The establishment, development and significance of the township of Wollombi is directly connected with the construction and importance of the Great Northern Road.
The Howes Valley Rd (Colo Putty Road) was completed in 1823, but it was considered too difficult a route to be a commercial success, and requests by settlers of the Hunter Valley were made to Governor Brisbane for a shorter route to be established.
The Surveyor-General, Major Thomas Mitchell formulated a grand plan of an inland route to service all the newly opened regions in the northern NSW. The surveying of the route for the Great Northern Road was carried out by a Heneage Finch, who later settled in Laguna. The surveyed route takes in Castle Hill, Wiseman’s Ferry, St Albans, Laguna and Wollombi. At Wollombi, the road branches, one arm going to Singleton and Muswellbrook, the other going to Cessnock and Maitland.
Construction of the road started in 1826, and was carried out by some nine chain gangs of convicts. It was completed in 1831, and at times up to 700 convicts toiled on this massive civil project. On the 12th June of that year, the steamship “Sophie Jane” sailed from Sydney to Morpeth in 11½ hours. With the speed and carrying capacity of the ship surpassing that of road transport, the commercial significance of the Great Northern Road was immediately diminished.
Settlers continued to migrate into the area, and they consisted mainly of free immigrants, ticket of leave men and soldier settlers. The more wealthy and influential of these (Blaxland and Finch) were given land grants of up to 1000 acres, and the soldier settlers were given grants of approximately 100 acres. As more settlers established themselves in the Wollombi Valley, several inns and hotels were built and the township of Wollombi came into existence around 1837, although without any clergy, church or physicians.
In 1839 the bushranger Edward “Jewboy” Davis formed his gang and operated along the Great Northern Road, as did Patrick Bruin in 1843. A multitude of other horse thieves, cattle duffers and vagrants migrated into and caused law and order problems in Wollombi Valley.
With this background, Governor Gipps appoints the first Police Magistrate to Wollombi, one David Dunlop.
Wollombi became the administrative centre for the district, as it became a substantial wheat and tobacco producing area, until rust devastated the area in the 1870′s. The importance of Wollombi diminished further in the 1890′s with the opening of collieries in Cessnock.
- The Jew Boy Gang 1840
- Jewboy Cave
- Jewboy gang – Archives office documents
- Heneage Finch
- Governor Sir George Gipps
- The Convict Trail
- The Old Great North Road
- Sir Thomas Mitchell
- David Dunlop
- Eliza Dunlop
- The Property