Today marks the beginning of what will be an on-going look by The Mercury at Maitland's history. Maitland has often been referred to as the 'Hub of the Hunter' but in colonial NSW it was far more important than that.
It provided financial facilities, commercial convenience and governmental services west as far as the Darling and north to the Mary River in Queensland. To understand its eminence, one need only look at the plethora of ornate banks and government buildings along High Street, complemented by equally impressive commercial edifices.
Additionally, Maitland was a town of industry. There was little it didn't make and if it didn't make it, it could certainly get it. Ocean-going ships docked directly at Morpeth, loaded to the gunwales with merchandise imported exclusively by Maitland's merchants. Some even had their own London agents.
Many of the 'squattocracy' administered their huge inland pastoral leases from the comfort of their Lower Hunter estates. Maitland was where they wanted to live!
Why then did Maitland cease to be the second city in NSW? How and why did Newcastle assume that mantle at Maitland's expense? Was it something we did; something we said?
Week by week we will examine what Maitland was and what it's become.
Any student of English history can tell the stories of 1066 (the Battle of Hastings) and 1215 (Magna Carta). Likewise there are dates in Maitland's history that are indelibly imprinted on our collective minds.
It is often said that it's impossible to understand where we are going unless we have knowledge of where we have been. Our history began long before Colonel Paterson stepped ashore in 1801 near where the Belmore Bridge now spans the river - in a time of dreaming; when people belonged to the land.
Our history is a story of struggle, achievement, disappointment, joy and every human emotion in between. Often, it is not pretty!
Maitland has been fortunate that in addition to the wonderful resource of the Mercury itself, continuous since 1843, it has spawned many dedicated and resourceful local historians.
The late Harry Boyle wrote a weekly historic column for the Mercury. These local historians have left a legacy of research that documents Maitland's past and brings it alive for today's generations. Our weekly exposés won't be in chronological order but will traverse backward and forwards across the decades.
The Mercury, in conjunction with Maitland & District Historical Society, hopes to take reacquaint readers and take them back to our past; to ramble along the Riverside Walk and read our Indigenous history; to glance at the flood mitigation billboard and understand why there is a levee at all; to look across at Lorn, and imagine the impenetrable rainforest and the cedar forest beyond . . .