Bicentenary preparations underway to commemorate the arrival of explorer John Howe March 15, 1820

Members of Singleton Rotary Club have been busy restoring the grave of Benjamin Singleton in preparation for next year's commemorations to mark 200 years since he along with expedition leader John Howe arrived at the Hunter River near Whittingham.

The Club has received funding from Glencore to restore Singleton's grave including work on the sandstone surrounds and the building of a cover to protect the sandstone from the weather.

According to the Australian Dictionary Biography article by Nancy Gray  Howe succeeded in reaching the Hunter near Doyle's Creek on  November 5, 1819, discovering much fine grazing land, but returned dissatisfied with the route.

A second expedition, with thirteen white men and two natives under Howe's command, left Windsor late in February 1820 and, following the expert advice of the native guides, Howe mapped a route which is now the Bulga Road. On 15 March he reached the Hunter River near the present site of Whittingham and followed its course as far as Maitland before returning to the Hawkesbury.

Macquarie rewarded him with a licence to graze his flocks on the land he had discovered at St Patrick's Plains, and with a grant of 700 acres (283 ha) later named Redbourneberry which Howe selected near the present site of Singleton. An additional 500-acre (202 ha) grant was made in 1824. Howe left Windsor in 1839 and retired to a small farm, Raworth, near Morpeth, where he remained until his death on December 19, 1852. He was buried in St James's churchyard, Morpeth. His wife Jane died at Warkworth on  January 1, 1859, aged 75, survived by seven of their nine children.

John Howe's name and that of his first wife, Frances Ward, are inscribed on a tablet, commemorating its founders, in the Presbyterian Church at Ebenezer. Howe's Park in Singleton, once part of the Redbourneberry estate, and Howe's Swamp, Howe's Mountain and Howe's Valley, along the Bulga Road, perpetuate the memory of this worthy man.

Singleton Rotary Club members Ted Drayton, Neil White, John Henderson and Gary Hamblin working on  Benjamin Singleton's grave in readiness for the bicentenary celebrations in 2020.

Singleton Rotary Club members Ted Drayton, Neil White, John Henderson and Gary Hamblin working on Benjamin Singleton's grave in readiness for the bicentenary celebrations in 2020.

Benjamin was a member of the second expedition and Mrs Gray said the town of Singleton is built on part of Singleton's 200 acres (81 ha), granted on March 31, 1821 as a reward for his share in this successful expedition.

Anyone interested in being part of the bicentenary commemorations is invited to attend a public meeting to be held the the Council Chambers on Monday May 6 at 3:30pm.