Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Journey to the Hunter River in 1829

Before the Days of Steam

A correspondent toThe Australian in 1829 describes his voyage from Sydney to Newcastle before the arrival of Steamers to the Hunter. After alighting from the cutter Lord Liverpool at Newcastle he overlanded to Wallis Plains......

Having been sometime back suffering under a desperate attack of the chagrins (Anglice Blue Devils) and hearing that travelling was an infallible cure for them, I came suddenly to a determination of quitting for a time Sydney, and all the rueful looking, money hunting sharks with which it now abounds. Just as I was in the act of debating whither I should bend my steps, there comes a letter from an old friend who had been some years a settler in the Garden of New South Wales or Hunter's river, containing, amongst other matter, a pressing invitation to spend a month or so with him, and partake of the pleasures a country life affords - such for instance as shooting, kangarooing, riding etc etc.

How very apropos, said, I.

Here John clean my double barrelled gun and put all the shooting tackle in the case with it, and when you have done that, go down to the Newcastle Packet Office and secure me a birth in the Lord Liverpool to sail this after noon, whilst I put some clothes, etc in my portmanteau. John stared as if he thought I was deranged, but returned to execute my orders without saving a word.

After going through all the preparations usual on such occasions, and looking round twenty times to see that I had forgotten nothing, I went most heroically on board the fine little cutter the Lady Liverpool. (Lord Liverpool).

I was very fortunate in having secured a berth for she was crammed with passengers, and (I) understand she generally is, and we did not arrive there till late next evening, as the winds were very light and variable.

The accommodations in the vessel are excellent; we lived like fighting cocks, and the little Captain (Alexander Livingstone) is deservedly a favourite with every body; I awake in the harbour and then sprung on deck; and can scarcely conceive a finer situation for a town than Newcastle.

On the right, as you go up the main street, is an extensive flat about a mile in length and a quarter of mile broad from the water’s edge; where, doubtless some noble streets will hereafter be traced out.

Newcastle is celebrated for its extreme healthiness, and for having an abundant supply of the best water in the colony.

I was overjoyed to get again on terra firma, and immediately paid a visit to my friend B who received me in the kindest manner imaginable. Here I enjoyed a luxury that none but those who have occasionally been deprived of can duly appreciate; it appeared to me at this moment the very summum bonum of human felicity, and this gentle reader, was no less than a 'comfortable lavation and a shave!' heavens, with what intensity I stropped my razors, and what a look of insulting ferocity I cast upon my beard in the looking glass! it will never be obliterated from my memory.

In three quarters of an hour I came forth an altered man (having 'polished myself in purple and fine linen'), and proceeded to 'fare sumptuously' on an excellent breakfast of fried schnappers, and what I never got in Sydney, new laid eggs. Having forwarded my luggage on to Wallis Plains by boat, I spent the remainder of the morning in going about the town and exploring some of the beautiful walks, in the evening; and on returning had an excellent dinner and passed a very pleasant evening with my friend B. who next morning procured me a horse to enable me to proceed up the country.

I went from Newcastle to Wallis Plains in about four hours, along an excellent road (excepting a villainous platform near Iron Bark Bridge) occasionally diversified with a view of the Hunter and of farms under cultivation.

About half a mile on this side the bridge at Wallis Plains is a handsome and extensive brick building erected, I am informed, by the proprietor of Luskintyre (who also put up that very useful bridge above mentioned) and intended for an inn.

I think the large building erected by him, should be purchased by government, as a barrack for the Mounted Police, for which it is admirably adapted.

I took up my quarters for the night at the Rose (Inn) at Wallis' Plains, and shall inform you further of my peregrination in future letter

Yours Etc. H.
The Australian 26 June 1829

Notes and Links

Journey to the Hunter by Steamer 1831

Alexander Livingstone

Newcastle in 1829

Newcastle in 1828

Maitland History (Wallis Plains)