The early days of Mayfield

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50 years of progress : Mayfield jubilee celebrations, 1900-1950


50 Years of Progress: Mayfield Jubilee Celebrations 1900-1950 Souvenir Booklet.  <> (12/2/2019)

 1821 1 Small  


The early days

by W. J. Goold

(President, Newcastle and Hunter District Historical Society).
All Rights Reserved. 

The early days

The first residents of what is now Mayfield West were John Laurie Platt, his family and his assigned servants. Platt was an ex-officer of the British Navy who, on August 21st. 1821 received a grant of 2,000 acres of land, which was described as being "on the Hunter River at Newcastle."

This grant extended from what is now Mayfield West and a portion of Waratah to the Ironbark Creek. Platt occupied his grant in 1823, being the first settler in the Newcastle district.

He erected his homestead, which he named "Ironbark," on the north-eastern portion of his grant - the nearest to Newcastle; and herewith the aid of his assigned servants, he cleared a small portion of about 40 acres, which he planted with wheat.

Erected Windmill
Platt erected a windmill on the high ground near the waterfront. It was one of the old-fashioned type of windmill, fitted with "Dutch" arms.

Platt's mill was the first erected on the Hunter River, and some of the early settlers, among whom was J. Nowland, sent their wheat and maize there to be ground.

Platt's attempt at the cultivation of wheat proved a failure, due to the soil being unsuitable, and he met with a far greater misfortune when, on December 9, 1831, his home was destroyed by fire and two of his young sons were burned to death. A new homestead was then erected on the road to Maitland at what is now Sandgate; but by 1836 both Platt and his wife were dead.

The old mill stood for many years and gave to that area the title of the "Mill Paddock," so well known to old residents as the site for picnics and other outings. Platt's Channel was also named after John Laurie Platt, whose executor later sold the whole of his estate to the Australian Agricultural Company.

"Platt's Folly"
The old pioneer's ill-starred and tragic attempt to establish himself as a settler in a new country was referred to by other settlers along the Hunter River as "Platt's Folly," a title which eventually was the reason that all the land along the river front from the "Mill Paddock" to Port Waratah was called "the Folly."

One of the first to purchase land on "the Folly" was Charles Simpson. who in 1848 secured three allotments, and upon one of 36 acres on the river front he erected a substantial homestead.

He named his residence "Waratah House," from the fact that in the brush at the rear of his allotment the Waratah flower grew, and this is stated to have been the most northerly spot in which that particular flora existed.

Simpson was an official of the Newcastle Customs House under Mr. Charles Bolton, the Sub-collector of Customs, who also had purchased several allotments of land at the "Folly," portion of which was known locally as "Bolton's Brush."

Waratah House.
In 1854, Simpson disposed of his property to Mr. Thomas Tourle, a wealthy squatter, who had made a fortune on his station, "Bellata," in the New England district. He was a son-in-law of the Rev. Charles Mose, for many years chaplain of Scone. Tourle made considerable additions to Waratah House. He laid out the grounds, planted vineyards, an orchard, etc. He lived at Waratah House until his death in 1899, at the great age of 93 years. He is described by old residents as being a fine old gentleman, who lived the life of the typical English squire.

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Wine Production.
During 1847, a Mr. Kirchner travelled through the Colony arranging with the principal landowners to bring out experienced vine dressers from Germany under the Government bounty.

One of these was Peter Crebert, born in Kudereck, Germany, in 1824, who arrived in Newcastle In 1849 under contract to Dr. James Mitchell. In 1853. Crebert purchased a fiveacre block of land at the "Folly" from Charles Bolton for 16/15/-, and two years later he added a further five acres for which he paid £100.

On his land Crebert cultivated a vineyard and orchard, and in 1859 he made the first wine produced in Newcastle. Crebert's "Folly" Gardens became well known in later years, and on Sundays and holidays Newcastle folk used to drive out to the "Folly" to walk through the gardens and buy fruit and wine.

In those days, most of the land in this portion of the "Folly" was used for orchards, vineyards and dairy farms. Names of some of the occupiers that come to mind are Bull, Williams, Myers, Norgard, Oakley, Gray, Russell, Croese, Crowther, Robertson, Kuhn and Lambke. Three of these pioneers have left their names there in the streets of to-day - Crebert, Bull and Williams.

The Railway Comes. 
In 1857 the Great Northern Railway was opened from Newcastle to East Maitland, and the first railway station out of Newcastle was named "Waratah" after Waratah House, then the only substantial building in the district. This gave the title of Waratah to all the surrounding district and the northern side of the railway line became North Waratah, although for many years the old title of the "Folly" was used by many. Then when the Waratah Coal Mining Company, in 1863, constructed a coal line from its tunnels to the river front for the shipment of its coal, this became Port Waratah.

During 1867, the company cleared an area of land here, and the Wallaroo and Moonta Copper Mining Company of South Australia erected a smelting works. This brought about a little settlement on the flats nearby, known as "Kalsina Flats."

First School. 
The first school at the "Folly" was conducted by Miss Tourle in a small wooden building at the end of Crebert's vineyard. Then a building of slabs was erected on a two-acre block on the hill on what became the corner of Crebert and lngall Streets. This was the Folly Public School, opened in 1874, which over the years has borne the titles of "The Folly," "North Waratah," "Mayfield" and Mayfield East. The terms of the first three principals here - James Kilgour, John Gillespie and Donald Robertson -covered a span of 35 years.

At the rear of the school was a reserve, which in those days bore the high-sounding title of the Newcastle Botanical Gardens, of which a Mr. Ireland was the caretaker.

Opposite the school was the residence of Mr. Ingall, a well known Newcastle draper, and his name was bestowed upon a street running down to Maitland Road.

Soap Factory. 
In 1870, Peter Crebert purchased an area of land east of Ingall Street, which he cleared and planted another vineyard; but this did not prove as successful as his other property, so eventually it was disposed of to Mr. Charles Upfold, managing director of the Sydney Soap and Candle Company.

On this land and on an additional 11 acres, the largest and most modern equipped soap manufacturing plant in the southern hemisphere was erected. It cost about £50,000 to build and the machinery installed cost another £83,000.

The company made elaborate arrangements for the opening ceremony on February 10, 1886. The Newcastle Steamship Company's steamer "Sydney" was chartered to make a special trip, leaving Sydney at 8.45 a.m. with a large number of Sydney and Melbourne visitors. A fleet of about 40 buses, wagonettes and other vehicles was lined up in Scott Street to transport the visitors to the works. Altogether 450 guests sat down to a banquet after the ceremony.

These works provided employment for a number of people, many of whom became residents of what is now Mayfield East.

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The southern side of Maitland Road was all heavily timbered, and used as bullock paddocks and slaughter houses by Newcastle butchers. On the northern side of the road, William Thomas Brain owned a large area of land which extended through to Bull street.  Simon Kemp of Newcastle owned another large area of land here, portion of which, in 1860, he gave to the Church of England for a school, church and parsonage. On this land St. Andrew's Church was erected at a cost of £200. It was capable of seating 150 people, and was opened for divine worship by the Bishop of Newcastle on May 21, 1861. At the conclusion of the ceremony, all present were entertained at Mr. Tourle's residence, Waratah House, where a large pavilion had been erected.

Some years later it was decided to use portion of the church land for a cemetery, but some of the residents objected, arguing that a burial ground would interfere with future land sales for residential purposes. They also claimed that Mr. Kemp's gifts stipulated that the land should be used for a church, school and parsonage. The objectors were over-ruled by the church authorities, and so a portion of this land became the last resting place of many of the pioneers of the district. 

George Chant was the sexton of St. Andrew's for many years, and Mr. McNulty, the monumental mason, cut many of the headstones.  it was the erection of this church that provided a title for the street - Church Street.

Old Hotels.
On Maitland Road, near the corner of Church Street, there was a large two-storey house occupied by Mr. Jackson, a Newcastle bank manager, and from there to Tonk's Hotel there was nothing but ti-tree bush, and thick at that.

The hotel was opened by Benjamin Tonks, under the sign of the "Waratah Hotel," and is now the site of Amos' modern hotel.

The road running from Tonks' hotel to the railway station was named Hanbury Street, from the fact that it led to the private township of Hanbury (now Waratah).

Thomas Grove, when he subdivided his land in 1862 and formed a small colliery township, named it "Hanbury" after his birthplace in England, a title it retained for some time, although the railway station was named Waratah.

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 On the northern side of the railway station there was a hotel aptly named the "Railway Hotel," and was conducted for many years by the Lee family. Around here there was a small settlement.

In Hanbury Street there was another old-timer which rejoiced in the name of "Sir Robert Peel Hotel." and this brings up the name of James Anderson.

Crystal Palace Garden.
Anderson was a miner, who later became a hotel keeper at Minmi. From there he took over the license of a hotel at the corner of Hunter and Newcomen Streets, Newcastle, which was called the "Crystal Palace Hotel." After holding this license for 11 years, Anderson sold out and purchased six acres of land in Hanbury Street, Mayfield, which Included the old "Sir Robert Peel Hotel."

Here Anderson transformed his land into picturesque pleasure grounds, with gardens, a miniature zoo and aviary, running tracks, large playing areas, dancing pavilions and swing boats. The grounds were surrounded by a 12ft. galvanised iron fence.  He named it the Crystal palace gardens, and it became a popular rendezvous for picnics, sports, band contests and flower shows.

Historic Houses.
Along Maitland Road westwards there still stands a substantially built stone house that was once the residence of Mr. C. Thomas, manager of the English and Australian Copper Mining Co. and later of the Nichols and Dodds families.

Just past here there once stood an old relic of the early days, known as the "Iron House." In the early '50's it was a roadside inn and a stopping place for Sam Smith's and Morris Magnay's coaches en route to and from Maitland. Old-timers tell us that the Iron House was at one time the finishing post for horse races along the road.

On the northern side of Maitland Road, the Roman Catholic denomination owned a large area of land which extended from the road to the top of the hill. It was here that, on December 3, 1885, His Eminence Cardinal Moran laid the foundation stone of the Monastery of St. Alphonsus, which was to cost £12,000 to erect. The Rev. Father Vaughan was the first Principal.

Prominent Citizens.
The elevated land extending practically from the Monastery to Church Street contained the homes of many prominent Newcastle business people, notably Arnott, Winn, Witherspoon, Langwill, Creer, Windeyer, Scholey, Chinchen and others. It was in Highfleld Street that the Wesleyan Church was opened In 1890, with the Rev. Gardiner as minister.

It was the custom in the early days for landowners, prior to subdivision, to bestow distinguishing titles upon their estates, such as "Houghton-le-Springs," "Monkwearmouth" and "New Battle." They certainly looked well upon sale notices, but were soon forgotten.

When John Scholey subdivided for sale a large area of his land, he named it after his daughter May. Hence we have to-day the title of Mayfield. Little did the old gentleman realise that in the years to come the name he bestowed would cover the largest and most populous suburb in Newcastle, and an area within which are the greatest industrial plants in the Commonwealth.