Discovered by John Shortland RN in 1797 and named after John Hunter the captain of the HMS Sirius, the Hunter Valley had rich natural resources including cedar timber and coal which attracted many settlers to the area.
Settlement began in the Cessnock area in 1823 and intensified with the building of the Great North Road. However, it was Wollombi that became the commercial and administrative centre of the region with its own court house and police magistrate until its decline in the 1870's . Many signs of colonial settlement are still apparent to visitors such as:
- Mulla Villa - This two-storey Georgian house was convict-built in 1840-41 for David Dunlop, the first magistrate for the police district of Wollombi and the MacDonald River (1839-1847). The original house is constructed from solid sandstone quarried from the exact spot it stands today.
- Wollombi Courthouse - Wollombi Courthouse is a listed historic building. Constructed in 1866 this stone courthouse now houses the Endeavour Museum.
- St Michael's Catholic Church - The Church of Saint Michael the Archangel is one of Australia’s oldest mainland Catholic churches. On 30th September 1840 the Reverend John Bede Polding, first Catholic Bishop of Sydney, laid the foundation stone on land bought for £5, near Cunneen’s Bridge on the Wollombi Brook. From 1843 services were held in the Gothic-style church, built of locally quarried sandstone. Following the great flood of 1893 the church was dismantled and, stone by stone, moved and rebuilt on its present site between the Old Post Office and the Forge. Saint Michael’s was bought by the community in 1991 and is now a private Catholic chapel and welcomes Catholic, Denominational and civil ceremonies.
- St John's Anglican Church - Designed by one of the last great church architects in Australia, Edmund Blacket, St John's is a sandstone building of lofty and good proportions.
A more in depth summary of the history of our area can be viewed at the following: http://www.cessnock.nsw.gov.au/community/about-our-region/history