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The name first appeared by the commission issued by Governor King on 15 March 1804 to Lieutenant Charles Menzies of the Royal Marines, appointing him superintendent of the new settlement.The convicts were rebels from the 1804 Castle Hill convict rebellion.The largest factory of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere was constructed in 1885, on a 8.9 ha (22-acre) site between the suburbs of Tighes Hill and Port Waratah, by Charles Upfold, from London, for his Sydney Soap and Candle Company, to replace a smaller factory in Wickham.Their soap products won 17 medals at International Exhibitions.Indigenous people called the area Mulubinba, after an indigenous fern called the mulubin.
These were commonly known as "sixty-milers", referring to the nautical journey between Newcastle and Sydney.
They had been replaced over four decades by the larger coal mining activities further inland at places such as Kurri Kurri and Cessnock.
The English and Australian Copper Company built another substantial works at Broadmeadow circa 1890, and in that decade a zinc smelter was built by Sulphide Corporation Limited inland, by Cockle Creek, known as the Cockle Creek Smelter.
Under Captain James Wallis, commandant from 1815 to 1818, the convicts' conditions improved, and a building boom began.
Captain Wallis laid out the streets of the town, built the first church of the site of the present Christ Church Anglican Cathedral, erected the old gaol on the seashore, and began work on the breakwater which now joins Nobbys Head to the mainland.