Sunday, 16 December 2012

New Norfolk

New Norfolk was the third planned settlement to be undertaken in Tasmania, after Hobart and Launceston.   In 1803-4 when Hobart was first settled on the banks of the Derwent, it was considered important to explore this waterway and find out the potential of the surrounding areas.   By 1807 the European population on the Derwent was "483 starving persons".   The food supplies were so low that convicts were being sent out into the bush to kill kangaroos for meat issues from the stores.

Starting in November 1807 and on through the following year, people from the Norfolk Island penal colony were persuaded to come to Van Diemen’s Land by offers of a generous exchange of land (4 acres for each acre held on Norfolk Island), a house of similar standard to that left behind, 2 or 4 convicts to assist them in clearing their new farms, and food and clothing from the stores for 12 months.   By late 1808, 544 people (soldiers, convicts and free settlers) had arrived and they put an enormous strain on the colony's fragile economy.   However they did form a basis for the settlement of the district and provided many skills and profession that were lacking including 2 bakers, 2 blacksmiths, 4 bullock drivers, a butcher, 13 ex-constables, 2 gardeners, a harness maker, a milkman, a stonemason, 8 overseers, a painter & glazier, 2 saltboilers, 2 sawyers, a cooper and 2 carpenters.   Although they were promised compensation for their forced move, many had the sense to realise that it would be impossible for the government ever to fulfil the wildly optimistic promises held out to them and some offered to supply themselves with housing if they could be provided with nails and a few necessary tools.   Others proposed to waive all their claims for housing in exchange for stock (bengal cows and sheep) equal in value to the houses they had left behind on Norfolk.
New Norfolk was at first known as "The Hills" because of its setting among hills, valleys and gentle streams.   In 1811 Governor Macquarie came to visit Van Diemen’s Land.   He mapped out a town site and named the town "Elizabeth Town" (after his wife) in the District of New Norfolk.   The name did not catch on although it was used on and off from 1811 to 1825, but the local settlers, wanting to preserve a link with their old island home, won the day and the town was officially known as "New" Norfolk.   The stream called the Thames by the locals, was renamed the "Lachlan" (pronounced Locklon) by Governor Macquarie (in honour of his son). However, although it retains the name to this very day, it is pronounced as "Lacklan" by the locals, much to the confusion of newcomers.
Governor Macquarie ordered the Surveyor to plan and mark out the township and details of grants and leases.   Hobart Town Authority was instructed to afford every encouragement and facility to industrious tradesmen and useful mechanics to reside and settle as soon as the new township had been sub-divided into regular allotments.   The going was tough for the early settlers and most had to be supported on government rations until 1812.   There were no roads and no transport as we know it and the population was entirely dependent on river transport or following dirt tracks overland using horse-drawn vehicles and bullock wagons.   But the settlement slowly grew and prospered.

It is 32 km north-west of Hobart on the Lyell Highway and has all modern facilities while preserving its pioneer heritage. Two fine examples are Tasmania's oldest Anglican church Saint Matthews, built in 1823, and Australia's oldest hotel The Bush Inn Hotel, trading continuously in the same building since 1815, using the same continuous licence issued on 29 September 1825.Many private homes from the 1820s and later have also survived.
The town's pioneers were many of the 554 folk resettled from Norfolk Island during the period of 29 November 1807 to 2 October 1808. Lt. Governor David Collins selected the site as a separate crop production area in the fertile valley, as the Norfolk Islanders were mainly farming families, who were offered extra acres in Tasmania as an incentive to relocate. The climate was colder than sub-tropical Norfolk Island, which proved a challenge for the hardy pioneers during the first few years, but eventually the district became self-supporting.

Many of these folk were "First Fleeters" as Norfolk Island was founded just a few weeks after Sydney. Nine First Fleeters are buried in the Methodist Chapel at Lawitta, New Norfolk. Notable is Betty King, née Elizabeth Hackery, a first fleet convict girl who married Sam King at New Norfolk on 28 January 1810. The headstone on her still-tended grave reads, "The first white woman to set foot in Australia" from the First Fleet. She was also the last surviving female First Fleeter when she died at 89 years of age on 7 August 1856. The pioneers soon farmed the rich land around the town and hop plants were introduced in 1846, which became an important crop. There remain a number of hop drying kilns known as oast houses in the area.
The first road connecting the town to Hobart was built in 1818; the first railway was in 1887. During the 1940s, a newsprint mill was established at nearby Boyer boosting industry in the local area. The railway is now preserved as the Derwent Valley Railway

On 19 April 1827, Governor George Arthur issued an order to create the Willow Court infirmary, later known as the Royal Derwent Hospital, which was established as an asylum to accept invalid and sick convicts from Hobart, Launceston and outstations. New Norfolk Post Office opened on 1 June 1832. In 1888, Australia's first telephone trunk call was connected from Hobart to the Bush Inn Hotel in New Norfolk.

The Bush Inn

As soon as you set your eyes on New Norfolk's Bush Inn you can plainly see it’s a special pub.
In fact, it holds an important place in Australian history as the nation’s oldest continuously licensed pub.
There are others that claim the title of Australia’s oldest, but the Bush Inn, at New Norfolk, is regarded officially as the longest trading hotel from within same building in a nation noted for its pubs.
For over 180 years it has served up cold ale and provided accommodation to weary travellers.
Ann Bridger opened the pub in 1825 becoming the first of a long unbroken line of licensees.
The Bush Inn was built in 1815, and in 1825 Ann Bridger became the Hotel's first licensee Bush Inn’s original building has survived, with some of the walls supported on 'roughly square logs'.

Another claim to fame of the Bush Inn is that the first telephone trunk call in the Commonwealth was made from the pub by the then licensee Captain Blockley in 1888.
Remarkably that telephone is mounted on the wall beside the Christening font.

One of the Bush Inn’s greatest claims to fame - the story of how Dame Nellie Melba sang several lyrics from "Maritana" when she stayed at the hotel on her last Tasmanian visit in 1924.
The first call to London was also made from the hotel on February 1 1939.

Now days, New Norfolk offers an escape from the hectic pace and sit down and enjoy peaceful surroundings.   If you enjoy views - there are  river views, mountain views and valley views all in the one place!   New Norfolk is teeming with historic houses, magnificent rugged scenery, and cool restful places to unwind.


Updated 5/7/2014