Seaham, New South Wales

Seaham, New South Wales

Infobox Australian Place
type = suburb
name = Seaham
city =
state = nsw

imagesize = 270
caption = The Presbyterian Church at Seaham, pictured about 1920. The building was destroyed by fire in 1939 and rebuilt in 1941.
pop = 372
pop_footnotes = Census 2006 AUS|id=UCL169070|name=Seaham (L) (Urban Centre/Locality)|accessdate=2008-06-10|quick=on|
] (Seaham village only) ref|population|Note1
density =
density_footnotes =
est = 1822
postcode = 2324
coordinates = coord|32|39|54|S|151|43|04|E|type:town_region:AU-NSW|display=inline,title
elevation =
area = 46.2
area_footnotes = ref|area|Note2
timezone = AEST
utc = +10
timezone-dst = AEDT
utc-dst = +11
propval =
dist1 = 179
dir1 = N
location1 = Sydney
dist2 = 40
dir2 = NNW
location2 = Newcastle
dist3 = 14.6
dir3 = NNW
location3 = Raymond Terrace
dist4 = 22
dir4 = NE
location4 = Maitland
lga = Port Stephens Councilcite web|url=|title=Suburb Search - Local Council Boundaries - Hunter (HT) - Port Stephens|publisher=New South Wales Department of Local Government|accessdate=2008-06-10]
region = Hunter
county = Durhamcite web|url=|title=Geographical Names Register Extract: Seaham|work=Geographical Names Register (GNR) of NSW|publisher=Geographical Names Board of New South Wales|accessdate=2008-06-10]
parish = Seaham
stategov = Maitland [Cite web |url=|title=Maitland|publisher=New South Wales Electoral Commission|date=2007-03-24|accessdate=2008-06-10]
fedgov = Paterson [Cite web|url=|title=Paterson |publisher=Australian Electoral Commission|date=2007-10-19|accessdate=2008-06-10]
maxtemp = 29.6
mintemp = 6.1
rainfall = 925.2
near-n = Glen Oak
near-ne = East Seaham
near-e = East Seaham, Eagleton
near-se = Raymond Terrace
near-s = Brandy Hill, Hinton, Osterley, Nelsons Plains
near-sw = Wallalong, Hinton
near-w = Butterwick, Woodville, Wallalong
near-nw = Duns Creek

Seaham is a suburb of the Port Stephens Local Government Area in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, Australia.DoL suburb image|name=Seaham|codename=Seaham|accessdate=2008-06-10] It is located on the Williams River which flows into the Hunter River Convert|14.6|km|mi|1 downstream from Seaham village at Raymond Terrace.

It is a rural community supporting a small but expanding population. While the actual village of Seaham, which is located in the north-eastern corner of the suburb, is relatively compact and composed of only a handful of streets, the suburb itself covers an area of approximately convert|46.3|km2|sqmi|1. Greater Seaham covers an even larger area and incorporates East Seaham, Brandy Hill, Eagleton and Eskdale Estate.


Settled during 1822, the village boomed during the 1850s from growing river trade and by 1920 supported a hotel, School of Arts, public school, and three churches. It also offered running water to its moderate population. The town became recognized during the 1890s for its excellence in winemaking, the local vineyard, "Porphyry" sweeping up medals and awards in not only Australia but also in Europe.

In the 19th century, growth in the township had been concentrated around the riverside, particularly on North Crescent Street. Devastating floods during 1893 and 1913 highlighted the impracticality of a low-lying town centre, and by the 1920’s the town had been moved to higher ground.

At one time, North Crescent Street, (now nothing but a dirt track along the Williams River), had supported a hotel, post office, wharf and Mechanic's Institute with library.

The principal street in Seaham from about 1902 onwards was Warren Street, which has been the address of three former post offices, two churches, the public school, general store and School of Arts Hall. Warren Street also provides access to Seaham Swamp, an important natural wetland. [Cite web|url=|title=Seaham Swamp Nature Reserve|publisher=NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change|date=2006-04-25|accessdate=2008-06-10] [Cite web|url=|title=Seaham Swamp Nature Reserve, Seaham Nelsons Plains Rd, Seaham, NSW|publisher=Aussie|date=2007-01-30|accessdate=2008-06-10]

1939 bushfire

On 14 January, 1939 a disastrous bushfire swept through Seaham and reduced much of the town to rubble. The Presbyterian Church, Seaham Public School, as well as a number of historically significant homes were lost in the fire, meaning the destruction of not only important edifices but a wealth of Seaham’s history.

"Porphyry" House housed a collection of invaluable artifacts, furniture, manuscripts and other documents associated with the colonisation of Australia. Nothing was saved from the gutted home and as the house burnt to the ground, the floor gave way and the safe in which most of the artifacts were kept fell into the basement. After the fire, the ruins were covered over and presumably, all surviving artefacts are still underground.

As the fire swept across the only roads in and out of the town, road access was blocked and subsequently the town had to rely on the effort of local men to fight the fire. By noon most of the women and children had been evacuated by punt across the Williams River to East Seaham, leaving about 50 men to protect the town.

With all roads to Seaham blocked by fire, outside authorities had to rely on telephone to contact inhabitants trapped within the town. The last message received from Seaham Post Office, then located next to the School of Arts hall on Warren Street was “I will have to run now. Fire is all around me”.

The fire had been burning for two days in the heavy timber outside of the township, but residents were caught unawares by the suddenness in which the flames swept down onto the village. One of the first buildings to be engulfed by flames was the historic “Felspar House” on the outskirts of the town. It was within the old stone home that a group of people gathered as the fire advanced on the town, watching it race over the hill and burn viciously towards the house. The Newcastle Morning Herald reported the incident the following Monday, telling how the occupants had remained within the home after it caught alight, and left the back door literally as the kitchen roof caved in.

Those left in Seaham by the time the fire reached the village were left to their own devices. As families fleeted over windswept paddocks, luggage in hand, others submerged themselves in dams, lagoons and even cattle troughs. Some defiant homeowners refused to leave their homes. In one instance it was reported that a man stood with a garden hose on his front steps as the fire burnt in a circle around his feet.

At "Brandon", a two-storey mansion about Convert|2|km|mi|1|abbr=on outside of the village, domestic servants toiled in vain to pump water from the underground well in the garden to save the old house. Luckily, the house itself was saved from the flames, but the gardens and summer houses were reduced to ash. The house still has thick, black tape over its internal windows. The tape was used during the Second World War to prevent the windows shattering in the case of an air raid. Business, trade and everyday life in the town came to a halt and subsequently the town fell into a downward spiral. Much of the population left during the 1940s and by 1960 the school served less than 10 students.

The town received a second boom during the 1980s with the development of the Brandy Hill residential estate, which injected new life into the area, bringing families from abroad back to the rural village and saving the school from imminent closure.


Seaham Cemetery, which is located on the outskirts of the Seaham township, has a traditional layout with headstones dating back to the 1850s. Contemporary records are incomplete with a number of grave markers lost in the 1939 bush fire. The cemetery is still in use and is maintained by Port Stephens Council. One of the oldest headstones in the cemetery is that of Scottish educational theorist Henry Carmichael, who died at sea during 1862.

Historical timeline

The following is a timeline of significant events in the history of the town:

* 19th century (exact date unknown) - A row-boat carrying, in today's terms, thousands of dollars worth of cutlery and gold across the Williams River from East Seaham overturned in rough conditions, sending the contents to the bottom of the river. The gold and cutlery was never recovered.
* 1822 - Seaham is settled by Captain Paterson and land grants are made.
* 1838 - Seaham is proclaimed a town as thriving rive trade boosts the population.
* 1840s - A man on horseback was attacked by robbers as he entered the village of Seaham and was thrown from his horse into the stream of the then unnamed creek. The man died instantly and his bloody body was left among the rocks until daylight. The incident resulted in the stream where it occurred being named "Deadmans Creek".
* 1852 - Seaham Public School begins operating in a wooden cottage by swamplands.
* 1860 - The cornerstone of St. Andrews Anglican Church is laid. The church isn't consecrated until 1902.
* 1878 - First service is held at Seaham Presbyterian Church on Dixon Street. "Felspar" House is completed.
* 1882 - Work begins on William Fisher's "Brandon" House.
* 1885 - A brick classroom and teacher's residence are built on the current Seaham Public School site. Despite the improved conditions, classes are empty when school resumes in 1886, with most pupils grape cutting at the local vineyards.
* 1893 - St. Ita's Roman Catholic Church opens on Dixon Street. Strangely, it disappears from all memoirs after the 1939 bushfire. The church wasn't among the buildings destroyed but appears to have ceased operating after the town is destroyed.
* 1902 - Seaham School of Arts opens on Warren Street.
* 1903 - Work begins on the Seaham Hotel.
* 1913 - Seaham is inundated by floodwaters.
* 1915 - Martha Sweeney dies when her home, opposite the Seaham Hotel, burns to the ground. Elderly Mrs. Sweeney had been locked inside by her son and was unable to escape as the cottage burnt down.
* 1917 - Six men from Seaham die in the Great War. 20 men had enlisted from the village by 1917, meaning majority of the town's young male population were absent for 5 years.
* 1925 - Seaham Quarry is dedicated to "science for all time". The rocks are considered to be up to 120 million years old and are regarded as the best example of varve shale in the world.
* 1935 - The Seaham Hotel burns to the ground. It had since been closed and was subject to vandalism.
* 1939 - Seaham is devastated by a bushfire that reduces much of the town to ash.
* 1941 - The Presbyterian Church, destroyed in 1939, is rebuilt. Only casualty from the Second World War dies overseas.
* 1945 - Electricity is connected to Seaham.
* 1955 - A new teacher's residence is built at Seaham Public School to replace the edifice lost in 1939. Floodwaters inundate Crescent and Torrence Streets during the devastating 1955 Hunter Valley floods.
* 1968 - A new classroom is built at Seaham Public School to replace an old cottage used since the 1939 bushfires.
* 2002 - "Seaham Celebrates"; a week of activities are held in recognition of 3 milestones in the town's history. It is also 180 years since settlement.

Edgeworth David quarry

The Edgeworth David quarry is an historic quarry that was gazetted for preservation for scientific purposes in 1925. [Cite web|url=|title=Seaham Swamp Nature Reserve Draft Plan of Management|format=PDF|author=Juanita McCarthy|coauthors=KatherineHarrison|publisher=Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW)|date=December 2006|accessdate=2008-06-29 (p.4)] It is named after the Australian geologist Edgeworth David, who discovered signs of late Palaeozoic glaciation in the Seaham during 1914. The deposits at the quarry, identified as 'varve shale' in 1919, have been considered by geologists as the 'finest [example] in the world'.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service manage the site, which can be visited by everyone interested in geology and geological history of the Seaham area.

Notable residents

* Henry Carmichael ( - 1862), schoolmaster and educational theorist [Cite web|url=|title=Seaham's Heritage|publisher=Seaham Public School|accessdate=2008-06-10]
* George Augustus Middleton (1791 - 1848), Anglican clergymanFact|date=June 2008
* Walter ScottFact|date=June 2008


# This population figure is only for the actual village of Seaham. ABS QuickStats for the rest of the suburb is included in the population data for Nelsons Plains and Duns Creekas shown on 1:100000 map 9232 NEWCASTLE.
# Area calculation is based on 1:100000 map 9232 NEWCASTLE.



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