Morpeth was initially established as the private township of Green Hills by Lieutenant Edward Charles Close on an area that made up part of a land grant given to him in 1821. Within 20 years the growing town had its first school, church, post office and hotel and Lt. Close had subdivided much of his land.
Much has changed, yet also stayed the same. A visit to Morpeth is a journey through narrow laneways, sandstone curb sides and into heritage buildings. Even for locals, each trip is an opportunity to play tourist in their own town. Its fascinating history, beautiful position on the Hunter River and a diverse range of independent retailers makes Morpeth a popular escape.
One of the highlights of the Morpeth streetscape, and synonymous with the town, is Campbell’s store. When the store was built by James Campbell 150 years ago, Morpeth had grown into a bustling river port. As the town that laid the foundation for the entire Hunter Valley, it was the landing place for settlers, merchants and timber getters who were attracted to the area’s natural resources. Campbell’s general store thrived, and today, still does as a treasure trove of art, gifts and all things delicious.
For those that need help visualising the Morpeth of the 1850s, there’s the Morpeth Museum. This is the place where you can see the signal box that controlled traffic across the rail line, the original 1867 mechanism from the external clock and a collection of vintage biscuit tins, in a nod to William Arnott’s local baking origins. Housed in the former courthouse, it is a monument to everything that Morpeth was and is, breathing new life into the remnants of its humble beginnings.
While on the retail run, it’s worth a turn up the Central Inn and Mews through the cobbled passageway where you will find specialty shops to take your fancy. As you meander through the township don’t forget to drop into Teddy Bears DownStairs, where you can grab glimpses of the Hunter River through the windows while you shop. Cross to the high side of the street for a wide range of fashion and homeware options.
Foodies will be delighted with what’s on offer in Morpeth. Stop in at Gourmet or Glutton, with their range of gourmet cheese from both Australia and overseas. To tantalise the taste buds, all sweet tooths must visit Miss Lilly’s Lollies with handmade fudge and sweet treats. Morpeth Sourdough has an award winning range of premium muesli, sourdough crisps, croutons and sourdough bread to purchase at the original site where William Arnott, the biscuit entrepreneur and his brother David baked bread and biscuits in the 1860s.
Now that the appetite is whet, your stomach is rumbling and you have stocked up on goodies, it’s lucky that there are also some great places to sit down and relax. There is enough selection to leave it to you to choose whether to opt for a pub meal at the Commercial Hotel, a pizza and glass of wine at Morpeth Woodfired Pizza or grab some hot chips from the takeaway and sit by the Hunter River. Yet no matter your choice, the day wouldn’t be complete without popping into one of the cafés to enjoy an afternoon cuppa and fresh scones.
Visiting Morpeth you’ll discover it’s well worth spending some time exploring the well trodden paths of those who built the town on the heritage walk around town. If not to explore the many boutique shops or to sample the delicious food, then to take in the history and uniqueness of one of the Hunter Valley’s most treasured locations.