Coal River Precinct | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage

Heritage

Coal River Precinct

Item details

Name of item: Coal River Precinct
Other name/s: Fort Scratchley, Nobby's Head, Convict Lumberyard site, Macquarie Pier, Breakwater, Nobby's Beach
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Landscape - Cultural
Category: Historic Landscape
Location: Lat: -32.9241782128 Long: 151.7921046380
Primary address: Nobby's Road, Newcastle, NSW 2300
Parish: Newcastle
County: Northumberland
Local govt. area: Newcastle
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Awabakal
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT105 DP1104195
LOT1 DP401480
LOT1 DP407886
LOT2 DP407886
LOT4 DP407886
LOT5 DP407886
LOT1 DP531493
PART LOT1 DP720672
LOT10 DP720672
PART LOT11 DP720672
PART LOT12 DP720672
PART LOT2 DP720672
LOT2613 DP755247
LOT2857 DP755247
LOT2953 DP755247
LOT1 DP817695
LOT2 DP817695
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Nobby's RoadNewcastleNewcastleNewcastleNorthumberlandPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Federal GovernmentGeneral 
Newcastle City CouncilLocal Government 
NSW MaritimeState Government21 Oct 05
NSW MaritimeState Government 

Statement of significance:

The Aboriginal presence in the Coal River area predates European contact and has been continuous to the present day. The associations, over time, of particular places, sites and areas of the Precincts and of their distinctive landforms with Aboriginal culture can be revealed, as permissible, through further consultation and study.

Coal River is one of a number of sites in Australia first settled by convict transportation. Slavery, indentured labour, convict transportation and penal settlement have contributed to the spread of diverse cultural influences throughout the world and are global heritage themes. The national significance of Fort Scratchley and the national and state significance of the Convict Lumberyard/Stockade have been recognised.

The Coal River Historic Precincts have State significance because they concentrate the whole story of the development of New South Wales' first and most important industrial centre. They encompass the site of Newcastle's first coal mine, the site of the first navigational aids for coastal shipping and Hunter River traffic, and the site of a series of fortifications designed to protect the growing settlement and its precious coal reserves. These resources are largely due to the skills and labour of transported convicts, committed for secondary punishment.
Date significance updated: 23 Jan 03
Note: There are incomplete details for a number of items listed in NSW. The Heritage Division intends to develop or upgrade statements of significance and other information for these items as resources become available.

Description

Construction years: 1804-1960
Physical description: Component sites all situated along the striking coastal topography of Newcastle Harbour's South Head: sites of Aboriginal cultural significance and occupation and probable subsurface evidence; Fort Scratchley, Signal Hill Convict Coal Mine Workings, associated post-convict coastal defences; Macquarie Pier
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Fort: poor/medium;
Mine Workings: unknown;
Pier: good/low
Date condition updated:21 Dec 04
Further information: Archaeological investigation of the Mine Workings and the Aboriginal sites remains to be carried out.
Current use: Cultural Tourism; Maritime Museum (Fort); Artillery Museum (Fort); breakwater
Former use: Coastal & harbour defence; coal mine; breakwater

History

Historical notes: 1796 - Informal accounts reach Sydney of the reserves of coal at 'Coal River'.
1797 - Lt Shortland and his crew enter Coal River and confirm the coal resources
1801 - Formal identification of the great potential of the coal reserves and the river and first and brief attempt to set up a coal mining camp.
1804 - Formation of a permanent convict/military outpost to mine coal, harvest timber and prepare lime. A light beacon and gun emplacement were built on the southern headland. Nobbys Island was seen as a useful place for confinement. Aboriginal-European encounters
1814 - Expansion of the settlement in line with Governor Macquarie's policies. Lumberyard developed. Coal mining extends away from 'Colliers' Point'. A farming outpost was established at Paterson's Plains, inland from Newcastle
1816 - Marked increase in development of convict settlement from 1816 to 1822
1818 - Increase in trading envisaged. Macquarie Pier commenced, also other aids to navigation. Significant expansion of building program including hospital, stores, accommodation, gaol, church and windmills.
1822 - Penal settlement was moved to Port Macquarie. Variable convict workforce retained for public works such as road making, breakwater building, coal mining, property and tools maintenance, and so on.
1823 - Beginning of era of transition from a penal/military establishment to a civil settlement with civil administration. Work was suspended on the Pier. The built environment of the penal era was gradually replaced.
1831 - End of era of government-controlled coal mining and beginning of private enterprise mining by the Australian Agricultural Company.
1830s - Work resumed on Pier building and was completed in 1846. Ballast and sand reclaimed the foreshore. Building wharfage and harbour formation, and pilot facilities and navigational aids were ongoing.
1847 - Occupation of new military barracks. Lumberyard stockade was reused for other purposes from the late 1840s.
1855 - The barracks complex was vacated by the Imperial military when the last convict workers left Newcastle
1857 - Lighthouse was built on Nobbys Island.

South Head later was used for fortifications and colonial and then national military purposes. Newcastle East emerged as a complex rail, warehousing, industrial, commercial, residential and leisure precinct (Hunter, C. 2001/HO).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Cultural - Coasts and coastal features supporting human activities-
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Scientific: Geoperiod Carboniferous Epoch Late 280 to 320 million years ago-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. Awabakal-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Convict-Activities relating to incarceration, transport, reform, accommodation and working during the convict period in NSW (1788-1850) - does not include activities associated with the conviction of persons in NSW that are unrelated to the imperial 'convict system': use the theme of Law & Order for such activities Working for the Crown-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Convict-Activities relating to incarceration, transport, reform, accommodation and working during the convict period in NSW (1788-1850) - does not include activities associated with the conviction of persons in NSW that are unrelated to the imperial 'convict system': use the theme of Law & Order for such activities Demonstrating the Irish convict experience-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Convict-Activities relating to incarceration, transport, reform, accommodation and working during the convict period in NSW (1788-1850) - does not include activities associated with the conviction of persons in NSW that are unrelated to the imperial 'convict system': use the theme of Law & Order for such activities Experiencing secondary punishment-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Forestry-Activities associated with identifying and managing land covered in trees for commercial purposes. Timber getting-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Forestry-Activities associated with identifying and managing land covered in trees for commercial purposes. Coastal timbergetting-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Forestry-Activities associated with identifying and managing land covered in trees for commercial purposes. Sawmilling-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Industry-Activities associated with the manufacture, production and distribution of goods Mining-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Mining-Activities associated with the identification, extraction, processing and distribution of mineral ores, precious stones and other such inorganic substances. Commencement and evolution of a coal shipping port-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Technology-Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences Technologies for underground mining-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements Maintaining maritime transport routes-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements Building and maintaining public light houses and stations-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation Involvement with the Second World War-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Building and operating public infrastructure-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Visiting heritage places-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going to the beach-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Gathering at landmark places to socialise-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Visiting lookouts and places of natural beauty-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Governor The Earl of Belmore, 1868-1872-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with a RECYCLE THIS ONE-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Governor Lt.William Paterson-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Coal River is the site of historic and continuous Aboriginal occupation, the evidence of which merits further study.(Hunter, C., 2001/HO)

Coal River is important in the natural history of New South Wales because its resources provided Australia’s first commercial export product, coal, as well as essential fuel for the Sydney settlement, and the timber and lime resources that supported the development of Sydney’s built environment.
Coal River is important to the cultural history of Australia. Convict heritage provides the foundation theme of modern Australia. Convict lives dominated the early political and cultural landscape of New South Wales; much of Australia’s early economic success was the result of convict labour, as is demonstrated by these precincts.
Coal River was the first penal settlement for secondary offenders established within the penal colony of New South Wales. It is significant for providing major evidence of convict colonisation and of the interrelated work and punishment orientated regime of daily life.
Coal River provides evidence of the role of the British military in the foundation of Australian colonial settlements.
Coal River, 1800 to 1821, has absolute association with convict transportation and British military guardianship. From 1821 to 1855 there evolved at Coal River a particular example of its subsequent integration with civil society and institutions.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Coal River is the site of historic and continuous Aboriginal occupation, whose evidence merits further study.
Coal River has significant associations with people and events in Australian history, which await dissemination. For example, John Platt merits recognition, as a pioneer of modern mining methods in the Southern Hemisphere. The roles of Governors Hunter, King and Macquarie are significant. The Castle Hill rebellion played a significant part in the 1804 settlement at Coal River, as the place of secondary punishment for the Vinegar Hill rebels. Coal River’s convict population awaits identification and evaluation, for example, the supporters of Governor Bligh when overthrown by the military, were exiled to Newcastle. The military commandants and other holders of administrative positions merit evaluation for their contribution to the organisation of Coal River. Evidence of their influence should be revealed. Mariners sailing the coast and those who worked in the harbour could be recognised, as well as their ships. In more recent times, Fort Scratchley was the only fortification in NSW to receive and return enemy fire, during WWII, an event still accessible, no doubt to oral historians.
The educational and public interest value of this information can be used to great advantage in cultural industries today.
(Hunter, C., 2001/HO)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Part of the Precincts occupy distinctive landforms whose significance in local Aboriginal cultural traditions merits further investigation.

Coal River inaugurated resource extraction and industry in Australia's major coal export port and industrial city. It is also the site of the first use of the board and pillar coal extraction method in Australia, thereby placing mining in Australia in 1801 at the technical forefront of world mining practices. This indicates transference of technology around the world. That a convict, John Platt, implemented this transfer is particularly significant. The Coal River Precincts occupy a scenic part of the city and their main and secondary sites contribute significantly to the townscape and attractions of Newcastle and Newcastle East. The combination of harbour, nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings and Signal Hill forms one of the finest coastal and maritime townscapes in New South Wales.
(Hunter, C., 2001/HO)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Aboriginal presence in this area predates European contact and has been continuous to the present day. The associations, over time, of particular places, sites and areas of the Precincts and of their distinctive landforms with Aboriginal culture will be revealed, as permissible, through further consultation and study.
Descendants of the early generation of convict workers that founded Newcastle as an industrial city take pride in the contribution of their forebears. However, research needs to be undertaken to identify the convict workforce.
Coal River has significance as the place of contact between Aboriginal and European people in the northern region. Aboriginal people continued to frequent the locality during the convict era and their descendants continue to live in the Newcastle area.
Coal River is closely associated with the Newcastle community today because the key and secondary sites have played and continue to play an important and changing role in the lives of successive generations.
Coal River is significant as a latent resource with great educational and recreational potential, to be presented to the community using excellent, up-to-date methods in a central, outstanding venue, where interpretation of the convict/military history of Newcastle can be presented and linked to pre and post settlement themes.
Coal River provides the potential to reconstruct the convict/military community as a dynamic whole, reflecting the dominance of Sydney and the development of trade. Interpretation of Coal River as a single entity will enable unification of elements that have been dismembered by subsequent development and urban evolution.
(Hunter, C., 2001/HO)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Precincts’ significance to Aboriginal people requires further investigation. Its distinctive landforms are likely to have a role in local traditional knowledge. Evidence of Aboriginal activities will probably occur within the Precincts, wherever European development has not destroyed it.
Investigation of the convict coalmines may reveal the skills and technical achievements of Australia’s first coal miners. Investigation of the core of Macquarie’s Pier may reveal the technical achievement of quarrying and masonry work carried out by the convict workforce.
Concerted presentation of Coal River has the potential to increase understanding of the origins of modern Australia, the origin of settlement in the Hunter Valley and the subsequent history of Newcastle. Coal River demonstrates the capabilities of the convict workforce to undertake not only mining, but also quarrying, timber getting, lime burning, building and industrial trades, farming and gardening, navigation and harbour work, as well as improvising in a frontier environment.
Coal River invites further archaeological investigations that may reveal the routines of daily life for both the convict and military population, especially convict coalmining, quarrying and pier building, additional to that contained in documentation.
Fort Scratchley makes a considerable contribution to the military history of New South Wales. It was as significant a part of the anti Russian defences of the colony as the defences of Port Jackson. In fact, Fort Scratchley survives as the most concentrated and complete example of the whole system and certainly the one with the best exemplified changing military history.
(Hunter, C., 2001/HO)
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
Coal River, a convict/military settlement for prisoners guilty of colonial offences is one of few such convict settlements in Australia, and was the earliest such settlement. Evidence of convict workplaces, coal mining, pier building, quarrying, and other activities are rare in Australia. The role of British military in the foundation of colonial society is little studied and the example of Coal River could make a valuable contribution to cultural studies. The period of transition from military rule to civil administration is of great interest and educational value and is rare in Australian settlement history and society. (Hunter, C., 2001/HO)
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
Coal River and its sites demonstrate the characteristics of a convict settlement administered by military, 1801 to c.1821, phasing out between 1821 and 1855. From Lieutenant Menzies’ to Captain Wallis’ commands, the military played a central role in designing and constructing Coal River. This is the foundation of modern Newcastle and Newcastle Harbour. (Hunter, C., 2001/HO)
Integrity/Intactness: The aboveground components of the precinct retain a high degree of integrity and excellent ability to demonstrate their significance. The subsurface evidence remains to be thoroughly investigated.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

Consultation with local Aboriginal community,Conservation planning(as required), Cultural Tourism Planning (including business planning) and Interpretation planning for the Precincts should be undertaken simultaneously and collaboratively.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for commentCoal River Precinct Conservation & Cultural Tourism Management Plan  
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementFort Scratchely - CMP for HC endorsement Sep 12 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0167419 Dec 03 197A11590
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage registervarious Nobby's Head items    
Local Environmental Planvarious Nobby's Head elements 08 Aug 03 124 
Local Environmental PlanNobbys Head & Lighthouse group 21 Oct 80   
National Trust of Australia register  435524 Jun 98   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
The Convict Lumberyard, the Stationmaster's Office, etc. :a Conservation Policy  Meridith Walker et al.  Yes
The Convict Lumberyard, the Stationmaster's Office, etc. :a Conservation Policy  Meridith Walker et al.  Yes
The Newcastle Lumberyard, Historical Archaeological Report1987 D. Bairstow & J W Turner  No
Heritage Places Strategic Plan and Plans of Management2000 Australian Street Co., B.Maitland, Manidis Roberts  No
Newcastle Archaeological Management Plan  Suters Architects et al.  No
Fort Scratchley Newcastle NSW Studies vols 1 & 21997 Suters Architect Snell Pty Ltd  No
Macquarie Pier and Nobby's Head Conservation Plan1996 Suters Architects Snell Pty Ltd  Yes
Newcastle City Wide Heritage Study1996 Suters Architects Snell  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenBritton, Geoffrey1997Concept Master Plan for Fort Scratchley, Newcastle
WrittenCynthia Hunter2001Coal River Tourism Project; Coal River Historic Site Stage One
TourismFort Scratchley Historical Society Inc.2006Fort Scratchley Historical Society Inc. View detail
TourismNewcastle City Council2007Newcastle City Council View detail
WrittenSuters Architects2000Macquarie pier, Nobbys head and southern breakwater : conservation management plan

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5053900
File number: H00/00162


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