Monday, 31 December 2012


The area around Pontville was first explored by Europeans in early 1804 and by 1806, with serious food shortages in Hobart Town, expeditions of soldiers were being sent into this area to kill kangaroos and emus. It is claimed that during one of these expeditions Private Hugh Germain, a well educated member of the Royal Marines, started giving various local sites exotic names. Thus, only a few kilometres north of Pontville, lies the incongruously named village of Bagdad and Pontville is actually situated on the banks of the equally incongruously named, Jordan River. It is said that Germain travelled through the area with a copy of The Bible and the Arabian Nights and delighted in giving places names like Jerusalem, Jericho, Jordan, and Lake Tiberius. In fact the headwaters of the Jordan River rise in Lake Tiberius before flowing through Jericho.

A small settlement was established at the site during the 1820s. Pontville was sited by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, in 1821, and was an early garrison town, where convicts built the bridge over the Jordan River.
The Sheiling (Gaelic for 'cottage') was built circa 1819 on land belonging to William Kimberley, who originally owned the land on which Pontville was established. The Sheiling was probably once used by police keeping an eye on travellers along the early road.

'The Row' (1824), consisting of five cottages, was built as military accommodation for soldiers overseeing the construction of early roads. An officers' mess built during the 1820s became the Pontville post office in 1861 and is now an antique and gift store.

During the 1830s and 1840s Pontville developed as a staging post and garrison town along the route between Hobart and Launceston, outgrowing the neighbouring village of Brighton. It was also around this time that the Pontville quarries were established. Sandstone quarried here was used in buildings across Tasmania during the 19th century.
The police station (1839) and courthouse (1842) were built on land purchased from Kimberley in 1838.
During the 1840s the sandstone Pontville Bridge was constructed using convict labour, but has been extensively altered since its original construction. The bridge is part of the Midland Highway.
There were more than 2000 people living in the village by the mid-1840s.

St Marks Church of England (1839-41) was designed by architect James Blackburn, who had been transported to Tasmania in 1833 and was pardoned eight years later. The Romanesque-style church was constructed using locally quarried white ashlar stone. The graveyard contains the graves of some of the district's early settlers.
The Roman Catholic Church of St Matthew was completed in 1866 but was rebuilt in 1927-28 after fire destroyed the original. The Congregational Church was built using local stone in 1876.

Pontville, on the Midlands Highway 27 kilometres north of Hobart, is now a tiny, historic village which retains a number buildings from its early settlement. A railway line connected the town with Hobart from 1891 until 1947. Additional excursion trains operated from Hobart, bringing riflemen to the nearby range. During World Wars I and II the area had a major army camp.

Today, Pontville is a tiny village which belies the thriving settlement that existed there in the mid-1840s.  At that time, Pontville was an important stopping point for travellers on route between Hobart and Launceston (Port Dalrymple), a major supplier of stone for the whole of the southern region and boasted a population of more than 2000 residents.  By the 1860s, there were no fewer than six flour mills operating in the area.
Although it is easy to simply pass through Pontville, its bridge, barracks, churches, gracious homes and workers' cottages offer a fine sample of colonial life.

St. Mark's Church is a special design; a highly unusual example of the Romanesque style.  It is another superb example of the work of noted convict architect, James Blackburn.  The National Estate Register records its importance in considerable detail.
Lythgo's Row, or The Barracks is another local landmark.  The first of the cottages was built in the 1840s and sandstone from the quarry in which the Lythgo's Row is situated was used to construct the unusual pylons supporting the bridge nearby.

Pontville is also home to two of the finest examples of surviving colonial architecture, Epsom House & Shene Homestead.
Shene Homestead: