Back to Singleton 2020

According to historical documents, 2020 will mark 200 years since the naming of St Patrick’s Plains – the area we now know as Singleton – on 15 March 1820 by an exploration party led by John Howe, which included Benjamin Singleton and two Aboriginal trackers.

The Singleton Bicentennial Commemorative Working Group, representing all sectors of the community, has been formed to develop and oversee an appropriate and inclusive series of events to mark the occasion, in keeping with the significance of our area to a number of cultures.

Back to Singleton 2020 from 13-15 March 2020 is designed to be a whole-of-community commemoration focusing on the history of St Patrick’s Plains as well as what we love about living, working and playing in Singleton. Whether you’re a long-time resident or a frequent visitor, this is an opportunity to learn more about our area, come together to reflect on the people who wove the fabric of our community and look forward to the opportunities of the Singleton of the future.

You can start planning your weekend of commemorations now! Get in touch with any former Singleton residents you know and make plans to join the commemorations, or clear your calendar to be a tourist in your own town for the weekend – check out the Singleton Museum, indulge in a local café and plan your itinerary around the events happening across the weekend.

The tentative program includes, but may be subject to change:

  • Friday 13 March 2020: Community street party – John Street
  • Saturday 14 March 2020: Community festival – Civic Precinct
  • Saturday 14 March 2020: Formal dinner – Civic Centre

The committee is also considering other events and commemorations, based on suggestions from the community.

HOST YOUR OWN EVENT IN THE BACK TO SINGLETON 2020 PROGRAM

If you’re from a community organisation, sports club, run a business or venue or are just passionate about Singleton, you can hold your own event for inclusion on the Back to Singleton 2020 Event Program. It may be on the weekend of 13-15 March 2020, or at another time during the year. Or it may be an event you already hold. This is an invitation for you to join us in showcasing the vibrancy of our community and the pride we have in our history and our towns and villages.

The full Back to Singleton 2020 Events Program will be launched in December 2019.

  • For more information, including resources available to you for holding your event, view the Back to Singleton 2020 Event Prospectus here
  • Expressions of Interest for inclusion in the Back to Singleton 2020 Event Program close on 31 October 2019. Click here to submit a Back to Singleton 2020 Event Host Expression of Interest form. Please note to fill in this form and submit it digitally, you need to download the form onto your computer's desktop prior to filling it in. The form cannot be filled in on your internet browser. Once you click submit on the form, this will automatically attach the form to an e-mail.

THE STORY OF SINGLETON

The richness of the luxuriant plains of the middle reaches of the Hunter River have sustained Aboriginal societies for thousands of years, with evidence of artefacts at ancient camp sites along creeks.

So too the promise of rich land fit for cultivation, along with an overland route between Wallis Plains and Windsor, captured the imagination of Governor Macquarie and a number of exploration parties that set out to cut through the precipitous rocky mountains.

After several attempts, an exploration party led by John Howe came upon the Hunter River at Whittingham on 15 March 1820, bestowing the name “St Patrick’s Plains” in honour of the forthcoming St Patrick’s Day two days’ hence.

Howe reported back to Governor Macquarie that he had travelled through “as fine a country as imagination can form”.

The exploration party included two Aboriginal guides, Myles and Mullaboy, as well as free settlers, convicts and volunteers, who set out from the Richmond/Hawkesbury area. One of the free settlers was Benjamin Singleton, whose land grant in the bend of the river would eventually become the township of Singleton.

The settlement thrived, with pioneers eager for land to pasture sheep and cattle, and businesses flourished on George Street. However, the area’s Aboriginal inhabitants were dispossessed. Their descendants today retain many of their traditions, and the wider community now recognises the traditional owners of the land past, present and future.

BENJAMIN SINGLETON'S SINGLETON

As the area we now know as Singleton prepares to mark 200 years since European exploration, two names are synonymous with prosperity and opportunity that have come to become hallmarks of our region.

There’s no evidence that John Howe named St Patricks Plains in honour of the primary patron saint of Ireland, but history has recorded it was indeed Howe and his party that opened the route between Windsor and the Hunter and sowed the seeds for European settlement.

The richness of the luxuriant plains of the middle reaches of the Hunter River have sustained Aboriginal societies for thousands of years, with evidence of artefacts at ancient camp sites along creeks.

So too the promise of rich land fit for cultivation, along with an overland route between Wallis Plains and Windsor, captured the imagination of Governor Macquarie and a number of exploration parties that set out to cut through the precipitous rocky mountains.

And so it was that Howe, after an attempt the previous year, set out from Windsor on 5 March 1820 at the helm of an unusually large party comprising George Loder junior, Daniel Philips, Jeremiah Butler, Samuel Marshall, Nicholas Connely, Frederick Rhodes, James House, Robert Bridle, Andrew Loder, Thomas Dargin junior, Philip Thorley, two Aboriginal trackers Myles and Mullaboy, and the man who would eventually give his name to the settlement, Benjamin Singleton.

While hard evidence does not exist, history has written that Howe and his party traversed Bulga and crossed to the lower part of Wollombi Brook to come upon the Hunter River at Whittingham on 15 March 1820, bestowing the name “St Patrick’s Plains” in honour of the forthcoming St Patrick’s Day two days’ hence.

What does survive is Howe’s report back to Governor Macquarie, written from Wallis Plains (modern day Maitland) some days later on 21 March 1820. Howe wrote that he “embraced the earliest opportunity to inform Your Excellency that I reached the river on Wednesday last, the 15th instant”, and, on the party’s way down the river, “we came thro as fine a country as imagination can form”.

Howe may lay claim to leading the successful expedition, but it was Benjamin Singleton, the son of a convict, who is credited as establishing the township. By 1824, Benjamin and his wife Mary were well established on his grant of 240 acres at a natural ford over the Hunter River. There they built an inn and a mill on the banks of the river described as “very steep, and certainly not as wide as they are now”, according to Allen Wood’s Dawn in the Valley.

Benjamin added to his own land grant by acquiring an adjoining 100 acres, and thereafter in the Sydney Gazette on 2 January 1836, an advertisement appeared for 103 quarter acre allotments offered for sale in what would be known as Singleton (A Private Town).

However, depression struck the colony in the 1840s and Benjamin became bankrupt in 1842. He died in Singleton on 3 May 1853 and was buried at Whittingham Cemetery. The Maitland Mercury described him as “a man of frugal and temperate habits whose only fault was that he was a greater friend to everyone than himself”.

To experience Benjamin Singleton’s Singleton, start in Pearce’s Park, beside the Dunolly Bridge, where the Barley Mow, or later the Plough Inn looked onto Campbell Street and about where the mill wheel cut into the river. Then head down John Street, which may or may not have been named for Benjamin’s son, the first European baby to be born in the area.

Turn left at Bourke Street and head to Burdekin Park, which Benjamin Singleton donated to the town for a market square and where he erected, at his own expense, a court house and jail which stood in front of the current Singleton Museum.