The first Europeans into the Hamilton area were the botanist, Robert Brown and his party who attempted to trace the Derwent River to its source in March, 1804. They reached the Hamilton Plains and followed the Fat Doe River (now known as the Clyde) up to the Clyde Falls near the present site of Bothwell.
Hamilton's proximity to Hobart Town meant that the region was visited regularly by search parties, escaped convicts and bushrangers. By the late 1830s the land had been divided and settled.
Now the accepted explanation is that Governor Macquarie named the locality as 'Sorell Plains', and it became locally known as 'Macquarie' and 'Lower Clyde'. Governor Arthur finalised a name for the locality and this was announced in 1826 (Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser, Friday 28 July 1826, page 3). Hamilton was named after William Henry Hamilton, a wealthy free settler who had arrived in Van Diemen's Land in April 1824.
Hamilton was once a bustling frontier town that contained many inns and several working breweries. It was once destined to be the capital of Tasmania despite its vast distance from any port.
It contains a few small shops and buildings, such as the court house, many of them dating back to convict times.
Of particular interest is St Peter's Church, completed in 1837. The church has only one door. The reason for this was almost certainly to prevent the congregation, which in the early days was about 50 per cent convicts, from attempting to escape.
Also of interest is the Old Schoolhouse, a huge two storey structure built by convict stonemasons in 1858. It was originally constructed so that the Headmaster lived in the room above the central staircase and the children, according to their sex, entered the school from different doors.
Several interesting historic accomodation options are available including three cottages - Emma's, Victoria's and George's Cottage, all built of local sandstone by convicts.
Hamilton's Historic Buildings
St Peter's Church
The headstones around the church date back to the 1830s. One of particular interest is that of Sarah Lane who died at the age of 8 years in 1844.
The inscription on the headstone reads:
This little inoffensive child
To Sunday school had trod
But sad to tell was burnt to death
Within the house of GodThe dropped 'h' is the result of the stonemason getting his measurements wrong while the untimely death of the child as a result of a Sunday school fire seems extraordinary.
There is an interesting history of the church titled A History of St Peter's Anglican Church, Hamilton by Ernest Beavan.
The Old Schoolhouse
The Old School House building was built for then a princely sum of 700 Pounds. Half of this was raised by the forward thinking Hamilton locals. The front part of the building was one large class room which could accommodate up 80 children. The Head Master lived up stairs with his family.
The School House was closed down as a school in 1932 and “modernised” for the head teachers family, the stone porches located on both sides of the main building, where the girls and boys had entered the class room were removed. The students were relocated into a new weather board class room next to the main building. This building remained as a class room until the early 1960’s where it was closed down and converted into a library for the Hamilton area. The School library was converted into cottage accommodation in 2002. Rose cottage which is attached to the main school building was built in 1972 from sandstone blocks salvaged from the Old Hamilton brewery built in the early 1800’s.
Three Historic Cottages