The historic township of Morpeth, nestled just a 10 minute drive from Maitland town centre, marks a major milestone this November – its bicentenary.
Originally known by its name ‘Illalaung’, meaning green hills to the native Wonnarua people, Morpeth was instrumental in the European settlement of the Hunter Valley during the 1820s and into the 1830s.
When Queens Wharf was established in 1833, Morpeth became a major industrial and agricultural centre. For the remainder of the 1800s, Morpeth would serve as an important cultural, commercial and religious focal point in the Hunter Valley.
Produce would travel from Morpeth wharves to Newcastle and Sydney, while people would travel in the opposite direction, using Morpeth as the springboard for travel up and into the Hunter Valley.
However, as Newcastle began to grow and new transport links – such as the Great Northern Railway – bypassing Morpeth enroute to Maitland, the centrality of the township began to wane.
By the time the rail link between Newcastle and Sydney had been completed in 1889, Morpeth’s role in industry and trade was significantly less than it used to be.
200 years on from its inception, Morpeth’s storied past is quite literally etched into the stonework that makes up its streets and heritage listed buildings.
A birthday to remember
On 19 and 20 November, Morpeth will commemorate its bicentenary milestone over a bumper weekend of free activities and events.
During the day, Swan Street will serve as the focal point for fun. Morpeth Museum will be offering free entry as well as running heritage walking tours of the township, and visitors can enjoy a short view back to the past, with vintage games, antique valuations, horse and carriage rides, period fashion parades (Sunday only), penny farthing races, historic sketches and classic car displays, spanning everything from the early 1900s up to classic Holdens from the 70s.
The sweet sounds of live music will fill the air as well, with live performances from City of Maitland Pipes and Drums and Maitland City Brass Band.
Lights and music
Last year, in anticipation of the bicentenary, Morpeth’s state heritage registered 1898 bridge was fitted with architectural lighting along the length of its timber truss frame.
The bridge lighting will be illuminated during the Saturday night festivities, which will culminate in a spectacular firework display along the Hunter River.
Four local bands – Klub Kong and the Piranha Tamers, Slapjack, Glovers Lane and Sempill Street Band – will add rhythm and tempo to the evening activities, while a fleet of food trucks cater to all tastes.
Eat, drink and be merry
When visiting the Morpeth Bicentenary, be sure to visit the wide range of businesses that can be found along Swan Street.
A host of local businesses will be running expanded trading hours, so there’s even more opportunity to indulge in a little bit of retail therapy.
From bakehouses and cellar doors, to high tea, delectable delis and woodfired pizza, visitors are sure to find something to tempt their tastebuds at one of Morpeth’s many eateries, cafes and restaurants too.
And if you’re looking to stay the weekend or maybe even longer, Morpeth is home to a range of exciting accommodation options, from cozy cottages to boutique hotels.
Where can you find out more?
So that’s the lowdown on Morpeth and its bumper birthday bash. If you’d like to find out more about the weekend’s program of events, where to eat, play and stay, you can head on over to the event’s dedicated website: morpeth200.com.au
We look forward to seeing you there!