 1940
[32] Newcastle Morning Herald 13 March 1897
[33] Dungog Chronicle 25 November 1938
[34] The Sydney Monitor 1 February 1832
[35] Sydney Gazette 27 January 1824
[36] Sydney Gazette 11 May 1806
[37] The Australian 29 April 1826
[38] Sydney Gazette 6 July 1816
[39] Sydney Gazette 1 April 1804
[40] The Australian 25 March 1831
[41] Sydney Gazette 21 July 1835
[42] The Australian 9 January 1830
[43] Sydney Gazette 12 February 1831
[44] Sydney Gazette 20 September 1822
[45] Sydney Gazette 6 November 1823
[46] Sydney Gazette 7 August 1803
[47] Sydney Gazette 2 October 1803
[48] Sydney Gazette 2 October 1803
[49] Sydney Gazette 30 March 1816
[50] Sydney Gazette 14 December 1816
[51] Sydney Gazette 17 March 1825
[52] Sydney Gazette 30 June 1825
[53] The Australian 8 October 1830
[54] Sydney Gazette 20 July 1811
[55] Sydney Gazette 11 December 1830
[56] Sydney Gazette 13 April 1811
[57] Sydney Gazette 9 May 1812
[58] Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie Archive
[59] Hobart Town Gazette 25 November 1820
[60] Sydney Gazette 27 May 1803
[61] Sydney Gazette 6 July 1816
[62] HR NSW, Vol. VI, King and Bligh 1806, 1807, 1808. p. 128
[63] Sydney Gazette 24 February 1810
[64] Sydney Gazette 24 March 1810
[65] Sydney Gazette 1 August 1812
[66] Sydney Gazette 17 November 1821
[67] Sydney Gazette 17 March 1825
[68] The Monitor 11 August 1826
[69] Sydney Gazette 15 September 1829
[70] Sydney Gazette 26 May 1821
[71] The Australian 8 December 1825
[72] The Monitor 28 July 1826
[73] Sydney Gazette 28 April 1805
[74] Sydney Gazette 3 February 1805