History of Sullivan's Cove 1804-1820



Hobart Town 1804-1820


© Irene Schaffer

The site of Hobart Town was chosen in February 1804 because Lt. Col. Collins on his arrival from the aborted settlement of Sorrento at Port Phillip, decided that the recently formed settlement at Risdon Cove was not suitable.[1] He ordered the Ocean and the Lady Nelson to move from Risdon Cove and anchor near the little island in Sullivan’s Cove, (later called Hunter Island) There were no signs of the local inhabitants, only smoke from their fires.

 Hunter Island  with the  ship Ocean and the Pilgrim in forground and the Lady Nelson behind the flag on the stern of the Ocean 1804.


Risdon Cove was the first English settlement in Van Diemen’s Land, it was settled in 1803 by Lieutenant John Bowen, who was sent from Sydney with a small party to establish a foothold in the almost unknown island of Van Diemen’s Land. He arrived on the whaler Albion assisted by the Lady Nelson.


This small cove was called Risdon Cove, it was discovered in 1793 by Lieutenant John Hayes on the Duke of Clarence, when he was employed by businessmen in Calcutta to find spices and nutmeg.  He mapped the River Derwent and named Risdon Cove after Sir William Bellamy Risdon, the second officer on board the Duke of Clarence.[3] He then continued his search elsewhere for the spices.





On the 20th February 1804 Lt. Governor Collins stepped ashore and named  Sullivan’s Cove in the name of the King.  He soon had the most of the convicts that he had brought from England, (first on the Calcutta to Port Phillip and then on the Ocean to the River Derwent) at work erecting the tents on the bank of the rivulet.[4] (there were no female convicts, only the wives and children of some who came with their convicts husbands.) Convict women were later sent to Hobart Town from Sydney on the Sophia in 1805.


These thirty convict women sent from Sydney were of very bad character and Governor Collins was not pleased to see them disembark from the Sophia, and he sent a dispatch off to Governor King in Sydney asking that no more be sent until he could receive better class convicts from England.[5] One of these convict women died in 1806 and buried at St. David’s Cemetery (now St. David’s Park) She was the first First Fleeter to be buried in V.D.L.

The convicts worked from 5am with an hour for breakfast and a half an hour for tea, finishing at 6pm; they were allowed to have Saturday & Sunday afternoons free.


A full list of those who arrived with Lt. Gov. Collins were placed on the Monument at Macquarie Wharf and unveiled on the 20th February 2004 by the First Settlers Association.[6]





At first there was sufficient food for all, but soon the stock that the Government and settlers had brought with them started to run out. Some of the most trusted convicts were allowed to go into the bush and shoot kangaroos.  In 1805,  17,064lbs of kangaroo meat was issued to the inhabitants to substitute their diet until they could produce their own grain and raise stock. [7]


The stock that arrived at Sullivan’s Cove and what was at Risdon Cove amounted to very little, and it was expected to feed over 433 people[8] The Government had 21 cattle, 39 sheep and 15 pigs, while the free settlers had an assortment of domestic animals. Mrs. Power had 6 fowls, while Thomas Hayes had only one lonely duck.[9]


The population of Hobart Town in 1804 was 433, and by 1820 had risen to 1,906.  A large portion of these came from Norfolk Island in 1807-8 and Governor Collins was hard pressed to find accommodation for these 568 people, most of whom were ex-convicts and their families, with a small amount of discharged soldiers and their families. These people had lived on Norfolk Island for twenty years and the move to Hobart was very hard on them. In 1813 the last of those on Norfolk Island went to Port Dalrymple (Launceston). Many were First, Second and Third Fleeters. They settled at Sandy Bay,[10] Bellerive, New Town, Clarence Plains, Sorell, New Norfolk and later Longford.[11]


Although the Norfolk Islanders arrival was regarded as a big problem in supplying them with stores and clothing, their arrival allowed the population to grow almost from the moment they arrived. The young people who came with Collins in 1804 only numbered 39, while 219 came from Norfolk Island in 1808. There were marriages between the two groups and a new generation began immediately, allowing the new settlement to progress long before it could have with only the small group from Collin’s party.[12]


It would be at least ten years before the free arrivals began to arrive from England in any number, and the people struggled to survive. Their crops failed and the stock died, and because of all his worries Governor Collins had a heart attack and died in 1810, leaving the Colony in the hands of the military until a Governor could be sent from England.




The Lady Nelson on her first voyage from Norfolk Island brought 34 people in November 1807 and another 50 in February 1808. She later embarked with 43 to Port Dalrymple in 1813.[13]


The original Lady Nelson had arrived at Port Jackson from England in December 1800 after a stopover of three months at the Cape of Good Hope. On her departure from the Cape her captain, Lt. James Grant, offered a shipwrecked German surgeon a passage to Port Jackson. The surgeon was Mr. Brandt and he only agreed to accompany the Lady Nelson if he could take along his two companions, a baboon called Jacko and a dog. He claimed that they had saved his life on his journey across Africa after he was shipwrecked. The dog (not named) had protected him from the wolves and hyenas, and Jacko had saved him from being poisoned by first eating the fruit he found. [14]  


It was a difficult enough voyage without the crew having to look after these two animals, and to make it worse Mr. Brandt was seasick all the way. On arrival at Port Jackson Lt. Grant was given Garden Island to live on and Mr. Brandt (who vowed he would never sail again) grew vegetables there for the crew of the Lady Nelson. 





Royal Marines accompanied Lt. Gov. Collins on his voyage to the Colony in 1803, one of them was Private George Smith who after his arrival in Hobart Town was sent to Sydney for punishment for being disrespectful to his commanding officer. After some time he returned to Hobart Town and married a young girl Grace Morrisby, Grace had been born on Norfolk Island in 1797, she was the daughter of a James Morrisby and Ann Brooks, First and Second Fleet convicts. She arrived with her father and mother and five brothers and sisters in 1808 on the Porpoise.[15] George and Grace Smith had seven children and many of their descendants still live in Hobart. [16]




The River Derwent was a very different in 1804 than it is today, The first Port Officer William Collins counted 60 whales in the river between July and September 1804. They were often so numerous that it was considered too dangerous to cross the river by boat. The first shore whaling station was set up for a short time at the end of Droughty Point, this was soon closed in favour of Bay Whaling.[17]




The waterfront was a very busy part of Hobart Town, most of the ships had to anchor out in the river until the wharf and docks were built. This was not until the late 1840’s when the convicts worked during the day bringing the sandstone  from near the domain for the building of the docks and at night they manned the pumps to keep the water out. 


While these convicts were employed on the docks they lived on a hulk, just off the wharf and school classes were held at night for them.  This was very successful and the convicts themselves wrote about the subjects they knew and presented it to the class. Subjects like Gold, Gardening, British History, Geography, Brewing, Mining, Pursuit of Knowledge, Botany to name only a few.  While these classes were being held there was very little trouble from the convicts.[18]





Many ships arrived at Hobart Town during the first twenty years, some brought convicts, others a small amount of free settlers. Whalers came from all over the world and after taking the whales sailed home again with the much prized oil. Ships were not allowed to be built in the River Derwent because of runaway convicts would steal them. It was not until 1813 that the embargo was lifted.


In 1809 the deposed Governor Bligh arrived on the Porpoise and later because of trouble between him and Governor Collins anchored near Sandy Bay, where he stopped all ships on their way to Hobart Town and demanded that they sell him stores. During this time the ship Union arrived from Calcutta with £20,000 worth of merchandise on board, the owner a Mr. Loane was stopped and Bligh demanded that he hand over rice, meat, sugar and 200 gallons of spirits, before he was allowed to proceed.[19]


In 1811 when Governor Macquarie and Mrs. Macquarie arrived from Sydney on board the Lady Nelson he remarked that they thought she was the best little ship they had ever sailed on, (even though Mrs. Macquarie was very seasick) [20] After a short stay in Hobart Town they traveled to Launceston and again boarded the Lady Nelson for their return voyage to Sydney.[21]



 While in Hobart Town Governor Macquarie ordered that a semaphore be placed on the top of the hill behind Sandy Bay, this was done and the hill names Mount Nelson.  He also set out the streets as they appear today, and naming the major ones himself. (they still have those names today)




The first ship to be built in V.D.L. was the Henrietta, 40 tons, under construction in 1812 by Dr Birch.  The first square rigged ship built in Hobart Town was the Campbell Macquarie, 133 tons, in 1813 by Samuel Gunn, made from blue gum trees.


Convicts were known to build ship without authority and one was seen by the Estramina in 1814 in Storm Bay. The two men on board stated that they had built her near South West Cape. She was described as a well built vessel (though strange looking) lug rigged with cordage made of twisted bark. No doubt caulked with bull’s wool  (stringy bark)


After 1813 shipyards were constructed around the shore line and ship making became an important part of early Hobart Town. Some were also made within the town limits then hauled down to the river by cart, some often overturned in the process, leaving the ship in the middle of the roadway.


The ship Breeze was built at the gas works site and launched into the creek,  which had to be dug out to float her.





The H.M.S. Anson, built in England in 1812, arrived in Hobart in 1844 with 499 male convicts on board. After unloading the men the ship was converted to a probation ship to house women convicts for the first six months of their imprisonment. The Anson was towed to Prince of Wales Bay at New Town and remained there for nearly eight years.  While the women were on the Anson they made clothes for the military, convicts and orphans etc. They also washed clothes for families in Hobart. This was done by taking the dirty clothes by horse and cart to New Town and then loading them onto rowboats and taking them out to the ship. Sometimes the weather was so bad that the rowboats had to turn back. The Anson was later towed to Hobart where her timber etc. was auctioned.


In 1805 one of the largest battle ship ever to be built in England (2,617 tons) called the H.M.S. Nelson was began and in 1814 she was launched at the Naval Docks at Woolwich. She was never to see service and spent the first 45 years anchored in Portsmouth. It was not until 1860 that she was brought out of retirement and converted to 500p.h. screw ship and sent to Port Phillip in Victoria. After many adventures and alterations she arrived in the River Derwent. By then she did not resemble the superb and stupendous ship that she was called when launched, but a very ordinary lighter used for handling coal. The Nelson arrived in the port of Hobart in 1914 after being towed from the River Tamer, she remained in service until 1920 when she was towed to Shag Bay where the aged veteran died devoid of all pomp and splendor of her Thames launching, being slowly ripped apart plank by plank and beam by beam till there was nothing left.





The Hobart Rivulet played an important part in the establishment of Hobart Town, it was mainly the reason of the area being selected. It was much wider than it is today, and as well as being used for drinking water, the water was used for many industries. Mills were erected for making flour, tanneries for curing hides. (there is still one in South Hobart today) Large gum trees grew along banks and at first many were cut down for building bridges to enable the men to get to the other side of the rivulet. Houses were also built from this timber. Governor Collins later forbad the cutting of the trees and shooting of birds without his permission, as he was afraid there would soon be none left.





From the very beginning there were homeless children on the streets of Hobart Town and as early as 1806 an Orphanage was started in Collins Street between Murray and Harrington Street.  Later in 1827 it was moved to Davey Street before being finally established in New Town in the 1830’s.[22]





Many poor families lived in Whapping and often when the rivulet broke its banks their houses were flooded.[23]




There was little or no currency in the early days of the settlement and work was often paid in rum. The Hope and Anchor now stands on the site of the original first pub in Hobart Town, also by that name. It was well supported by sailors and whalers. This pub was first called Hope and owned by Francis Barnes [24]



These notes have been prepared for the teachers participating in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Twilight Series of Seminars 2004. It may be reproduced for education purposes only.

[1] Schaffer. I, & Roberts. G, Lady Nelson’s Voyage to the River Derwent 1803

[2] Schaffer. I, & Roberts. G, Lady Nelson’s Voyage to the River Derwent 1803.

[3] Watson. Reg, John Bowen and the Foundation of Tasmania.

[4] Currey. John, David Collins, A Colonial Life;  Schaffer. Irene, Van Diemen’s Land the First Ten Years.

[5] Schaffer. I, Van Diemen’s Land , The First Ten Years.

[6] Schaffer. I,Land Grants & Stock Lists 1803 – 1822. pp 4 –14.

[7] Schaffer. Irene, Land Musters & Stock Lists 1803 -1822  p25.

[8] Schaffer. I, Land Musters and Stock Lists 1803 – 1822 p 29.

[9]  Ibid p 25.

[10] Goc. Nicola, Sandy Bay, A Social History.

[11] Schaffer. I, Excursion Books from 1990 – 1998.

[12] Schaffer. I,  River Derwent Excursions on board the Lady Nelson Vol 1.

[13] Schaffer. I, Norfolk Island Embarkation to V.D.L. 1807-1813

[14] Grant. James, Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery Lady Nelson. Published 1803

[15] Schaffer. I, McKay. T, Exiled Three Times Over.

[16] Schaffer. I, Private George Smith of His Majesty’s Royal Marines 1803.

[17] O’May. Harry, Wooden Hookers of Hobart Town & Whalers out of V.D.L. p6.

[18] Purtscher. Joyce, paper - Evening School at the Old Wharf probation station 1849-50.

[19] Schaffer. I, Madam De Hotman “Belle Vue” Davey Street Hobart Town.

[20] Schaffer. I, A Short Story of the Lady Nelson 1798 - 1825

[21] Library of Australian History. Lachlan Macquarie. Governor of New South Wales p 45-88

[22] Selection of Orphan books by Joyce Purtscher.

[23] Wapping History Group. Down Wapping.

[24] Bryce. David, J. Pubs in Hobart from 1807.

thomas o'brien


i can't find the piece on thomas o'brien that we talked about at the market that sunday can you e-mail me back at evelynmundy@hotmail.com i went into bits and pieces thankyou every much
evelyn mundy
collinsvale school

hello who was ells on then laddy nelson thank you .
pubs / 1840s

could you please provide me with a list of pubs or pub names that existed in 1840s dockside of Hobart Town, particularly the Wapping district many thanks.

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