The village of Clarence Town is the only major urban population centre in the Clarence Town Planning District. Clarence Town is located 55km north of Newcastle, 32km north of Maitland and 27km north of Raymond Terrace.
The district was first settled by white settlers following the visit of Lieutenant Colonel Paterson, who travelled up the river now known as the Williams River from its junction with the Hunter at Raymond Terrace to the termination of navigable waters just above the present site of Clarence Town in 1801.
The area was originally known as “Erringhi” (Aboriginal for “place of little black duck”), the name being changed to Clarence Town in 1826 after the Duke of Clarence who in 1830 became King William IV.
The earliest economic activity in the Clarence Town area was cedar cutting, performed with convict labour from 1801. The village grew around the early river ports, which were used to transport timber from the area to Maitland, Newcastle and beyond.
The village of Clarence Town was surveyed and proclaimed in 1823. The Clarence Town river port and ship building industry quickly began to grow, as timber in the area was plentiful and of good quality. Clarence Town’s location was determined by the fact that it was the head of navigation of that river and had a natural river crossing existing at the site of the present bridge.
The first ocean-going steam ship to be built in Australia was constructed at Clarence Town. This was the “William IV”, a replica of which awas built for Australia’s Bicentenary. In the absence of proper roads, Clarence Town became the head of navigation for goods transported further north to Dungog and Gloucester by bullock wagons and drays.
In 1826 a tobacco factory and tannery were operating, by early 1830 a boat building yard had commenced operation. Clarence Town received a Post Office in 1838. In 1848 Clarence Town had 18 houses and a population of 93 people and by 1863 the village boasted a population of 300.
Even though life centred on the river in many ways, significant settlement took place in the Clarence Town district as further areas were reached on horseback, and eventually by coach. The undulating country and abundance of flat land along the river was progressively cleared and fenced by settlers and proved ideal for dairy farming, fodder production and grazing.
There was also an abundance of hardwood timber in the forests surrounding the settlement. Farming and timber harvesting were the principal economic activities throughout the 1900’s. Clarence Town is today a small rural village, similar in many ways to Paterson.