MW2 - The Cromarty family and the Naval Base lands
Celia Cromarty's Grave: Turn off Soldiers Point Rd into Seaview Crescent (one way street) and follow road down to waterfront where there is limited parking off to left side of road against hillside. From your vehicle walk approximately 100m to your right (if facing water) where you will find the sign on waterfront reserve.
For alternative access to MW01, turn left from your parked vehicle (if facing water) and walk approx. 150m to Johnny's Well sign (is on right side of road edge that slopes upward).
The arrival in Sydney in September 1822 of William Cromarty, born of The Orkneys and a crewman of the brig FAME, signalled the start of a dynasty which continues in Port Stephens today.
Cromarty’s wife, Cecilia and three children arrived from Scotland in 1824, when William was a pilot of the Port of Newcastle. Sir Ralph Darling authorised a 300-acre land grant to him for “efficient services rendered to the Government”.
Finding the grant land on the north side “unsuitable”, that location was exchanged for one near Karuah and when this in turn was in conflict with plans of the Australian Agricultural Company, it was again exchanged for an area at Salamander Bay, on a long finger of land poking north-west into the harbour (i.e. Soldiers Point).
In 1825, the FAME changed hands and Cromarty became Master and the ship traded between Sydney and Tasmania. On 5 September 1826, FAME sailed for Port Stephens where he settled to work his allotment and trade between Port Stephens and Newcastle, with the Australian Agricultural Company at Tahlee.
Cromarty perished at One Mile Beach on 1 September 1838 along with his eldest son William, whilst trying to recover a lifeboat washed overboard from the steamer King William. His remains were interred at Tahlee. The original land grant was established later in 1845 in the name of his surviving son, Magnus Manson Cromarty.
Cecilia Cromarty died of natural causes in April 1862 and was buried near Seaview Crescent, Salamander Bay after several unsuccessful attempts were made to take her remains to Tahlee. The gravesite is now a declared Heritage Site.
In 1913, when the new Australian Government made plans to build a Naval Base for submarines on the shores of Port Stephens, the Government purchased land near Corlette. They also resumed a larger area of land to the west, including that area previously awarded to Captain William Cromarty (but later granted to Magnus Cromarty). That total area of land remained in Australian Government hands until 1 January 1955, when it was sold to Port Stephens Council.
Want to Know More?
The family history book “Getting to Know Your Family” compiled by Marrion E. Gilby, March 1992, contains numerous photos, references and records of oral histories related to the Cromarty and connected families. Other historical data is held within the Port Stephens Historical Society’s files.
The above information and research has been undertaken by the Port Stephens Historical Society.