Tag Archives: convicts

The scope of my research into Tasmanian aboriginal history

My last post generated lots of interest so this post should clarify my intentions.

Principally, I plan to gather information about the aboriginals who frequented the area along the Derwent River, from the mouth to the source of the River. My research aims to collect and collate reliable and authentic information about the life of the indigenous communities prior to European settlement in Van Diemen’s Land/Tasmania.  In so doing, I hope to be able to understand the value of the River to early indigenous peoples, as well as the way the topography influenced their lives.

This study will not consider –

  • interactions with new settlers, convicts or any other non-indigenous person
  • the effect of European settlement on the lives and practices of the indigenous community
  • the history of mainland indigenous peoples

I suspect I may be challenged to present a ‘before and after 1803’ scenario of the situation for aboriginals.  Others have researched and written on this aspect generally although not specifically focused on the Derwent River, and I am seeking a fresh perspective which is not encumbered by conflict with European settlers in early Van Diemen’s Land.

The periods of history about which I want to collect information, are –

  1. before European settlement
  2. at the moment of European settlement in 1803
  3. some years after 1803 to later in the 19th century – this is deliberately loose to allow for non-indigenous people many decades later who have a first-hand experience, to contribute any information they have about any authentic aboriginal practices – but I will only be looking for those indigenous practices which do not seem to have been altered as a result of European settlement.

This quest will occur intermittently because it will compete with the priorities of my other projects and commitments.

Historic Granton, Tasmania

The northern suburb of Granton on the western shore of the Derwent River adjacent to and extending from the Bridgewater Bridge has significant history in relation to transport and communications across Van Diemens Land/Tasmania. Two heritage buildings, which still stand, are introduced below.

The Black Snake Inn

On stage 8 of my walk along the Derwent River, after I had crossed the Bridgewater Bridge from the eastern shore, I continued south into the start of the suburb of Granton. On that route I soon passed the house in the photo below.

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Located at 650 Main Road, what I was seeing was the building that started life as the Black Snake Inn, apparently Australia’s earliest ferry inn, which was built by the convicts who constructed the Bridgewater Causeway. The Google maps street view of this remarkable building can be seen at https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/650+Main+Rd,+Granton+TAS+7030/@-42.751047,147.229129,3a,52.5y,209h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sTcT1xn5QTiR_rSA4AsFFbg!2e0!4m7!1m4!3m3!1s0xaa6e12713b1bfcbb:0x1a0841b5479abad1!2s650+Main+Rd,+Granton+TAS+7030!3b1!3m1!1s0xaa6e12713b1bfcbb:0x1a0841b5479abad1!6m1!1e1?hl=en

According to http://www.werelate.org/wiki/Person:George_Robinson_%2838%29, Rhode Island born George Robinson erected a new Black Snake Inn on an earlier ferry Inn in 1833 and continued his business at the Black Snake until 1837.  Robinson showed his enterprising ability in a newspaper notice: “MR. G. W. Robinson has this day started a Van with two splendid horses for the immediate accommodation of persons travelling up and down from the Ferries. The Van will leave the Black Snake at half past nine every morning, and leave Hobart Town at 2 o’clock every afternoon…

Charles F Tomkins

Artist Charles F Tomkins (1798-1844) produced a hand coloured lithograph titled The Black Snake Inn and this was published in London by Smith & Elder in 1833 (Reference: http://catalogue.statelibrary.tas.gov.au/item/?id=98999)

According to the http://www.heritage.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahpi/record.pl?RNE10944 record (of March 2015), The Black Snake Inn ‘is significant for its association with Derwent River ferry and road crossings. Until 1836, when the Bridgewater Causeway was completed and before a bridge completed the crossing in 1849, ferry transport was the only means of crossing the Derwent River. It is significant for its initial function as a ferry inn accommodating passengers using the commercial ferry services run by the Inn’s operator. In addition, the Inn is significant for providing accommodation for travellers on the Main Road between Hobart Town and New Norfolk, and those using the Bridgewater Causeway. Between 1819 and 1825 the diary of Reverend “Bobby” Knopwood noted frequent visits to the Black Snake Inn which was often referred to as the “half way” house. Governor Arthur’s Land Commissioners visited the Black Snake Inn in 1826, remarking that its licensee, Presnell, was in the “true Style of a selfish Settler” giving all who passed “all the trouble in his power”. By 1833, the Inn was acquired by George Robinson. By August he had built a “new house’ at Black Snake and advertised the lease for the old inn premises as a possible store. His new Inn was drawn by Louisa Meredith, probably in the mid-1840s and the structure depicted is almost certainly the building known as the Black Snake Inn today, showing the same form. It is possible that a new facade was erected some decades later because the Victorian Rustic Gothic style became more common after the 1840s.’ This website provides extensive additional historical, architectural and social information.

The site http://www.watersideaccommodation.com/downloads/HistoricalSummarytheClaremontAustinsFerryArea04May07.pdf contains an alternative photograph of the building.

I am grateful to Tasmanian collector and historian George Burrows for his reminder to create a posting about the Black Snake Inn.  In addition, he told me… “I am probably one of the few people who have canoed the river from source to Hobart BEFORE the dams were built.”  How remarkable is that!  Very impressive.

The Old Granton Watchhouse

The building, located at the junction of the Brooker Highway, Lyell Highway and the Bridgewater Causeway, was built by convicts in 1838. Extensive information and photographs can be seen at http://ontheconvicttrail.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/old-watch-house-granton.html

The starting point for Stage 14 of my walk along the Derwent River will be near this Watchhouse.