Mitchell 1828 Exhibition

Nature Illustration

Day Shift – 18/05/2010 – 02:10 PM
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Interviewee: Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, Newcastle University

University of Newcastle Archivist Gionni Di Gravio discusses the new forthcoming exhibition of Natural History Illustration works, surveying reports and early Newcastle Panoramas on display at the University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections in the Auchmuty Library. This is a rich physical and online display of the University’s engaged interdisciplinary research highlighting the historic natural beauty of the Novocastrian landscape.

Broadcast Notes:

Back in September 2008 a manuscript came to light in the State Library of New South Wales containing the first recorded mention of the Aboriginal name of Nobbys as  ‘Whibayganba’. In addition, the 1828 field book of Sir Thomas Mitchell, Surveyor General, contained three sketches of Newcastle drawn from the top of Fort Scratchley looking towards Nobbys, then looking towards Prospect Hill (Now Obelisk Hill), then another taken from the top of the Windmill (now Obelisk Hill) looking back towards Newcastle. These three important sketches are reproduced here:

The full Field book can be seen here:

1828. Mitchell, Sir Thomas Livingstone (1792-1855) Field Book – Port Jackson and Newcastle, 1828 (C 40) 55MB PDF (Courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales)

At the time, the Coal River Working Party immediately enlisted the assistance of  Emeritus Professor John Fryer in Surveying to ask whether he could examine the survey readings and compare them with those of Australian Agricultural Company surveyor John Armstrong Survey in 1830.

We believed that this Field book would also be of interest to art historians wanting to compare the actual perspective readings with the colonial art portrayals of the township. So we also asked Dr Anne Llewellyn whether her Natural History Illustration students would be interested in ‘colouring’ Mitchell’s sketches and bring them to life.

This was a perfect opportunity to spark an interdisciplinary ‘science meets the arts’ research approach to these important historical works.

Professor Fryer asked two final Surveying Students to examine Sir Thomas Mitchell’s sketches and survey readings in order to decipher them into lay person’s terms. After a year’s work those two final year students, Mr Chris Towers and Troy Sumner, prepared a report on their findings which they presented at two seminars held on Friday 6 November 2009 (to their Surveying Colleagues), (see the following three You Tube videos from the Presentation – unfortunately we did not capture the whole seminar):

and then at a meeting of the Coal River Working Party on the 7 December 2009. (This is an edited version with the second half of the Presentation and Questions):

Dr Anne Llewellyn’s 2nd Year Natural History Illustration students researched the content of Mitchell’s sketches and together with field observations, developed a ‘reconstruction’ of Mitchell’s drawings based on the ‘now known’ plants and animals of the region. Here is a video from their Presentation before the Coal River Working Party on the 7 December 2009, and a selection of their beautiful art works with some details.

The students whose work is on display are:
Angela Armstrong
Kimberley Swan
Karen McDonald
Susan Sparks
Helen Adamski
Teresa Purnell
Amy Hands
Katherine Pearce
Phoebe Ritchie
Morgan Laudine

To view all the student’s artworks please see our Flickr page here: and slideshow here:

The Work of Sir Thomas Mitchell examined and analysed by University of Newcastle Surveying Students Chris Towers and Troy Sumner

The Full Report and Summary prepared by Chris Towers and Troy Sumner of the University of Newcastle’ Discipline of Civil, Surveying & Environmental Engineering for the Coal River Working Party was placed on the Coal River blog here:

[Sir Thomas Mitchell 1828 Newcastle Survey Report – Full Report and Summary]

Towers, Chris and Sumner, Troy.
Sir Thomas Mitchell’s Angular Observations and Field-Note Sketches of Newcastle. [12.6 MB PDF file]

Towers, Chris.
Summary of Report: Sir Thomas Mitchell’s Angular Observations and Field-Note Sketches of Newcastle [896KB PDF File]



Then; Newcastle in 1828 from Signal Hill (now Fort Scratchley) by Sir Thomas Mitchell


Fort Scratchley Panorama by Chris Towers


Then: Newcastle from the Windmill (now Obelisk Hill) (1828) by Sir Thomas Mitchell


Obelisk Panorama by Chris Towers


To celebrate the achievements of this work, the  University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections in the Auchmuty Library has prepared an exhibition of the student’s artworks, as well as a collection of reproductions of Newcastle painted panoramas from various stages in its history, including the Mitchell 1828 sketches, to be displayed. Some of the Panoramas below have never been seen before.

T.R. Browne (1812)

T.R. Browne (1812)

Browne, T.R. (1776 – 1824). Newcastle, in New South Wales, with a distant view of Point Stephen,1812 and
View of Hunters River, near Newcastle, New South Wales, 1812. Copper Engraving.
Photographer: Bruce Turnbull. Courtesy Newcastle Region Art Gallery.

Edward Charles Close – Newcastle 1818

Edward Charles Close (1818)

Sketchbook 1818
Now attributed to Edward Charles Close. Courtesy National Library of Australia.

Edward Charles Close (1821)

Edward Charles Close (1821)

Panorama of Newcastle 1821.
Panorama of Newcastle : watercolour drawings by Edward Charles Close.
Courtesy State Library of New South Wales.

Edward Charles Close (c1825)

Edward Charles Close (c1825)

The Panorama above is constituted of the following paintings in Sketchbook of scenes of Sydney, Broken Bay, Newcastle and region, New South Wales, 1817-1840, (Courtesy of the National Library of Australia) once attributed to Sophia Campbell, now Edward Charles Close, 1790-1866 (Thanks to Mark Metrikas for identifying this find) The individual paintings that make up this Panorama from the Sketchbook are listed in order from left to right: (1) Commandant’s house from in front of the old gaol, Newcastle, New South Wales, ca. 1828 [picture] (2) Dwellings, fenced land and the windmill on the hill, Newcastle, New South Wales, ca. 1820 [picture] (3) Barracks with Christ Church in the distance, Newcastle, New South Wales, ca. 1820 [picture] (4) Dwellings and buildings in Newcastle, New South Wales, ca. 1820 (5) View over buildings towards the signal mast and Nobby Head, Newcastle, New South Wales, ca. 1820.

John Rae (1849)

John Rae (1849)

Rae, John, 1813-1900. Newcastle in 1849.
Courtesy State Library of New South Wales.

William Keene (1854)

William Keene (1854)

William Keene (Examiner of Coal Mines)
Copy of Stratigraphic sketch from Nobby’s Island Newcastle to Burwood, showing coal seams and their Order of Superposition. 31 May 1854.
Photographed by Bruce Turnbull. Archives Authority Map No. SZ325 (Courtesy State Archives of NSW)

John Rae – Photograph (c1880)

John Rae (c.1880)

Rae, John, 1813-1900. [Panoramic photograph of Newcastle, 1878-1882, possibly taken from Jesmond House] — 4 albumen photoprints
from Sketches in New South Wales in the olden time 1842 – 1859 by John Rae, M.A. / album of watercolour panoramas and photographs of watercolour sketches.
Courtesy State Library of New South Wales.

On behalf of the University’s Cultural Collections (Auchmuty Library) and the Coal River Working Party we congratulate Emeritus Professor John Fryer, Dr Anne Llewellyn and their students for their work, and the wonderful new insights it has brought to the study of our history and artistic legacy.

Gionni Di Gravio
May 2010

2 thoughts on “Mitchell 1828 Exhibition

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Mitchell 1828 Exhibition « UoN Cultural Collections --

  2. Pingback: Royal Arcade, Sydney, 1892 from Photographs of Sydney and New South Wales, ca.1892-1900 / New South Wales Government Printer | Frogger Download

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