First Outpost

(1801 – 1802)

The results of the ‘Lady Nelson’ expedition led to a post being established late June 1801 at the mouth of the Hunter river. Corporal Wixstead was in charge of the post, and with five other soldiers he controlled a small party of convicts to mine coal. Wixstead, however, was not successful as a leader with disloyal subordinates. Dr. Martin Mason then took over, but was so brutal that he incited mutiny. With these two failures Governor King decided to abandon the post and all came back to Sydney in 1802.

Painting, convict labourers, c 1800s, from UoN Dr. John Turner collection.

Second Outpost
(1804 - 1823)

Governor King sent Lt. Charles Menzies and 15 other soldiers to the mouth of the Hunter which King named ‘Newcastle’. They were sent with prisoners to mine coal and cut cedar, sailing on the “Lady Nelson”, the “James” and the “Resource” and arriving March 30 1804. A plot for mutiny in the new outpost was uncovered in June that year, but was stopped and the two leaders of the revolt sent to Sydney for execution.

The prisoners that mined worked in very basic and unsafe conditions, with the men cutting 2.5 tons of coal a day. Newcastle remained a penal colony for the next twenty years, with most prisoners living in the goal, but well-behaved prisoners were allowed to construct huts. This was considered a great privilege and the huts were inspected and had to appear neat. As the number of convicts grew, the town of Newcastle grew with it. In 1823 the convicts were sent to port Macquarie, and Newcastle finished as a penal colony.

A View of King’s Town [Newcastle], NSW, Australia [c.1800's] from the UoN Newcastle and Hunter District Historical Society archives.


Abbott, J.H.M. The Newcastle Packets and the Hunter Valley. Sydney, Currawong Publishing Co., 1943. Print.

Mitchell, Cecily Joan. Hunter’s River: A history of early families and the homes they built in the Lower Hunter Valley between 1830 and 1860. Sydney: National Library of Australia, 1984.  Print


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