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Paterson River history

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Paterson from 1822: large-scale land grants

The penal settlement at Newcastle restricted the use of the Paterson area by Europeans. From 1804 convicts could be sent to Newcastle if they re-offended in the Colony, and until 1822 Newcastle was a closed port. Ships required permission to enter the harbour and widespread settlement was banned to deprive convicts of food, shelter and support in the countryside if they ran away.

It was difficult for convicts to escape from Newcastle because there was no known overland route back to Sydney. That changed in 1819 when John Howe discovered an overland route from Windsor to the present-day site of Singleton. The next year he made the trip again and followed the Hunter River to Wallis Plains (Maitland). In 1821 John Blaxland found another overland route from Sydney to Newcastle via Wollombi.[1] Blaxland marked the track well and many convicts escaped along it. Newcastle was no longer secure, so the penal settlement was moved to Port Macquarie and the lower Hunter Valley opened for wide-scale settlement.

One convict for every 100 acres granted

When the Hunter Valley was opened for settlement the majority of convicts were to be allocated to settlers. This followed a recent Commission of Inquiry which found that most convicts in New South Wales were working for the government at a substantial cost to the public purse. When Governor Brisbane took office at the end of 1821 he required settlers to support one convict off the government stores for every 100 acres of land granted.[2]

Brisbane also allowed settlers to purchase livestock from the government herds at a nominal price, and so these regulations were described by some as "one cow for every 100 acres and one convict for every cow". Due to Brisbane's policy, the Hunter Valley was opened up and worked with labour supplied almost entirely by convicts in the 1820s and 1830s.

In early 1822 the first large-scale grants to settlers in the Paterson area were made to William Dun and James Webber. They had to advise Governor Brisbane how many convicts they would support before he would grant them land.

Dun and Webber were the first of a wave of immigrant settlers attracted to the fertile alluvial soils and prime river frontages of the Paterson area, with easy access to colonial markets via the nearby deep-water port of Morpeth from which vessels regularly voyaged to Sydney.

The trickle of settlers to the Paterson area in 1822 soon became a flood and within a few years most of the prime river frontages had been granted. Details of land grants to 1831 are shown in the table below.

With the influx of people to the district, the need for a township and public wharf became obvious. In 1833 the plan for the township of Paterson was approved and blocks of land put up for sale.

Land grants to 1831

* indicates a tenant at will courtesy of Governor Macquarie.

Year Name of grant Grantee Acres Notes
1812* Albion Farm John Tucker snr & jnr 30 ea increased by grant in 1825 to 630 acres
1812* Lemon Grove John Swan   100  
1813* Bellevue Dr William Evans   100 increased by grant in 1825 to 1,070 acres
1818 Orange Grove John Powell    60 later increased to 100 acres
1822 Duninald William Dun 1,200 later increased to 2,000 acres
1822 Tocal James Phillips Webber 2,000 later increased to 4,300 acres by purchase
1822 Bona Vista James Phillips 2,000 a portion became part of Paterson village
1822 Dunmore George Lang 1,000 granted 400 1821, changed to 1,000 1822
1822 Woodville John Galt Smith 1,000  
1822 Tillimby John Herring Boughton 2,000 later increased by purchase to 7,172 acres
1823 Wallalong Walter Scott   600 also granted Eskdale on the Williams River
1823 Phoenix Park SL Harris 2,000  
1823 The Vineyard GJ Frankland 2,080  
1823 Gostwyck Edward Gostwyck Cory 2,030 had a 2nd Gostwyck on the New England
1823 Cintra Susannah Matilda Ward   640 part became Paterson village and wharf
1824 Brisbane Grove George Williams   500  
1824 Cory Vale John Cory   800 later purchased Vacy, Poltimore & Sillick
1825 Cardoness George Adair 1,600  
1826 Trevallyn George Townshend 2,560 bought more on Paterson & Allyn Rivers
1826 Camyr Allyn Charles Boydell   640 also bought land that became Caergwrle
1826 Lewinsbrook Alexander Park 2,560  
1826 Penshurst John Phillips Webber 2,560 also bought Guygallon (10,270 acres)
1827 Creebank James Adair 1,280  
1827 Elmshall William Bucknell 2,560  
1827 Torryburn John McIntyre 2,000 later increased by purchase to 4,000 ac
1828 Clarendon Susannah Matilda Ward   500  
1829 Lennoxton Samuel Adair   640  
1830 Summer Hill Edward Kealy   200 later owned 1,200 acres across the river
1830 Emral James Phillips Webber 2,560 sold to George Townshend in 1835
1830 Campsie Mary Tarpy 1,280 sold to JT Hughes before title issued
1831 Bird Hill Richard Clarke   120 purchased more land locally


The land grant table was adapted from a table prepared by Dr Cameron Archer AM for his forthcoming book "The Magic Valley: The Paterson Valley – then and now", in press, ACABooks Lorn, 2019.


1. Macqueen, A. Somewhat Perilous: The Journeys of Singleton, Parr, Howe, Myles and Blaxland in the Northern Blue Mountains. Wentworth Falls, published by the author, 2004.

2. Primary sources regarding the Commission of Inquiry and change of convict assignment policy are cited on pages 70-74 of: Walsh, Brian. "Heartbreak and Hope, Deference and Defiance on the Yimmang: Tocal's Convicts 1822-1840". PhD thesis, University of Newcastle, 2007 (on-line).


Archer, Cameron. The Settlement of the Paterson District. Paterson: Paterson Historical Society, 1986.

Perry, TM. Australia's First Frontier: The Spread of Settlement in New South Wales 1788-1829. Kingsgrove, Melbourne University Press, 1963.

Walsh, Brian. Voices from Tocal: Convict Life on a Rural Estate. Paterson, CB Alexander Foundation, 2008.

Wood, WA. Dawn in the Valley: The Story of Settlement in the Hunter River Valley to 1833. Sydney, Wentworth Books, 1972.

See also