Tiny West Maitland in 1830 was the scene of a vigorous two-way traffic in farm produce, livestock and manufactured items which demanded accommodation and other services.
Retailing had become established, a range of wares being brought in by river from Sydney and unloaded at wharves built on the Horseshoe Bend meander.
Regular boat services were operating, as many as six vessels working the river to Morpeth or Sydney. A grain store quickly appeared close to the original wharf as did a cattle yard, sheds and warehouses.
The Port was the core of the town's economy and stimulated the development of its original Central Business District which grew along the track that became High Street. Several inns, perhaps as many as eight by 1830, were trading as well. Government services developed, a post office was established in 1829 and created a regular mail delivery service linking the area with Newcastle and Sydney.
Merchants, traders and their agents could now communicate efficiently and thus organise commercial transactions at a distance from each other.
There was a brewery, a bakery and a bank (the Bank of Newcastle), and occupations recorded in the 1828 census included lawyers, a stonemason and a plasterer.
A construction industry had developed, with some specialisation. Employment for women was largely confined to domestic service.
A town comprising retail, service and manufacturing activities had evolved on top of the semi-subsistence farming economy established earlier. That first economy, though, had by now been virtually supplanted by the development of commercial agriculture on rural estates nearby.
The estates, growing in number and in population, supported a construction supply industry, tools and materials being brought from Sydney and landed at the ports of Morpeth (first known as Green Hills) and West Maitland.
Agricultural implements hoes, ploughs and the like were among the items brought in by ship to Morpeth and by drogher up the river to West Maitland.
The range of imported items incorporated household consumer goods as well as items used in agricultural and industrial activities. Those who lived on the large rural estates looked to West Maitland for their needs.
The town had become the "central place" of the Hunter Valley, the location where all shopping and service needs could be satisfied.
Filling with farmers and their convict labourers, the valley was creating demands that fuelled the growth of urban activities. West Maitland was becoming the "hub of the Hunter".
There was only a small population in East Maitland in 1830. On what is now lower Newcastle Street a steam flour mill had been built and there were several dwellings and some inns nearby. Some people lived and worked at the nascent port at Morpeth where the 170-ton store ship St Michael (a former convict ship) had been moored since 1828.
West Maitland, East Maitland and Morpeth probably had fewer than 1000 people between them in 1830, but a vibrant economy had been established. It was based on transport links (to Sydney and the frontier of the inland) and on the demands and produce of the large estates.