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Paterson River history

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William Dun & Maria Burdett


William Dun and his wife Maria were among the first of a new wave of immigrants to take up land in the lower Hunter from 1822 following the decision to close the convict penal station at Newcastle and open the Hunter Valley for settlement (see overview of settlement from 1822).

They landed in Sydney on 15 December 1821 on the Mariner with their two daughters Frances and Catherine. At the time of arrival William was aged 32, Maria 21 and Frances 3 years, while Catherine had been born on the voyage only two months ago. In some histories William is referred to as 'Captain' but there may be no evidence to support this title.[1]

On arrival William carried official instructions from London for a land grant, and an order for 1,200 acres was issued on 31 December 1821 although he probably had not selected a particular site by then. The order was issued only after he undertook to support 12 convicts off the government stores (the ratio having been set at 100 acres granted for each convict supported).

On 21 January 1821 William Dun and another new arrival, James Webber, were permitted to travel by government ship to the Newcastle penal settlement. Newcastle was still a closed port and shipping movements there were strictly controlled by government. It was almost certainly on this trip that Dun and Webber selected their land grants.[2] They travelled together to Newcastle and then onwards to inspect land on the Paterson River at Patersons Plains. Dun's land was immediately across the river from Webber's.

map showing Duninald land grant

Duninald is on the east bank of Paterson River. See full map.

On 1 March 1822 Dangar was instructed to survey the lower Hunter prior to large scale settlement and to accommodate William Dun and James Webber who had already picked out their land. Dun's grant was adjusted to 1,300 acres after Dangar's survey and later increased to 2,000 acres. Dun probably occupied his grant from late March 1822, as he received clearance to travel by ship to Newcastle again at that time (Webber received his travel permit about two weeks earlier and they may have travelled together once again).

William Dun named his property 'Duninald' and commenced building there in 1822. His original residence still stands today in modified form as 'Old Duninald'.[3] Maria bore nine children in the colony, bringing their total offspring to eleven, of whom eight lived to old age (for details see reference 1 below).

Old Duninald

Old Duninald (Athel D'Ombrain, Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle).

Old Duninald

Old Duninald (Athel D'Ombrain, Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle).

Old Duninald

Old Duninald.

In July 1822 William Dun and James Webber became foundation members of the Agricultural Society of New South Wales. In March 1825 William Dun was appointed as coroner for Patersons Plains. He was declared insolvent in 1843, at which time Duninald was mortgaged to Tocal's owner, Felix Wilson (who did not foreclose on the mortgage). In 1860, still in financial difficulty, William Dun sold Duninald to his son-in-law Charles Reynolds who was then the lessee of the neighbouring Tocal estate. Charles had married William's eldest daughter Frances Seaton Dun in August 1844.

William died in 1876 at the age of 86, and Maria died in 1878.

Notes and references

1. Dun, Loftus. They Came as Strangers: A History of the Dun and Related Families in Early Australia. Published by the author, 1997. This book contains details of William and Maria Dun including family trees and information on their descendants.

2. Index to the NSW Colonial Secretary's papers - entries for William Dun and parallel entries for James Webber.

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

See also

  • An overview of settlement at Patersons Plains from 1822.
  • Mitchell, Cecily. Hunter's River. Newcastle, 1973.