|The William the Fourth leaves Sydney every Monday evening at 7; will receive and discharge goods at the store of Mr Walker, on Mr Close's land, Green Hills.
Fares to Green Hills: cabin 25/-; to Newcastle, 20/-; steerage to Newcastle, 12/6; to Green Hills, 15/-
Much of the area had been cleared by Edward Close, who had obtained local land grants of 1030, 1020 and 560 acres to farm and erect a home. Close was a local Magistrate 1824 - 1827, a Member of the NSW Legislative Council 1829 - 1838, and First Warden of the Maitland District Council 1843 - 1852. The present town of Morpeth stands on land that originally belonged to the Close family.
The Close family homes were later sold and used by the Anglican Church as a residence for the Bishop of Newcastle, as a theological training college and as a boys' school. Over the years, the Close family sold quite a few single blocks for residential homes in the village. Benjamin Fairhall purchased a block in High Street in 1855 from Edward and Susannah Close, and a similar sale was made to William Fairhall the same year. A major Land Auction was held on 30 October 1920 which ended most of the Close family's ownership in the village area and opened the way for more development.
The first school opened in 1836, and St James Anglican Church was commenced the following year. By 1847 there were 630 people living in the township. Morpeth Public School opened in 1862. Residential lots of land were offered for sale, and the town prospered, with shops, banks, inns and hotels, bonded store, Customs offices, post office, steam mill, soap works, churches, court house, newspaper, a foundry and, in 1864, a railway line to Newcastle. Mr William Arnott's Bakery in Swan Street was the business which later became the national icon Arnott's Biscuits.
The Municipality of Morpeth was declared in 1866, and served the district well until 1944 when it was merged with Maitland Shire Council. During those great days, the railway carried freight to Morpeth wharves, where it was loaded onto the ships, mostly paddle wheelers, but the restriction of shipping due to the building of bridges, and the advent of efficient road transport, led to the closing of the rail line in 1953.
Morpeth is home for many who work in either Maitland or in the city of
Newcastle, and in the last few years it has developed as a crafts centre,
popular with weekend visitors and tourists visiting the Hunter Valley. Many of the older buildings, especially in Swan Street, have been refurbished. Older homes are being renovated throughout the village, and a major new development is planned on the site of St John's College and Closebourne House.
The conversion of the larger stores for use as craft shops and workshops, and other attractions, have changed the whole nature of the town. An annual Jazz Festival at Morpeth - in venues and in the streets, also attracts a large crowd of visitors.
Many of the local buildings are listed by the National Trust, and careful restoration has preserved them for the future. Unfortunately the major wharves have now been removed or fallen into disrepair, but history lives on in the streets of the town.
A large number of events in our family history are recorded at Morpeth, and it was home to around seven generations of Fairhalls, most of whom seemed to have been tradespersons or artisans. The family worshipped at St James Anglican Church, the building generously donated by Edward Close in 1837, at a recorded cost of £1,441.2.11. Mr Charles Fairhall was a Warden of the Church, and, as a Tiler and Plasterer, laid the ceramic tiles in the foyer. In later years, this church was extended, and it features a cut stone pulpit, a pipe organ, cedar pews and a beautiful stained glass window on the east wall (as a memorial to Mr Close - erected in 1871).
The early generations had births, deaths and marriages registered as having occurred at Anambah, a large property to the west of Morpeth, at Lochinvar, Branxton, Maitland and other district localities, so it is apparent that family members lived and worked throughout the Hunter. The original immigrant couple, William and his wife Ann, are buried in the Anglican portion of Morpeth Cemetery, along with many of their descendants.
Although there are Fairhalls throughout the Hunter district, there are no persons with that surname actually living in Morpeth today.