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Morpeth: your historic photos can help

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If you own any photographs that showcase Morpeth in all its glory – local historians Greg and Sylvia Ray want to hear from you.

The pair, who have published 13 coffee table style books on the Hunter region to date, are hoping to gather enough photos of the township to produce a photo book documenting its past.

The book will commemorate Morpeth’s bicentenary and celebrate its surroundings.

It will then be handed over to Morpeth Courthouse Museum and Newcastle University Archive to be kept for posterity.

“Most photos from this period will be replicable from negatives that might be safely stored in drawers and cupboards now, but as the custodians of these treasures pass from this life to the next, their relatives don’t always appreciate the significant possessions they have tucked away,” Greg and Sylvia said. 

“Their survival will depend on the ability of relatives to see the value in these old photos, and who knows how that will work out.”

Founded in 1821, Morpeth has many timely events and peoples that deserve to be documented, they say.

“They could be photos from the 1955 flood, events that have occurred in Morpeth over the decades, photos of businesses that began in Morpeth, such as Arnott’s, Soul Pattinson, [and] Brambles.

“[They could be] family photos of Morpeth residents, buildings, Morpeth during WWI and WWII, vehicles, businesses and the like. 

“You may even have a treasured family item that could be photographed for inclusion in the book.”

Greg and Sylvia Ray have published such pictorial books as Newcastle: Our Town Revisited, Travelling Through Time in Newcastle, and Hunter and Newcastle: The Missing Years.

Although their plans for a 2022 photo book was shelved due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the duo are now forging ahead with the concept.

What they are looking for is photos that depict Morpeth and surrounding region from the 1800s to mid 1900s.

“Best of all, if your pic is selected to appear, you’ll get yourself a free book,” they said.

“We are looking for striking photos that might depict a wide range of subjects, from people to places to events. 

“They might be funny, sombre, inspiring, [and/or] informative.”

The pair hope to publish the book by November 2022.

Members of the public can take their old photos of Morpeth and surrounding areas to be scanned on Friday 19, Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 November between 10am and 4pm.

A free photographic exhibition of Morpeth from the early 1830s to the 1960s will be set up in St James Anglican Church Hall in Morpeth over the weekend of 20th and 21st November.

The date coincides with the township’s 200th anniversary – 200 years since land grants were issued in the area.

It was in June 1831 the Australian Newspaper reported great expectations of the arrival and operation of the Sophia Jane (paddle steamer) and what it would bring to the coastal communities.

“Persons will shortly be able, we expect, to breakfast in Morpeth, lunch at Newcastle, dine at Port Stephens, and put up comfortably at Port Macquarie next morning, at half the present expense and in quarter the time, for the journey to Wallis’s Plains. Should she not find enough to do between this and Newcastle the route to and from Hobart Town lies open, and the Western Port, when the fine line of coast about there shall be settled.”

Sophia Jane
Morpeth bridge 1898

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