Lake Macquarie History

Belmont

Name Origin:

Belmont Farm was established in the early 1860's. The name possibly came from Belmont in the Shetland Islands, birth place of Thomas Williamson, the third settler of the district. Williamson had a guest house called "Belmont" which was the starting point of development.

Aboriginal Occupation:

Campsites have been identified around Belmont Lagoon where wild fowl were plentiful. Rev. Lancelot Threlkeld chose Belmont for his mission because of the numbers of aborigines who gathered there and because of the abundance of food for them. In a return to the government in 1828 he reported that "Old Jacky's tribe" lived near the mission.

Early Land Grants:

On 29 January 1825 a grant of 10,000 acres was made to the London Missionary Society supporting Rev. L. Threlkeld and his Mission to the Lake Macquarie Aborigines. The mission closed in 1829 and the land reverted to the Crown.

In 1861 surveyor D.M. Maitland was instructed to survey the area from Belmont to Croudace Bay and divide it into portions in connection with the new Crown Lands' Alienation Act of 1861. All portions are in the Parish of Kahibah.

1862: Portion 32A: 187 acres, Maurice Marks: north of Maude St. and east of Gerald St. Named Marksville.

1863: Portion 31 A: 185 acres, Matthew Cobbin: east of Pacific Highway from Maude St, north nearly as far as Wommara Ave.

1866: Portion 60: Thomas Williamson and Robert Kirkaldy: from Maude St to Gen St. They built "Belmont House" as a guest house and later opened the Belmont Hotel. Williamson lived at Belmont while Kirkaldy was a Newcastle publican.

1870: John Anderson: Anderson's Hill: "Bellevue" guest house. Portion 33A, 181 acres, G.A. Lloyd (Threlkeld's son-in-law): Ross Street to Lewers Street area.

Early Subdivisions:

In 1868 a total of 40 acres of small lots was offered for sale at 6 pounds per acre in the Belmont locality. It is doubtful whether these blocks were all sold at the time.

In August 1871 pioneer timberman David Cumming offered portions of land for sale in the area.

The village of Belmont developed steadily during the mid-1870's. The main part of Williamson's estate was auctioned in 1909 and became the central business district. The earliest D.P.(9457) was declared on 26/6/1918 and encompassed Macquarie, Maude, and Gen Streets and was part of Portion 60. Lloyd's Portion 33 passed to the Bank of NSW, which sold it to Robert D. Lewers, Sydney Manager of the Bank of London. His intention was to mine, as some coal had been taken from a tunnel in a gully there in 1908 but when the railway reached Belmont in 1916, he decided to subdivide instead. The first auction was held in 1919 and two others followed, all being successful due to the lake views. This area was known as Lewers Estate for many years.

Early Settlers:

The first settlers were Rev. L.E. Threlkeld, his servants and family. In 1825 Threlkeld established the "Bahtabah" mission station. Its site is thought to have been near what is now Victoria St or Ada St, Belmont, or possibly at Lewers Estate at the north end of Belmont Bay. The mission moved to Toronto in 1829.

The following are the people listed at the mission in the 1828 Census:

  • Rev. L.E. Threlkeld: missionary
  • Charles Adams, bullock driver (convict)
  • Michael Barry, shepherd
  • Thomas Chester, cook (convict)
  • Michael Dwyer, carpenter (convict)
  • John McKar, ploughman (convict)
  • John Ryan (convict)
  • James Silk, stockman (convict)
  • Elizabeth Smith, housemaid (convict)

Maurice Marks (from Bristol in England) and Matthew Cobbin (from Elm in Cambridgeshire, England) settled in the district with their families in the early 1860's. Marks (1861), Cobbin (1863).

They were followed by two immigrant farmers from the Shetland Islands, Thomas Williamson (1864) and John Anderson (1864),

Early Industries:

Many acres of forest covered the hilly land near Belmont, and by 1871 a timber industry had developed. In 1872 a saw mill was opened close to the lake's edge near Cardiff Point. In 1873 a ship was being built at the saw mill. Between 1862 and 1870 three different companies began coal mining operations to the north of Belmont Bay near Cardiff Point, each failed after a short time. Belmont Colliery, also known as Northern No. 2, operated in a gully to the north of Lewers Estate behind the present hospital and Beltop Colliery was nearby. Belmont Colliery opened in 1925 and was bought by R.W. Miller in the 1960's. When the mine closed circa 1980 the washery was still used for several years. Roberston and Fletcher's "Shaggy" mine was on the waterfront east of Cardiff Point. It opened circa 1906 and coal was transported by water using the ships "White Bay" (later wrecked on Stockton Beach), "Warraneen", "Tuncurry" and "Seagull". The "Platypus" was a barge which was towed up Dora Creek to take slack coal to the Sanitarium factory. Shaggy caught fire and was closed in 1955. It was known as the Golden Egg for years as it kept working during the lockout of 1929 because it supplied the hospitals.

Belmont Extended was also on the waterfront between Shaggy and Cardiff Point.

Bryants was situated in the bush behind the Floraville road, past the gravel quarry and its site is still clearly visible.

Cornelius Moynahan began shipbuilding in 1868 with his brother Patrick near the present Yacht Club slip. There were a number of farmers in the Belmont district during its early period. These farms included orchards, vineyards, banana plantations and dairies.

George Clouten commenced a fishing trade at Belmont in 1874. He supplied Newcastle and Sydney. David Cumming was a pioneer timber-man.

John Darling Colliery, owned by B.H.P., began operations in 1925. Northern Stoneware Pipe Pty Ltd opened their terracotta pipe plant in 1937 using clay from the Swansea area and closed in 1979.

Early Transport:

Initially boats were introduced on the lake for the purpose of transporting goods, mainly timber and coal. Later, passenger services were introduced. In 1869 there had been a bi-weekly passenger coach to Newcastle. In 1875 Belmont was the ferry terminus for people travelling from Cooranbong to Newcastle. In that year a daily passenger service operated from Belmont to Newcastle. By 1937 there was a government bus service to Newcastle. Belmont bus depot opened in 1953.

Railway:

The Railway was extended from Redhead to Belmont in 1916. It was opened to traffic on the 23 December 1916. The last passenger train to Belmont ran on 22 March 197 1.

First Post Office:

Opened at Belmont on 1 September 1877, in premises owned by Thomas Williamson, who also held the appointment of postmaster until his death in 1880. Mail was brought twice weekly on horseback. Belmont North post office was opened 1 February 1951. Belmont South post office was opened 12 January 1959, and closed 29 November 1969.

First School:

A private school was opened at Thomas Williamson's premises in 1873. The children were taught by a governess named Mary Aspinall. The first Provisional School opened from February 1874, until it became a Public School in June 1880. Its first teacher was John Anderson, a pioneer farmer from the Shetland Islands. Belmont High acted as a Junior High from January 1953 until December 1955. It has had High School status since January 1956. Belmont North Public School opened September 1953.

Organisations:

Belmont Urban Area was proclaimed on 17 October 1930. Some form of local government came to Belmont in 1932 when the first meeting of the newly elected Belmont Urban Committee was held in the home of Mr. H.E. Richards. Mr. Richards was one of five men elected by the ratepayers of Belmont at the local government triennial elections held in December 1931. The others were Messrs Cullen, Heery, Austin and Abbott. Belmont Sailing Club was founded in 1920. Lake Macquarie Yacht Club was founded in 1929.

Population:

1884 estimated up to 120 persons; 1911 58 Homes and 237 persons; 1921 98 Homes and 475 persons; 1933 470 Homes and 1940 persons; 1947 1292 Homes and 4840 persons.

Town:

First Newspaper: "The Belmont Monthly" was published on 3 October 1925 by Eric W. Cobbin.

First Church: An interdenominational church was erected in 1874 or early the next year in Mr. Williamson's paddock. It was occupied alternatively by the Revs. Dobson and Bain with a congregation of about 30 persons.

First Hotel: Thomas Williamson's accommodation house became a licensed hotel in 1876.

Since Belmont comprises private subdivisions of freehold land it has never been classified a town or village. Belmont Hospital, a subsidiary of Royal Newcastle Hospital, opened in 1968.

Water Supply:

1929.

Sewerage:

1939.

Further Reading:

An Australian Post Office History: Belmont. Sydney, Department of Posts and Telegraph, no date.

Australian Reminiscences and Papers of L.E. Threlkeld, ed. by N. Gunson, Canberra, Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1974.

Belmont, Lake Macquarie 1825-1974 by W.S. Parkes. Belmont, Belmont Public School, 1974.

Child of Bahtahbah by N.M. Clout. Belmont, the author, 1947.

Streets in Belmont