Lake Macquarie History

Water Tower, Charlestown

The development of Lake Macquarie has been characterised by the growth of a number of small villages which eventually became the centre of thriving townships and developed into large suburban areas, coalescing to become the City we know today.

Charlestown is one such suburb. It experienced an unparalleled and massive development, between 1961 and 1971which saw the population increased by about 70% to a total of 21,000 people, making it the largest suburb in Newcastle at the time. This growth, coupled with the rapid introduction of sewerage services to the area lead to a dramatic increase in the use of water and necessitated substantial increases in infrastructure and utilities.

Although a reticulated water supply was established in Charlestown in 1927 and water tanks were provided to Dudley and Whitebridge in 1928, Gateshead in 1942 and Mount Hutton in 1948, these were not enough to cater for the extra demand. In December 1968 the Newcastle Herald announced

photo: charlestown water tower c.1969

"Hunter District Water Board announced plans yesterday for a 70ft. water tower on the reservoir at Charlestown. The tower will cost $60,000 to build. It will be seen for miles around. The tank will store 50,000 gallons of water and will help step up water pressure. The board president (Mr Duncan) said the shape of the tower had been carefully considered since the structure would be conspicuous."

The distinctive shuttlecock shaped tower was designed by British architectural firm Scherrer and Hicks, based on an existing tower in Hertfordshire. Work was completed and the tower became operational in 1969. It is thought that the concrete used in the construction of the tower was made by contractors from Finland.

Strategically sited on one of the area's highest hills, the tower commanded a sweeping view over an area from Port Stephens in the north, to the Watagans, and south along the coastline to beyond Swansea.

photo: opening of centenary lookout charlestown

photo: alderman pickering and his grandchildren at centnary lookout

The area around the tower had been informally known as Charlestown Lookout for quite some time. In 1976 the lookout was formally renamed Centenary Lookout as part of Charlestown's centenary celebrations that year, and picnic tables and landscaping were put into place. The lookout was officially opened on April 30, 1976.

When the Madison Motel opened on land adjacent to the lookout in October 1981, there was much controversy as it blocked the view to the north east from the lookout. Although several designs for viewing platforms on the tower were put forward in an attempt to restore the view, for various reasons none of these ever eventuated.