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Reminiscences of Watt Street


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Newcastle Historian Wilfred Goold described Watt Street -

Watt Street was known as High Street or George Street (after King George) prior to 1823. It is said that the first track was formed by convicts carrying barrows of coal from the coal mine down to the wharf at the foot of the street. Lieutenant Menzies informed Governor King in November 1804 that 'A well built stone wharf is nearly completed - length, one hundred and eighty six feet; breadth, thirteen feet, depth of water at high water, eight feet two inches, and at low water, two feet.

Later, this wharf at the foot of Watt Street grew eastward as moored ships dumped ballast over the side. In
James Wallis' time (c. 1818) the wharf was enlarged and by 1846 square cut stones sent from Sydney were used to form a more solid structure. The stones were laid by convicts working under Major MacPherson.[1]

In 1908 the buildings on Allotments 3 and 4 in Watt Street were demolished in order to extend Hunter Street through to the beach.

Watt Street Newcastle
Map of Newcastle showing Allotments in Watt Street in 1828. Digital Map Collections - National Library of Australia (4) Click to enlarge

The Newcastle Morning Herald published an early history of Watt Street in December 1908.......

'The two buildings which have just been demolished in Watt-street to clear the way for the opening up of Hunter-street to the beach are among the oldest in Newcastle.
At the time of their erection in the early fifties, Watt-street was the main thoroughfare of the city, and easily out rivalled Hunter-street in importance. All vessels arrived at the foot of the street, and passengers reached the shore by means of a plank.

As far as can be ascertained, the building, until recently occupied by Mr. H. H. Lang, was built in 1852 by a
Mr. John Baker, of Dempsey Island, who opened it as a fruit shop.- Subsequently it was put to other uses, and at one time is said to have been occupied as pay office for the A. A. Co., (Australian Agricultural Company) but this cannot be verified.

The other building pulled down was occupied in the fifties by Mr. George McKensey (McKenzie) as a bakery, and it was here that
Mr. John Limeburner, the present licensee of the Centennial Hotel acquired his taste for sweets, he having been in Mr. McKensey's employ for a considerable time.

At the rear of this building the late
Mr. Harry Rouse was born, and he took a delight almost up to the time of his death in Inviting his old friends, to the anniversary of each birthday, to assemble at the spot where be first saw the light. Between Watt street and the beach in those days there were numerous sand hills, many of them -rising to a height of 40ft and 50ft. In order to prevent the sand finding its way into the town, a substantial brick wall was built, extending from Scott-street to King-street, and Mr. C. H. Hannell, who remembers the wall well, says it is still there, though unseen. The wall had not long been erected before it was completely covered with sand.

The oldest building in the street still stands, but it is hidden from view by the council chambers. It was built In 1818, and was occupied by the officer in charge of the Commissariat. (
Select here to see John Armstrong's 1830 Map). Afterwards it did duty as a post-office, and in 1872 it was handed over to the borough council, being used as a municipal chambers until the new council chambers were erected.

The Commandant's residence, named the Government House, was situated in the line of Watt street, about 100 yards from the corner of the barrack wall in Church-street. This building was destroyed by fire in 1820. Upon the destruction of his residence
Major Morisset, the commandant, occupied the Government offices at the top of Watt-street, which were subsequently converted into a Presbyterian manse. The military barracks were higher up the street, the site of the present asylum grounds. These were the principal buildings at the top end of the street.

stockade stood on the beach near where the Custom-house now stands, and was destroyed by fire in 1851. Prior to its destruction portion of the building was used as a post-office, Mr. George Tully being the first postmaster. The shipping' office, a small room 8ft by 10ft, was also in this building, and Mr. Hannell, the shipping master, experienced much difficulty in conducting the business.'

'The Steam Packet Hotel, kept by Mr. H. Williams, was in Scott-street, just off Watt street.

The site of the Great Northern Hotel was occupied by Wise and Smith, grocers, etc. These gentlemen were on their way to, the Port Curtis rush in Queensland, but upon reaching Newcastle they ascertained that very little gold was being obtained, and they decided to remain here. Mr. D. Miller was employed by the firm, and a prosperous business was done.

The Bank of New South Wales had premises at the rear of the present building. This dwelling was formerly the residence of
Mr. John Bingle, and stood back from the road, fronted by a pretty garden, with date palms growing in front of the house.

Then came an archway, with the Albion Hotel adjoining; This hotel was kept by a
Mr. Magney, who ran coaches between Newcastle and Maitland. Dalby's boot shop was the next building, and on the other corner was a dwelling, the site of the Club House Hotel.

A butcher's shop stood, where the Metropolitan Hotel at present stands, the building being erected by
Mr. Simon Kemp. The land was vacant between the butchery and the building which subsequently became a Post office. '

'On the opposite corner, in Hunter-street, where the A.J.S. Bank now stands, was the
Commercial Hotel, kept by Mr. (Joseph) Croft, father of Mr. J. Croft, late colliery manager for the Newcastle Coal Mining Company. A theatre adjoined the hotel, and continuing along Watt-street was, a draper's shop, kept by Mr. Solomon, and Mr. White's butcher's shop.

Queen Victoria Hotel, kept by Mrs. McGreavy, was a popular hostelry, and almost at the rear of the hotel was a store, which served as the Roman Catholic Church until the land was sold in 1852.

Early next year it is expected that Hunter Street will be extended at the beach. The demolition of the two buildings previously referred to is the first step towards the extension, and it now rests with the City Council to fulfil the contract entered into with Mr. H. H. Lang, the representative of the
Croasdill Estate.

The cost of putting the street through is estimated at £700, and it is expected that that sum will be included in the estimates for 1909. Once the money in available, there should be no delay, as the congested state of Hunter-street on Saturday nights warrants something being done to relieve the traffic, and that relief can only be obtained by extending the main street to the beach
'. ..........Newcastle Morning Herald - 25 December 1908

Allotments in Watt Street Newcastle

Allotment 2

Lot 2 was promised to Bingle and Dillon in 1823, and sold to merchants Philip Cavenagh and John Robson in 1828. When they sold the Allotment that same year to Frederick Boucher of Newcastle there was already a dwelling house, warehouse and other buildings erected on the site. Boucher conveyed it to James Brindley and Rebecca Bettington in 1830 and in 1834 Bettington sold to James Reid of Newcastle. - (Cadell, F.A., A Survey of Newcastle, Royal Australian Historical Society, 1936 p.387 and SR NSW Archive Reel: 1583; Series: 12992; Description: Registers of Memorials for Land 1825-1842)

Claim for Deed of Grant by James Reid - Allotment 2, bounded w by 1 chain on the east side of Watt Street, bearing n7 degrees n by 2 chain and 25 1 of the south boundary line of Mr. Scott's purchased lot unnumbered. etc. This lot was located by Bingle and Dillon; the former is now absent from the Colony, Claimant James Reid alleges he purchased from Mr Bettington. - Sydney Monitor 30 April 1838

Allotment 4

Allotment 4 had been promised to David Maziere in May 1823 and then purchased by John Thomas Campbell.[3] It was advertised for sale in 1832 and said to have been recently occupied by Mr. Croft.[2] This Allotment was sold to William Croasdill in 1841. ( July in 1841- Pursuant to the instructions received from Rev. Campbell of Ireland as heir at law to the late John Thomas Campbell, various estates to be sold including Allotment No. 4 Watt Street Newcastle. -Sydney Gazette 28 July 1832)

Allotment 6

William Croasdill

Allotment 8

James Reid

Allotment 10 - 36 perches.

1823 - November - Frederick Goulburn to James Connolly - The Survey of Newcastle being complete there exists no objections to your obtaining on lease the Allotment No. 10 George Street Newcastle which you solicit. There is a prior applicant for No. 10 Allotment though it is at present reserved to the Crown, being partly occupied by a Gaol building viz. the penitentiary or barrack. - ( James Connolly was overseer of stone masons at Newcastle in 1819 and was the principal overseer on the construction of Macquarie Pier.)

1830 - Reilly v. 1830 - Reilly v. Connelly. On Saturday 14th August on the defendants premises in Watt Street, Newcastle, the Sheriff will cause to be sold, all Defendant's Household Furniture and one entire Bay Horse; after which unless sufficient be realised to satisfy these Executions will be sold all Defendant's Right, Title, Interest and Estate in and to the Premises above named, consisting of a dwelling house and out houses. -Sydney Gazette 5 August 1830

1831 - March - Winder v. Phelp. On Monday 28th instant on the premises No. 10 Watt Street, Newcastle, the Sheriff will cause to be sold all defendant's household furniture, and stock in trade and unless sufficient be realized to satisfy the Execution, will be sold all the Right, Title Interest, and Estate of Defendant, in and to all that Allotment Known as No. 10 Watt Street. - Sydney Gazette 19 March 1831

1835 - February - Thirty six perches, town of Newcastle, parish of Newcastle, Allotment No. 10, bounded on the west by 1 chain of east side of Watt Street, bearing north 7 degrees east; on the north by the south boundary line of Allotment No. ? bearing east 7 degrees south 225 links; on the east by the west boundary line of Allotment No. 1, bearing south 7 degrees west 1 chain; and on south by the north boundary line of Thomas Horton James's Allotment No. 12, bearing west 7 degrees north 225 links to Watt Street,. Applied for by J.B. Hewson and Samuel Langham. -Sydney Gazette 7 February 1835

1841 - April - Claim for Deed of Grant. 36 perches. The title to this land commences with the permissive occupancies granted when Newcastle was a penal settlement. In June 1815 it was registered for Bridget Moore, who sold to Samuel Levy who sold to James Connolly. The Sheriff sold to Hillier from whom it passed to Phelps and Kemp and so to
James Reid (claimant) - Government Gazette 9 April 1841

Allotment 11

Allotment 11  opposite Hospital Lane

On 15th November 1826 Governor Darling issued an order for a town Allotment at Newcastle in favour of Alexander Phelps. Alexander Phelps arrived as a prisoner on the Globe in 1819. He became a publican and baker at Newcastle and was recorded as such in the 1828 Census. He resided there in 1828 with his wife Sophia and children Louisa, Alexander jun., and John Francis. In 1830 Phelps advertised apartments that he had fitted up on his premises fronting Pacific Street for those interested in sea bathing. The premises were said to be contiguous to the beach and could be let for any length of time. The Allotment had a 66ft front to Pacific and 100 metres depth.

Alexander Phelps sold Allotment 11 to Thomas Barker who sold it to Alexander Walker Scott and in 1837 Scott made a claim for the Deed of Grant.....Sydney Gazette 2 December 1837

Allotment 12

1827 - Promised by General Sir Ralph Darling to Mr. Thomas Horton James in 1827 and at his request advertised for William Hibblewhite...

1837 -  January - William Hibblewhite, 36 perches, Town of Newcastle Allotment No. 12; bounded on the west by one chain of the east side of Watt Street, bearing south 7 degrees west; on the south by a line dividing it from Allotments Nos. 15 and 14, bearing east 7 degrees south 2 chains and 25 links; on the east by a line dividing it from Allotment no. 11, bearing north 7 degrees east 1 chain; and on the north by a line dividing it from Allotment No. 10 bearing west 7 degrees north 2 chains and 25 links to Watt Street. -Sydney Monitor 13 January 1837

1841 November - Martin Richardson, 36 perches, Allotment 12; bounded on the west by one chain of the east side of Watt Street, bearing south seven degrees west; on the south by a line dividing it from Allotment No. 15 and 14 bearing east seven degrees south two chains and twenty five links; on the east by a line dividing it from Allotment No. 11 bearing north seven degrees east one chain; and on the north by a line dividing it from Allotment No. 10, bearing west seven degrees, north two chains and twenty five links to Watt Street. promised by Sir Ralph Darling in 1827 to Thomas Horton James at whose desire the deeds were advertised William Hebblewhite on 21 June 1841who requests them to issue in favour of Richardson.

Allotment 15

This Allotment was granted to Alexander McLeod in 1823.

1831 - June - Winder v. McLeo1831 - June - Winder v. McLeod - On Thursday 30th June on the premises the Sheriff will cause to be sold all the Right, Title, Interest and Estate of Defendant in and to all that Allotment of land known as No. 15 situated at the corner of Watt Street and King Street in the Town of Newcastle -Sydney Gazette 11 June 1831

Allotment 18

John Smith

Allotment 20

John Smith

Allotment 22

J.R. Bingle

Allotment 27

Municipal Council Buildings

Allotment 28

Vicars Jacob

Allotment 28 (Pacific Street) - V.G. Jacobs,, lot 23 bounded w by 1 ch of the E side of Watt Street bearing n 7 degrees; n by a line dividing it from lots 27 and 26 bearing e 7 degrees s 2 ch 25 l; e by 1 ch w side of a lane bearing s 7 degrees w; and s by a line dividing it from lot 29 bearing w 7 deg n 2 ch 25 l to Watt Street. This lot was located on an order by Sir T. Brisbane dated 31 October 1823 in favour of V. Jacob deceased who it is alleged died intestate. Claimant is his eldest son. -The Monitor 30 April 1838

Allotment 29
Erected in 1841 the historic house at the corner of Church and Watt Street, Newcastle was the home of the early governors of the settlement is in the hands of the demolishers who began their work yesterday. The old home is on the eastern corner of Church and Watt Streets known as Allotment 29 on the plan of the town of Newcastle, and has unusual historic features, in which considerable interest has been aroused owing to the changes that are shortly to take place there.

Mr. F.A. Cadell of the firm of Lang, Wood and co Pty Ltd., who has many of the early documents in his possession finds on a search that the land was granted to James Reid on February 17 1841, in order to promote the establishment of towns in the colony, although it had been promised to him by Governor Brisbane on July 12 1823, at a quit rental of 1/13/4 for a certain term, and thereafter 16/8 for ever.

Reid, said Mr. Cadell who was in the English Army prior to his arrival in the colony emigrated here in 1823. After being granted 2000 acres in the Maitland district the area is still known as Rosebrook Estate, but now subdivided - he applied for a second grant, and in making his application he stated that although he had served in His Majesty's Army for 10 years the only boon he had ever received was this town Allotment. His claim for a second grant was disallowed, but he acquired a considerable estate by purchase. Reid died at Brussels on December 4 1878 and by his will devised this Allotment to his son in law Alexander Ogilvie Grant, and his daughter Adelaide Louisa Rooke wife of Thomas Slater Rooke. On December 1 1886 Grant sold his share of the property to James MacCartney Rooke for 1027 pounds. Rooke was a well known ship chandler at that time. His business premises were in Scott street, where those of Messrs James Sandy and co Ltd. are.

The sale of this half share, said Mr. Cadell gives some idea of the value at that time of the old home. J.M. Rooke seems to have mortgaged his interest to the Newcastle Permanent Investment and Building Society in 1889. Later, the company took over the property. A slice of the land at the corner of Church Street and Reid lane was sold to the Newcastle city Council on April 7 1925 for 315 pounds and the residue of the property was recently acquired by Messrs Orrett Bros. for the erection of a block of flats.

A contract for the demolition of the house has been let to Messrs Livingstone of Cardiff who expect to be occupied for a month
. Newcastle Morning Herald 8 December 1938

Allotment 30

Presbyterian Manse

The Commandant's residence, named the Government House, was situated in the line of Watt street, about 100 yards from the corner of the barrack wall in Church-street. This building was destroyed by fire in 1820. Upon the destruction of his residence Major Morisset, the commandant, occupied the Government offices at the top of Watt-street, which were subsequently converted into a Presbyterian manse.

Allotment 34


Tenders required for materials to build a stone kirk in Watt Street, Newcastle on Allotment no. 34. The articles tendered must be described as to quality, place where procured, and manner of delivery. The building is to be 46 feet by 37 and 21 feet in height. Further information to be obtained by personal application to Mr. John Howden, blacksmith, Newcastle, to whom the Tenders are to be delivered on or before the 10th May 1847. -Maitland Mercury 28 April 1847.

Allotment 36

Presbyterian Church

Allotment 38

James Reid

Allotment 40

William Croasdill

Allotment 42

George Forbes

Allotment 44

Donald McIntyre

Allotment 47

William Henry Whyte

A modern and capacious edifice in Watt Street has been built by Mr. W.H. Whyte, for a butcher's shop and provision store - Maitland Mercury 21 November 1849

Allotment 52

A.A. Company

Allotment 54

Mary Ann Brunker, thirty six perches, Allotment No. 54; Promised by Sir Thomas Brisbane on 22nd August 1823 to William Evans who requests the deeds in favour of Mrs. Brunker.

Allotment 56

Corner of Hunter and Watt was the site of the Newcastle Inn later known as the Commercial Inn. Owned later known as the Commercial Inn. Owned by Simon Kemp in the 1830s. The location of this Inn can be seen on the map below and on Armstrong's Map of 1830 as the public house south of the Commissariat


Situated in Watt Street opposite the Newcastle Inn containing five rooms with out-houses, a garden etc. 60 ft frontage by 100ft depth was advertised for sale in 1832. It was owned by Edward Sparke senior. Also Woodlands eight miles from Maitland. Sheriffs Office sale Allen v. Sparke, senior (Edward) - 17 May 1832.

Notes and Links

1). One of the most remarkable gravestones in the Christ Church burial ground is that of James McClymont one of the early settlers and inn keepers. McClymonts Inn stood on the site now occupied by the Great Northern Hotel, and in those days was within a stones throw of the beach, and the public wharf, at the foot of Watt Street. The inscription has stood the test of time very well and shows that the stone was erected - To the memory of James McClymont, a native of Maybole Scotland, who arrived in this country as a free emigrant in the year MDCCC XXIII and died September 2 MDCCCXXIX aged 30. (Newcastle Morning Herald 4 April 1902)

2). Mr. John Reid, eldest son of Rev. John Reid, who came to Australia with Rev. Dunmore Lang secured a small wooden office in Scott-street near the present E.S. and A. Bank, the site of the few coal and shipping offices of that period. Scott-street had not then been levelled, and one had to step up a small bank on the footpath to reach them. When Mr. Edward Parnell built his two storied brick offices round the corner-in Watt street, the present site of Carrington Chambers, and still owned by the same family-Mr. Reid was the first to occupy one of the ground floor rooms....Increasing business in the 90's caused the firm to move across Watt-street to large, offices, and back again in 1902 to the front ground floor of Carrington Chambers when Mr. Walter Smith, the present manager and Chairman of the Shipping .Committee of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce, joined up as a junior in 1910. It was considered advisable in 1912, to purchase outright a suitable suite of offices on the eastern side of Watt street, then adjoining the Bank of NSW (Tattersall's Club), and the business was eventually transferred there after extensive alterations (Newcastle Morning Herald 16 July 1938)

3). THE George Hotel on the corner of Watt and Scott streets in Newcastle was a grand old hotel with high ceilings and thick stone walls, built in 1915 to replace the Metropolitan Hotel, and it was a landmark building prior to 1989. When the hotel and its equally historic neighbour Carrington Chambers suffered extensive damage in the earthquake, heritage advocates fought loud and hard to save it. In the end the building was demolished with a wrecking ball following a formal order from Newcastle City Council. (From Newcastle Morning Herald How the Earthquake changed our city)

4). Page from Index and directory to map of the country bordering upon the River Hunter... showing Allotments of land held by individuals by Henry Dangar (London : Joseph Cross, 1828

5). Newcastle Streets and Hunter River Roads Sydney Gazette 24 March 1836

6). Map showing Allotments on west side of Watt Street Newcastle (n.d.)

7). Map showing Allotments on east side of Watt Street Newcastle (n.d.)


[1] Goold, Wilfred, The Growth of Newcastle, Newcastle and District Historical Society, p32

[2] Sydney Herald 9 August 1832

[3] Sydney Morning Herald 20 September 1841

[4] Map of the River Hunter, and its branches [cartographic material] : shewing the Lands reserved thereon for Church purposes, the Locations made to Settlers, and the Settlement and part of the Lands of the Australian Agricultural Company at Port Stephens together with the Station of the Mission to the Aborigines belonging to the London Missionary Society on Lake Macquarie, New South Wales