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The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Thu 4 Jul 1867 1

(From Our Singleton Correspondent.)

    The ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the new Court-house took place on Tuesday afternoon, having had to be postponed from the 20th of last month, for which date the event had originally been fixed to come off, on account of the recent inclement state of the weather. The day was fine, and in consequence a pretty large concourse of spectators had assembled to view the proceedings. The magistrates of the district, members of the Municipal Council, clergymen, solicitors, and several of our principal inhabitants assembled at the Town Hall at three o’clock in the afternoon, where the following procession was formed. A band of music (the Singleton amateur bank) in the van, the whole of our local police force, the members of the legal profession residing in Singleton, the magistrates, the clergy, the Aldermen, followed by his Worship the Mayor in his robes of office, the municipal officers, the press, citizens walking two and two bringing up the rear. The procession in this order marched to the site of the court-house, and upon arriving there was received by the contractor, Mr William Cains who, addressing the Mayor, said: “Mr Mayor—It is the wish of the inhabitants of Singleton that you should lay the foundation stone of this building, and I have, therefore, great pleasure in handing you a trowel and mallet for that purpose.” The Mayor said before doing so he would call upon the Rev Mr Blackwood to offer up prayers, which having been done, the Mayor produced a bottle, and stated that it contained the latest copies of the two Sydney daily papers, the Maitland Mercury, and the Singleton Times, and after a lapse of centuries, perhaps, in those journals would be read the reports of those devastating floods, which had so recently occurred in various parts of the colony; several coins of the realm were also enclosed in the bottle, as well as an inscription which he would now call upon the Town Clerk (Dr Geoghegan) to read. The inscription, which had been neatly engrossed on parchment by Mr WC Clements, the town surveyor, was then read by Dr Geoghegan as follows:—

    The foundation stone of this building, erected for the purpose of a court-house, was laid by Alexander Munro, Esq, Mayor of Singleton, on the second day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-seven, and in the thirty-first year of the reign of our Most Gracious Sovereign Queen Victoria, the Right Honourable Sir John Young, Bathurst, KCB, Governor-in-Chief of the colony of New South Wales, the Hon Henry Parkes, Colonial Secretary, the Hon Geoffrey Eagar, Colonial Treasurer, the Hon John Bowie Wilson, Minister for Lands, the Hon James Byrnes, Minister for Works, the Hon RM Isaacs, Solicitor General, the Hon Joseph Docker, Postmaster General, the Aldermen of the Municipality of Singleton, being—Alexander Munro, Esq, Mayor, Aldermen Williams, Moore, Kingston, Brown, Hewitt, Cullen, Coughlan, and Bowman; Edward Geoghegan, Town Clerk; William Cook Clements, town surveyor; John Butters and Henry Peter Stacy, auditors; the Magistrates of the district of Patrick’s Plains, being—John Crichton Stuart McDougall (Warden), Robert Adamson Rodd, Henry Glennie, George Pierce Bowman, Samuel Billingsley Dight, John Browne, John Johnston, Andrew McDougall, Edward Parnell, George Thomas Loder, John Larnach, John Lethbridge, William Copeland Lesley, and James Edward Davys, Esquires; William Dudding, Clerk of Petty Sessions and Registrar of the District Court; Charles Thorpe, Sub-inspector of Police; Alfred Macfarland, Judge of the District Court and Chairman of Quarter Sessions; William John Foster, Crown Prosecutor; Augustus Carter, Clerk of the Peace; Christian Poppenhagen, Bailiff; James Barnett, Colonial Architect; William Roberts, Clerk of Works, William Cains, Contractor.—God save the Queen. 

    After the reading of this document the Mayor proceeded to spread the mortar, the stone was lowered to its bed, and with three knocks with the mallet the Mayor declared the stone to be well and truly laid, in accordance with the art of Masonry.

    His Worship then addressed the assemblage as follows:—“Mr Contractor and Gentlemen—I return you my sincere thanks for the honor you have done me in being requested to lay the foundation stone of this court-house. The erection of this edifice, which promises to be a very superior building, has been long required, and at its completion I am sure the public and inhabitants of this district especially will feel the great advantage it possesses over the old court-house, where we had for so long a time felt the inconvenience and delay in the administration of justice. Whilst congratulating ourselves upon this happy event and upon the many advantages we may expect to derive from this additional structure, which is indeed so marked an evidence of general improvement in our town of Singleton, we must never forget the obligations we are under to our worthy representative, the Honourable JB Wilson, and also to his Honor Judge McFarlane. I am sure, from the repeated failures in the applications which have been made from time to time to the Government, that the pleasure which has been afforded me this day in laying the foundation stone would not have taken place had it not been for the perseverance and determined efforts of his Honor the Judge and our Representative. I am sure this building, under so able and efficient a contractor as Mr Cains, will be speedily and satisfactorily completed.”

    At the conclusion of this address the Rev JS White pronounced the benediction, and the proceedings terminated with three cheers for the Queen, called by the Mayor, which were followed by three cheers for the Mayor, the magistrates, and the contractor. The procession then re-formed, and having conducted the Mayor back to the Town Hall, the assemblage dispersed.

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The Newcastle Chronicle, Tue 22 Sep 1868 2



From Saturday’s Times.)

Singleton courthouse, opened Sep 1868. Image: Australian Town and Country Journal, Sat 2 Dec 1871, p. 728. Reproduction: Peter de Waal
Singleton courthouse, opened Sep 1868. Image: Australian Town and
Country Journal, Sat 2 Dec 1871, p. 728. Reproduction: Peter de Waal

    The Singleton new court-house was yesterday opened for the purpose for which it was built, by His Honor Judge Macfarland, and without the least departure from the usual form and ceremony. The interior arrangements of the above fine building were found to be very convenient. The various rooms for judge, jury, barristers, witnesses, &c, which surround the court were all in full occupation. The door of each apartment shows the name indicating its use. The walls of the court, however, are merely plastered, and have a dull, dark, and dirty appearance for a fine house where everything looks so spruce and new, and they will look worse when the benches and boxes are fitted up. The sound, we observed, was not so perfect as we expected it would have been, from the opinion we were disposed to form on the occasion of the address delivered thereby the Hon JB Wilson. Of course, the building was then crowded to the door. Perhaps, according to the same science, when the various articles of furniture are placed, we shall discover equally satisfactory results. Altogether, we have much cause to rejoice at the change from the old to the new. We feel convinced that the duties of those whose business it is to be present at the court, must partake much of relaxation in comparison with the pressing inconvenience of the old building.

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Australian Town and Country Journal, Sat 2 Dec 1871 3


THIS township is of a private and rather select character, being built chiefly upon land originally belonging to Mr Singleton, an old resident of the Hunter, from whose hands it has passed into those of the Burdekin family. It is seated in the centre of an extensive and rich alluvial plain. The formation of the Hunter River, by which it is well, occasionally too well, watered, that is when the plain becomes an almost boundless sheet of water, and the lawless river runs riot in the streets. Nothing so moist and unpleasant is on the turf at present, for the sward is thick and verdant enough to satisfy the eye and gladden the heart of an Emerald Islander, while the deciduous trees are decked in all the glories of spring.

    Singleton, as a municipality, occupies 300 acres of land, and is therefore about the most minute corporation (of that kind) in the colony; but the amount of work performed by that body since incorporation is highly creditable, for when the contracts now let are completed, the town will have 1000 yards more kirbing [sic] and channelling than West Maitland.

    This is the only township on the Hunter not set out by the veteran surveyor, GB White, Esq, and the plan, upon due investigation, appears to be acompound [sic] concatenation of a triangle, a ladder, and a gridiron. Whichever way you turn you seem to come on a sharp angle, and where several of these meet at a point their aspect is almost minacious, and must be quite inconvenient for building purposes. George-street, John-street, and York-street, form three sides of a triangle, which is filled in by Hunter, Elizabeth, and several other streets running parallel with York-street, while several are laid off at right angles to, and the other side of, George-street, which is the leading street for business, though there are some nice buildings in John-street too.

    The municipal body (not its members) came into existence on the 30th January, 1866, and consists of a mayor and eight councillors, Mr A Munro being the local Whittington, thrice Mayor of Singleton. Mr C Poppenhagen is clerk of the Council, and to him I am indebted for much useful information.

    Among several creditable performances of the Council, stands fencing of the town common, an area of four square miles, with a two-rail fence, where from 100 to 150 head of ratepayers’ cattle find refreshment at the rate of a head for every pound of assessment paid; the maximum of accommodation, however, being twenty head. The common is across the river at Darlington, a spot barely visible to the naked eye, but it is said to be the Government site for a town. The site is here, but the town isn’t. Singleton is celebrated for its annual show of stock, and second to none for the exhibition of pure-bred cattle and blood stock, mostly produced in the surrounding district. The show-yard covers five acres of ground near the railway station, well protected by a high, stout, and closely paled fence, having a pavilion 100 by 30 feet, besides pens, cattle-yards in double rows, a poultry pavilion, a handsome stand for the ladies, and a band-stand with canvas awning, surmounted, in the season, by a flag, presented by the president. The main entrance is on the north side; that for cattle on the west, and for horses on the south. The first show took place in August, 1868; in 1870 there were 712 exhibits, and in 1871, 909. The improvements made here in fencing, building, and tree-planting have, with the purchase of land, cost £1000, all raised locally, the members, who muster 250 strong, coming forward in the most liberal manner with donations; the two octagon pavilions cost £50 each, and were presented, one by the treasurer, Mr James Moore, and the other by Mr Loder, of Abbey Green. To meet an overdrawn account, twenty-five pound debentures were issued and taken up by certain members without interest, repayable in five instalments of £1; the instalments when paid being re-presented to the society, which is now in a solvent and healthy condition.

    On your left, as you proceed up John-street by the one omnibus that Singleton boasts, stands a large tall building, commanding, from its balcony, a fine view over the surrounding levels and distant Wollombi ranges; this is the Singleton and Patrick’s Plains Benevolent Asylum, opened in 1862, by the exertions of the society founded several years ago.

    The land was given by Mr Wiseman, the building complete being designed to occupy three sides of a quadrangle, only a portion of which, however, is completed. There are six large wards, emergency room, dispensary, and quarters for superintendent and matron, in the complete plan, rather over half of which has been carried out. A domed cellar (very convenient), a 16,000-gallon tank, kitchen and outbuildings have been built, and the works, as they stand at present, have cost £2670. The building is light and lofty in 14-inch work, with triangular window-heads in tuck-pointed brickwork, having altogether a frontage of 96 feet, the wards being 40 feet by 20 feet, and one in the wing 33 feet by 14 feet 6 inches.

    There are at present twenty inmates, and the average of admissions for 1870 has been seventy-six, in the proportion of two males to one female. Messrs WC Leslie and James Moore were the men who took a leading part in procuring this useful and ornamental temple of charity for the district, which is alike a credit to it and to them.

    Here is to be found one of those rara aves—an ole Peninsular-war man, and one of Wellington’s veterans, but, whether he was at Waterloo or no, he cannot call to mind just now, for he thinks his memory’s a bit failing, which, perhaps, is not a very remarkable fact, as he is about eighty-five years old, and has been in the asylum about twelve years. Walter Foyer is a native of Dumbarton, on the Clyde, and after serving in the militia, voluntarily enlisted in the 1st Foot to serve in the Peninsular campaign; and still, in spite of his years, looks a hardy and hearty old soldier yet. Mr Weaver is superintendent of this institution, and Mrs Wilson is the matron. Not far back from the hospital is the the [sic] great Singleton bridge over the Hunter, which takes the traffic of both road and rail, and has cost us some trifling £46,000. It is a long and handsome structure, carried across upon massive stone piers and abutments, spanned in each case by four stout segmental girders tied together by six iron tie-rods, the spandrels between the girders and floor of the bridge being strutted and braced. I made the length 177 yards and width 32 feet, equally divided between road and rail, which are on the same level, and would probably be a trifle awkward for a young horse that had never seen a train before the piers are continued in stone to about 8 feet 6 inches above the roadway, but the spaces between are only guarded by handrails; the railway is ballasted up as usual; the roadway is laid diagonally and protected by heavy longitudinal sleepers. An arch, in solid masonry, at each end of the waterway connects the large segmental arches with the abutments.

    The Mechanics’ Institute present an imposing front to George-street, 30 feet by 60 feet deep, in three storeys, the hall being on the first floor 44 feet by 28 feet nearly, without the stage, and capable of seating 400 people, with a gallery above for 80 more. There are besides, a good reading-room, and library with over 2000 volumes of mostly scientific and historical works; for the Singleton mind is also asserted to be a sensible mind, and prefers instruction to mere amusement. A council-room, board-room, and municipal offices form part of the plan, which has been well carried out.

    The Court-house is the handsomest in the colony; expensive and extensive, almost beyond the requirements of the district, unless, as appears probable, it was intended to be the central court of a wide circuit. A triple window in the end facing Elizabeth-street, and ten side-windows, light a very handsome court, 50 by 30 by 27 feet high, well furnished with massive bench and canopy, and the ordinary legal furniture, and flanked on both sides by capital roomy offices 21 feet wide. On the right or west side, a passage divides the clerk’s room from the magistrates’; then comes the judges’, with an external and internal door, and on the east side are jury-room, counsel and witnesses’-rooms, with separate yards and external offices in each case; in the attorneys’ yard grows a fine camphor tree, probably intended for distillation into camphor for the preservation of legal documents. Mr Phillips, the court-keeper, thinks it hard that he is not found in brooms. He says the spiders are very strong here, and it comes rough on him to find himself in brooms. These offices appear as wings to the Court from Elizabeth-street, recessed behind deep verandahs, over which appear heavy cornices fringed with open parapets; all the ornamental work being in good freestone of excellent colour, and the dead wall in brick, the whole having a massive but cheerful character.

    From Mr Dudding, the clerk of court and land officer, we learn that the building, complete, cost £6000, and was opened in November, 1868; from the land books we learn that the number of selectors, from the beginning to the end of October last, is 332, and the amount of land selected 50,814 acres.

    Artists have a habit of saying that you must have contrast to produce effect; if so, they might get a powerful effect in placing the Singleton Court-house and gaol side by side on paper, as it is here done in reality.

    Planted in a hole, out of which there is no escape for waste or any other water, composed of two venerable, and not very roomy slab cells, and two new ones added, with a reversible leanto, without lining, for the gaoler stands (or leans); the gaol, the main holdfast on a prisoner, being a chain that would hold a lion. Mr Sub-Inspector Thorpe tells me this building has been trying to stand for thirty years, but no gaoler has, on grounds of personal security, to say nothing of convenience, taken possession of the old Court-house, a homely-looking building; two acres of the unsold adjoining have been granted by the Messrs Burdekin for a market site.

    Several stores and business premises in the town are worthy of note, among the especially important are the general stores of the Mayor, Mr James Moore, in John-street, and the handsome premises of his vis-a-vis, Mr Morrison, ironmonger and timber merchant; those of Mr JS Murray, in George-street, are also excellent; Mr G Jarman’s Great Northern Boot and Shoe Factory is a new establishment, of twelve months’ standing, employing about twenty-five hands, turning out 500 pairs a week, and exporting to Victoria and New Zealand. George-street also boasts of several other good buildings and businesses beside the above-mentioned, as Hewitt’s Royal Hotel, Ash’s Caledonia, and the Commercial Bank, a showy building, in what I conjecture to be in the Roman Corinthian style.

    Regarding education the Denominational element is very strong here, and I am almost disposed to think the Church of England School the best; it is certainly one of the best schools in the country. The building itself is all that can be wished, and the teachers are well up to their work; the discipline is excellent, and the attendance is an evidence that the instruction is fully appreciated. Mr and Mrs Cragg are trained teachers of English experience, with high certificates, Mrs Cragg having had charge of schools in Manchester and Lancaster, mustering 300 children, and holding a first-class certificate; Mr Cragg also holds a first-class drawing certificate from the Privy Council, and his advanced pupils sketch from Nature. The school has been established thirty years, but was at a low ebb when the present teachers took it up, and brought it to its present state of efficiency, one of them working four years without salary for that purpose. The average attendance is now 107.

Singleton, St Patrick’s Roman Catholic school. Image: Australian Town and Country Journal, Sat 2 Dec 1871, p.728. Reproduction: Peter de Waal
Singleton, St Patrick’s Roman Catholic school. Image: Australian Town and Country
Journal, Sat 2 Dec 1871 , p.728. Reproduction: Peter de Waal

    The school belonging to the Roman Catholic community is a large one for the population, and together with the adjoining church, under the title of St Patrick’s Church and School, occupies twelve acres of ground. St Patrick’s School is under the care of Mr and Mrs Coghlan, who began in 1857 with fourteen pupils, their average daily attendance being now 147. The school-room is in brick, with entrance porches, the room being no less than 70 feet by 24 feet, and the adjacent ground being carefully and judiciously planted with imported trees; and standing near the intersection of several roads. The adjoining church is a freestone building, in the lancet or early English style, about 70 feet long, with six lancets on each side, and a lofty open kingpost roof, with braces resting on stone corbels between the windows. The freestone came from Rix Creek, four miles away from the building; in front of the west entrance of which stands a stone monument to Father Leonard’s predecessor in the sacred office, the Rev B Murphy, who died eight years ago. There are also a north porch, and a double bell-turret, of a frail character, physically incapable of carrying two bells. A very nice Presbytery and garden join the church ground.

    The Rev Jas Blackwood’s church, of All Saints, has chancel, nave, and aisle, with, however, a timber division between the two, marring the internal effect, which otherwise is very good, for the windows are filled with representations of Our Saviour bearing the cross and coming to judgment, and the four Evangelists occupying the outside lights; while the two light windows of the side walls are filled with full length figures of the twelve Apostles. The triplet at the east end of the aisle is filled with glass representing the Ascension of Our Lord, beneath which are the three Christian Graces. This artistic window was inserted in memory of Mrs Dangar, and outside the church stands an Ionic table-tomb in white marble, to the memory of Mr Henry Dangar, of Grantham, imported and erected at a cost of £1300. Two acres are attached to church and school, the whole ground being tastefully planted with choice trees, and well looked after.

    This church has also an incapable double bell-turret, a capable timber turret detached, and a south porch; internally is has a flue toned German organ richly ornamented in carved woodwork, quite equal in taste and effect to the work of four centuries ago.

    The Free Church is a small brick building, closed by the Union; the Presbyterian Church stands in Hunter-street, beyond which, in the same street, is the Public School, under Mr and Mrs Mountain. French, Euclid, and Algebra are among the “extras” taught in this school, which averages 65 in attendance.

    Singleton should be a fine stand for races, with its green level turf and back-ground of distant blue hills, Mount Royal, Mount Dyring, and Mount Myrannie to the east, and the Bulga and Wollombi to the south and west; the scene would be grand from a grand stand with 10,000 visitors below. A Singleton Jockey Club was, but is not, for it “split;” some attempt, however, is now being made to revive and join it again, under the style and title of the Patrick’s Plains Jockey Club.

    Singleton has come forward nobly with her contribution in defence of this much envied and coveted country, against the claws and paws of the eagle and the bear, for the local volunteers number nearly seventy strong, and have been enrolled three years under Captain Loder; the members appear to be in continual practice at their butts beyond the racecourse, and the band has attained considerable and creditable proficiency. The first and the last building about Singleton, as about most other towns along a railway, is the station, which is 120 feet long, including out-offices and large refreshment-room; the through trains stopping here six minutes for the refreshment of passengers. The station, with its goods-shed and turn-tables, is not within the municipality, however, the population of which is stated to be 1400.

    West Maitland, 17th November, 1871.

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The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Tue 2 Dec 1873 4


    BELL COTE ON THE COURT HOUSE.—We observe that the contractor, Mr Paton, has commenced the erection of the belfry or bell cote on the Singleton court house. The future home of the first public bell in this town will make a decided improvement to the court house, by relieving the naked appearance of the roof, and from its height will form quite a feature in our too table-like landscape.—Apropos of the bell and clock, there can be no question by a remark made to us by a Benedict acquaintance of ours who (sub rosa) has a weakness for prolonging his “rubber” occasionally until the small hours have arrived. Our whist friend said, “I look upon the bell as a nuisance, for when once the big ugly thing has been hung there (pointing to the bell cote), it will be no use to stop the pendulum of the clock or put back the hour hand of the watch, for that black looking monster with its sonorous tones will let the cat out of the bag.” We are inclined to think that when Schiller in his “Lay of the Bell” named the herald of joy and sorrow “Concordia,” he mentally included in his wide range of the uses of public bell, the probability of its producing concord in the household by making the proverb early to bed and early to arise an accomplished fact.

    Singleton, 1st December, 1873.


1  The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Thu 4 Jul 1867, p. 2.

2  The Newcastle Chronicle, Tue 22 Sep 1868, p. 3.

3  Australian Town and Country Journal, Sat 2 Dec 1871, p. 728. Emphasis added.

4  The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Tue 2 Dec 1873, p. 4.