The Historical Society is based at the Sketchley Cottage complex, on the Old Pacific Highway about 12 kilometres north of the Hexham Bridge, on the western side of the road adjacent Bettles Park, and the grand old fig trees adjacent to the Cottage, Pedestrian traffic lights & parking areas.
We are happy to announce that Sketchley Cottage & Museum is open to the public. We are now updating our displays regularly, so please drop in and have a look at the new displays.
If you would like to arrange a private tour of the cottage for a group of students or other interested parties, please contact us for more information and pricing. Please note that before we can accept a booking we need to confirm that we have sufficient members available on the desired date.
Please complete and return the following form for a group visit or tour.
Sketchley Cottage illustrated in the image above is a rare timber slab colonial farm house, built about 1840 on the Doribank Estate east of the Williams River, near the present New Line Road. From the late 1840's to the 1960's it was the family home of William Sketchley (1810-1884) and his descendants.
Donated to this society in 1975, the house was moved by road to this site made available by Port Stephens Council in 1977. After much restoration work by members it was officially opened in August 1979. It is now furnished and presented in the style of an early settler's home.
In 1988 a separate Museum Building was designed and built in the Cottage Grounds as a Bicentennial project, and additions were made in 1994. Displayed are many diverse items from a collection of farm equipment, tools and working blacksmith's shop, to natural sea shells, old bottles, clothes, household & personal items, old radios & office machines. The process of displaying and presenting the collection is ongoing and periodically changing. A separate store room and kitchen also provide facilities for Society functions & visiting groups.
A native of Leicestershire, William Sketchley became a weaver who could read & write, but in 1830 aged 19 was transported for seven years for stealing. In 1837 he married Mary Shutt (nee Cross) at Newcastle, and moved to Williams River. Four of their six children survived, but Mary died in 1849.
In 1851 Sketchley married an Irish immigrant Jane McConckey and produced another 12 children, 10 of whom survived. In 1854 Sketchley purchased the homestead block of 85 acres known as Doribank Estate. In 1857 the house was destroyed by fire but with money donated by his neighbours Sketchley converted the barn to the residence as we see it today.
William died in 1884, and his second wife in 1902. Both are buried in Morpeth Cemetery. Descendants of this large family still reside in the district.