In the news. 

Rare picture of Mercury founder Thomas Tucker given to Historic Society

Maitland Mercury 18 June 2020

Historical Society open day

Maitland Mercury, 14 November 2016

By Perry Duffin

The Maitland Historical Society, home the city’s most dedicated historians, will hold an open day this weekend to inspire the community to join and raise some funds to continue their mission.

“There’s an increasing interest in local history… it’s extremely important” president Keith Cockburn said.“It might sound strange but you can’t have a present without having a past. We can’t have a future without having something to build on. Our history is our foundation.”

Mr Cockburn said the sale and open day would also offer an excuse to show the public the Historical Society rooms’ revamped displays, sell some local history publications and invite people new to the area to take in some history of their new community.


Old movies are the reel deal with the Maitland Historical Society

Maitland Mercury, August 27, 2015

By Jessica Brown

The charm of black and white movies will come alive at a film night presented by the Maitland and District Historical Society.

At Saturday’s [29 August] old-style movie experience at St John’s Hall the audience will be treated to a full-length film from the 1930s called One Hour With You.

The American musical comedy is about a married couple who find themselves attracted to other people. It was produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch and features Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald.

The film will be played on an original 16 millimetre projector. “It is black and white and the original film in its original canister,” society president Keith Cockburn said. “It will give people an idea of what it was like in the old days with the rattle of the projector.”

St John’s Hall, on the corner of High and Cathedral streets, Maitland, was originally a theatre and will add to the charm of the evening.  “As an historical society it is appropriate we hold an event like this one,” Keith said.

Anti-German sentiment led to street name change during war

Maitland Mercury, April 5, 2015

By  Emma Swain

As Australian soldiers prepared to leave Gallipoli and devastation of the conflict travelled home, the name of one of Maitland’s most prominent streets came under fire.

On December 14, 1915, the people of Beckmann Street presented a petition to West Maitland Municipal Council for the street to be renamed.

Historical documents show that the German-derived name of Beckmann was seen as an affront to the war effort and therefore the street should be renamed Anzac Street.

“Originally, the street was named after a local merchant called G H V Beckmann and as this was a German name the people of the street petitioned to have it changed and the name Anzac was certainly in vogue,” Maitland Historical Society member Kevin Short said.

Full article available at Maitland Mercury, April 5, 2015:

1955 FLOOD: Three free talks on region's flooding

Maitland Mercury, January 29, 2015

By Rebecca Berry

Flood consultant Chas Keys will deliver three talks to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1955 flood at Maitland and District Historical Society from next week.

Topics include the psychology of flooding – floods in the minds of Maitlanders on Tuesday February 3; the impact of floods, flood mitigation and urban development on Tuesday, February 24 and the experience of evacuation on Tuesday, March 3.

Each event is free and will be held at 3 Cathedral Street, Maitland at 5.30pm.

Mr Keys is an Honorary Associate of Risk Frontiers at Macquarie University and a former deputy director-general of the NSW State Emergency Service.

He will talk about how Maitland people have interacted with floods and their emotional responses, gathered from personal interviews with flood survivors and from Maitland Mercury articles.

Other areas to be covered include the levee paradox, the evolution of flood warnings, preparation for floods, movement of people in future flood events, their accommodation and care.

Full article available at Maitland Mercury, January 29, 2015:

Dead Man's Penny a memorial to those who died during World War I

When Donald Cracknell died on the battlefields of France in 1916 a bronze medallion was delivered to his mother. 

The Dead Man’s Penny, sent on behalf of King George V, did little to ease Susan Cracknell’s heartache of losing her 23-year-old son.  

“None of them spoke about him,” the young soldier’s niece Adele Cockburn said.  “In my grandmother’s lounge room there was a round table with a Bible and Uncle Donald’s photo next to it. 

“There would always be a bunch of flowers on the table.”

Mr Cracknell was a 22-year-old lorry driver from the village of Kayuga outside of Muswellbrook when he enlisted in West Maitland on November 4, 1915. 

Private Donald Cracknell of the 30th Battalion sailed from Sydney on the HMAT Anchises on March 14, 1916. 

Five months later, on August 23, he died in a wagon en route to a field hospital after being wounded in the trenches. 

Mr Cracknell was buried in the Sailly Surlelye Military Cemetery, east of the larger Estaires Military Cemetery. 

Family friend, Sarah McIntyre, travelled to the French battlefields a year later, and returned with a photograph of the fresh grave marked with a single wooden cross. 

Full article available at Maitland Mercury, 23 April 2014.  :

Maitland's old buildings hold secrets

All the old buildings in Maitland have stories to tell.

So writes Maitland Historical Society member Val Rudkin in her booklets Take A Look Back At High Street Maitland – Part 1 and Part 2.

Research for the booklets has taken four years.

An interest in the history of Maitland’s commercial buildings goes back to childhood for Mrs Rudkin, who was born at Lorn and attended the-then Maitland Girls High School.

Full article available at Maitland Mercury, 10 April 2014.

Fond memories of celebration to honour St. Patrick's Day

From its earliest years the Maitland Mercury has reported on St Patrick’s Day celebrations. The late 1960s saw the last of the marches when the Mercury would report nearly 5000 school children marching through High Street to help make up a crowd of 10,000 crowding into the showground for the day’s ­celebrations.

Maitland and District Historical Society would welcome any written memories and photographs of the events of those days. Please send them to PO Box 333 Maitland NSW 2320 or email
Article by Historical Society member Peter Bogan.
Full article available at Maitland Mercury, 17 March 2014.

New boutique's diverse history

On Thursday the Mercury told the story of two women - Karen Meyn and Mary-Jane Foreman – both mothers of three who have decided to breathe new life into a former butcher’s shop that has stood vacant for eight years.

They have opened Hush Boutique, a women’s clothing store on the old Maitland Mercury corner.

Local historian Peter Bogan takes a look at the colourful history of the shop. 

Full article available at Maitland Mercury, 1 March 2014.

Sportsground: drawn out saga

Pre-Maitland Sportsground the showground was used for sporting events.

About 1930 demand for sporting facilities began to increase and because the show ground now also had motorbike racing and greyhound racing a search began to find and fund a sportsground for Maitland.

Mercury files show first mention of this was on the Wednesday, September 28, 1932, when the Maitland United Rugby League Club called a public meeting at the Town Hall for the following Monday evening to discuss the project. 

The following Monday the Mercury backed the project and urged a large attendance at the meeting. 

At the well-attended meeting it was decided to select a committee to find a suitable site and ask the mayor to convene a public meeting to discuss the project. 

Even before any site was selected, a letter to the editor in March 1933 showed some dispute between Rugby League and Amateur Athletics over the use of the sportsground.

Article by Historical Society member Peter Bogan.

Full article available at Maitland Mercury, 15 February 2014.

 Our city? It's a living museum

Maitland city centre is a living museum.

That’s the view of Maitland Historical Society member Val Rudkin, who has been researching the stories behind the city’s High Street buildings for the past three years.

Born and raised in Lorn, Mrs Rudkin has always treasured her strong ties to the city.

One of her favourite sections of High Street stretches between Hills Chambers and Toyworld in the Heritage Mall.

Full article available at Maitland Mercury, 30 November 2013.

 Upgrade for courthouse

Work to restore the historic Maitland Court House will begin later this month after a $1.1 ­million upgrade for the site was announced yesterday.

Maitland Historical Society member Ruth Trappel said it was fantastic that the government was spending money to preserve the heritage-listed building.

“Absolutely, it really is wonderful that they’ve decided to do this,” Mrs Trappel said.

“To spend that kind of money is very welcome.”

The Maitland Court House was originally planned for the site of Maitland Town Hall but was instead erected in its current location in 1895.

Local historian Peter Bogan said that while Maitland Court House wasn’t the oldest in the area, it had still seen its share of sights.

“The courthouse at East Maitland is older,” Mr Bogan said. 

“I suspect a fear of flooding is why they would have moved the site from town hall to where it is now. But in the ’55 flood 90 blokes were trapped in the courthouse and had to be rescued.”

Full article available at Maitland Mercury, 7 August  2013

 Museum move is 'a step in the right direction'

A steering committee to pursue a museum for Maitland will be formed within the next fortnight.

More than 50 people gathered at Maitland Town Hall on Wednesday night for a two-hour long meeting – hosted by the Maitland Historical Society – to determine the interest for a museum for the city.

Maitland Historical Society president Ruth Trappel said the committee would include members of the society, the Australian Museum Clothing And Textiles, the Maitland Genealogical Society and Friends of Grossmann House.

Full article available at Maitland Mercury, 26 July 2013. 


 History funds for Maitland

State government grants for historical projects

Maitland and District Historical Society will use its $1500 grant to research the written and oral histories of the Lower Hunter from settlement in the 1800s to today.

Full article availabe at Maitland Mercury, 21 October 2012.


 Museum move for Mercury heats up

A PLAN to buy the former Maitland Mercury building and transform it into a city museum may receive backing from Maitland City Council later this year.

Maitland and District Historical Society has a plan for the council to buy the building so it can present it as a museum and house other groups of similar interests.

Society member Bob Roberts, who worked in the council's finance department, has unveiled a plan to finance the project and presented it to a number of interested councillors.

Mr Roberts said the proposal to buy the High Street building would cost the council $1250 in the form of a bank guarantee bond for six months. He said during that period the council could lobby for government funding to proceed with the sale.

Mr Roberts believes the cost of the building would come in "well under $1million" and said he would be surprised if council could not obtain funding within six months.

"We want to try to assist the council and work with them," he said.

He said the proposal married up with the city's antique shop and dining precinct and would enhance the municipal precinct council is planning.

Full article available at Newcastle Herald, 15 September 2012.

Historical Society puts heat on council to save Mercury building

Maitland and District Historical Society has launched a plan of action to shame the council into buying the former Mercury building at 258 High Street.

In a bold move, the society has written to Maitland City Council and each councillor to pressure them to purchase the vacant building and open it as a museum.

The historical society’s members voted unanimously to push ahead with the idea, which would see the disused building take on a new purpose.

“The former Mercury building would form part of the municipal and historical precinct that Maitland City Council plans to establish at the eastern end of High Street,” society member Bob Roberts said. “The idea surfaced last month when I moved a motion at a society meeting. Letters were sent to council and all councillors to make sure no one could say they did not receive one or it went astray.

“It is too soon for a reply, but that was stage one of the plan.” Mr Roberts said stage two involved gaining public support through the pages of the Mercury.

Full article available at Maitland Mercury, 16 August 2012.


Heritage listing bid for Historic Dunmore House

There are plans to put one of Maitland's oldest homes on the New South Wales Heritage Register.

The two story Dunmore House was built by convicts in Bolwarra Heights between 1830 and 1833. been 150 years since one of the most important rail corridors of the Hunter Valley carried the first trains between Lochinvar and Branxton.
The President of the Maitland and District Historical Society Ruth Trappel says in addition to being a workplace for convicts there was a labour force of migrants.

Full report available at ABC News.

Barbarous murderer hanged in High Street

On February 1, 1838, a gruesome murder took place in High Street when a butcher was killed by his convict-assigned servant. The killer was seen shortly after licking the blood off the knife that was the murder weapon, telling all those around him how good it tasted. For his punishment, it was decided he would be hanged in High Street. Research by Historical Society member Peter Bogan.

Full article available at Maitland Mercury, 17 April 2012.

Making tracks

It’s been 150 years since one of the most important rail corridors of the Hunter Valley carried the first trains between Lochinvar and Branxton. Sam Norris reports on the line that helped open up the Hunter and beyond. 
This article featured Historical Society member Bill Sutherland with a photo of Bill and the rail line to Branxton that was 150 years old on 23 March.

Full article available at Maitland Mercury, 24 March 2012.


Preserving our city's history

 Some of Maitland's most historic documents will be preserved as the Maitland Historical Society makes use of a Myla machine on loan from Canterbury Historical Society. "The machine will be used to cover maps, charts and anything else that needs to be protected: Society vice-president Tom Skelding said.

 Full article in the Maitland Mercury of 1 November 2011.

A Touch of old Maitland returns: tribute to Galton's history

From the Maitland Mercury report:

A beautiful part of Maitland’s history has finally seen the light of day thanks to the Maitland Historical Society.

Seven brightly coloured leadlight panels from the famous Galton’s department store are among the newest additions to the historical collection.

Inherited from the Wolstenholme family who were the last store occupants of Galton’s, the leadlights have not been on display since the store’s closure in 1986.

Historical society members Frank Buckman and Tom Skelding unearthed the panels from storage at Maitland Regional Art Gallery, which could not display them. Although some still need to be repaired, the small pieces of coloured glass supported in lead frames are a striking piece of history on display at the historical society in Cathedral Street.

“They’re a work of art and a fine example of that craftsmanship,” Maitland historical Society president Ruth Trappel said.

After major renovations to the store in 1923, the leadlight panels were put in between the front windows and the awnings as decoration for the popular store.

“It’s a very visual part of our historical collection to which we are very grateful to the Wolstenholme family for giving the opportunity to be able to display them,” Mrs Trappel said.

Full article in the Maitland Mercury of 31 October 2011.

Photos of city's past are rich in history

From the Lower Hunter Star:

The Maitland Mercury and the Maitland and District Historical Society will set up a display of historic photographs and information in the Heritage Mall during the Maitland Aroma Festival. Maitland and District Historical Society president, Ruth Trappel said the exhibition will inform those visiting the region, as well as interested locals, about the rich history of Maitland.  
Sourced from the Maitland and District Historical Society and the Mercury, the collection of more than 50 photographs dating back to 1870 will depict things such as shops, the railway and floods the city has experienced. The display will be held at 360 High Street, Maitland.

 Full article in the Lower Hunter Star of 11 August 2011.

ching Galtons' rich history

From the Maitland Mercury report:

High Street was home to Galtons department store unitl 1986. Those were the days when traffic flowed along the street and shoppers would be out in force. Now, 25 years later, historian and Maitland Historical Society member Frank Buckman has put Galtons back in the spotlight.

Full article in the Maitland Mercury of 1 July 2011.

History unearthed in time for opening of society’s new home

From the Maitland Mercury report:

Opening of the Maitland and District Historical Society’s new home, to be held February 5.  Following an eight-year search, society members have packed up their vast collection of goods and moved into a two-storey dwelling in Cathedral Street, Maitland.

“It’s been absolutely wonderful having a home for our society because now, finally, we can get our whole collection out and give people the opportunity to actually come and see what we’ve got,” president Ruth Trappel said.

“Up until now we haven’t had that opportunity.”

In preparation for the launch, members have uncovered some interesting finds, including some old etchings of Maitland in the 1800s and portraits of the directors of the West Maitland Co-operative Baking Society.

Full article by Emma Swain available at Maitland Mercury, 5 January 2011.


Home at last

From the Maitland Mercury report:

It’s been a long time coming but Maitland’s new-look historical society finally has a place to call home.

The group – now known as Maitland and District Historical Society Incorporated – moved into a two-storey dwelling in Cathedral Street yesterday following an eight-year search for a home.

“We gave the society a real kick-start last year and now we finally have a place to store our books and documents and a place to meet,” president Ruth Trappel said.

Full article by Emma Swain available at Maitland Mercury, 2 September, 2010.


Collision course set for history, patriotism 

From the Maitland Mercury report:
Kevin Short’s patriotism and passion for history will collide on Australia Day.

The treasurer of Maitland and District Historical Society has three direct links to the First Fleet that landed in Port Jackson on January 26, 1788.
In contrast to his ancestors – 222 years after their arrival – Mr Short will celebrate Australia Day in Maitland Park as a member of the historical society.
The society was invited to be part of Maitland’s annual festivities to highlight the organisation’s existence and to exemplify the city’s history.

Full article by Briony Snedden available at
Maitland Mercury, 14 Jan, 2010. 


Historical Society Walks to put colour into city centre’s rich history

From the Maitland Mercury report:
The sepia tones of the central Maitland of yesteryear will be restored to glorious technicolour in a series of heritage walks to begin next month. Buildings, people and events from centuries ago will feature on the tours, led by the Maitland and District Historical Society on November 7 and December 5, taking in High Street and covering the elegant buildings of Church Street and the charming cottages of Bourke Street.

Full article by Briony Snedden avaliable at
Maitland Mercury, 15 Oct, 2009.


Taste of history at city festival

From the Maitland Mercury report:
A history tour of central Maitland will cover all the important landmarks, such as the town hall. Maitland and District Historical Society will lead the history walks as part of the Maitland Aroma Coffee, Chocolate and Fine Food Festival on Saturday, starting in Elgin Street and taking in the important buildings on High Street and surrounding streets.

Full article by Briony Snedden avaliable at Maitland Mercury, 12 Aug, 2009.


Society returns to keep a record of our history

From the Maitland Mercury report:
Maitland’s history will become alive once more following the re-birthing of the city’s historical society.

Following a seven-year hiatus, the Maitland and District Historical Society Incorporated has been reactivated with plans to research, join forces with other community groups and publish information regarding the city’s past.

Full article by Emma Swain avaliable at Maitland Mercury, 02 Jun, 2009.


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