Hunter History Highlights

1770 Captain Cook sailing 4-5 km off shore recorded "a small clump of an island lying close to shore" (Coal Island, later Nobbys)
pre-1797 The area now called the Hunter Region inhabited by the Awabakal, Worimi, Wonnarua, Geawegal, Birrpai and Darkinung Aboriginal tribes
1797 Lt John Shortland discovered the waterway he named Hunter River (often later called Coal River) and reported coal outcrops
1799 First coal exported from the Hunter
1800 William Reid discovered the entrance to Lake Macquarie mistaking it for Newcastle Heads
1801 Penal colony established, but abandoned within 12 months after convict mutiny;
First cedar cut for export from the Hunter
1804 Second attempt at penal colony successful, Lt Menzies in charge;
The name Newcastle first proclaimed officially by Governor King, but the town commonly called "King's Town" till approx 1830
1816 Work began on first Christ Church Cathedral;
Newcastle's first school established
1817 First hospital opened on site now occupied by Royal Newcastle Hospital North Wing
1818 Governor Macquarie ordered start of breakwater to join Nobbys Island to the shore to create the port
1819 Disastrous Hunter floods
1822 Majority of convicts held at Newcastle transferred to Port Macquarie;
Surveyor, Henry Dangar, commissioned to draw up plans for a township
1823 Newcastle declared a free town;
Inland road access to Wallis Plains (now Maitland) from Sydney achieved with the opening of Howes Track
1824 Australian Agricultural (A.A.) Company set up by charter in London and granted land at Port Stephens to breed sheep;
James Busby granted land near Branxton (Kirkton Estate) where wine grapes were cultivated by his brother-in-law, William Kelman
1825 Government appointed the Rev. Lancelot Threlkeld to establish a mission for aborigines on 10,000 acres at Lake Macquarie
1826 A.A. Company took over coal mining from the Government
1828 Great North Road completed
1829 Australian population muster
1831 Original "William the Fourth" launched at Clarence Town
1833 Australian population muster;
Proclamation of the town of Maitland and the village of Wollombi
1836 Australian population muster
1837 Scone proclaimed a town
1838 First Irish and Welsh miners, 140 in number, brought to Newcastle by the A.A. Company
1839 Hunter River Steam Navigation Company formed, Australia's first steamship company
1840 Town of Murrurundi gazetted;
Dungog township established
1841 Australian population muster;
Tocal Homestead built
1842 Caroline Chisholm began settlement program for female immigrants in the Hunter at Maitland;
Tweed factory established at Stockton by Dr James Mitchell (destroyed by fire in 1851)
1843 First edition of Maitland Mercury;
Newcastle District Council established
1845 First dredging of the Hunter River estuary
1846 Australian population muster;
Nobbys Breakwater completed;
Ferry service between Stockton and Newcastle begun
1847 Newcastle proclaimed a city at the same time as the Anglican Diocese and See of Newcastle was constituted
1848 Bishop Tyrrell appointed as the first Bishop of Newcastle
1850 First recorded strike by coal miners;
Copper Smelter at Murdering Gully, near Burwood Beach, built by James Mitchell;
Obelisk, replacing a windmill, erected on "the Hill" as a landmark for shipping
1851 Australian Census
1854 Formation of Hunter Region Coal Miners' Protective Association, one of the first unions in Australia
1855 Newcastle Telegraph, Newcastle's first newspaper published - survived till 1886
1857 Honeysuckle Point to East Maitland railway linked Newcastle and Maitland
1858 Newcastle Chronicle first published (forerunner of the Newcastle Herald, which began 1876 as Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners Advocate);
First dredging of Newcastle Harbour
1859 Newcastle declared a municipality, with James Hannell its first mayor;
John and Alexander Brown purchased the Minmi Mine
1861 Australian Census
1863 Rail link from Newcastle reached Singleton
1865 Pottery works established at Waratah by Turton and Plumridge;
Harbour Navigational Tower built on "the Hill" (in use till 1918)
1866 City of Newcastle Gas & Coke Company established;
SS Cawarra shipwrecked off Stockton beach - 60 lives lost
1868 Earthquake shakes Newcastle and Maitland
1871 Australian Census
1872 Tin smelter at Stockton established but survived only a few years;
Plans drawn by NSW Government Architect for present Newcastle Railway Station
1873 Coal miners’s hours reduced from 12 to 10.5 after a 6 week strike
1875 Newcastle's gas street lighting turned on;
A telegraph line from Sydney to Wallsend commenced operations;
The Newcastle School of Arts opened
1876 Newcastle Customs House constructed
1877 William Arnott moved his biscuit factory from Hunter Street to Melville (now Union) Street where it operated till 1942
1878 Three 80 ton guns installed on Newcastle Hill;
Railway line extended from Newcastle to Tamworth
1881 Australian Census
1882 Work commenced on construction of present Christ Church Cathedral
1885 Newcastle's status as a city confirmed by government proclamation
1886 Edgeworth David surveyed the main Greta Coal Seam;
G.H.Varley set up a coppersmiths business in Newcastle;
Newcastle Chamber of Commerce formed;
Fort Scratchley completed
1887 Governor of NSW opened steam tram line linking Newcastle and Wallsend/ Plattsburg;
Walka Water Works supplying water to Newcastle completed;
Obelisk Reservoir constructed
1888 Newcastle linked to Brisbane by rail
1889 Foundation stone laid for St Andrews Presbyterian Church, designed by Menkens;
Sydney-Newcastle rail line completed
1890 Lambton Park rotunda opened
1891 Australian Census
1892 Hunter District Water Supply and Sewerage Board, predecessor of Hunter Water Corporation, formed;
Opening of Newcastle Courthouse
1893 Wallsend District Hospital founded;
Devastating floods in the Hunter
1895 First Trades Hall constructed
1896 Newcastle Western Suburbs Hospital ( 1885) moved to Waratah;
Newcastle Technical College, Newcastle West, opened
1897 Sulphide Corporation, now Pasminco Metals-Sulphide, began operations
1898 Newcastle & Suburban Co-operative Store opened for business;
Dudley Mine disaster, 15 killed
1899 A. Goninan & Co. Ltd established
1901 First simultaneous Australian Census recorded population as 3,773,801
1902 First Newcastle Show held;
Christ Church Cathedral opened
1903 Official opening of present Newcastle Post Office
1904 The Adolph wrecked on the Oyster Bank, near Stockton
1906 Proclamation of the Shire of Lake Macquarie;
Newcastle High School on "the Hill" opened
1907 "Creep", possibly an earthquake, reported
1908 Village of Cessnock proclaimed;
Fire destroyed David Cohen &
Co. Warehouse in Newcastle
1911 Australian Census
1914 World War I (1914-1918) commenced;
Walsh Island Dockyard commenced operations (closed 1933);
Newcastle's first baby health clinic opened
1915 BHP steelworks began production in Newcastle;
Darks Ice &
Cold Storage floated as a limited company- (established approx.1898)
1916 Newcastle District Abattoir established under the control of Waratah Municipal Council;
Month long national coal strike resulted in 8-hour working day
1918 Commonwealth Steel Company founded
1920 Construction commenced on Zaara Street Power Station (power generated from 1922)
1921 Australian Census;
Mater Misericordiae Hospital established by the Sisters of Mercy;
John Lysaght (Aust) began production of galvanised iron
1923 Bellbird Mine explosion - 21 lives lost;
Electric trams introduced;
Chichester Dam brought into service (construction had commenced 1916)
1925 Earthquake shakes Newcastle
1926 Explosion at Redhead Colliery killed five miners
1929 Newcastle City Hall and Civic Theatre constructed
1931 Electric Lamp Manufacturers (Aust.) Pty Ltd began production
1933 Australian Census
1934 Buttweld established, later renamed Stewarts &
Lloyds, Tubemakers, and now BHP Structural and Pipeline Products
1937 Nesca House built
1939 World War II (1939-1945) caused huge development of heavy industry in Newcastle;
Control of Newcastle District Abattoir transferred to Greater Newcastle Council;
Tomago Sandbeds water supply system brought into service
1941 RAAF Base Williamtown established;
Singleton Army Barracks authorised by the Military Board
1942 Construction of the State Dockyard at the Dyke End;
Newcastle shelled by Japanese submarine
1944 Maitland became a municipality
1947 Newcastle's Sesquicentenary (150th) celebrations held;
Newcastle Smoke Abatement Panel formed - air pollution ("fall-out") improved by 76% between 1947 and 1961;
Australian Census
1948 Newcastle declared a Lord Mayoralty, Ald.H.D. Quinlan the first Lord Mayor;
Northumberland County Council established to prepare a town planning scheme - taken over by State Planning Authority in 1964;
Civil aviation services began from Williamtown
1949 Newcastle Teachers' College accepted its first students;
Maitland severely flooded;
Newcastle Children's Central Library opened for business in a converted army hut in Civic Park
1950 Electric trams eliminated from Newcastle city and suburbs
1951 Hunter River Islands Reclamation Scheme began (the joining of Dempsey, Walsh and Moscheto Islands) to become Kooragang Island;
Newcastle University College commenced classes on the Tighes Hill Technical College campus
1952 Courtaulds (Aust.) produced its first rayon fabrics at Tomago (closed 1975);
Newcastle Conservatorium of Music began operations;
Hexham Bridge opened
1953 Wangi Power Station commenced (Decommissioned 1986);
First female elected to Newcastle City Council, Ald. Mary Pepperall
1954 Australian Census;
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the Hunter
1955 Disastrous floods in Hunter
1956 Hunter Valley Research Foundation established
1957 Cessnock elevated to Greater Municipal status;
War Memorial Cultural Centre - Library, Art Gallery and Conservatorium - opened -(cost of construction -£270,000);
Shortland County Council formed (formerly Newcastle Electricity Supply Council Administration - NESCA);
Parking meters installed in Newcastle East
1958 Glenbawn Dam officially opened
1960 First publication of HVRF's "This is Newcastle", forerunner of "Newcastle and the Hunter Region”;
Grahamstown Dam brought into service
1961 Australian Census;
NSW Clean Air Act proclaimed;
Newcastle's first Mattara Festival
1962 NBN Television began transmission in the Hunter;
King Street Parking Station opened;
Contracts let for harbour dredging
1963 Commencement of roadworks, Sydney - Newcastle Freeway;
Vales Point Power Station commenced operations - officially opened the following year;
Von Bertouch Gallery opened
1964 Grahamstown Dam completed;
Weather station established at Hunter Valley Research Foundation - rainfall records for Bureau of Meteorology began
1965 Tourle Street Bridge over the Hunter River opened by Premier Renshaw;
First stage of Sydney Newcastle Expressway from Hawkesbury River to Mount White opened;
University of Newcastle gained autonomy - Shortland campus construction commenced
1966 Australian Census;
Decimal Currency introduced on 14 February;
Maritime Services Board began Newcastle Port development program;
Civic Fountain (Captain Cook Memorial) unveiled (cost - $70,000);
First industries established on Kooragang Island;
Vales Point Power Station, first stage completed
1967 Basin Coal Loader began operations
1969 Opening of Alcan Aluminium Smelter, Kurri Kurri
1970 First trial of Hunter Street Mall;
Munmorah Power Station commenced operations;
International Sports Centre opened by Queen Elizabeth II;
Muswellbrook incorporated as a municipality
1971 Australian Census;
Lostock Dam built;
Stockton Bridge replaced vehicular ferry service
1972 Newcastle Regional Produce Markets opened;
Public pressure forced Newcastle City Council to rescind its support for State Highway 23 to traverse Blackbutt Reserve
1974 Ald. Joy Cummings, Newcastle City Council, elected Australia's first female Lord Mayor;
The Sygna wrecked off Stockton;
Liddell Power Station completed
1975 Construction commenced on Newcastle Region Art Gallery building (opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1977);
NSW Government decision to deepen Newcastle Harbour to 15.25 m
1976 Australian Census;
Port Waratah Coal Services Coal Loader began exporting;
Hunter Valley Theatre Company's first public performance - John O'Donoghue's "
A Happy and Holy Occasion"
1977 Harbour reclamation program ($103 million) began;
Alcan's second potline developed;
Construction of Eraring Power Station commenced;
Lake Macquarie proclaimed a municipality
1978 Zaara Street Power Station demolished;
Floating Dock Muloobinba commissioned;
2NUR FM, Newcastle's first FM station, commenced broadcasting from The University of Newcastle
1979 Newcastle Cathedral tower completed at a cost of $700,000
1980 Bayswater Power Station commenced;
HVRF weather station revamped, including new anemometer;
Newcastle City Hall refurbished as a Function and Conference Centre;
Restored Borehill Colliery site became Ritchley Reserve, a picnic area in Blackbutt Reserve
1981 Australian Census;
Kern Land's offer to purchase abattoir site for Warabrook Estate accepted by Newcastle City Council;
Newcastle Cooperative Store closed its doors because of financial difficulties;
Hunter Valley Training Company established to train trade apprentices
1982 Port of Newcastle deepened to 15.2 m at a cost of $103 million;
Hunter Regional Environmental Plan No.1 gazetted by NSW Government;
Hunter District Water Board introduced user pays tariff scheme;
Eraring Power Station commenced operations;
Gas pipeline completed to Newcastle;
Fort Scratchley Military Museum opened
1983 Newcastle Abattoir finally closed;
Tomago Aluminium began production;
Construction of Glennies Creek Dam completed;
BHP restructuring began: (5 yr steel industry plan - $356 million upgrade and reduction of staff levels)
1984 Lake Macquarie proclaimed a city;
Electrification of Newcastle-Sydney rail link completed;
Hunter Wetlands Trust formed;
Kooragang Coal Loader shipped its first coal;
Alcan's third potline completed (production began in 1985);
Oncology Unit at Mater Misericordiae Hospital began
1985 Construction commenced on ocean outfall sewage disposal tunnel, Burwood Beach;
Newcastle Steelworks became Rod &
Bar Products Division of BHP international;
Bayswater Power Station Stage 1 completed (commissioned 1987);
Australian Taxation Office opened in Newcastle;
Hunter Orchestra gave its first public performance
1986 Australian Census;
Final stage of $100 million upgrade, Williamtown RAAF Base
1987 Closure of Newcastle State Dockyard;
Shortland Electricity moved from Nesca House, Newcastle to new headquarters at Wallsend;
Engineering firm Goninan commenced construction of Tangara trains;
Maitland Abattoir closed;
Glenbawn Dam enlarged
1988 Newcastle Harbour Foreshore Development opened by Queen Elizabeth II during Australia's Bicentenary Celebrations;
Nelson Bay Polyclinic began operations;
New Conservatorium Concert Hall opened;
Newcastle Knights entered the Australian Rugby League competition;
$62 million refurbishment of Garden City Shopping Centre;
Regional Museum, formerly Castlemaine Brewery (est. 1876), opened by Queen Elizabeth II
1989 Amalgamation of University of Newcastle, Hunter Institute of Higher Education and Conservatorium of Music;
Commissioning of Burwood Beach Ocean Outfall sewage tunnel;
Aurora Australis, Antarctic supply vessel launched at Carrington Slipways;
Extensions at Charlestown Square completed at a cost of $89 million;
Hunter Economic Development Council established;
Newcastle shaken by earthquake, 5.5 on the Richter Scale
1990 Carrington Slipways forced into liquidation and shipyard closed;
Merger of Port Waratah Coal Services Ltd with Kooragang Coal Loader Ltd;
Maitland Entertainment Complex opened for business
1991 Australian Census;
John Hunter Hospital received its first patients;
RAAF Williamtown Fighter World Museum opened to the public;
Planning for the Honeysuckle Renewal Project commenced
1992 Administration of Williamtown Civil Airport handed over to Newcastle/Port Stephens Councils;
Opening of Newcastle Workers Club, completely re-built after the earthquake;
International 6-day Enduro Motor Cycle races held at Cessnock;
Newcastle Entertainment Centre opened its doors;
Honeysuckle Development Corporation created to implement the Building Better Cities Program
1993 Fort Scratchley floodlit;
F3 Freeway, Palmers Road to Minmi &
Newcastle Link Road opened;
Re-opening of the refurbished Civic Theatre;
HVRF weather station fully computerised
1994 Port Waratah Coal Services announced $100 million plan to expand Kooragang Coal Terminal;
BHP announced $11 million expansion to its EMD Plant;
Newcastle City Council approved the first major housing development for the Honeysuckle Project ($7.4 million)
1995 ANZAAS Congress held in Newcastle;
Hunter Investment Centre opened by Premier Carr;
Alcan Australia changed its name to Capral Aluminium Limited;
Shortland Electricity changed its name to Orion Energy
1996 Australian Census;
HVRF 40th Anniversary celebrations;
Glendale Shopping Complex opened;
Merger of Orion Energy and Sydney Electricity, now EnergyAustralia;
Formation of Newcastle Port Corporation
1997 Newcastle celebrated its Bicentenary;
Christ Church Cathedral celebrated its 150th birthday and the completion of its post-earthquake renovations;
BHP announced its steelmaking activities in Newcastle would close in 1999;
Newcastle hosted 1,000 international delegates to the Pathways to Sustainability Conference;
Newcastle Knights rugby league team win the ARL Grand Final
1998 Singleton Solar Power Farm began operation;
$1.5 million Kooragang Wind Turbine installation began operation;
Honeysuckle Project’
s first commercial enterprise, a new Fishermen’
s Co-operative, opened
1999 Cessation of raw steelmaking at BHP Steelworks;
Refugees from Kosovo housed at Singleton Army Base;
Aberdeen Meatworks closed;
$3.8 million Glendale Athletics and Gymnastics Centre officially opened;
$300 million Redbank Power Station, Warkworth, officially launched
2000 Lake Macquarie Bicentenary;
Whittingham Abattoir commenced operations;
The 146 km water pipeline to Pokolbin began to flow;
Participation of Hunter communities in the Olympic and Paralympic Torch Relays;
Capral Aluminium purchased by German company VAW, now called VAW Kurri Kurri Pty Ltd
2001 Australian Census;
8th Australian Masters Games held in the Hunter - competitors aged 30 and over;
Newcastle Knights rugby league team wins the ARL Grand Final for the second time;
The Mater Institute for Breast Cancer and Melanoma opened;
Terrorist Attacks in the USA on 11 September shake the world;
Stockton Bight officially declared a 1,905 ha national park;
BHP donates 500 ha of coastal land at Belmont to the State Government for retention as an environmental reserve;
$2.7 million Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery opened at Booragul Major expansions to Newcastle Airport’
s apron and terminal become operational
2002 $210 million upgrade of Tomago Aluminium commenced, with construction expected to be completed within two years;
VAW Kurri Kurri is acquired by Norwegian company Norsk Hydro and the plant renamed Hydro Aluminium Kurri Kurri - $100 million, three year plant upgrade commenced;
The Fernleigh Track opened - a cycleway between Adamstown and Belmont constructed on the old Belmont rail line, originally built in the 1880s to carry coal from mines at Belmont, Whitebridge, Dudley and Redhead to the BHP steelworks;
NSW Police Infringement Processing Bureau relocated from Parramatta to Maitland creating 150 jobs;
$4.5 million Kurri Kurri Aquatic Centre opened;
$125 million expansion of the Green Hills Shopping Centre East Maitland completed;
Construction of the Pacific Highway Karuah Bypass commenced
2003 Pacific Highway Charlestown Bypass opened to traffic;
Greg Norman’s Vintage Golf Course and Tourist Resort opened;
$45 million Crowne Plaza Hotel on Newcastle Harbour foreshore completed;
NSW Department of Mineral Resources announces the transfer of its Headquarters to Maitland, and Mine Safety Technology Centre to Thornton;
CSIRO Energy Centre opened, Steel River Eco-Industrial Park Newcastle


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