Wiseman and his ferry

By | Category: Travel destinations

and the statue of Solomon Wiseman in the town

In the Australian state of NSW, there is the 200th anniversary of the entrepreneurial spirit of a man few will have heard of in the UK but who is important in opening up the hinterland of NSW.

Like many early Australians, Wiseman was a convict, sentenced for smuggling spirits and other items into England from France during the Napoleonic wars. In NSW though, he seems to have been given a degree of freedom but under the supervision of his wife. He prospered as a merchant and, in 1817, achieved his most important role in Australian history. He was given a lease of 200 acres in 1817 on the Hawkesbury River at Lower Head which, even at this time, probably had at least 500 people living nearby.

When the planned for Great North Road was announced to link Sydney and the Hunter Valley to the north, he persuaded the government to route it over his land. In 1827, he received a licence to operate a ferry to transport people, livestock and materials across the river. He had already built a house nearby for his second wife called Cobham Hall which still survives although today it is known as Wiseman’s Inn Hotel. The story goes that he mounted his telescope so that could see potential ferry passengers coming down to the river’s edge and, therefore, be ready to give them passage. In those days there was a fee for each traveler.

That ferry crossing is the oldest in Australia and is used by tens of thousands of people a year because it is part of the road system. The ferry is free and runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week with only brief interludes for ferry maintenance. If it isn’t waiting for you or travelling across you can sound your horn to bring it to your side of the river.

the view from Hawkin’s Lookout with the ferry crossing the Hawkesbury River

After his death, his legacy was remembered by renaming the area Wisemans Ferry and that is is how you will see it written on maps and appearing in GPS systems.

Today the area is a popular spot for Sydneysiders as it is only about forty miles from the city centre. They come to enjoy the river by water skiing, boating, picnicking, fishing, walking the Great North Convict Road  (yes, it was built with convict labour) or just sitting on the riverside with a beer and a snack. And you’ll also get a chance to see some of the Australian wildlife if you are lucky particularly at dusk or as dawn breaks.

Solomon Wiseman’s grave is a few miles away at a cemetary in Singelton Road along with a man I wrote about a few years’ ago, the first fleeter, Peter Hibbs

As I said Sydneysiders and locals visit the area but most international visitors don’t go near it because it isn’t in the tour schedules. That makes it rather more interesting because chances are, you’ll have visited somewhere many people won’t have done.


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