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Paterson River history

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Woodville estate

From 1822 "Woodville" was a 1,040 acre rural property on the Paterson River in the locality then known as Patersons Plains. "Woodville" was bounded on the north by Albion Farm, on the south by the Wallalong estate and on the west by the Paterson River. Today it forms the centre of the Woodville district.

"Woodville" was part of the traditional lands of the local Aboriginal people, probably the Worimi. After European occupation it was declared Crown land. In 1822 the land was granted to protestant Irishman, John Galt Smith when the Hunter Valley was opened for wide-scale settlement.[1] He named his grant "Woodville" in memory of his parents' Woodville House in Belfast, Ireland.[2]

The Woodville estate included part of the chain of wetlands at Patersons Plains, sometimes shown on early maps as swamp. Drainage has therefore formed a vital part of Woodville's agricultural history.

boundaries of the Woodville estate

The Woodville estate as originally granted to John Galt Smith in 1822. The satellite image was taken after heavy rains and shows the wetlands as they were before being drained.

John Galt and Elizabeth Smith

John Galt Smith III was born in Belfast in 1796, one of eleven children of Samuel Smith and Letitia Bradish of Woodville House (now Woodvale Park), Belfast, County Antrim, Ireland. Samuel Smith was engaged in the linen trade and owned the well known "White Rock Bleach Green" near Belfast.[2] John Galt Smith's grandfather, the first of six John Galt Smiths, was a wool draper, manufacturer and broker who was a member of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce.[3]

Woodville House in Belfast

Believed to be Woodville House in Belfast. Cropped from a sketch in Smith family papers, courtesy of Robert and Elaine Wade.

John Galt Smith III arrived in New South Wales via Hobart Town in 1822 on the ship Britomart along with Robert and Helenus Scott and James Ogilvie and family, all of whom would settle in the Hunter Valley.[4]

John Galt Smith married Eliza/Elizabeth Walsh at Liverpool (NSW) on 8th October 1823.[5] Eliza had arrived in NSW on the Globe in 1819 as a free immigrant travelling with her brother-in-law General Drennan. Governor Macquarie refused to grant land to an unmarried woman so she purchased a farm in the Kurrajong district and lived on it.[6] Eliza was aged about 34 when she married John Galt Smith and they did not have children.

By 1828 John and Elizabeth were running 347 cattle, assisted by 8 convicts and a ticket-of-leave overseer (see the 1828 household list for "Woodville").

John Galt Smith died in June 1847 from burns received when his night clothes accidently caught fire at his residence at "Woodville". He is buried in St. Paul's cemetery at Paterson.[7] On his death, ownership of "Woodville" passed to his wife Elizabeth[7a] who died in 1861 and is buried with him at St. Paul's.

Cooley Camp

On the high ground, away from the river flats, on the north/northeast section of Woodville estate was an area of forest land known as "Cooley Camp" in the early decades of European occupation. This locality became so widely known as "Cooley Camp" that it sometimes appeared in newspaper advertisements as the location for sales. It was sometimes spelt "Coolie Camp".

The origin of the name "Cooley Camp" is unclear, with possible connections to a timber-cutters' camp or other workers' camp. There is a strong possibility, however, that Cooley Camp on the Woodville estate was used by Aboriginal people. Once the fertile river flats were cropped, and in some cases fenced, the local Aboriginal people frequented Woodville's forested high ground, probably living there for extended periods. There were other areas in the lower Hunter Valley also known as Cooley or Coolie Camp.

In today's terms, Woodville's Cooley Camp was located on the righthand side of Clarence Town Road as you drive out of Woodville, across Taylors Bridge and climb away from the river, heading towards Seaham.

Woodville estate 1865 showing forest land

Woodville estate in 1865 showing the area of forest land (image: State Library NSW, shading added).

John Galt Smith's thoroughbred horses

For time Woodville was known for its thoroughbred horse breeding. According to Keith Binney "In 1838-39, John Galt Smith stood at Woodville the Australian Agricultural Company-bred and formerly Edward Cory-owned Young Grampus (1833) by Grampus (GB) out of an imported mare. In 1840 Smith stood the Glendon-bred bay horse formerly owned by James Glennie, Rattrap (c1836) by Toss (GB) out of Stella. At Woodville, John Galt Smith also used the Windemere-bred sire, Young Emigrant (c1837) by Rous' Emigrant (GB) out of Miss Badgery.[7b]

Woodville School House 1845-1850s

In 1845 a new Episcopalian (Church of England) school opened on "Woodville" in a building in the homestead precinct that John Galt Smith donated for its use. The building also served as a church, and the Rev. George Middleton held divine service there every alternate Sabbath.[8]

In October 1850 Elizabeth Smith, now a widow, formalised the arrangement with the Board of National Education, leasing the building to the Board for three years at a rental of one peppercorn. The building was described as "now used as a school and distinguished as the Woodville School House and erected on land being a portion of the present Homestead of the Woodville estate". The building measured 40 by 24 feet.[9]

Summary of ownership of Woodville estate[10]

Year Name(s) Notes
1822 John Galt Smith Grant of Crown land
1842 John Galt and Elizabeth Smith as beneficiaries of a Trust (part of a complex mortgage arrangement)
1847 Elizabeth Smith On the death of her husband JG Smith
1851 William George Watt Powditch (with Elizabeth Smith holding life tenancy) by gift from Elizabeth Smith to her nephew William George Watt Powditch
1856 Harriett Powditch (with Elizabeth Smith holding life tenancy) upon the death of Harriett's husband, William Powditch
1859 Harriett Roberts (with Elizabeth Smith holding life tenancy) Harriett Powditch remarried, to John Roberts
1861 Harriett Roberts (unencumbered) Elizabeth Smith died
1902 John Roberts Harriett died in 1902
1913 Harriett and John Roberts' children John Roberts died in 1913
1919 22 lots sold individually subdivision and sale in 1919

William George Watt Powditch and Harriett Croaker

William George Watt Powditch became owner of "Woodville" in 1851 when his aunt, Elizabeth Smith, gave it to him, reserving life tenancy for herself.[11]

Powditch was born on "Woodville" in 1825 and died at Moreton Bay in 1856. His mother Anne Walsh (1800-1882) was a sister to Elizabeth Smith nee Walsh. In 1853 William Powditch married Harriett Croaker (1824-1902).[12] When he died in 1856, Harriett inherited "Woodville", subject to the life tenancy of Elizabeth Smith.

Harriett remarried, to John Roberts in 1859 and he later inherited "Woodville" when she died (see table above).

In about 1861 Charles George Croaker came to "Woodville" from Wingham to manage the estate for his sister Harriett Roberts . When Charles died in 1868 his young son Henry became manager and occupied that position until the property was sold in 1919.

Harriett and John Roberts and their family lived in Sydney and only visited "Woodville" periodically. Woodville House was occupied by the Croaker family until the estate was sold in 1919. In May 1900 a house recently erected on the estate for Henry Croaker, adjoining the old residence, was destroyed by fire. Fortunately the old building, in which family members were sleeping, was not damaged.[13]

1854 subdivision of the southeast corner

In 1854/55 William Powditch (owner) and Elizabeth Smith (life tenant) sold eight lots, ranging from 4 to 35 acres, in the southeast corner of "Woodville" to tenant farmers on the estate. The total area taken by these lots was 134 acres. The purchasers were William Chipperfield, William Lee, Thomas Carter and Patrick Casey (each bought two lots).

In April 1855 William Powditch and Eliza Smith used the sale proceeds to discharge a mortage of £3,795, the debt originating in John Galt Smith's lifetime and continuing to acculumate after his death. With the discharge of the mortgage, Woodville was apparently free of debt.

All the lots sold in 1854 and 1855 were restored to the original estate through purchase between 1883 and 1909 by the then owner of "Woodville", John Roberts.[14]

Gift of land for Anglican church and school 1864

In 1864 Harriett Roberts formally donated two acres of land from the Woodville estate to the Right Reverend William Tyrrell, Bishop of Newcastle, for an Anglican Church.[15] The deal had been struck earlier, as the foundation stone for All Saints' Church at Woodville was laid back in August 1863. The land was located at the intersection of the Maitland-to-Seaham Road with the Paterson Road. All Saints Church opened on 11 September 1864.[16] It is now closed and in private hands.

At the same time Harriett gave the Church of England an adjoining half acre for "a school for the education of youth according to the principles of the united Church of England and Ireland".[17] No time was wasted in building, for when the Church opened in September 1864 there was on the grounds a large commodious school-house with master's residence attached (read the newspaper report).

Woodville House 1893

Looking north across the Paterson River at Woodville Bridge in 1893, with Woodville House at middle right.

(photo courtesy of Wayne Patfield)

Subdivision and sale of Woodville 1919

After John Roberts died in 1913 the trustees for his estate converted "Woodville" to a single Torrens Title covering the whole estate of 995 acres.[18] The Roberts family then subdivided and sold "Woodville" in 24 lots on 14 June 1919, ending Woodville's almost 100 years as a country estate.

Poster for Woodville subdivision 1919
detail from 1919 Woodville sale poster

Detail of lots 19 to 24 from 1919 Woodville sale poster.

detail of Woodville Homestead

Lots 13 and 14 comprised the old Woodville Homestead.

The following sale results have been taken from the conveyances of land titles (see endnote 18) and some details differ from the sale report in the Mercury which contains some inaccuracies.[19]

Lot 1, 96 acres: Harry Capper and William Silver;

Lot 2, 67 acres: Richard and Henry Salmon;

Lot 3, 58 acres: James Tierney, Woodville, farmer;

Lot 4, 60 acres: Albert Gibbons, Paterson, farmer;

Lot 5, 61 acres: Henry Vollmer, Woodville, farmer;

Lot 6, 61 acres: Henry Vollmer, Woodville, farmer;

Lot 7, 57 acres: William and Kate See, Woodville, farmers;

Lot 8, 65 acres: Spencer Hicks, Woodville, farmer;

Lot 9, 61 acres: William & Kenneth Graham, Woodville, farmers;

Lot 10, 61 acres: William & Kenneth Graham, Woodville, farmers;

Lot 11, 61 acres: William & Kenneth Graham, Woodville, farmers;

Lot 12, 79 acres: Edward Tacon, Woodville, farmer;

Lot 13, 74 acres: Theo Charles Trautwein, Sydney, publican;

Lot 14, 58 acres: Theo Charles Trautwein, Sydney, publican;

Note: lots 13 and 14 comprised the old Woodville homestead.

Lot 15, 6 acres: John Robert Wilcher, Woodville, storekeeper;

Lot 16, 11 acres: James & Ernest Warby, Woodville, farmers;

Lot 17, 38 acres: Richard, George, Alexander & Henry Ingall, Quirindi, graziers;

Lot 18, 1 rood: Arthur Waller, Woodville, blacksmith;

Lot 19, 2 acres: James & Ernest Warby, Woodville, farmers;

Lot 20, 2 acres: John Robert Wilcher, Woodville, storekeeper;

Lot 21, 1 acre: Percy and Frank Cook, Woodville, farmer and shop assistant;

Lot 22, 3 acres: Frederick Vollmer, Woodville, farmer;

Lot 23, half acre: Arthur Waller, Woodville, blacksmith;

Lot 24, 1 acre: John Robert Wilcher, Woodville, storekeeper;

Note that Sydney publican Theo Trautwein purchased the Woodville homestead block. During his ownership the home was completely destroyed by fire and a new home was built.[20]


1. NSW Colonial Secretary's correspondence, 4/3506 [reel 6009] p.197, SRNSW.

2. His father was Samuel Smith (1766-1830) of Woodville, Belfast, Ireland – Smith notebooks, Crossle's genealogical abstracts, National Archives of Ireland, per John Galt Smith III (the Australian one) was born or baptised on 5 May 1794 according to public family trees on but no primary sources are cited and verification is needed. Re eleven children of Samuel and Letitia Smith – Irish-Australian Gravestone Inscriptions for Belfast and Counties Antrim, Armagh and Down, per Google Books. Further confirmation re naming of the Woodville estate after Woodville House in Belfast can be found in the obituary for Jones Agnew Smith (John Galt Smith III's brother) – Maitland Mercury 31 July 1886 page 4. See also Robert Wade's The Smith Family of Belfast and Tingha, which contains detailed family history research that confirms the foregoing.


4. Hobart Town Gazette, 9 February 1822 p2.

5. Sydney Gazette, 23 October 1823 p3.

6. Wood, W Allan. Dawn in the Valley—The Story of Settlment in the Hunter River Valley to 1833. Sydney: Wentworth Books, 1972, p.77.

7. Maitland Mercury, 16 June 1847 p3. Clements, Pauline, Burials in St. Paul's Church Cemetery Paterson New South Wales: Part one, from 1839 to 1900, Paterson 1996 pp.11, 50.

7a. Will of John Galt Smith, Will number 1818, NSW Will Books per

7b. Keith Binney, Horsemen of the First Frontier, c2005, page 282.

8. Maitland Mercury, 3 May 1845 p2.

9. NSW Old Systems land title document, book 19, number 588.

10. Data verified from NSW Old Systems land title documents.

11. NSW Old Systems title document, book 22, number 192.

12. Maitland Mercury, 24 September 1853 page 3. See also public member trees on

13. Maitland Weekly Mercury 12 May 1900 page 4.

14. Transactions verified from NSW Old Systems land title documents.

15. NSW Old Systems land title document, book 88, number 917.

16. Maitland Weekly Mercury 13 September1864 page 2.

17. NSW Old Systems land title document, book 88, number 918.

18. A single title was issued on 28 November 1919, NSW Old Form Torrens Register volume 2995, folio 94. This title document also shows the purchasers of the 24 lots and the title references for the new titles issued to them.

19. Maitland Weekly Mercury 21 June 1919 page 9.

20. Maitland Daily Mercury 28 June 1920 page 4.


Wendy Cox, Hard Work Never Killed Anyone – Spencer Hicks of Woodville, self-published, 2019.

Robert Wade, The Smith Family of Belfast and Tingha, self-published, 2019.

See also

Formation of the "Wallalong and Woodville Drainage Company Ltd." in 1923 – Old System deeds, book 1302 number 882 (search 1302-882 at