In 1797, when Lieutenant John Shortland sailed into the unknown waters of what is now Newcastle Harbour, he discovered 'a very fine coal river' - and, although the official name of the settlement that grew up in the 'valley about a quarter of a mile from the harbour entrance' was Newcastle, it became known as Coal River (also for a time King's Town). The reasons for settlement were coal and convicts. In the early 1800s Newcastle rivalled notorious Norfolk Island as a place of 'secondary' punishment, that is as a prison location for the worst convicts from Sydney, who, having given too much trouble there, were sent north to work in the mines- from dawn to dusk, with one break for a meagre meal.



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