The area which incorporates Pokolbin, Lovedale, Mount View and Rothbury is associated with just one thing: wine. These are the vineyards of the Lower Hunter - a paradise for wine lovers and of scant interest for others, although the district is quite scenic and there are just enough secondary attractions to justify a visit by those who have no interest in viticulture.
Pokolbin is not a town and although some refer to it, for historic reasons, as a village this is also stretching the definition of the term somewhat. There is little centrality about the area which is essentially a district bisected by a number of roads along which are picturesque vineyards and those businesses which complement the wineries: accommodation, restaurants, galleries, nurseries, gift shops and various enterprises which furnish transport around the district.
Viticulture in the Hunter Valley is often considered to have commenced with James Busby. In the 1820s he studied oenology, wrote a treatise and guidance manual on the subject and briefly taught viticulture at a Liverpool farm school. In 1831 he undertook a tour of French and Spanish vineyards which resulted in two published journals of the trip. He returned with 700 carefully wrapped cuttings of European vines, sending half to the newly established Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney. The rest he took with him to the family estate of Kirkton, just north of Belford (see entry on Greta). There he established what was probably the first vineyard in the district. He later left for New Zealand where, as Government Resident of New Zealand, he established the Treaty of Waitangi.
The naming of Pokolbin has a somewhat convoluted history. Land north of Cessnock at what is now called Nulkaba, adjacent what is now Allandale Rd, was reserved for a church and school during the first surveys of the area in 1829. St Luke's Anglican Church was built there in 1867, the original slab-construction St Patrick's Catholic Church in 1872 and a school in 1877. Intended as an administrative centre for the district a village was laid out in 1884-85 as 'The Village of Pokolbin' but became known as Cessnock later in the decade. That name was transferred to the town now known as Cessnock in 1908 and the local name, Nulkaba, was officially adopted in 1927. By that time the farmland to the west had become known as Pokolbin and this is still the case.
The Drayton family established a vineyard at Pokolbin around the late 1850s and the Tyrrells Estate was set up in 1859 by a nephew of the first Anglican Bishop of Newcastle who produced his first batch of wine in 1864. After the Robertson Land Act was introduced in 1861 the way was opened for small landholders and more people began to settle in the Rothbury/Pokolbin area.
Vineyards really began to spring up from the late 1870s but the depression of the 1890s dealt the industry a blow which was further crippled by the influx of cheaper wine from South Australia when customs barriers between the states were removed after Federation was declared in 1901.