(By W. J. Goold)
Foremost among the names of the pioneer families of the Newcastle district stands that of Hannell—James Hannell, Jesse Hannell, and John Hannell, each, played a considerable part in the early history of the district; but the first-named (James Hannell) stands out the most prominent of all.
A native of Sydney, born in 1813, he came to Newcastle when a youngster, and both he arid Jesse Hannell received their education at the old Christ Church school on the hill.
In early manhood they both joined the police force; in a gazette notice on June 4th, 1833, it states: "James Hannell, a native of the Colony, to be Constable in place of George Davidson, dismissed for drunkenness." His resignation from.the police force was gazetted March 14th, 1836.
Subsequent to his resignation, James Hannell secured (September 9th, 1839) an auctioneer's license for Newcastle, being at that time the only auctioneer in the whole district.
We next hear of him the host of the "Ship Inn," which at that time occupied the site of the Union Bank in Hunter-street—the license having been transferred from the old building at the foot of Watt-street.
The principal Inns in Newcastle in the early forties were: Hannell's "Ship Inn," McGreavy's "Commercial Inn" in Watt-street, Tighe's "Miner's Arms" in Market Square (known in later days as the "London Tavern"), William Rouse's Inn in" Hunter-street (on Scott's present block), and the "Union Inn," kept by Hicks Norton.
Under James Hannell's regime the old "Ship Inn" became ' the leading hostelry in the town—it was here that the principal social and political events were held; the Oddfellows' Lodge had their Lodge room here; and all local sporting events were arranged and finalised in the Long Room. •
Many of the older residents of. Newcastle will remember the old Inn—it had a frontage of 58 feet to Hunterstreet, and about 90 feet to Boultonstreet. It was a substantially-built brick building of two stories, and in its later years contained 23 rooms, together with a billiard room and a brick building at the rear.
In 1842 Newcastle had a population of 1377, and was just beginning to feel the benefits of the increasing coal trade—miners with their families were coming out from the old country under contract to the A.A. Company, and were making their homes near the new pits.
The Stockton Tweed- Factory had just commenced operations, other industrial concerns were opening up, and even in these early days Newcastle gave every promise of becoming a large manufacturing centre,
i James Hannell was ever fcremost in all public movements for the bet "erment of the town, and his name . figures prominently in many local and political meetings held in the district, tie was the leader of a deputation to Governor Denison in 1855, agitating for improvements to the harbour foreshores, which at that time were in a deplorable condition.
He was one of the principal advocates for the incorporation of the city, and when this came into being on June 7th, 1859, he was among the aldermen elected to the first Council. His fellow-aldermen were: Major Charles Bolton, A. A. P. Tighe, James '^vlette, Peter Fleming, Martin Richardson, Robert Turton, and George Tully.
Without opposition Mr. Hannell was elected the first Mayor of Newcastle, a position he filled for four consecutive years—1859-60-61-62—and again in 1868, 1869 and 1871. He occupied the Mayoral chair during the visit to Newcastle of the Duke of Edinburgh on March 5th, 1868.
For some years the meetings of the Newcastle City Council were held in the old Court House at the corner of Hunter and Boulton-streets—and according to early press notices some very lively debates took place there.
Mr. Hannell took a very keen interest in all sporting matters; and in 1846 he was one of a small band of sports who leased a portion of Mr. Alexander Walter Scott's land at Burwood for the purpose of forming a racecourse. Fredrick-street, Merewether, now runs through this land, and there is still standing the building which in later years was the
It was on this course that the Newcastle race meetings were held for many years, but prior to 1846, whenever the sporting fraternity of old Newcastle held , any races, they took place on what is now the main street, commencing at the Cottage Bridge and finishing at the Ship Inn.
At the Newcastle Christmas Races, held on December 27th and 28th, 1848, the programme shows the following events: Newcastle City Plate of £15, Maiden Plate of £12, Publicans' Purse of £12. Hurdle Race of £12, Hack Race of £8, and a Beaten Purse of £8;
"and entrances for all races 4re to be made on the morning of the first day at the "Ship Inn," between the hours of seven and ten o'clock."
Some of the early patrons of the turf were James Hannell, Captain Biddulph, William Henry Whyte, C. B. Ranclaud, A. Brown, Robert Fisher, Sparke, Moorhouse, N Greenville, etc.—and when a few years later the Newcastle Jockey Club was established, Mr. Hannell was the first President. He was also President of the Newcastle Regatta Committee from its inception, and usually filled the position of Umpire at the . races.
But it is in connection with his untiring efforts on behalf of the Newcastle Hospital that Mr. Hannell will be long remembered. In the early days there was a sma,ll brick building known as the Military, Hospital, situated near the site of the present fine
institution. This was .in charge of a warder and his wife, - and "was the only means of caring for the sick of the district. Mr. Hannell at that time was the Treasurer of the Committee; later he became the President, with Dean Selwyn as the Secre* tary and Captain Allen as Treasurer.
These gentlemen worked so energetically that on, November 9th, 1865, the foundation-stone of a new building was laid, and Mr. Hannell in his speech stated, that there were sufficient funds in hand to complete the building. .
On Deceuiber 6th, 1860, Mr. Hannell contested the Parliamentary election for the City of Newcastle electorate, and the polling resulted; Hannell 374, M:\ (afterwards Sir)..Arthur Hodgson 171. He was re-elected on December 15th, 1864, and retained this, seat until 1869. Three years later he contested the Northumberland electorate, and was returned by an ' overwhelming majority, the poll being: Hannell 991, Dr.Brookes 387, O'fiirien 188, Adam 90, Langlev 68, P6mell 13; informal, 25.
The Hannell homestead was at Smedmore, and was named "Maryville" (after Mrs/Hanneil). This is now the name of a 'thickly-populated industrial suburb which surrounds the old home.
When the Wickhani Municipality was incorporated, Mr.' Hannell was the first Mayor elected, and he filled that position until his death.
He died on December 31st, 1876, and was buried in'the Christ Church cemetery. The funeral was the largest ever seen in Newcastle, and was attended by an immense concourse of mourners.
James Hannell was a strong man in every seiise of the word, and his straightforward character and indefatigible energy won for him many personal friends and admirers;"