Platt’s Channel Mayfield

Newcastle Steelworks, we imagine, had always consumed the entire south side of the Harbour channel.

But it started small, as the 1930s map shows, and even then Mayfield retained many features that made it such a wonderful country village in the 19th century.

Platt’s Channel was yet to be infilled, and was still a prolific source of seafood for the locals. Shell beach and it’s Park was the favoured swimming recreational venue. 

Mayfield street directory 1/10/1930 ~ Courtesy Vera Deacon

And, yes, they really did call Mayfield “The Toorak of Newcastle.”

It is not surprising that the suburb of Waratah, which includes Hanbury, Georgetown, and Mayfield, has been made the Toorak of Newcastle. Mayfield is splendidly situated, and that side of it which has the Hunter River for its boundary is quite a picturesque part of the Newcastle district.

It commands a splendid view of the ocean and the harbour, and the various industries, and is one of the healthiest spots that could be selected as a residential place. Just at the present time its slopes are at their best, the grass being green everywhere, and the vegetation fresh and fertile.

~ Newcastle Morning Herald, 19 March 1897

William Claridge was part of over 70 English families who travelled to Australia to operate John Lysaght’s new steel rolling plant, also visible on map at top right.

After the cluttered homes and streets of Bristol, he found the still rural suburb an exploring child’s wonderland, with dairy farms, swamps, creeks, fishing, swimming, boat-rowing…

The river in those days was unpolluted and fish and oysters were plentiful on the rocks along the river’s edge. There were also oyster leases.

The fish were so plentiful they caught themselves!

Ingall Street ran to the river (Platt’s Channel, now filled in). Sometimes we would catch fish even from the gutters beside the road.

We had a good swimming hole where a creek met the river and, because there were sharks about, tied barbed wire to the mangrove trees to keep them out. The men who set Jacob lines to catch jewfish (mulloway) used heavy lines – a jewfish could be four feet long (well over a metre). Sometimes the sharks would take a jewfish leaving just its head.

The last paddock to the dairy farm (north of Bull street) was mostly swamp… when the big tides occurred the mullet ran. They would fill the swamp in countless numbers until they were one thrashing mass.

~ William Claridge, The Pommy Town Years

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