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The Community History is provided by our local Historical Society. The GTOAC Thank them for their efforts in assisting us to provide this information. ~ GTOAC CMC
George Town has a rich history and is the oldest town in Australia (1804). Only the cities of Sydney and Hobart are older. In fact John Batman sailed from George Town to settle Melbourne. Reminders of our history are visible in such buildings as The Grove and The Watchhouse .
Our eventful maritime history is showcased when you visit the Low Head Pilot Station, the oldest working pilot station in Australia. View historic ships' fittings, photographs, and records of voyages and local shipwrecks. This tranquil whitewashed settlement set in green lawns overlooking the Tamar estuary will take you back in time.
George Town and District Historical Society Inc
45 Tamar Avenue
George Town TAS 7253
View the Society Newsletters and Yearly Program on this site.
IMAGE 1: The Old Rectory, since demolished.
IMAGE 2: The original Low Head Lighthouse.
IMAGE 3: The Old Watch House now housing historical displays.
Chairman: Des Wootton - ph 63824412
Vice Chairman: Todd Hunter - mob 0448 952039
Secretary: Peter Cox - mob 0407 204610
Minute Secretary: Debbie Rainbow - ph 63821247
Treasurer: Chlo Martin - ph: 63821336
Our Society was formed in 1997 and the enthusiasm shown by the group has resulted in a very impressive collection of printed material, images, oral histories and various other collections.
Through our monthly forums, excursions, biennial conferences, displays and involvement with other groups with similar interests we hope to foster an interest and understanding of the history in our region.
Meeting Time: Third Monday each month.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF GEORGE TOWN:
The Tamar River was entered, named Port Dalrymple and partially explored by Bass and Flinders in the Norfolk when they explored Bass Strait in 1798. They were followed in 1802 by Freycinet and Faure from the Naturaliste and 1804 by William Collins in the Lady Nelson. A replica of the Norfolk and other associated artefacts are on display in the Bass and Flinders Centre housed in the old George Town Picture Theatre
Fear of French settlement led to the Governor of NSW sending an expedition under Lieut. Colonel William Paterson, who after being aground just south of Lagoon Bay for several days claimed Northern Van Diemens Land in a ceremony at Outer Cove on 11th November 1804. He brought with him around 200 people in all, including soldiers, convicts, one free settler and a doctor. Here he set up camp and erected the first Government House in Northern Tasmania, a pre-fabricated construction.
By late February 1805, Paterson had moved his main settlement toYorktown on the Western side of the Tamar, but left a small detachment at Outer Cove. At both places he established successful gardens to grow vegetables for the two settlements. Green Island, now Garden Island, was used for stores.
From 1806 Launceston developed as the main settlement, while Outer Cove and Yorktown declined. Outer Cove was still being used as a port and the first pilot, William House, was living and growing crops there.
In 1811 Governor Macquarie visited Port Dalrymple and ordered that George Town be made the headquarters for Northern Van Diemens Land. Convict builders started work late 1815 and Major Cimitiere, commandant at Port Dalrymple, moved his administration in1819.
Macquaries first map of George Town did not show street names, but he named the streets on his return visit in 1821 and they have been retained until today and included Macquarie, Elizabeth, Anne, Sorell, Cimitiere, Bathurst, Goulburn and Regent Square.
The Reverend JohnYoul was appointed the first Chaplain in 1819. He toured the district for three weeks, during which he married 41 couples and baptised 64 children, some of the latter belonging to newly weds, who had been waiting for an opportunity to be legally married. After leaving George Town his residence, for eleven years, became the Female Factory for convict women.
Governor Macquarie again visited George Town in 1821, and rode around the district, writing in glowing terms of the good farming land in Cimitiere valley, now part of Archers Cimitiere Plains and Lawrences Moama properties. He inspected the various government buildings, erected and occupied since his first visit ten years earlier, including military barracks, commandants residence, lime kilns, blacksmiths shop, stores, watch house and gaol, and a chaplains dwelling.
Old buildings that remain in the town include the 1833 built Tara Hall, 1836 Grove, 1839 Steam Packet Inn, 1846 British Hotel, 1855 replacement Watch House, and 1850s Ben Hyrons Cottage and Pier Hotel. The Watch House now operates as a museum housing a model village, female factory display, changing displays and a community history room.
In an early 1825 diary entry by John Helder Wedge, surveyor, he stated On first coming into sight of it (George Town) I was somewhat pleased at its appearance as it put me in mind of a neat English Village, the first time my eyes had feasted on such a sight since I left England. Home sweet home, there is no place like home.
On the recommendation of Commissioner Bigge and on orders from the Government in England, headquarters were moved back to Launceston in 1825 and Launceston had again become the capital of Northern Van Diemens Land. George Town (including Low Head), however, remained an important settlement due to it being the port and pilot station. The whaling and sealing industry and the settlement of southern Australia provided much traffic for the port. As small steamers arrived on the river George Town became popular as a holiday resort for Launcestons wealthier residents.
By 1835 a semaphore system of signals was in operation from Mount George to Mount Direction and thence to Wind Mill Hill in Launceston. A flag system was used to the port offices. 1852 saw the extension of the system to Low Head. This system was replaced by the electric telegraph.
The first attempt to lay the Bass Strait telegraph cable was from Low Head in 1859, but was not really successful until ten years later. The present building on the left just past the Pilot Station was the headquarters of the Cable Company, although the cable actually entered the sea from East Beach. The Cable Company headquarters was later moved to the Esplanade in George Town next door to the manager, William Warrens house Fasifern, which has been restored in keeping with its original style and is presently owned by Mr Moss.
In 1832 the first steamships began trading between George Town and Launceston. In this year, Steam tugs were first used to assist larger vessels up and down the Tamar River.
John Batman sailed from George Town in the sloop Rebeccah in 1835, to found what was to become the city of Melbourne. His diaries state that he waited at Wilsons Inn (The Waterloo Tavern) in Macquarie Street until the weather was calm enough for his little ship to set out across Bass Strait.
Some of the present buildings at the nationally significant Low Head Pilot Station date back to 1835. In Pilots Row there is a twelve room Maritime Museum, which is well worth a visit. The station, which was established around 1806, is the oldest continually operating pilot station in Australia. Other historical features in the near vicinity of the Pilot Station are the Lighthouse, Fog Horn, Leading Lights and their associated cottages, Old Cable Station, Church, School and several old boatmans Cottages. The Coxwains Cottage now houses a quaint little café.
On the way out to Low Head is the 1835 built Marion Villa the former holiday residence of James Cox of Clarendon.
The discovery of gold at Nine Mile Springs (Lefroy) and gold and slate at Back Creek gave the George Town area a boost in the late 1800s. Lefroy was, for many years, a much bigger town reaching a population of around 5000 and was the headquarters of the Municipality for many years.
The 1900s saw farming and orcharding become important industries in the area and necessitated increased shipping services between George Town and Launceston. Small steam driven vessels navigated the Tamar picking up fruit for overseas ships. The vessels were also of great importance for the holiday travellers to the George Town and Low Head.
The 1950s saw a major boost to the George Town economy and population with the establishment of the first Aluminium works in Australia and its associated industrial growth. The Temco Ferro Alloy plant followed and since those days several other important industries have chosen to establish themselves in the area. In particular the Port of Bell Bay has developed as the largest port in Tasmania. A gas fired power station and three large timber industries operate and the installation of a natural gas pipeline and electricity cable across Bass Strait has provided a boost to Tasmania.
A wine industry has also developed in the area and together with the growth of industry the George Town Municipality now has around 7,000 inhabitants.
[ comment on this story ]
Well done on your very informative web page. I am the great granddaughter of William Warren (Manager of Cable Co) and would appreciate any information held by your society. He married Martha Elizabeth Owen and they had 1 son Horace and two daughters Winifred and Leila. Leila married Louis F. Noakes and my father was their second born. As I have no more information about either of them, I would appreciate any links you may know and photos of their time in Tasmania. I think the Owens may have originated in Tasmania. Regards ........ Roslyn Odgers (nee Noakes)