William the Fourth is an accurate operational replica of Australia’s first steam powered ocean-going paddlewheel ship.
When convict settlement was established at Newcastle from 1801, ships were the only form of transport. Within 30 years the settlement of fertile lands along the Hunter River and a growing coal trade – Australia’s first significant export industry, enabled the era of steam ships.
In 1831 – when the Australian Agricultural Company began to have a profound impact on Newcastle, a shipyard was established at Clarencetown, taking advantage of the excellent timbers, to construct Australia’s first steam-powered ocean-going ship – William the Fourth, to operate between Sydney and the growing settlement inland from the ‘Green Hills’ now known as Morpeth.
By its very unique nature William the Fourth still serves as a faithful testimony to that tough pioneering and maritime heritage.
The replica William the Fourth was constructed as a community 1988 Bi-Centenary Project at Raymond Terrace, at a cost of $1.5 million and was launched on 26 September 1987 by Mrs Hazel Hawke. During construction hundreds of people purchased engraved copper nails – still in the ship’s hull, and since then thousands more have enjoyed the experience of the ship whilst learning of our maritime heritage.
The replica operated commercial cruises on Newcastle Harbour and the Hunter River for 14 years until a boiler leak put it out of service in 2001. It was earmarked to be dismantled.
In 2008 a community-based organisation, William the Fourth Inc. was formed to take ownership from Newcastle City Council and complete a total restoration of the ship and return it to service.
As part of the full refurbishment a powerful diesel engine with propeller, as well as bow thruster were installed to maximise availability and overcome the issues presented by steam and paddlewheel propulsion (whilst retaining and simulating the steam experience).
William the Fourth provides the ideal platform to showcase the beauty of the city from the harbour.
It is available as a floating display, a unique venue for on-board refreshments and functions, and also has an operating licence to undertake corporate and tourist charters in sheltered waters.
Charters are based on an hourly rate, for any number of passengers up to 54. Operations are available at any time, subject to availability of volunteer crew.