Singleton Town Walk (warts and all)
This work was intended to supplement the town walk handout provided by the council at its tourist centre. However the offer was never taken up so it still is to some extent a wip. However feel free to copy it , but check out my copyright restrictions and / or requirements. It does differ from the offer in as much that I have included references and end notes for those who may like to research further. Unfortunately some of the photographs have not copied but I am working on it.
To the best of my knowledge no copyright applies to the historical pictures. Please advise me if this is not the case.
Singleton was originally a private township having developed around the crossing of the HunterRiver on land taken up in 1823 by Benjamin Singleton. Singleton was one of the members of John Howe’s exploring party who discovered the area two days before St. Patrick’s Day in 1820 and caused it to be known as Patrick’s Plains. A memorial to that event is erected on the New England Highway at Whittingham.
The walk covers some of the European history and buildings of the town and commences and finishes at Burdekin Park (1) in George Street. The park was given to the town in 1837 by Singleton and used as a market square but some five years later the property passed into the Burdekin family. Attempts by that family to subdivide the park into allotments in the 1860’s was thwarted by local residents who refused to bid at the auction of the property. In the late 1870’s the family donated the land to the township with the proviso that it was to be called BurdekinPark.
The park contains the historical museum in what originally was the town lock up. During the 1830’s the Government of the day had commenced the erection of a cou
rthouse and lockup at Whittingham the official town site south east of Singleton’s private town. However the enterprising Singleton, possibly perceiving that his business interests would be better served in the relocation of colonial authority closer to his commercial activities generously erected a courthouse near the existing building. The 1841 buildings served the community among other things as a jail and courthouse, a church, council chambers and now a museum. Through the years without fear or favor it has administered justice and punishment, redemption and rates. Benjamin died on the 2 May 1853 and is buried in the Anglican cemetery at Whitingham. The building became the local museum in 1963 and is well worth a visit. It is regarded as one of the best local museum outside the Sydney metropolitan area.
Outside the museum is the Alexander Munroe fountain that originally stood at the corner of George and Campbell Streets outside the Caledonia Hotel. Alexander was a prominent member of the community and the first Mayor when the town was incorporated in 1866. It is reported that after the declaration of the Poll at the courthouse ‘the newly elected aldermen …proceeded to the Royal Hotel where the health of the returning officer, the newly elected aldermen…were drunk in bumpers (?)’ after which they were ‘unceremoniously seized’ and drawn through the town in a vehicle by the local populace. He was responsible in 1881 for the installation of a coal-gas plant which some eighty years later had 780 consumers and over twenty kilometers of pipeline. Alexander was also a noticeable vigeneron so much so that a newspaper report of 1876 stated the he was the proud ‘possessor of 46,000 gallons of wine or say half a bottle per head for the entire population of New South Wales’
On the George Street side of the museum is the Boer War memorial to Herbert W. Waddell. Herbert, along with other volunteers from Singleton was a member of the New South Wales Lancers. Lieut.-Colonel P.L. Murray described these volunteers as ‘a superior class of individuals, from whom considerable was to be expected’. Trooper Waddell was killed in action defending the railhead at PienaarsRiver some six weeks before his squadron was to commence embarkation for home. He was twenty-eight. The Presbyterian chaplain, the Rev. J.H.G.Auld on the September 28, wrote:
‘ I was told that a dead (man) had been brought in…Trooper H.W. Waddell . Poor chap. He was sick and not allowed to go out with the patrol but when he knew there was a fight on he went out…He was shot through the heart…In the evening…buried Waddell and a Boer, reading the one service for the both. It was strange thing that we should stand around the grave of our comrade and our enemy and commit their bodies to the ground together-had a cross put on Waddell’s grave.’
Herbert was the only local casualty of a war where 518 Australian died and some 16,000 served. Later day historian have argued that Herbert’s memorials stand along with others of its kind as a ‘memorial to the early death of republicanism and separatism’ For more about Herbert and Trooper Tom Morris who was nominated for the Victoria Cross see here.
On the George side of the park is the First World War memorial to the soldiers and sailors of the First World War built in 1925?
This two storey High Victorian style building of brick stuccoes and lined to imitate ashlar. It has a slate roof, cast iron verandah and large pane sash windows. It was built in 1884 and was the former Bank of New South Wales and is classified by the national trust. The cast iron work was by John Crass of Sydney whilst the architects were Backhouse and Lough. Benjamin Backhouse was responsible for a number of buildings in the town and Minimbah on the outskirts and besides his architectural interests was also a earnest social reformer.
Next to Ewebank is the Royal Hotel (3). The hotel was originally built in 1859. Its name likes others in the town, the Imperial and the Albion reflecting the propensity of the populace at the time to identify with the cultural and historical heritage of England. Its adjoining pavilion, long since gone, was the site of the public meeting on the 22 Feb 1866 called by the returning officer J.C.C. McDouall ‘for the purpose of Electing Councilors and Auditors’ for the first Municipal Council.
Across George Street from the Royal is the Percy Hotel (4) originally licensed by John Lumley in 1839 as the Horse and Jockey it was also known as the Rose then the Northumberland. In the 1890’s it became the Percy Hotel after the new owner William Hotspur Percy.
Shop built during the 1860’s (5)
On the same side of George St. as the Royal hotel is the Mechanics Institute (6) designed by J. Pender of Maitland. Whilst the original purpose of such when they were established in England in 1823 was to introduce the working class mass to learning this did not eventuate and they became instead a forum for the literary minded being controlled arguably in the most part by middle class patrons. Some two years after its opening on the 8 July 1867 the building began a long association with local government. From 1869 to 1874 the Singleton Municipal Council used it. In 1906 it became the meeting place for the newly formed ‘Temporary Council of the Patrick Plains Shire’ until its own building was completed in 1911. In 1941 the Municipal Council bought the building and used it as the council chamber to c.1981. It is now used by local support and community groups and has been described as a classic Mid Victorian Georgian with Palladian references.
On the other side of George Street at the corner of George and Macquarie streets is the Federation -Edwardian style building erected in 1911 for the Shire of Patrick Plains Council (7). The aedicule framed entrance door and the windows on the ground floor of this red brick structure sets a classic style to the building.
Walk on down George Street and next to the Caledonia Hotel is the former CBC bank erected in 1884 by W. Burnett again to the design of Backhouse and Lough. 7a.
At the corner of George and Campbell Streets is the Caledonia Hotel. (8) This early Victorian style building with its Federation facade commenced operating in 1841 being then named after the surveyor Sir Thomas Mitchell. It is the second oldest hotel still trading in Australia. The present building was renamed the Caledonia Hotel in 1851 by Alexander Munroe no doubt reflecting his Scottish ancestry. (Caledonia being the ancient Roman name for the Scottish Highlands.) Noticeable travelers have included the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, Cardinal Moran and Sir Robert Menzies. Not only did the hotels of the day serve the traveling and thirsty public they also had to act as a mortuary when needed. Joe Govenor the part-aboriginal bushranger was laid out there after being shot in October 1900 at St. Clair The inquest into his death was held in the ‘long room’ now the dining room. His head was cut off and sent to Sydney probably for phrenological purposes. His body is buried outside the graveyard at Whittingham as he could not be buried in consecrated ground. His brother is the Jimmy in the film ‘The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith’. In the saloon bar of the hotel are pictures of Govenor with his head still intact laid out on the billiard table.
Cross over the highway to the former post office (9) now somewhat forlorn built in 1878 by W. Dart for 3,350 pounds on land purchased from John Browne.
11. ‘Bon Accord’ FormerCommercialBuilding 1870’s
12. Glass’ General store
‘Merah’ House (13). This early to mid Victorian home in John Street was designed in 1862 by the architect Thomas Rowe for storekeeper Alexander Glass who died before it was finished. (Glass is buried in the Queen St. cemetery.) It was rented in 1861 for two hundred pound per annum and latter purchased by the Australian Joint Stock Bank, which was one of the banks founded in the 1850’s, whose growth was to break the dominance of the English banks in the colony. The Australian Joint Stock Bank became the Australian Bank of Commerce that in 1931 amalgamated with the Bank of New South Wales. Thomas Rowe was also the architect responsible for the Great Synagogue in Elizabeth St., Sydney. The origin of the name ‘merah’ from the aboriginal word meaning ‘left handed people’ is not known.
It is near here that the crossing of the Hunter river was made (14). The picture is displayed in the foyer of the City Hall Newcastle.
Turn right and follow John Street into Queen Street. On the left is the Singleton Civic centre (15) built in 1982. Next to it and before you cross over Combo Lane again on your left is the building of the Joint Coal board.
At the corner of the lane and Queen Street is Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church. (16) The church, which was built in 1860, is reputed to be the oldest catholic church north of Sydney and owes its location to John Browne.
Browne was active in local affairs and was among others things a member of the first council of the Municipality of Singleton, the committee of the Benevolent society and the local Mechanics Institute. He was a generous benefactor of the Catholic Church but was scandalized when his daughter Fanny eloped with the then parish curate John Meager. He died on the 22 November 1881 and is buried in the Queen Street cemetery.
The church over the years has been the subject of alterations and additions, most of which reflected increase in the population of the laity and religious but also echoed ritual and doctrinal changes. The Sydney architect William Munro designed the Victorian Gothic church albeit that some of the elements of the original design has been lost through these many changes. He received sixty pounds for his work. Munro was later responsible for the design of The St. Andrews College at the University of Sydney 1874-76 and is said to also have designed St. Mary Star Of the Sea Church in Newcastle.
On 31 March 1859 Archbishop Polding of Sydney laid the foundation stone and the following February returned to officially open and consecrate the new building. Munroe’s original design called for a narrow nave, a spacious chancel and sacristy. The nave from the Latin ‘navis’, ship or body symbolising for believers the means of transport to their spiritual home was the only section initially built. It was to be some sixty years later that the church of today was completed. The church up to then had followed the Christian practice of having the entrance on the west end of the nave so that the ‘spiritual aspirants commence(d) their journey in the West and proceed through the door and the nave towards the sanctuary in the east’ Thus representing in allegorical sense the way or path to salvation. Today the door faces east and accesses the nave through a somewhat convoluted entrance via the ground floor of the towers which were one of the later additions. The church was described in the local press at the time of being built as constructed ‘of sandstone, of a very superior quality’. The stone was quarried from Rix’s quarry and transported the four miles to the site by Bernard McCosker, an Irish emigrant farmer of Glendon who not only donated his labour, towards the construction of his church, but also twenty five pounds.
The oratory extensions were designed by the Maitland architect Johnathon Pender and were to be in local stone from the common near the left side of the present Redounberry bridge. However the work was completed in the much cheaper cement rendered brick which does little to complement the original architecture of Munro. Then in 1894 to accommodate the growing nunnery population the oratory was again extended, a gallery and southern entrance added and the large wheel stained glass window portraying the Virgin and Child was installed. The work was supervised by the Newcastle architect Frank Menkins.
The two large impressive landmark towers at the western end of the church with their battlemented crenellations parapet which now gives the church a Federation Gothic effect were added in 1920. They are a memorial to those Catholics of the parish who had died in World War 1.The laying of the sandstone foundation stones for the extension was a civil as well as a religious occasion. The stone on the southern side being laid by the Bishop, whilst the stone on the northern side being laid by the town Mayor. History does not record who laid the first stone.
Inside the church are memorials to past pastors and parishioners. The communion rails which were new in 1920 are made of grey and white Rockhampton marble and are inscribed with the names of eighteen parishioners who fell in World War 1
The impressive precinct of the Sisters of Mercy Convent (17) is further along Queen street. The small octagonal building on the right through the main gates was the original presbytery built c.1840. Upon arrival in 1875 of the ten Irish nuns who founded the order in Singleton the then priest, Belgian born Father Constansance Fontaine generously gave up his residence for the sisters. This two room stone Georgian cottage now acts as a museum and houses the collection of the Sisters.
The convent was designed by the German born architect Frederick Bernhardt Menkens in 1892 some fourteen years after his arrival in the colony and built in four stages from 1893. Menkens also designed the Mercy convents at Hamilton and Branxton.. The building is described as ‘a fine example of Federation ‘ Romanesque’’ style with a formal courtyard, central entry tower simple arched windows with cloisters on both levels.
The chapel if possible should be visited. This beautiful building was designed by Thomas Silk and built by Thomas Burg of Maitland to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the arrival of the nuns in Singleton. It is dedicated to the patron saint of the first mother, Saint Stanislaus Kostka a Polish Jesuit. As you enter the chapel along the sidewalls are the polished maple stalls of the nuns which accommodate over 100. The two seats on the left and right as you entered the chapel were for order superiors. Note the impressive tessellated tiles. The marble for the steps are of Sicilian marble as is the altar. The building adjacent to the chapel was the former novitiate
St Catherine College is on the right. The federation Gothic building was also designed by Thomas Silk and with its gothic arches and cloisters blends in well with the original buildings..
Further along is the Queen Street Cemetery (18), which contains four graveyards, three catholic sections and one Methodists. The oldest section, the catholic, contains nearly four hundred graves and was first used in 1844. It is well known that rural properties in the district had their own graveyard as people more often than not died at their residence and were buried there. For many years it was not necessary for a doctor, undertaker or clergyman to view the body before burial, nor was it necessary to be buried in an authorized cemetery. But it became of increasing importance in the Victorian years where possible to be buried in sacred ground and possibly this is one of these reasons that John Browne in 1845 donated two acres of land ‘as a site for a chapel, parsonage and burying ground’.
The oldest headstone in the graveyard is that of Ellen Gorman and is dated the 3 May 1844 and is inscribed with the number one. Ellen‘s grave is to the left through the access gate. The graves themselves conform to the `Order Established in the Mother Country’ of an east west location and face the rising sun. The older headstones are representative of the Georgian period and are predominantly upright monuments of anthropomorphic or simple Norman shape with little to no decoration. However the influence of Victorian styles are more apparent in the more recent monuments. There are two altar or chest monuments both belonging to prominent local people. The Irish composition of the parishioners is not as obvious in the ‘old’ cemetery as it is in the second and third cemeteries where there are considerable more Celtic crosses.
An interesting epitaph is that to a local resident George Ritz –
In Loving Memory Of George Ritz Who Departed This Life
After Being Cruelly Treated By His Neighbor At Scotts Flat On 24 Oct 1865.Age 56 Years.
For fourteen days in agony I lay,
Till Jesus took all my pain away,
My wife and children in greatest pain,
To find me thus so cruelly slain.
A local identity states that George was reputed as a ‘blue eyed curly headed lad’ who was fond of the ladies. It is not certain as to whether that is an apt description given that he was 56 years old and far from being a lad when he was slain by his neighbour Ludwig Halter. Ludwig is buried not far away in the same cemetery some 15 years later
The second cemetery was first used in 1905. Note that the headstones have lost some of their Victorian symbolism whilst the upright Norman and anthropomorphic shapes have given way to smaller marble tablets rather that the less than satisfactory sandstones of the area.
The two storey Victorian vernacular building on the right is the Catholic Presbytery (19) built in 1876 and designed by J. Pender.
Turn left opposite the cemetery into Boundary Street.(20) Boundary Street was the boundary between John Howe property and that of Benjamin Singleton and later became the boundary between the Shire of Patrick’s Plains and the Municipally of Singleton. The golf club on the left is on land sold to the town by John Howe the son of the explorer. It was originally planned to include a racetrack, artificial lake and botanical gardens.
Turn left at the junction of Boundary Street and Dangar Road and on the left at the corner of Cameron and Dangar Road is ‘Lonesdale’ (22) This Federation style residence was built by Thomas Ellis in the 1890’s for L. E. Hobden.
At 26 Dangar Road is a single storey brick Federation cottage and at 27 an example of Victorian rendered brick. ‘Cranston’ at 28 Dangar was built c. 1800 and at 37 Dangar in 1902 ‘Wahgunyah’ an aboriginal word meaning ‘the crow’s resting place’
Proceed along Dangar Road to the Singleton Hospital (23) The responsibility for the care of the sick by the Singleton community commenced in 1845 when the Singleton and Patrick Plains Benevolent Society established an ‘asylum for the sick and indigent ‘ of the area. It is of interest that some argue that as this type of care was more of a custodial nature than medical its influence on the well being of the populace is questionable. Rather it is suggested that it was advances in medical sciences rather than the provision of refuges for the poor that had the greatest influence on longevity. The hospital was originally known as the Dangar Cottage Hospital and owes its location and its erection to the generosity of Albert A. Dangar.
24 Jacandra Pathway Alexander Avenue named after C.B. Alexander of Bulga
Return back along Dangar road to cross over Boundary Street into High Street. Along High Street on the left is ‘Geraldine’. (25) This elegant early Victorian cottage was built in 1847 on land donated by Benjamin Singleton. It was originally intended for a schoolhouse but was used as a parsonage. The sale of the house in 1875 when the existing rectory was built required a special Act of Parliament the All Saints’ Parsonage Bill. When John Brown acquired it c.1876 his son Edward took up residence naming the house ‘Geraldine’ after his wife Mary nee Fitzgerald. Not long after moving in Edward died.
Continue along High Street turning right into Gipp Street and then first left into Bishopgate Street.
At No. 25 is the simple Victorian Georgian ‘Wade Cottage’ (26) previously known as ‘Roseville’. It was built c.1862 for William Burton Wade who supervised the extension of the railways to Singleton. His son Sir Charles Wade was born here in 1863. Charles excelled in sport, playing Rugby for Oxford and representing England eight times. He entered parliament in 1903. He became minister for justice and attorney general in 1904 and NSW Premier in 1907 still retaining his other portfolios. Wade who had previously appeared on the behalf of coal owners in the arbitration court led according to the unions ‘ an extremely reactionary government’. 
Next is the Christian Israelite Church (27) built in 1938 formed in Singleton in 1858.
At the corner of Broughton and Market Street is Fairholme. This 1878 mid Victorian
style home was the former residence of Sir Albert Gould a lawyer and politician who became minister for justice in 1882 under Sir Henry Parkes. Sir Albert was president of the senate from 1906 to 1910 and was knighted in 1908. He had a interest in coal mining at Rix Creek Colliery as well as being an original member of the highly profitable Great Cobar Copper Mining Syndicate. The house was used in the 1940’s for a maternity section for the local hospital and is now a medical practice
The important architectural and historical precinct of All Saints Church (28) in High Street is next. This impressive 1912 Victorian Gothic Style building cost 25,450 pound. Most of the money being donated by Albert Augustus Dangar the fourth son of the surveyor and explorer Henry Dangar. The diocesan architect was F.G.Castleden who was in partnership which Frederick Menkens. It took over two years to build and replaced the original church of 1845 which was designed by the architect Edmund Blacket . The carved stone pulpit, the brass lecterns are from the original church as were some of the stained glass windows. The doorway into the Dangar chapel on the left was the doorway into the original church. The tower at Albert Dangar’s suggestion is modeled on that of St. Neot’s church in Cornwall the original home of the Dangar family.
The church was consecrated on the 16 April 1913 and the funeral of its benefactor Albert A.Dangar who died some days before its consecration was the first service conducted in the new church. Albert is buried in the ambulatory under the altar as also is his wife Mary Phoebe Dangar nee Rouse.
At the entrance to the church grounds stands the Lych-Gate dedicated in 1924 as a memorial to Albert by his widow. Lych is an old English word for a dead body, hence Lych-Gate or ‘Corpse-Gate’. So named as at the lych-gate it was customary for the coffin to be rested on a wooden or stone table whilst the priest said part of the burial service. It is described as more of the federation style even though it was built in the inter war period.
On the northern side of the churchyard is the neo classical Dangar Mausoleum reputed to be the work of Frederick Menkens. Its form is that of a classical temple with twelve Doric columns supporting the entablature. The mausoleum contains the graves of members of the Dangar family. Noticeable among them is that of Henry Dangar who died in 1861. Henry was the surveyor who was responsible among other things for the planning of KingsTown (Newcastle) and the road across the treacherous Hexham swamps from Newcastle to Maitland. He also explored the upper and unsettled area of the upper Hunter. In 1827 he was dismissed from public office when he was found guilty of using his public position for private gain. He later found employment with the Australian Agricultural Company which had established itself north of the hunter in 1826. In 1833 he retired to Neotsfield at Singleton and there he continued to develop his pastoral and business interest. In 1838 Henry was the licensee of the Myall Creek run where the infamous Myall creek aboriginal massacre took place. He later failed to renew the contract of his superintendent William Hobbs who reported the murders and publicly questioned the veracity of the main witness for the Crown. Whilst he was defeated in the election of the colony first elected council in 1843 he was in the October 1845 election elected as the representative for County of Northumberland. He represented the county from 1846 to the dissolution of the council in 1851. He was a strongly conservative member in the Legisalative Council supporting the interests of the squatters and landowners. Henry was an advocate of the importation of coolies, a return to the transportation of convicts and disliked the governor Sir George Gipps policies and personally. He like the others of his kind, the squatter or the large landowner, stood at the head of the rural social pyramid.
The nearby All Saints’ Sunday school was built in 1864 whilst the Victorian Gothic Rectory (29) was designed by the architect Benjamin Backhouse and built in 1875 by W. Cains of East Maitland at a cost of 1849 pounds.
Leave the church ground and turn left at the corner of High and Market Street and return to BurdekinPark. Cross over the park from outside the museum to the Court house (30). near the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth Street
The building was designed in 1868 by the Colonial Architect James Barnet. This mid Victorian style building is not to dissimilar complete with clock to other examples of Barnet’s work which are the Custom House at Circular Quay the impressive Lands Department building in Bridge Street, Sydney and the General Post Office in Martin Place
Next to the court House is ‘Bundarra’ a fine mid to late Victorian residence. The house name is derived from the aboriginal word for a ‘large kangaroo’.
The cottage Whiteheather (31) at 11 Macquarie street c1890 was built by Harry Wright a good example of Victorian filigree with intricate lace work
32 Terrace Timber pair.
At the corner of John and Elizabeth Street is the. Imperial Hotel (33)1881
Proceed along Elizabeth Street to the Wesley Uniting Church (34) built in 1880
The Methodist kindergarten hall 1917 over the road the former parsonage “Bel Glen and next the Methodist Sunday School erected in 1856 .
Singleton Public School (35) 1852 in Hunter Street
The former Manse at 8 Hunter street was built in 1914 a good example of the residential Queen Anne or Federation style and said to be designed by the Rev J Austin.
The federation Gothic St. AndrewsUniting Church (36) 1904 at the corner of Church and Hunter Street replaced the original church of 1838 on land donated by Benjamin Singleton..
Continue along Hunter Street passing on your left the Police station built in 1896 and designed by W. Vernon It is described as ‘ single storey dwelling with asymmetrical facade, informal massings and fenestrations. Red brick with stone stills bearing decorative motifs turned timber verandah posts and balustrading.
Turn left at corner of Hunter and Bourke Street completing the walk at BurdekinPark
1/15/2010 9:50:00 AM
 Thomas Burdekin was a Sydney moneylender who is said to have lent Singleton money at 40% interest and had foreclosed on his debt. When Burdekin’s estate was probated in 1844 it was valued at forty thousand pound exceeded only by that of Samuel Terry .
 Benjamin not only provided land for the government but also the churches, as well as helping out when money was scarce by putting one thousand five shilling notes into circulation ‘…for the public good’, or his own ?
 An ashlar is an accurately cut and squared stone block which may be tooled smooth with ‘stucco’ or plaster- now called cement render.
 Phrenology. The study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character and mental faculties popular at that time.
 ADB, Vol. 5, 1851-1890. Pike,D. ed.