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Paterson River history

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Government Wharf, Paterson

Land was reserved for a public wharf when Paterson was gazetted in 1833 (see plan), with access to the wharf from King Street. For decades, however, boats had to load and unload from the river bank because the wharf had not been built. As the village grew, river traffic became essential. People travelled on the small steam ships from Paterson to river ports at Morpeth, Raymond Terrace and Newcastle, with onward connections to Sydney. Bullock teams and horse-drawn carts brought farm produce to the wharf for shipping to market, and took back supplies for people throughout the district. At times farm livestock such as horses and cattle were also transported by ship to and from Paterson.

The Australasian Steam Navigation Company built a private wharf a short distance upstream from Paterson village but only its boats could use it. A competitor, the Hunter River New Steam Navigation Company, had to operate from the river bank. From 1863 to 1868 local residents petitioned the Government about the urgent need to build a public wharf at Paterson. Construction of the Government wharf began in early 1877 and was completed in November 1877.[1] It was opposite the Court House on the block of land off King Street that had been reserved for the wharf when the town was laid out in 1833.

Paterson wharf c1895

Above: Bullock team at Paterson wharf c1895, the Marie tied up. (Paterson Historical Society)

Elaine at Paterson wharf

Elaine at Paterson wharf, milk or cream cans being loaded or unloaded. (Paterson Historical Society)

In the above photo, the small shed at the rear of the wharf carries the sign "Cream Shed - Eales". It provided shade for cans of cream awaiting shipment to the Duckenfield dairy factory. With the rapid expansion of the dairy industry in New South Wales in the 1890s, Paterson Wharf became essential for the transport of milk and cream to milk depots and factories downstream at Duckenfield, Bowthorne (now Wallalong), Morpeth and Raymond Terrace. The Gostwyck Factory upsteam on the Paterson River was also serviced by cream boats.

A selection of photos that feature Paterson's wharves can be found at in Paterson Museum's online photo collection.

When the north coast railway line opened in 1911, the rail bridge across the Paterson River was almost over the top of Government Wharf, and sparks from steam locomotives posed a fire hazard to the boats below. SS Marie was burnt to the waterline while at Government Wharf after a spark from a locomotove set fire to hay on the deck.[2]

Paterson wharf

A bullock team at Paterson Wharf with the rail bridge above. (Paterson Historical Society)

In the first few decades of the 1900s the river boats were gradually squeezed out of business by competition from rail and road transport. Today there is almost no evidence of Government Wharf, although at low tide some timber can be seen sticking out of the river bank. The spot is now marked by a small public barb-b-q area named King's Wharf Park. (This is a modern name that relates only to the park - the wharf was always known as Paterson or Government Wharf).

Paterson wharf in the early 1900s

A postcard of Paterson wharf c1900. (Paterson Historical Society)


1. My thanks to Wayne Patfield for providing this information. See also: Maitland Mercury, 22 February 1877, 5.

2. pers comm., Wayne Patfield.