Local Treasures: Plan of Morpeth 22nd June 1849

Morpeth, June 22nd 1849. (Elkin Papers, A6022(iv) University of Newcastle's Cultural Collections)

Morpeth, June 22nd 1849. (Elkin Papers, A6022(iv) University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections)

Day Shift – 19/11/2013 – 02:10 PM
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Interviewee: Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, University of Newcastle (Australia)

Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist of the University of Newcastle discusses a mysterious rare plan of the Township of Morpeth drawn on June 22nd 1849 held in the papers of the late Emeritus Professor A.P. Elkin C.M.G., M.A., Ph.D., D.Litt. We know next to nothing about its author or the circumstances regarding it creation.

Broadcast Notes:

Within the papers of the late Emeritus Professor A.P. Elkin lies an early plan of the township of Morpeth. It is clearly dated 22nd June 1849, but bears no markings of authorship. The plan measures approx. 36cm x 27.5cm, marked in pencil and ink, with a light watercolour wash.  The construction materials of the extant buildings are identified as Red for brick, Yellow for stone, and Green for wood. At the bottom right hand side is an embossed seal “DE LA RUE & Co BRISTOL BOARD” which indicates that the paper stock came from London based stationer founded by Thomas De La Rue, which appears to have been advertised as available in Australia (according to TROVE) since at least 1846. There is no indication of an author.

Stamp located on bottom right hand side of Morpeth Plan.

Stamp located on bottom right hand side of Morpeth Plan.

The overlay below provides a rough idea of the boundaries of the plan. It is very difficult to line up the line of the river against where is runs today. We can see the original course of the river has changed, and sections are now with dried up billabongs and hardly discernible today.

Morpeth 1849 superimposed on Google Earth 2013 Landscape (Thanks Russell Rigby)

Morpeth 1849 superimposed on Google Earth 2013 Landscape (Thanks Russell Rigby)

In his book Morpeth and I (1937, facs. reprint 1979), A.P. Elkin quotes from the surveyor W.H. Wells, who published a description of Morpeth in A Geographical Dictionary or Gazetteer of the Australian Colonies on the 1 January 1848. Wells says:

Morpeth. A town in N.S.W., in the county of Northumberland, and parish of Maitland, originally called the Green hills: it is situated at the head of the navigable part of the Hunter River, 20 miles by water from Newcastle; it at present contains about 635 inhabitants, viz. : 334 males and 301 females, an Episcopalian church and parsonage, a Wesleyan chapel, a ladies’ school, and two day schools; fine inns, one steam flour mill, a soap and candle manufactory, five large stores, some excellent shops, 37 stone and brick buildings, and about 117 wooden buildings; steamers constantly ply between this place and Sydney; coal promises to be abundant at a very short distance from this river. The land is the property of E.C. Close, Esq. , who has from time to time disposed of portions of it on building leases. The extensive wharf of the Hunter River Steam Navigation Company is here, and throughout the greater part of the year there is a daily communication to and from the metropolis by the steam vessels of the Company; a considerable number of sailing vessels also trade between this place and Sydney. There is a pretty church erected dedicated to St James. A coal mine is in actual operation under the direction of Mr Close, jun. , also the extensive steam flour mill of Mr John Portus. About two acres on the bank of the river are used as a Government wharf; an officer of the Custom house from Newcastle is stationed here.

Wells mentions the type of buildings in some detail, which leads us to conjecture whether he either had some knowledge relating to the plan following the publishing of the article.

The township of Morpeth is inextricably linked with its original colonial settler, Edward Charles Close, who was born in Bengal, India, in 1790. He arrived in the area, then known as “Green Hills” in 1821, and was set to work as Engineer Of Public Works  at Newcastle, constructing a fort with seven guns on the site of present day Fort Scratchley, (recorded by Henry Dangar in his 1822 survey as “Fort Thomson”).  He also constructed a pagoda house for the signalman, upon which was erected a signal fire, which consumed around a ton of coal per night. (Ref: NMH 30 Dec 1927 p.4) This was the precursor to the Nobbys Lighthouse.

The land that he settled on was called “Illulaung” (also spelt “Illulung”, “Illalung”) and was an Aboriginal name denoting the whole area south of the river including the East Maitland hills (Elkin, Morpeth and I, 44). Close built his house Closebourne, which he later sold to Bishop Tyrrell in 1848. He then built another house very close by, which he called “Morpeth House”.

The first mention of the name “Morpeth” in both the New South Wales Government Gazette, and the Sydney Herald that we managed to check appears in 1833 . The “Morpeth” that appears in use in the 1820s actually denotes the site of the proposed township of Maitland, or Wallis Plains.

Thanks to Andy Carr, Librarian for Professional Researchers, Access and Information at the State Library of NSW, who drew our attention to an 1834 survey of Morpeth located online here: http://library.sl.nsw.gov.au/record=b1512633

The actual plan is here: http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/album/ItemViewer.aspx?itemid=975159&suppress=N&imgindex=1

Town of Morpeth formerly called Illulaung, 1834 (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)

Town of Morpeth formerly called Illulaung, 1834 (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)

Town of Morpeth formerly called Illulaung (1834) Overlay 2013 (Thanks Russell Rigby)

Town of Morpeth formerly called Illulaung (1834) Overlay 2013 (Thanks Russell Rigby)

The State Library of NSW also hold two further digitised plans of relevance. The first is a drawing (supposedly) drawn by Edward Charles Close circa 1840 showing  the property as well as the landholdings in the Morpeth district. Permanent Link to the record is here: http://library.sl.nsw.gov.au/record=b2952674~S2 The digital image is here: http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/album/albumView.aspx?itemID=865428&ACMSID=0

Edward Charles Close (?) Drawing circa 1840 showing  the property as well as the landholdings in the Morpeth district (Courtesy State Library of NSW)

Edward Charles Close (?) Drawing circa 1840 showing the property as well as the landholdings in the Morpeth district (Courtesy State Library of NSW)

The other is a “Plan of fourteen building allotments in the Town of Morpeth, Hunter’s River: for sale on the 19th January 1841 by Hunter’s River Auction Company” Permanent link to the record is here: http://library.sl.nsw.gov.au/record=b2432011~S2

The digital image is here: http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/album/albumView.aspx?itemID=861826&acmsid=0

Plan of fourteen building allotments in the Town of Morpeth, Hunter's River: 19th January 1841(Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)

Plan of fourteen building allotments in the Town of Morpeth, Hunter’s River: 19th January 1841(Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)

We don’t know who drafted our plan, but it may have had something to do with the clergyman who administered St James Church.  The plan is located with a number of Diocesan documents that had been presumably provided to Elkin for his work on the Diocescan history. The man in charge of the parish was the Reverend Josiah Rodwell, who was made Minister of Butterwick, Seaham and Morpeth on the 16th December 1848, and was raised to the priesthood on June 3 1849. (Elkin, Morpeth and I, 99), and served from 1848-1851. The date of the plan as June 22nd 1849 might be significant as a preliminary work towards a census of the parish.

For a view of Morpeth in 1865 from the Illustrated Sydney News see the article on the University’s Coal River Working Party site here: http://coalriver.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/the-town-of-morpeth-in-1865/

Gionni Di Gravio
Archivist, UoN

Local Treasures – Frederick Menkens

Day Shift – 17/09/2013 – 02:10 PM
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Interviewees: Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, Newcastle University

Gionni Di Gravio discusses an original work, one of only three known copies in existence, by Les Reedman on the Work of Frederick B. Menkens.

The work was brought to our attention by Brian Suters, but only existed on a poor microfilm which we recently digitised and uploaded here:

http://encore.newcastle.edu.au/iii/cpro/DigitalItemViewPage.external?sp=1008053

Prepared when in his early twenties, Les Reedman completed the Architecture Diploma Thesis in 1956 for Newcastle College, or Newcastle University College when under the auspices of the New South Wales University of Technology.

He recently brought in his copy for a better scan to be undertaken.

 

Local Treasures: Time Travel Dalwood Style

Entrance to Dalwood House

Entrance to Dalwood House

Day Shift – 18/06/2013 – 02:10 PM
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Interviewees: Ann Hardy, Secretary of Hunter Regional Committee of the National Trust and Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, Newcastle University

Ann Hardy, Secretary of the Hunter Regional Committee of the National Trust and Gionni Di Gravio discuss the forthcoming gathering at Wyndham Estate and visit to the historic Dalwood homestead

Broadcast Notes:

Ann Hardy asked Gionni Di Gravio to be guest speaker at a special dinner provided by the National Trust for its volunteers who help run the properties across the State. The aim was to provide a pep talk, and suggest some new approaches to using social media and new technologies. And, in addition, offer ideas to enhance and share the stories connected with these places with the wider global community, to bring benefactors and helpers together for new collaborations. During the interview both Ann and Gionni admitted that they had never been to Dalwood, so Carol requested that they take lots of pictures and share the experience.

Gionni’s story begins here: Upon our arrival at Wyndham Estate, our guide for the tour was Mr Don Seton Wilkinson, a historian and author, who has diligently researched and documented the history of his family. Don is descended from the Wyndham and Glennie families, as well as Audrey Wilkinson. So, he is a living embodiment of the Hunter Region’s vigneron pioneers. (All photographs on this page were taken by Gionni Di Gravio unless otherwise stated)

Don Seton Wilkinson with tour group

Don Seton Wilkinson with tour group

Don took us on a trail that began at the river and wended its way up past the vineyards, the pioneer cemetery and onto the homestead. The trail is professionally signposted and laid out.

Panorama - Crossroads (Click for a larger image)

Panorama – Crossroads (Click for a larger image)

Panorama - Vineyards (Click for a larger image)

Panorama – Vineyards (Click for a larger image)

Wyndham Family Graves

Wyndham Family Graves

Panorama - Entrance to Dalwood

Panorama – Side Portico entrance to Dalwood (click for a larger image)

Dalwood HouseOur pilgrimage trail led us to the jewel which was the Dalwood homestead. Dalwood House is National Trust property that lies within the Wyndham Estate Vineyard in Branxton, New South Wales. It is a single-storey stone house built around 1828-1829 by one of the Hunter Region’s early pioneers, George Wyndham (1801-1870), a pastoralist and vigneron.

Its construction possibly began very soon after George and wife Margaret purchased over 2000 acres of land at Branxton in January 1828.  It was named Dalwood after one of his father’s farms at Dinton.

Dalwood's doric columns

Dalwood’s doric columns

The homestead represents arguably the only surviving example of a Greek Revival style building on Australian soil, the Greek style influenced by George Wyndham’s passions for the classics, born from his education at Trinity College Cambridge. The doric columns typify a simple beauty of form.

Doric columns from the inside

Doric columns from the inside

We entered the house through the doric columns of the side portico, which originally was accessed from the main bedroom (see item 18 on the floor plan below). According to Don, the main entrance was actually from the front verandah, although as the use of the house evolved over time, the usual entrance was from the back, by way of the stone flagged verandah beside the kitchen and service wing, into the flag stone floored ante room, and then to the formal rooms at the front.

Dalwood House Floor Plan (Courtesy of Don Seton Wilkinson)

Dalwood House Floor Plan (Courtesy of Don Seton Wilkinson)

Panorama - Original Entrance to Dalwood

Panorama – Original Entrance to Dalwood

Nothing could prepare you for the entrance to the drawing room (Room 1), which is larger than expected. It was breathtaking, and quite unexpected to see such a large space in what looked like a modest farmhouse from the outside. It was as if Wyndham had somehow fitted the Parthenon inside his farmhouse. How Australian! From the outside a humble abode, inside a ‘temple’.

Two thoughts initially came to mind, firstly the book by George L. Hersey entitled Pythagorean Palaces: Magic and Architecture in the Italian Renaissance (Cornell University Press, 1976) where he explored the method of creation of Greek temple structures as an unfolding architectural algorithm, once they set it in train they could reproduce structure after structure. Secondly, a recent documentary or news broadcast on the the recent conservation work on the Parthenon that featured interviews with the conservators and monumental masons and tradespeople working on the reconstruction and repair of the ancient monument, commenting on the subtly of the art they were uncovering through their work. There was an element of visual illusion that the ancient Greeks adopted in the construction of the building, a warping and a bending, in order to use imperfection to create the illusion of perfection. All skewed to a human perspective. I found this extraordinary, and very similar to what Wyndham had, for me, achieved in Dalwood, somewhat on a lesser scale.

I was unable to capture the feeling of space within the room through a photograph. It is something you will need to experience in the flesh, to fully understand what is going on here.

Dalwood passageway to courtyard

Dalwood passageway to courtyard

Dalwood Steps

Dalwood Steps

Dalwood Courtyard

Dalwood Courtyard

Being in the centre of the courtyard at Dalwood is very reminiscent of a Pompeian villa, I almost expected to see the remains of the plaster people frozen in time.

Visual surprises everywhere

Visual surprises everywhere

Dalwood trees

Dalwood trees

Dalwood mystery

Dalwood ‘mystery’ dome

Don also explained that the Dalwood ‘mystery dome’ at the rear of the courtyard is the cover to the well for the household’s water supply.

Panorama - Dalwood Courtyard

Panorama – Dalwood Courtyard

On our walk back, as dusk was approaching, I again looked back at the modest, humble homestead, with its doric columns, and a new sense of awe at what we had just briefly experienced. An outback illusion. I raced up to Don, who was having a discussion about the foundation work to the building, the estimated costs, and asked “You haven’t given up on the place have you?” He replied “No we haven’t”. “Because” I said, “UNESCO was able to move, with the help of the Italians and Americans whole Egyptian temples from one place to another, block by block, to avoid being flooded by the Aswan Dam, so we do have the technology to save such a little place – it’s worth saving”.

We can take pride that there are people out there willing to volunteer their time and lives to look after such buildings. What we need to remember is that buildings such as this also look after us.

For more information on Dalwood see: http://www.dalwood.org.au/

See Ann Hardy’s photographs (including the sundial) here: http://nationaltrust-hunternewcastleregion.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/dalwood-house-another-national-trust.html

Gionni Di Gravio
20th June 2013