PORT OF MAITLAND: PART 2
The Port of Maitland was critical to the development to the early economy of West Maitland.
Before 1840 there were more wharves there, in the Horseshoe Bend meander adjacent to High St, than on the Lorn reach which James King, a local landowner, called 'Port Maitland' on a map he commissioned of the area.
Shops and inns had by 1840 taken root in numbers on High St, next to the wharves, and they made up the original Central Business District of the tiny town known as West Maitland (formerly Wallis Plains).
They located adjacent to the port to minimise the distance over which landed items had to be carted.
JW Turner's map of West Maitland of about 1840 indicates approximately 60 buildings between the bridge over Wallis Creek and the site of the present post office, a distance of nearly a mile and a half (or more than two kilometres).
Nearly half of these buildings were in the 400-metre stretch between today's Ward St and Hunter St.
This is where the density of commercial buildings was highest: there were few on the higher ground further west which houses most of today's CBD.
The fact that the CBD developed on High St probably proves that the true port was on the Horseshoe Bend meander between the original confluence of Wallis Creek and the river (near Ward St) and about Raglan St.
King's 'wharf allotment' at 'Port Maitland' appears to have been a salesman's ambition rather than a reality. King wanted to sell the lots and needed a marketing pitch.
There was, though, a small shipyard on the Lorn reach, probably on the Lorn side (the left bank) of the river. There a shipwright (Charles Prentice) operated a boat repair facility: he was in business in 1836 and lasted at least into the 1840s.
Possibly the yard had been established in the late 1820s by Benjamin Singleton and George Yeomans, and at least two boats were built there including the Monitor for Yeomans. This was a cutter of 21 tons, 35 feet 6 inches long and 12 feet 2 inches wide.
Well before 1840 at least three wharves had been built on the Horseshoe Bend meander.
This was testament to the demands created by the rapidly growing volume of river-based trade and the number of craft plying the river between Morpeth and West Maitland.
As early as 1828 there appear to have been half a dozen such vessels.
These craft supplied the stores in West Maitland with imported manufacturing items and took the produce of the inland (including wool) down the river to Morpeth.
Some went all the way to Sydney.
Maitland's original CBD developed on High St next to a small concentration of wharves built by and for High St businesses.
The real port was on the Horseshoe Bend meander and determined where the CBD developed.
It was critical to the form, function and location of the infant town.
Maitland and District Historical Society
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