The area now known as Singleton is on is the traditional land of the Wonnarua / Wanaruah people, whose lands extend throughout the Hunter Valley.
But Singleton takes its name from a 19th Century explorer, Benjamin Singleton. There are many other famous names from that same party of explorers that we still see around town today, more than 200 years after our town was established.
John Howe leads the way
When the Englishman John Howe arrived in New South Wales as a free settler in 1802, he was granted 100 acres of farmland. But he showed little enthusiasm for farming, instead becoming an auctioneer and then securing a contract to build a toll bridge and complete the road from Sydney to Windsor.
Howe’s work caught the eye of Governor Lachlan Macquarie. With encouragement from Macquarie, he headed up two exploration parties, first in 1819 and again in 1820. Both expeditions sought to find a suitable route from Windsor to the Hunter River, in search of good grazing land.
One of the men in the second expedition had previously explored sections of the route. His name? Benjamin Singleton.
Jack of all trades: Benjamin Singleton
Born in England in 1788, Benjamin Singleton arrived in Australia at just three years of age with his mother, brother, and father, who’d been sentenced to seven years’ transportation.
Benjamin would grow up to become successful in a number of professions. During his lifetime he worked as a miller, explorer, innkeeper, constable and grazier. As a young man he built and operated three water mills in the Hawkesbury area with his brother, James.
“As fine a country as imagination can form”
When Howe’s 1820 party reached what is now Maitland, they were impressed with what they saw. “On our way down the river,” Howe wrote to Governor Macquarie, “we came through as fine a country as imagination can form … fit for cultivation and equally so for grazing.”
By way of reward, Howe was granted land not far from where Singleton stands today. But it was the land granted to Benjamin Singleton that became key in our town’s formation.
Singleton was granted 200 acres for his role in the expedition’s success. The land took in John Street and much of the area that would later form the heart of the town. Soon after, he set up the first punt crossing over the Hunter River. He then built the Barley Mow Inn nearby. With the land’s prime riverside position, Benjamin decided to dust off his skills as a miller, and (again with his brother) he constructed a water mill attached to the inn.
Singleton was appointed district constable in 1823, cementing his influence in the area. He also accepted cattle on agistment to graze on his land, which quickly became known as “Singleton’s”. It was around these agistment, inn and mill enterprises that a settlement began to form which took the name of Singleton.
Other place names in the area
John Howe is remembered in various ways in our area. Howe Park, Howe Street, Howes Valley and Howes Trail in Yengo National Park are all named after him.
Other members of the Howe’s team to have their names commemorated include George Loder Jr, Frederick Rhodes, Robert Bridle, Andrew Loder, Thomas Dargin Jr, James House, and Mullaboy, an Indigenous tracker whose involvement was crucial to the expedition’s success. You’ll find their names mostly in Singleton Heights – in Loder Avenue, Loder Creek, Rhodes Place, Mullaboy Place, Bridle Place, James House Close and Dargin Close.
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