Saturday, July 23, 2016

Australian Sojourn – May 2016

Part 2: Morpeth

Continuing my series of posts documenting my recent visit to Australia, I share today photos and commentary from my time spent in the little town of Morpeth, where my younger brother and his family live. (To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

Situated on the southern banks of the Hunter River (above), Morpeth serves as a satellite suburb of the rural city of Maitland, located in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales. Morpeth is about a two-hour drive north of Sydney, where I had arrived from the U.S. on May 6.

Right: With my brother Tim, friend Raph, and niece Sami at the Morpeth Cottage Bakehouse – Sunday, May 8, 2016.

Left: When I left Minnesota on May 4 spring was bursting forth with much beauty. It was a different kind of natural beauty I was witnessing and experiencing in Australia, as for one thing, it was autumn not spring.

And although the seasons are nowhere near as pronounced in much of Australia as they are in Minnesota, one can readily see many beautiful signs of the changing seasons.

About the Wonnarua people, the indigenous inhabitants of the area, Wikipedia says the following.

The Wonnarua people, a group of indigenous people of Australia, are those Australian Aborigines that were united by a common language, strong ties of kinship and survived as skilled hunter–fisher–gatherers in family groups or clans scattered along the inland area of what is now known as the Upper Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia. Their traditional territory spreads from the Upper Hunter River, near Maitland west to the Great Dividing Range, towards Wollombi.

Meaning people of the hills and plains, the Wonnarua were bounded to the south by the Darkinjung, to the north–west by the Nganyaywana, to the north–east by the Awabakal, and to the south–east by the Worimi peoples. The Wonnarua also had trade and ceremonial links with the Kamilaroi people. Their creation spirit is Baiami, also known as Koin, the creator of all things and the Keeper of the Valley.

Above: The historic building known as Closebourne.

Notes Wikipedia:

The town of Morpeth was initially created through the private actions of Lieutenant E.C.Close, who selected a property of 1,000 hectares and developed it as a river port from 1831-1841. The lieutenant built his house, known as Closebourne, on the property. A two-storey Georgian home made of sandstone, the house became an episcopal residence from 1848-1912, which eventually became the nucleus of St John's Theological College on Morpeth Road.

Above: With my brother Tim at the Blackbird Artisan Bakery in Maitland. This charming bakery and café is actually located n the old Maitland Gaol, one of New South Wales' premier heritage listed sites and one that attracts visitors from all over the world (although it was obviously a quiet day at the gaol the day my brother and sister-in-law and I visited!)

About the history of the site the Maitland Gaol website says the following.

The foundation stone was laid in 1844 before opening officially in 1848. Maitland Gaol closed its gates as an operating facility in January 1998, giving the gaol a history that spanned 150 years. Throughout that time many buildings where modified or removed and the last of the new buildings was completed in 1993. The site as it remains today is how it was left when the doors where finally shut on this architectural beauty.

Inside the massive sandstone façade, the walls and cells tell the stories of inmates. The graffiti and illustrations are records of time, of life and in some instances death. With 150 years of history the site saw discipline including whippings of convicts right up to the lighter treatment of the white collar criminals in the later years. As you walk around the gaol there is a strong notion of history, you can see that the pain and struggle to survive, the frustration and determination is all evident within the walls.

Above: Pictured on the steps of the East Maitland Courthouse, located not far from Maitland Gaol.

Above: Morpeth blooms!

Above: With Sami, the youngest of my two nieces. Sami's older sister Layne lives in Port Macquarie, the same mid-north coastal NSW city where my parents live.

Above and below: The many historic buildings of Morpeth, New South Wales.

Above: I could happily live in a lovely little house like this!

Above: The former Morpeth Post Office now serves as the community's veterinarian clinic.

Morpeth takes its name from Morpeth, Northumberland, near Newcastle upon Tyne, in England.

About the town's history Wikipedia notes the following.

[Established in 1831] the river port grew steadily throughout the 1830s; St James's Church on Tank Street was built from 1837 to 1840. It was partly designed by John Horbury Hunt and now has a Local Government Heritage listing. A major merchant at this time was James Taylor, who built a bond store circa 1850, located near the bridge and now heritage-listed. The town continued to expand. Morpeth Court House was built circa 1861 in a Greek Revival style; the police station followed in 1879.

The construction of the Great Northern Railway in 1857, bypassing Morpeth, meant that Newcastle developed as the regional port. Morpeth became less significant commercially, but still survived as a township with its own history and heritage.

The town today is a tourist destination due to its many historical buildings and river bank setting.

Above: Wandering through an arcade of arts and crafts shops in Morpeth – Sunday, May 8, 2016.

In one of these shops I saw the beautiful sculpture at left depicting a hare – an ancient symbol of both enlightenment and homosexuality.

Above and left: On one of our morning walks in Morpeth, my brother and niece and I made the acquaintance of three friendly horses.

Above: The main street of Maitland, New South Wales, featuring the city's Town Hall.

Here's some interesting history, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Originally Maitland consisted of three separate towns which arose roughly all around the same time. West Maitland, now just Maitland, was a privately founded town which grew because of its proximity to the river and which today is the commercial centre of the city. The other areas were East Maitland, which was established by the colonial New South Wales government, and Morpeth, another private town founded by Lieutenant Close, a Peninsular War veteran. Each town functioned as if they were separate municipalities.

The name, Maitland, was reported in 1885 to have had its name taken "from Sir George Maitland, ... Under Secretary for the Colonies, and M.P. for the Borough of Whitchurch, in Hampshire, England" (The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Thursday, February 12, 1885, p.7).

Above: At the Maitland Regional Art Gallery.

Both my nieces take after their mother and are very talented artists. While I was visiting Morpeth, my youngest niece Sami had a piece in an exhibition at the Maitland Regional Art Gallery on extinct and endangered animals. Her drawing was of the presumed-to-be-extinct Gould's mouse (right).

Above: Sami at work.

It may have been autumn when I visit Morpeth in May, but there were still many flowers in bloom, both native (above) and non-native (below).

Next: Melbourne

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 1 – Maroubra
Australian Sojourn, March 2015: Part 1 – Brooklyn and Morpeth

Photography: Michael J. Bayly.
Artwork: Ainslie Roberts. As I write in Part 1 of this series, Roberts' artwork reflects the beauty of both Australian indigenous culture and the Australian landscape; two realities that really are inseparable – a truth I acknowledge and honor. Roberts acknowledged and honored this truth too. We see it in his art. And then there's this beautiful anecdote: Toward the end of his life, Roberts described himself as "a communicator . . . a white man painting in a white man's way and trying, visually, to show the white people of Australia that this fascinating land they live in has a rich and ancient cultural heritage that they should be aware of and respect."

No comments: