Sketchley Cottage is the only known example of an 1840s colonial building in the Port Stephens Local Government Area.
The cottage is a rare timber slab colonial farmhouse, built on the Doribank Estate east of the Williams River, near the present New Line Road. From the late 1850’s to the 1960’s it was the family home of William Sketchley (1810-1884) and his descendants.
An English native of Leicestershire, William Sketchley became a weaver who could read and write. However, in 1830 aged 19, he was transported for seven years to the Colony in NSW for stealing.
In 1837 he married Mary Shutt (nee Cross) at Hexam and moved to Williams River. Four of their six children survived, but Mary died in 1849.
In 1851, Sketchley married an Irish immigrant, Jane McConkey, and produced another 12 children, 10 of whom survived.
In 1854 he 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 into the residence known today as Sketchley Cottage.
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.
Sketchley Cottage was donated to Raymond Terrace & District Historical Society in 1975 and, in 1977, was moved by road to the present site, made available by Port Stephens Council.
After much restoration, it was officially opened in August 1979 and is now furnished and presented in the style of an early settler’s home.
In 1988, a separate Museum Building was designed and built on 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 a 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 website with more details about Sketchley Cottage is maintained by the Raymond Terrace & District Historical Society. It is a wealth of information on the cottage and the district’s history.