The River Derwent

The River Derwent

© Irene Schaffer

Matthew Flinders sailed from Port Jackson in the schooner Francis in February 1798 to salvage the cargo of the Sydney Cove, a vessel that had been run ashore on Preservation Island. On November 3rd 1798. Matthew Flinders and George Bass in the 25 ton sloop Norfolk, discovered Port Dalrymple and on December 10th. Cape Grim was passed and the existence of the Strait proved. Flinders spent Christmas of 1798 in the River Derwent.

It was however not until Lt. Bowen was sent to establish a settlement in 1803 that the British flag flew over the Derwent.  The Lady Nelson anchored at Risdon on Wednesday September 8th 1803, five days before the whaler Albion arrived with Lt. Bowen on board.[1]

Lt. Colonel Collins arrived in the Derwent from Port Phillip and within a few days and after rejecting Bowen’s site moved his party across the river and unloaded the military and convicts off the Ocean near Hunter Island on the 20-21 February 1804. Beginning what is now Hobart.[2]  The free settlers were landed from the Lady Nelson at New Town Bay on the 22nd February.

Early history including Tasmania:

1642 - Able Tasman discovered Tasmania
1772 - Marion du Fresne visits Tasmania
1773 - Captain Tobias Furneaux, the first Englishman to land in Tasmania
1773 - Captain James Cook in Adventure Bay
1788 - First Fleet arrives in NSW
1788 - Captain William Bligh in Adventure Bay
1789 - Captain John Henry Cox visits east coast of Tasmania
1792-3 - Discovery by Admiral Bruni D’Entrecasteaux
1793 - Lt. John Hayes in the Derwent River
1797 - The Sydney Cove, first ship wrecked in Tasmanian waters
1798 - Matthew Flinders & George Bass discover Bass Strait
1800 - Lt. J. Grant first to sail Bass Strait from West to East in the Lady Nelson
1802 - Captain Nicholas Bauldin French expedition explores Tasmanian Coast
1802 - Lt. Charles Robbins occupies King Island
1803 - Lt. Bowen arrives Risdon Cove. Lady Nelson & whaler, Albion
1804 - Lady Nelson was sent from Port Phillip to survey the Tamar River
1804 - Lt. Gov. David Collins arrived Sullivans Cove. Lady Nelson & Ocean
1804 - Col. Paterson arrives at Port Dalrymple. Lady Nelson etc.
1807-8 - Norfolk Islanders arrive at Hobart Town. Lady Nelson etc.
1813 - Norfolk Islanders arrive at Launceston. Lady Nelson & Minstrel

Risdon Cove

In March 1803 plans were put in place to establish a settlement in Van Diemen’s Land (later Tasmania) The Governor of New South Wales, Philip Gidley King, wrote to the Secretary of State, Lord Hobart on the 9th May 1803.

`On the arrival of His Majesty’s ship Glatton, Lieut’t John Bowen of that ship offered to settle any part of the island I might direct. The River Derwent having many local advantages, joined to the description given by Mr. Bass of what is called Risdon Cove, induced me to accept Lt. Bowen’s offer; and as he had Captain Colnett’s consent and recommendation, I have appointed him to act as commandant and superintendent of that intended settlement, under the enclosed instructions.’[3]

King’s instructions to Bowen dated 28 March 1803

`You are therefore to proceed in his Majesty’s armed vessel Porpoise or Lady Nelson, tender, whose commanders have my orders to receive you, with men, women, stores, and provisions necessary for forming the intended settlement, and having fixed on a proper place about Risdon Cove.’

Further instructions given to Bowen

`The whole must labour from daylight to sunset, allowing one hour to breakfast and two hours for dinner, except task force is found more eligible.[4]

In June 1803 Lt. Curtoys, commander of the Lady Nelson, was given his instructions for the taking the party to VDL.

`You are hereby required and Direct to receive on Board His Majesty’s Armed Vessel Lady Nelson, under your Command, John Bowen Esqr., Commander of the Settlement intended to be formed on Van Diemen’s Land, …proceed without loss of time to Storm Bay Passage, and give Mr. Bowen every Assistance in your power in assisting him to build huts for the reception of himself and people as such place, as he may fix on for a settlement, and in which assistance you will be particularly careful in the safety of the vessel….`[5]

[1] Nicholson. Ian H, Shipping Arrivals and Departures Tasmania 1803-1833 p11;  Sydney Gazette 9th October 1803.
[2] Nicholson. Ian H, Shipping Arrivals and Departures Tasmania 1803-1833 p12.
[3] HRA Series I Vol. 4  pp 248-9.
[4] Ibid. pp 152-3
[5] Ibid. p 195.