Happy Birthday To Singleton

Are you a Singleton local?

You probably know the town is approaching its 200th birthday – a great milestone for this much-loved rural community. Here’s a little history about the area plus information about the celebrations coming up.

Let’s step back in time and remember the history of St Patricks Plains.

Singleton: 200 years ago

The European discovery of Singleton and the surrounding area was in 1820, when John Howe and his fellow explorers arrived at Whittingham, on the south bank of the Hunter River. Apparently one of Howe’s party, Benjamin Singleton, was so taken with the valley that the area was named after him (although it was first known as St Patrick’s Plains in honour of Ireland’s patron saint).

By 1841, the Singleton settlement had gained a somewhat unsavoury reputation as a town where ‘bad liquor and drunkenness’ prevailed. By 1881, the town had redeemed itself – land was expensive, Patrick Plains was a respected agricultural and pastoral district, and the town boasted ‘some of the largest and handsomest buildings in the Northern district’. One hundred years later, in the 1980s, the city was at the heart of the Hunter Valley mining and electricity industries – and its economy has grown further to accommodate dairy and beef farming, viticulture, tourism and a large army base.

Indigenous history

The bicentennial marks the anniversary since the explorers’ expedition discovered Singleton – but the commemoration is about more than just European settlement, says Sue Moore, Singleton’s mayor. “It’s about our connections – with the land and with each other,” she explains, “and an acknowledgement of the richness of our community.”

That community, of course, includes the Wonnarua / Wanaruah people – Singleton’s traditional landowners and occupiers of the Upper Hunter region for the last 30,000 years. The area is of great significance to the Wonnarua / Wanaruah people. The Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation was established in 1999 and is dedicated to nurturing the history and culture of its people and improving the health and education of its members.

With such an extensive history there’s so much we can learn. But one key part of recent indigenous history in the region was the local St Clair Mission, which was established by Reverend JS White and later came under the control of what was then called the Aborigines Inland Mission.

Singleton newspaperman Alexander Morrison – who started The Budget newspaper in 1874 – occasionally employed people from the nearby Mission in his printing works. His involvement with the indigenous people at St Clair resulted in him starting a collection of Aboriginal wooden artefacts, mainly clubs and boomerangs. Many of these artefacts are now on display at the Australian Museum.

Singleton Council and the locals have great respect for the local indigenous people and the traditional knowledge and stories of the Dreaming that they bring to the area’s rich history. If you’re visiting Singleton, take a moment to remember the footsteps of the ancestors who came before you and their cultural and spiritual connections to the land.

Events to enjoy

Want to take part in the bicentenary celebrations? You’re invited – whether you’re a local or not! You can enjoy the Singleton Homecoming on March 13, a free community street party, or bring the family to the Singleton Day Out (March 14), a free afternoon of fun on the Civic Green. There’ll be live magic shows, jumping castles, an animal nursery, food trucks and kids games galore.

You may also fancy heading to the Devonshire tea event at the recently refurbished Glendon Hall, where cups of tea and scones are sure to be plentiful! Vintage tennis is also on offer, or you might like to learn about rare dry pant species on a tour of the botanic gardens.

But don’t forget your glad rags for the main event: the glamorous Singleton Soiree is on March 14 at the Civic Centre. ABC personality and Singleton son Craig Hamilton will be on the microphone as MC, and you’ll be sipping cocktails and kicking up your heels to pop-jazz nostalgia band The Roslyns. There’ll also be bush poetry readings and delicious canapes and dessert by much-loved Singleton eatery, Mama’s Kitchen. Tickets are just $35 each.

Happy birthday, Singleton – and hope to see you there!

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