Fascinating, united, community-centric, rich in history – this is Wallsend. The importance of Wallsend is not always apparent to those who live outside the area with its name more often than not associated with the town's ability to produce excellent football teams and players. But, its development and importance to the region were once so much more than this.
The original inhabitants, the Awabakal people, called the area now known as Wallsend "Nikkinba" – the place of the coals and was no doubt part of their traditional hunting grounds owing to the fish, game and native vegetable being plentiful. As a coal-mining centre, Wallsend coal equalled the best there was, and its development played a critical role in the early development of Newcastle as a port. So important was Wallsend as an industrial hub, that at one point in time its population equalled that of Newcastle.
Like many Newcastle suburbs, Wallsend is named after a place in England and in this case a small coal-mining township in Durham, Northumberland which is located in the north of England and situated at the end of Hadrian’s Wall which stretched across England – hence the aptly named, "Walls End".
Following the establishment of the Newcastle-Wallsend Coal Company’s first coal mine in 1860, the town grew rapidly. The coal mined at Wallsend was of very good quality, and the town prospered creating the commercial hub it is today.
With little consideration given to the controlled development of the town, the Newcastle-Wallsend Coal Company set aside a portion of their grant aside for residential and business purposes which led to the first subdivision in 1860.
By 1968 Wallsend was a thriving township with a population of 6,000 people which at that point equalled the population of Newcastle. There were also eight churches, two public schools, several friendly societies, one denominational school, one co-operative society and a bank.
In 1874 Wallsend was incorporated, and the first council formed with James Fletcher elected Mayor. This continued until 1938 when Wallsend joined with Newcastle City Council. Steam trams from Newcastle to Plattsburg replaced regular rail services in 1887. When the line was extended to West Wallsend and Speers Point, it was supposedly the longest suburban steam tram line in the world.
Unfortunately, the 1989 earthquake resulted in the demolition of many century-old buildings. However, Wallsend still retains much of the atmosphere and character of its ‘coal mining village’ years.
Today Wallsend has outgrown the historic main street and received investment and expansion from local business and national companies. The main street of Wallsend has also experienced a constantly changing arrangement of business with new restaurants, real estate agencies, trendy coffee shops, hairdressers, flower stores and many professional services occupying previous local businesses that have since moved to the larger Wallsend Village Shopping Centre.
Wallsend is also at the heart of Newcastle’s property market with local property experts putting the growing demand down to several factors that include affordable housing and the town’s proximity to the city and other Newcastle suburbs. They also add that the suburbs access to good schools, the University and the close community meant it was a great place to raise a family.
Acknowledgement: Thanks to Wallsend Heritage Group Inc. for historical information.