Hobart Town 1804 -1820

                HOBART TOWN               

                                                                                            (c) 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.



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.[2]


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.


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.[5]




At first there was sufficient food for all, but soon the stock that the 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. [6]


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[7] 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.[8]


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.[9]


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.[10]


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. [11]  


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. 




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.[12]




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.[13]




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.[14]


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) [15] After a short stay in Hobart Town they traveled to Launceston and again boarded the Lady Nelson for their return voyage to Sydney.[16]


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)

[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.


                            FIRST SHIPS BUILT IN THE RIVER DERWENT


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 (ie) stringy bark.




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.[17]



                                                               Hobart Town 1819                                         {Author's private collection}

[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,Land Grants & Stock Lists 1803 – 1822. pp 4 –14.

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

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

[8]  Ibid p 25.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[17] Selection of Orphan books by Joyce Purtscher.