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Paterson, NSW

Historic village on the Paterson River.

Paterson is a tiny, attractive little hamlet set on a hillside above the Paterson River. The main road twists through the village giving it a sense of surprise and charm which is often missing from historic townships. It is a town to be savoured. Take the time and soak up the gentle, rustic atmosphere.


Paterson is located 185 km north of Sydney via the Pacific Highway. It is  and 24 km north of Maitland via the Tocal Road.


Origin of Name

One of the first known Europeans in the area was Colonel William Paterson, who, in 1801, surveyed the area beside the river. Governor King named the river in his honour.


Things to See and Do

Paterson Walk
There is an excellent Heritage Walk around town which can be accessed at http://www.patersonriver.com.au/walk/index.html#. It has a map of the town and information about each of the 22 places of interest can be accessed by a series of buttons on the left hand side.
There is a map of the town located opposite the Court House which also has useful information. The following is a guide to the attractions in the town - numbers relate to the walk on the Paterson River History site.

1. Paterson Lagoon
Located on the left hand side of the road from Tocal and Maitland this is a natural wetland. The original village lies to the north. It was rehabilitated in 1988 as part of the town's Bicentennial commitment. It can also be the start of the Paterson Historic Walk. There is a map at the entrance to the parklands.

2. Fry's Coaching Farm
This is the site where Fry's Coaching operated. All that is left today is a very simple rectangular building (the Hearse Shed - 1880) and the corn shed (1910). A  nearby plaque reads: "From the 1860s to the 1920s this site was the base of Fry's Coaching Enterprise which served the Hunter Valley and New South Wales. Coaches carried passengers, mail and some were hired to vaudeville companies and travelling salesmen who made regular tours. The two buildings are all that remain of the former business. The brick building housed the town's hearse and this timber structure is a corn straddle designed to store fodder in a dry, vermin-free environment."

3. Prince Street
The Paterson Tavern was originally the Commercial Hotel. This attractive building was erected in 1882. It once served as a coach depot.  Renovated in 1975 it has a hipped roof, upstairs balcony and cast-iron lacework. Inside there are historic photographs dating back to the 1830s. 
The house to its left is 'Noumea'. The oldest surviving house in Paterson it is thought it was built as early as 1826. It was built on land which was granted to James Phillips in 1822. It once served as a school and, prior to 1875, was used as the Paterson Post Office. 

4. Former Rectory
On the corner of Prince Street and Duke Street is the rectory (1906) to St Paul's Anglican Church (1845). It is now a private residence.

5. John Tucker Park
John Tucker Park is a pleasant shady reserve with well-established trees and childrens' play facilities. It is located on the banks of the river. A wharf was built here after the railway arrived in 1911 but it didn't last long. It was named after the Hunter Valley's first free settler.

7. Annandale
Located at the T-intersection of King Street and Queen Street is a handsome two-storey house with shuttered upstairs windows which faces north and has views over the Paterson River. Annandale was built by Major Edward Johnson, the local police magistrate, in 1839. The hoiuse was sold in 1854 and the second storey was added c.1860. "In 1887 the twin chimneys were given new chimney pots, and a good deal of money was spent on renovations by the then owner Mr Corner. The three identical louvered shuttered windows upstairs, with their twelve-paned windows, glazed with imported English glass, were removed, and replaced with two single panes of glass. Also at this time a bathroom was added downstairs."

8. CBC Bank
The most prominent building in town is the former Commercial Banking Company of Sydney (CBC) Bank, designed by G.A. Mansfield and built 1897-1902. The bank had previously been in the blue building with timber columns and a balcony over the road which started its life as a residence (c.1840), became the Royal Oak Inn, and is now a private residence. Since the bank closed in 1979 the CBC building has become a cafe and B&B.

10. St Paul's Anglican Church
This simple, Gothic Revival rubble stone church, dating from 1845, has a rendered interior with original cedar pews and timber pulpit. The windows are Tudor-style with timber tracery. One bears the family coat-of-arms, in stained-glass, of the first minister, Reverend James Jennings Smith. He died in 1846 and is buried at the rear of the church adjacent the wall. 
The large tomb of his son-in-law, William Munnings Arnold, can be found at the end of the path, by the fence. Arnold represented the area in parliament. He died in the 1875 flood. John Galt Smith who, in 1823, took up the land on which Woodville developed, is also buried here. By the front door is the tomb of Edward Gostwyck Cory known as the 'King of Gostwyck'. Another tomb in the church is that of Frederick Bedwell, who in 1815, at the age of 19 years, was first officer on the HMS Northumberland - the vessel which conveyed Napoleon to his exile on St Helena. On the voyage Bedwell painted a watercolour depiction of Bonaparte which is still in the family. There is detailed information at http://www.patersonriver.com.au/places/stpauls.htm.

11. School of Arts
Located in Duke Street, this simple building was completed in 1935. There is an interesting history to the building. The idea was first mooted as early as 1868 and the first building was completed in 1884 after the state government had contributed £250. The current building replaced the original building in 1935. Check out http://www.patersonriver.com.au/places/schoolofarts.htm for more information.

12. Post Office
Dominating the corner of King and Duke Street is the town's substantial Post Office. "In September 1883 a contract was accepted for a new, official building and a veranda was added in 1884. After nearly two years of construction, the building opened on 4 May 1885 as the Paterson Post and Telegraph Office, and this building survives today as the Paterson Post Office."

14. The Court House Hotel
The Court House Hotel has a long history. It started as the Cricketers Arms in 1864 on the river bank north of the present village site. A major flood in 1875 made the building uninhabitable. It was demolished and the material moved to the current site and rebuilt as the Paterson Court House Hotel in 1876. It was described at the time as "a commodious building of brick, two stories in height, with good stables for horses and sheds for buggies." That building was badly damaged by fire in 1931 and in 1960 the manager's wife was burned to death in another fire. There is a detailed history of the building, including interesting historic photos, at http://www.patersonriver.com.au/places/courthousehotel.htm.

15. St Ann's Presbyterian Church
Across the railway line, and opposite the Court House, is St Ann's Presbyterian Church. Many early settlers in the area were Scots and St Ann's, built in the late 1830s, is said to be the oldest Presbyterian Church on mainland Australia. As a sign of the Scottish highland presence and of altered folk traditions, the church's first teacher had to be skilled in Gaelic grammar. The building has arched lancet leadlight windows with timber tracery. It was deconsecrated in the mid-2000s.

16. Paterson Court House and Museum
The excellent Paterson River History records: "In September 1857 tenders were called for construction of a new court house. Its architect was Alexander Dawson and the cost of the building, furniture and fittings was £1,210. The modest building consisted of a court room measuring 23 by 18 feet, with two cells and police quarters at the rear. It opened in November 1858 but within four years it also became inadequate for current needs.
"In June 1862 tenders were called for substantial renovation and expansion of the near new building, so it could also house a troop of Mounted Police that was to be stationed in Paterson. The roof was removed and the walls raised to two storeys to accommodate a troopers' barracks above the cells and police quarters. At the same time the court-room was extended to 22 by 30 feet, with a vestibule in front, and two wings were added to provide a jury room and a magistrates' room, each 12 by 14 feet. Provision was also made for future extension in the form of an additional room in each wing.
"Architect of the alterations and additions was Mortimer Lewis jnr and the work cost £2,302, giving the building the form we see today apart from the extra two rooms in the rear wing, which were added later. As part of this work, stables were constructed at the rear of the court house for the troopers' horses.
"The court room was completed in May 1863 but by August it had not officially been handed over because the roof leaked and repairs were required. Finally the Police Office was transferred to the new court house in September and magistrates held court here for the first time on 8 September 1863."
Today the Paterson Court House Museum is located on the hill above the railway crossing in King Street. It is open on Sundays from 11.00 am. It traces the European history of Paterson and has exhibits relating to poet Dorothea Mackellar, who spent her teenage years on a nearby property, and bushranger Captain Thunderbolt whose wife Mary Ann Ward was tried here. The building was erected in 1857 with additions completed in 1865. Its dominant feature is the arcaded porch with its three monumental arches. There is a central courtroom and four ancillary offices. The police were stationed in the barracks upstairs. Court services ceased in 1967. For more detailed information check out http://www.patersonriver.com.au/places/patersoncourthouse.htm.

18. Church Street
Next door to the Court House is the police residence (1882). The red brick building over the road is the Oddfellows Hall, built in 1865 by the court house's architect, Stephen Stanbridge. It is now a private residence. The brick building past the police station was erected in 1877 as a primary school and remained a school until 1971. Set amidst fine gardens it has arched lancet windows, a steeply pitched roof, carved timber bargeboards and a gabled porch supported by two columns. At the corner of Church Street and Prince Street, is St Columba's Catholic Church (1884), an interesting brick building with an unusual design and arched lancet windows topped by decorative tiles.


Other Attractions in the Area

St John's Church at Vacy
Located 9 km north of Paterson, Vacy is a tiny hamlet with a church, a pub and a few houses. St John's Church (1887) is an attractive building on the roadside at the southern end of town. The second Anglican church (the first was erected in 1848) is constructed of locally-made bricks on land donated by Gilbert Cory. 

Tocal is located 4 km south of Paterson and comprises Tocal Homestead and Tocal College. Tocal Homestead is an impressive two-storey Regency mansion set among large fig trees and overlooking the Paterson River. It can be easily seen from the road. It has a gracious encircling flagged veranda with a sloping roof supported by slim columns and shuttered windows on the lower floor. The roofing is of slate and the interior has timber floors and cedar joinery. Some of the outbuildings date back to the 1820s. The barn, called "one of the finest timber barns in Australia", was designed by noted architect Edmund Blacket c.1850. Other old outbuildings are the rubble stone barn, the stallion boxes, a blacksmith's shop, a timber bull shed, the slaughterhouse, brick terraces which are a rare surviving example of rural housing, and Thunderbolt's cottage. The house is open to visitors from 10.00 am - 3.00 pm on Sundays between March and November. For information about tours of the homestead, check http://www.tocal.com/tocal-homestead/tours or tel: (02) 4939 8901.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the district was occupied by the Guringai First Nation people. 

* The first known European in the area was Colonel William Paterson (after whom the town is named), who, in 1801, surveyed the area beside the river that Governor King named in his honour. 

* Cedar cutters followed in the footsteps of the explorers and surveyors. The Paterson River was known as the Cedar Arm. 

* By 1818 there were eight farms along the river, six of them belonging to convicts.

* The first land grant in the area was made to Captain William Dunn in 1821 on land by the river to the south of the town. 

* In 1822 James Phillips was granted the estate known as Bona Vista.

* The land on which Paterson was built was granted to the husband of Susannah Matilda Ward. 

* In 1825 Ward received 600 acres at the limit of the river's navigability. 

* In 1832 some of her land was required for the construction of the village so she swapped 90 acres of her land on the western side of the river for property on the eastern bank and land in Sydney.

* Between 1829-1831 the local Aboriginal population was decimated by smallpox.

* The townsite was proclaimed in 1833. 

* In the 1830s Paterson became an important river port. 

* The first church in town was the Presbyterian, St Ann's, built in the late 1830s. It is said to be the oldest Presbyterian Church on mainland Australia. 

* In 1840 James Phillips subdivided Bona Vista into 100 allotments which now form the southern part of Paterson.

* The river trade began to decline in the 1850s as the road to Maitland improved. 

* In the 1860s Paterson became a base for Fry's Coaching Enterprise which served the Hunter Valley and New South Wales

* Timber mills were established by the 1870s. 

* By the 1880s Paterson had four stores, five hotels, two shipyards, a sawmill, a tannery, four blacksmiths, two butchers, a bakery and a boarding school for girls. 

* By the time the railway arrived in 1911 the long-term decline of river transportation had taken its toll. 

* The last cream boats visited the area in the 1930s.


Visitor Information

There is no visitor information in Paterson. Paterson has a museum with an informative website http://www.patersonhistory.org.au, Email patersonmuseum@gmail.com


Useful Websites

 There is an exceptional website. Check out http://www.patersonriver.com.au for detailed information about the town.

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2 suggestions
  • We actually went to stay for a weekend at Top View Farm up the road from Paterson. We came from Sydney not going through Paterson. I always like to explore so with the girls went down the hill and turned right to Paterson.. I was really amazed. The beauty and sophistication of the village was something to behold. It was like a medieval village perfectly preserved. The food store had all the things we would buy in Burwood and the two girls were most accommodating. We actually felt like being taken back in time to a better world than we now have. Everything was perfectly preserved. We will come back and this time stay there.

    John Wood
  • We think it is ‘worse than sad’ that some private or local investor, landowner or developer’ has bought Saint Ann’s Church ( 2009), but has let the historic ‘Listed’ heritage building ‘GO to ruins’, especially its grounds, its broken windows, guttering near ‘blowing-off’ and water running into brickwork at the buildings NW corner( seeping inside??);
    Please inform me/Us AS TO WHY this has been let to happen, and ‘why’ no ‘authority’ has insisted that the oldest Presbyterian church should not be properly maintained. RSVP much Appreciated JAF

    Joseph Friend