The presence of coal was the first of the natural resources that caught the eye of the European visitors to the region. Newcastle was officially discovered by Lieutenant John Shortland in 1797, but there is evidence that in 1791 a group of convicts who had escaped had "there found a quantity of fine burng (sic) coal", thus being, arguably, the first Europeans to discover coal in Australia. (see the 1791 account of James Martin above). In 1796 there were fishermen collecting coal pieces in the area and a number of individuals began selling it in Sydney. The interest generated within government circles in Sydney inspired Governor King to send an exploration party to the Hunter in June 1801 led by Lieutenant Grant and Lieutenant-Colonel Paterson to report on "where the most eligible place would be to form a settlement, both with respect to procuring coals and for agricultural purposes". Their report informed the Governor of the alluvial flats as being "a very fit situation for forming a settlement for the cultivation of grain or grazing". They also reported on the presence of oyster shells along the beaches as well as good quality timber along the river. A small party were left behind to mine the coal at the present site of Newcastle, but due to the misconduct of a commanding officer the small settlement that had been working the seams was abandoned in 1802.
Please read Lieutenant James Grant's account of his visit to Hunter's River and Ash Island with some general observations of the Aboriginal people (PDF) from The narrative of a voyage of discovery performed in his majesty's vessel the Lady Nelson of sixty tons burthen, with sliding keels; in the years 1800, 1801, and 1802, to New South Wales [pp.149 - 172] The engraved plates are below.
Please note that (according to T.M. Perry Australia's First Frontier: The Spread of Settlement in New South Wales 1788 - 1829 Melbourne University Press 1963 p.56 note 8) they "regarded the Williams as the main stream and refer to it as the Hunter in their reports. The Hunter upstream from its confluence with the Williams they named the Paterson. Although the confluence of the (present) Paterson and Hunter was shown on their map, they did not explore the Paterson."
|The Lady Nelson and Frances Schooner entering Hunters or Coal River.|
|Where the Lady Nelson first Anchored in Hunters or Coal River|
|Benelong: a Native of New Holland|
|Pimbloy: Native of New Holland in A Canoe of That Country.|
Grant, James, 1772-1833. The narrative of a voyage of discovery, performed in His Majesty's vessel the Lady Nelson, of sixty tons burthen, with sliding keels, in the years 1800, 1801 and 1802, to New South Wales. To which is prefixed, An account of the origin of sliding keels .. London : Printed by C. Roworth … for T. Egerton …, 1803.
AUCH - RB/COLL STACK/FOYER Q994.02/29 B
Grant, James, 1772-1833. The narrative of a voyage of discovery, performed in His Majesty's vessel The Lady Nelson, of sixty tons burthen, with sliding keels, in the years 1800, 1801, and 1802, to New South Wales. [Adelaide : Libraries Board of South Australia, 1973] Facsimile ed. Auch - Quarto Book Q994.402 GRAN
Professor Ross Deamer adds:
"In 1801 Gov. Hunter realised the need for the exploration of the Hunter River and ordered an expedition thence under the command of Col. William Paterson.
The expedition landed  on 14th June, 1801, at what Paterson was to call Coal Island, but now known as Nobby's Island.
Until June 28th the party was variously engaged in collecting coals, surveying the harbour and entrance thereto and exploring and mapping the channels and islands in the lower reaches up as far as and including Ash Island.
Paterson formed the opinion that the Government would derive advantages by forming a settlement in the area so that organised mining operations may be commenced. He also recommended the area for the manufacture of salt, lime from burning the abundance of oyster shells, the salting of fish which were plentiful and for the despasturing of cattle.
On 29th June, a group proceeded up the river to Green Hills (now Raymond Terrace) where they spent the night and then instead of continuing up what appears from a boat to be the main stream, the Williams, then known as the Hunter, they entered the Paterson River (now the Hunter), which, Col. Paterson states had previously been known as the Cedar Arm. This would indicate that some adventurous souls had previously been along it for what was to be termed, the "red gold".
Paterson was to work up the river to what is now known as Mt Hudson, but was called by him Mt Anne, in honour of the Governor's wife. From the description of the journey the furtherest point reached by the expedition was some two miles beyond the "Dalwood Homestead", or the northeast corner of what was to be Maziere's grant.
The Report, submitted by Paterson upon his return, also stressed that the river flats beyond Green Hills were extremely suitable for agriculture and were well wooded with cedar, Ash and Box timbers of which there was a dearth in the known area of the colony.
Transcribed from: Deamer, Ross M Houses erected on original land grants in the Lower Hunter, Paterson and Williams River Valleys between 1800-1850 [manuscript] / Ross M. Deamer. University of Newcastle 1971 Auchmuty - Thesis THESIS 309 [pp.3-5]
Please click below for scanned excerpts from the Historical Records of New South Wales, Volume 4 Edited by F.M. Bladen Sydney 1896:
Barrallier, Francis, 1773-1853. Letter received by Banks from Charles Francis Greville, April 1802 (Series 23.25) Includes Greville's translation of a letter received by Greville from Francis Barrallier titled `Extract from Ensign Barralliers Letter to Mr Greville', ca April 1802. Contains a description of the entrance to Hunters River and Patersons River, with descriptions of the Natives seen there. [Sir Joseph Banks' Papers ] State Library of New South Wales.
In relation to the escaped convicts please read excerpts from Collins' account in the first edition 1798 V.1 pp.484 - 485 and 1802 V.2 pp. 47-48 as a PDF file .
Collins, David, 1756-1810. An account of the English colony in New South Wales : with remarks on the dispositions, customs, manners, &c. of the native inhabitants of that country / by David Collins. To which are added, some particulars of New Zealand, compiled, by permission from the mss. of Lieutenant-Governor King. London : Printed for T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davies, 1798 AUCH - RB/COLL STACK/FOYE Q994.02/14
(1st edition: unfortunately we possess Vol 1 only. We do have complete sets of the facsimile editions though. see V.1 p. 484, V.2 p.48)
Collins, David, 1756-1810. An account of the English colony in New South Wales from its first settlement in January 1788 to August 1801 : with remarks on the dispositions, customs, manners &c. of the native inhabitants of that country : to which are added some particulars of New Zealand, compiled … from the Mss. of Lieutenant-Governor King, and an account of a voyage performed by Captain Flinders and Mr. Bass … abstracted from the journal of Mr. Bass. London : Printed by A. Strahan … for T. Cadell and W. Davies …, 1804 2nd ed [see pp. 302-305?] AUCH - RB/COLL STACK/FOYE Q994.02/27
1805, May 5th Sydney Gazette, Account given by John Platt, a coal miner of the coal mines at Newcastle. [Original and Transcription]
Macquarie University have created transcriptions of the Journals of Elizabeth and Lachlan Macquarie through the magnificent project entitled Journeys in Time 1809 - 1822.
Please click here for their Extract from: Journal to and from Van Diemen's/ Land to Sydney in N.S. Wales. which records the account of a voyage made by Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie in the period 26 December 1811- 6 January 1812 on board the Lady Nelson from Van Diemen's Land to Port Stephens and Newcastle; the details of the Tour of Inspection; and the return journey to Sydney.
Mann, D. D. (David Dickenson). The present picture of New South Wales. London : Sold by John Booth, 1811. AUCH - RB/COLL AUROUSS Q994.4/40
Mann, D. D. (David Dickenson). The present picture of New South Wales, 1811 / by D.D. Mann with an introduction by Brian Fletcher. Sydney : John Ferguson in association with Royal Australian Historical Society, 1979. Auch - Quarto Book Q994.4/40 B and Auch - Quarto Book Q994.4/40 C and Open Stack - BLUE Q994.402/M2.
Click for The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Present Picture of New South Wales (1811), by David Dickinson Mann. Produced by Col Choat.
Digital Images of Sophia Campbell's paintings of Newcastle are available from the National Library of Australia's Pictures Catalogue.
Macquarie University have created transcriptions of the Journals of Elizabeth and Lachlan Macquarie through the magnificent project entitled Journeys in Time 1809 - 1822 .
Please click here for transcription of Lachlan Macquarie: Journal to and from Newcastle. 27 July 1818 - 9 August 1818 which records the account of the voyage to Newcastle on board the brig Elizabeth Henrietta to determine the resources and state of the settlement, and to explore the three branches of the Hunter River. The commandant at Newcastle was Captain James Wallis (46th Regiment).
The Strathallan collector's chest, which includes numerous views of Newcastle is at:
There are 38 thumbnails here - 10 display on the first page. If you click on a thumbnail, you get a larger image - and yet an even bigger one if you click on the higher quality image at the top right. The chestdates from around mid- to late-1818, and is probably painted by Joseph Lycett. The record is located here:
Slater, John, fl. 1817-1818 A description of Sydney, Parramatta, Newcastle, &c. settlements in New South Wales, with some account of the manners and employment of the convicts in a letter from John Slater, to his wife in Nottingham, published for the benefit of his wife and four children. Canberra : National Library of Australia, c1988
AUCH - RB/COLL Pam365.3409944/1.Please read our online version of John Slater's Letter courtesy of the National Library of Australia.
Slater, John, fl. 1817-1818 John Slater's letter / by Douglas H. Pike[1952?]
AUCH - RB/COLL GRAY 919.4402/2
Wentworth, W. C. (William Charles), 1790-1872. A statistical, historical, and political description of the colony of New South Wales and its dependent settlements in Van Diemen's Land : with a particular enumeration of the advantages which these colonies offer for emigration, and their superiority in many respects over those possessed by the United States of America / by W.C. Wentworth. London : Printed for G. and W.B. Whittaker, 1819. [Shelf Location: AUCH - RB/COLL994.4/13and AUCH - RB/COLL ELLIS994.4/13 B.
Please read Wentworth's account (PDF) of Coal River (pp. 54 - 60) and some supplementary remarks upon the administration of Governor Bligh during the period.
Lycett, Joseph, ca. 1775-1828. Views in Australia or New South Wales & Van Diemen's Land delineated, in fifty views, with descriptive letter prefs., by J. Lycett. London, J. Souter, 1824 [-1825]. Melbourne, Thomas Nelson (Australia) 1971] Shelf Location: AUCH - RB/COLL F919.44042 LYCE 1971
Lycett, Joseph, ca. 1775-1828. The Lycett album : drawings of Aborigines and Australian scenery / with commentary by Jeanette Hoorn. Canberra : National Library of Australia, 1990. Shelf Location: Huxley-Book 741.994 LYCE-1 LYCE 1990
Turner, John. Joseph Lycett : Governor Macquarie's convict artist. Newcastle, N.S.W. : Hunter History Publications, 1997. Shelf Location: Auch - Quarto Book Q759.994 LYCE-2 TURN, AUCH - RB/COLL STAFFQ759.994 LYCE-2 TURNc.2 and Central Coast - Quarto Book Q759.994 LYCE-2 TURNc.3
Lycett landscapes of Hunter River estuary: on panels of the Dixson Galleries Collector’s chest in the State Library. [There is also a second collectors chest with similar landscapes c 1820, is held privately in Sydney]