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Central Maitland’s History

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Central Maitland sits at a bend on the Hunter River that was once a place of rest and refreshment on an old meandering bullock track.

our rich history

The town’s identity was shaped by the sinuous river and forests of thick cedar brush that once lined its banks.

The river’s lagoons were thick with fish, yams, roots of ferns, black swans and wild ducks, providing plentiful food for the Wonnarua, the first inhabitants of the Coquun (Hunter Valley), with the Worimi to the north eastern shores and the Awabakal to the south eastern shores.

In the early years, the town depended largely on river traffic for survival and the river provided a livelihood for many people. Early residents would have seen boats scurrying up and down the river, men fishing from its banks or on boats, and people hooking driftwood, goods and even pumpkins from its waters after great floods.

High Street began as a meandering track across the leases held by farmers that spread from the Newcastle convict settlement. It was never straightened by surveyors.

Nevertheless, High Street was the main road to the Upper Hunter Valley and northern New South Wales until the bypass was built in the 1980’s.

In 1861, Maitland’s population had reached 5,694 residents and the streets had been lit by gas, had a water supply established and Horseshoe Bend subdivided from agricultural to residential land.

The area’s population swelled to 7,300 in 1891 and the area reached population and development capacity by 1913. At this time, the Illustrated Sydney News stated that Maitland had ‘..the finest mercantile buildings in any country town in New South Wales’.

Words taken from the Central Maitland Interpretation Plan.

Pictures courtesy of Picture Maitland. 

from heritage Mall to Lifestyle precinct

In the early 1970’s, Council first raised the development of a Mall in High Street.

In 1974 concept plans were prepared for the closure of High Street between Church and Burke Streets which received general community support, however Council was unable to proceed with the Mall until traffic was diverted away from Central Maitland. In 1983, construction began on a Central Maitland by pass  and in 1984, the Mall was again promoted by Council and the business community as an ideal Bicentennial Project as a heritage mall rather than a traditional ‘busy type’ shopping mall.

The Heritage Mall was developed in six sections and ran the length of High Street from Charles Street to Belmore Road opening in November 1988.

In 2014 work began on stage one of the redevelopment of the Mall to The Levee, transforming the precinct into Maitland’s lifestyle precinct. Stage one included a complete refurbish of the Shared Zone from Bourke to Elgin Streets. Stage two of the project was to establish a connection to the Hunter River. In 2018 The Riverlink and refurbishment to the Riverside Walk was completed.

The precinct is now a thriving shopping and dining destination and the perfect place to meet.