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Paterson River history

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Paterson punt

As early as 1831 a punt operated on the Paterson River to ferry people, horses, carts and farm livestock across the river. The first punt was at Old Banks and operated by Thomas Stubbs. The district focus shifted a few kilometres upstream from Old Banks to Paterson after the new Paterson township was established in 1833, and so there was a need for a river crossing closer to the town.

About 1843 a new punt was established on James Phillips' Bona Vista estate just south of Paterson.[1] It became redundant in February 1888 when the bridge was opened near the punt site, on the Paterson to Morpeth Road.

Paterson punt

Paterson's second punt crossing that operated from 1843 to 1888 (photo: Paterson Historical Society, sourced from NSW Road Transport Authority).

A massive fig tree marked the track down to the punt on the Paterson side, and this tree still stands today on the edge of Tocal Road, just before the bridge when heading south (towards Maitland). The punt-keeper's slab cottage stood under the fig tree. William Arnold was the punt-keeper and he lived in the cottage with his wife Elizabeth who made jams and sold them from the cottage.[2]

The track to the punt, and punt-keeper's cottage

The track down to the punt, with the punt-keeper's slab cottage under the massive fig tree which still stands on the edge of Tocal Road today. The 1888 bridge is in the background (photo: Newcastle City Council).

postcard of track to the punt and punt-keeper's cottage

An early postcard showing the track down to the punt at far left, with the punt-keeper's slab cottage under the fig tree and the bridge in the background. The bridge is still in use today (image: Paterson Historical Society).

The track down to the punt is still evident on both sides of the river.


1. referred to as the "new punt" close to Paterson township in the Maitland Mercury, 13 January 1844, 3.

2. Archer, Cameron (ed.). Heritage Photographs, series 1. Paterson Historical Society, 2007.