Tag Archives: Golden Fleece Inn

Did I feel uneasy walking alone past Murphys Flat on Stage 14 of my walk along the Derwent River? Answers and extraordinary stories.

Yesterday one of my posts introduced Addington Lodge as a Haunted House and since then a few readers have wanted to know more.

Photo of Addington Lodge

The photograph above is of Addington Lodge, Granton, apparently a former residence of Governor Arthur – from the collection of Linc Tasmania

In Hobart’s The Mercury newspaper of Saturday 6 July 1935 (http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/30094484?searchTerm=Anthony+Geiss), J Moore-Robinson wrote his version of the history of the House and area (then not known as Murphys Flat rather as Marsh Farm). A few descriptions and some extraordinary stories of what happened to a hop picker and others, create a feeling of how the crumbling remains of Addington seemed at that time.

The author talked about people “who visit southern Tasmania who have not seen the Haunted House but have been intrigued by its shady reputation and shadowy tradition. Empty and forlorn it stands to-day near the road-side on the way to New Norfolk, a gaunt spectre of a vague past, a meet  and fitting rendezvous for apparitions which, if the poets speak truly, steal at the witching hour of midnight, from yawning graves and uneasy vaults, to curdle the blood of humans. Motorists roll by unthinking at all hours of the day and night, but pedestrians, I am told, walk warily, or walk not at all past the place.”

Did I walk warily? Well yes I did. But my caution was the result of the stream of traffic pouring down the highway a couple of feet next to me.  Sometimes, in some situations, my body can feel ’something’ about a location, but with the incessant roar of vehicles close to my left ear, the brittle wind in my face, and the chilly temperatures I was charging on northwards and gave no thought to ghosts of the past.  Perhaps the bright hard sunlight kept them at bay.

The newspaper article continued: “The existing owner, Mr. F. B. Rathbone of Mt. Nassau, tells me that the place has been rather a bane and an expense to him, and he will not be sorry when nothing remains but a heap of rubble foundations. I asked him why. ‘I have lived in the place myself for weeks at a time,’ he said. ‘My son lived in it for more than a year. Neither of us saw anything uncanny, yet nobody will take it. It has a bad name, and I think it better to let it fall to ruins’. It appears that long before the war, folk were apprehensive and the Haunted House, lacking regular tenants, frequently was empty. Mr. Rathbone said that there are no spectres, never were any and that the noises and apparitions came from a loose board in the roof and from rats, rolling-apples and potatoes in a cupboard.”

But is this true? The newspaper article continued and included a number of stories which might explain the haunting reputation, and which might even be factual.

The hop-picker story

“Shortly before the embers of discontent of South Africa burst into the flames of war, a hop-picker having drawn his cash at Bushy Park was ’Waltzing Matilda’ to Hobart.  He was weary with tramping the hot and dusty road but, doubtless he looked forward, with unfeigned pleasure to the flesh pots and foaming tankards, of the city. As the sun set, he came, unaware of its story, to the Haunted House.  Shadows deepened on the nearby river as the hop picker, pushed open an unfastened door, entered the fateful house, ate his cold mutton and bread, washed it down with part of a billy-can of beer purchased at New Norfolk, spread his blanket on the floor, and slept the sleep of the weary. Presently he stirred and rubbed his eyes and, as he looked, the very marrow froze in his bones. His hair stood on end and his heart seemed to stay its pulsing, for rising before him in the doorway he saw a ghastly thing. ‘Thing’ is the right word, for the hop-picker had not seen or dreamed of anything like it. Thin legs, curved, and bent, supported an enormous body which, though it seemed to be clothed, was still visible to the trembling mortal who saw the apparition’s internal organs hideously pulsing and distended. Its neck, gashed from ear to ear, was unable to support the head which sagged horribly from one side to the other. Blood dropped from the severed jugular and the baleful gleams from the staring eyes pierced the semi-darkness and seemed to impale the terrified watcher. A butcher’s knife was clasped tightly in the spectre’s right hand, and hand and knife were horribly red.

In a crouching pose, the creature swayed toward the ‘hopper’, whose limbs seemed fettered by unseen manacles, from which he writhed and struggled to free himself as the menacing and blood stained figure approached. A foul smelling breath stung his nostrils and the knife was within striking distance of his heart, when, with a wrench that would have done credit to Samson, the ‘hopper’ broke free, dodged the ghost, darted through the doorway and, looking neither right nor left, sped down the road, a white and terror-stricken figure clad only in a shirt. Feeling rather than seeing the ‘thing’ close behind him, he essayed a short cut over a bank, slipped on a stone, gashed his head on a sharp rock, and lapsed into blessed insensibility. When he came to, he found himself prone on the cold floor of the room in which he supped. His blanket lay in a disordered heap. His fingers bled where he had scratched and torn at the floorboards. A lump on the side of his head betokened a meeting with some foreign body. Looking around cautiously the ‘hopper’ could see nothing of his ghastly visitor but, thinking discretion the better part of valour, gathered his belongings, moved tremulously through the door to spend the remaining hours of darkness in vigil by the roadside.”

The hopper’s ghost

“It is said that the hopper’s ghost is the spiritual remnant of a whaler, who, wandering further afield than usual, met at the Golden Fleece (for that was the sign of the haunted house 100 years ago) a bushranger disguised as an honest man. The pair spent some happy hours until the Tasmanian Robin Hood, seeing his chance expertly slit the throat of his ‘friend’ and disappeared with his wallet.”

Lady with the broken heart

Another story has to do with a young and beautiful woman who, betrayed by the usual dashing cavalier, languished in spite of the kindly protection of the landlady until, with a broken heart and saying a prayer for bitter revenge, she stabbed herself, and so went away to brighter, and, I hope, happier fields.

The landlord and his landlady

Still another tale is told about the landlord and the landlady, when the place was the William the Fourth hostelry. This couple, having decided to essay life together without bothering the clergy lived happily for a while, but only for a while. Quarrel followed quarrel, and in these the woman usually came out on top for she was bigger, quicker and stronger, although the landlord had been a soldier and had seen wars, having been with that army which ‘swore terribly in Flanders’, he became tired of being the vanquished, and one day finding his ‘wife’ asleep, stabbed her.  Not content with that, he drove a spike into her head, cut out her tongue, slit her throat and not being quite sure at this stage that she was really dead, and poured some poison down her throat. He then tenderly buried her and was caught and duly hanged which seems to be the only really proper and moral part of the story.”

The Golden Fleece’s reputation as an Inn

“It was during Fitzgerald’s term as licensee that, according to legend and tradition, the place achieved its notoriety, which, considering the grounds on which he was later pilloried is not surprising. It is certain that the ‘Golden Fleece’ had an evil reputation, and that the name was truly descriptive of the ‘fleecing’ accomplished within its walls, and the ‘golden’ results which accrued to the enterprising landlord.”

Kelvin Markham (http://www.km.com.au/tasmania/ch14.htm) has a different view on why the House was haunted.

During the twenty one mile journey to New Norfolk, I had the company of a ghost – one Denis McCarty. To you who follow me along this road, the first made in Tasmania, I present this Irish ghost, ex-convict, constable, farmer and grazier, road-maker, Deputy Provost Marshal and much more. My assertion is that Denis, after all his troubles in constructing the road, drinking his share of the 500 gallons of rum that were to be part payment, and then dying whilst his claims for final settlement were being considered by Governor Sorell and Macquarie, perambulates this unpaid-for road, and, when he finds it necessary to take shelter, rests in the old Golden Fleece.  If you dive into the history of this road, you will learn a number of things. For example You will stand at his deathbed, seeing it only as through a glass darkly, and wonder what Jemott and Broadribb had to do with it – if anything. Contemporary records refer mysteriously to these persons as knowing more than they should of McCarty’s end.”

These background stories and reasons for Addington House or Lodge/Golden Fleece Inn/William the Fourth hostelry to be haunted make for wonderful fiction-writing and movie-making opportunities.  Anyone interested?

Add Lodge drawing -UTAS library

The image above is a drawing of ‘Addington Lodge Colonel Arthur’s Marsh Farm between Bridgewater and Sorell Creek Derwent Valley’/’The Haunted House on the Granton New-Norfolk Road’ by artist A. T. Fleury c1931 – from the collection of Linc Tasmania

Why are these wetlands called Murphy’s Flats? Who was Murphy?

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Thanks to http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/file.aspx?id=17347  I know that “Murphys Flat Conservation Area historically formed a portion of the property locally referred to as Marsh Farm, which was established through an ambitious land reclamation endeavour begun by Governor Arthur in 1824. The property was hailed as an agricultural “show place” throughout Tasmania and was one of the earliest land reclamations in Australia.”

The site http://www.derwentestuary.org.au/assets/NIE_-_wetlands.pdf provides the information that “In 1997 we nearly lost 40% of these wetlands when a farmer started draining the 66 hectare marsh known as Murphy’s Flat.”  This action was the catalyst for various tiers of government to step in and fund the process to purchase the land and retain it as a conservation area. The area known locally as Murphys Flat was acquired on 1 May 2001 by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service.

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The 2010 Management Statement at (http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/file.aspx?id=17347) is informative.

Murphys Flat Conservation Area is located within a wetland complex on the southern shore of the River Derwent beside the Lyell Highway between Granton and New Norfolk. The area has been recognised as being particularly species rich, with expansive areas of marshes, underwater grasses, tidal flats and reed beds that provide habitat and breeding areas for large populations of fish, platypus and waterfowl. Murphys Flat Conservation Area comprises 25 to 30 per cent of remaining wetlands in the River Derwent. It is listed within both the Directory of Wetlands of National Significance and the Tasmanian Geoconservation Database.

Birds are particularly abundant in the reserve due largely to the diverse habitat. The vicinity is well known for its large population of black swans and it is a likely hunting and foraging area for five significant bird species including the wedge-tailed eagle, white-bellied sea-eagle, swift parrot, masked owl and great crested grebe. The secretive, little-known Australasian bittern is also known to occur there.

Murphys Flat Conservation Area serves as a nursery for the sandy flathead and also provides important shelter for other juvenile native fish. Backwater areas of the reserve are of particular biological significance with unique botanical assemblages and an abundance of gastropod molluscs.

Until the early years of this century, “Murphys Flat was used as a dump site for domestic rubbish, garden waste and for overburden from road and earthworks. As a result, the area of wetland vegetation communities has decreased and its condition has been further compromised through the spread of weeds, largely from this source.” Now a weed control program has been instituted. “The vision for Murphys Flat Conservation Area is that it will contribute significantly to regional biodiversity and geodiversity in the upper River Derwent estuary, provide water quality services and research opportunities and be a vehicle for increasing public awareness of wetland values.”

In addition to the natural history and situation, Murphy’s Flat has a cultural history.

Firstly, the site is reported to have been on a travelling route for two Aboriginal tribes (http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/file.aspx?id=17347).

Then, according to Kelvin Markham at http://www.km.com.au/tasmania/ch14.htmFour miles beyond Granton stood a derelict grey stone house, known to all and sundry as The Haunted House. No one can tell why it received its name, though it is popularly (and wrongly) supposed to have been the country seat of early governors. The haunted house was originally the Golden Fleece Inn, licensed on 22 October 1824 to one Henry Fitzgerald. It did not long cater for travellers and in 1837 was on the market. This building was also called Addington Lodge Villa at one time.”

Add Lodge drawing -UTAS library

The image above is a drawing of ‘Addington Lodge Colonel Arthur’s Marsh Farm between Bridgewater and Sorell Creek Derwent Valley’ / ‘The Haunted House on the Granton New-Norfolk Road’ by artist A. T. Fleury c1931 – from the collection of Linc Tasmania

Photo of Addington Lodge

The photograph above is of ‘Addington Lodge, Granton, apparently a former residence of Governor Arthur’ – from the collection of Linc Tasmania

The National Library of Australia (http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/30094484?searchTerm=Anthony+Geiss) offers the information that “Addington Lodge was named after Mr. J.H. Addington, the Secretary to the British Treasury at the time. It was constructed by Governor Sorell to serve as a country house in 1820, a year after the construction of the Hobart to New Norfolk Road. The lodge was a double storey brick house with an architectural style typical of a late Georgian villa with symmetrical doors and windows and a wide fan-lit front door. The lodge was renamed the Golden Fleece Inn and opened to the public after a Mr Barker sold it to Mr. Henry Thomas Fitzgerald in 1824 having owned it for 4 years only. Addington Lodge at Murphys Flat became a popular half-way house for travellers between Hobart and New Norfolk and earned an unsavoury reputation.”

If remains of this house still exist they are now obscured from view by the lush vegetation  growing across the wetlands.  I saw no sign of it as I walked past Murphy’s Flat.

To give you some idea about the look of the wetlands from the Highway, the photo below shows the landscape when I looked back over the road just walked.

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The wetlands looking toward the road yet to be walked.

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Along the kilometres (Murphys Flat Conservation Area is approximately 2.7 kilometres long and 550 metres wide at its maximum width) of Murphy’s Flat Wetlands, the vista consisted of subtle variations of the following:

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When I walked, most of the landscape between the Lyell Highway and the smoothly flowing Derwent River seemed impenetrable. I can only imagine this is a very safe place for water birds and fishlings to breed, and for native grasses and other plants to re-establish.

This posting started with a question which I have been unable to answer. I cannot discover who Murphy was. Regrettably.

Murphy’s law is a commonly heard saying which is typically stated as: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.  I wondered if the land now known as Murphy’s Flat had been purchased for the purpose of grazing animals and growing crops without due checking, and then found the wet soggy land to be useless in the days when preservation of native flora and fauna was not considered – I wondered if someone bought the land without really checking how it was and having spent all their money decided Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. BUT according to the definitive book The History of Murphy’s Law written by Nick Spark, this adage was named after an American aerospace engineer Captain Edward Murphy who said as much around 1950. The naming of Murphy’s Flat at Granton seems to have preceded this ‘law’ so the area must have been named after a local – but who was it?  More research required.

Map of Murphys Flat 20150413_095018

Google maps cannot locate Murphy’s Flat so I have attempted to indicate the location this posting has referred to.  Within the hand drawn oval above, the Murphys Flat Conservation Area sits contained between the Derwent River and the Lyell Highway.