New Norfolk Tasmania history

From before the days of colonial settlement to modern-day Tasmanian life, our town has seen a significant slice of history.

Traditional ownership

Before colonisation by the British, the area now known as New Norfolk was occupied by the Leenowwenne clan, one of five clans of the Big River Nation. The Big River nation numbered 400 – 500 people consisting of five clans. Little is known of their seasonal movements although it is believed that four of the five clans moved through Oyster Bay territory along the Derwent River to reach their coastal camps near Pitt Water. The Oyster Bay People had reciprocal movement rights through Big River territory.

1804

Hobart Town is founded at the mouth of the River Derwent.

1807-08

Upstream from Hobart Town, around 500 free settlers from Norfolk Island establish the beginnings of New Norfolk.

1811

During his visit to Van Diemen’s Land, Governor Macquarie has a surveyor map out the town and organise grants and leases. In honour of his wife, Governor Macquarie names the settlement “Elizabeth Town”.

1815

The Bush Inn is built in town, and is among the very first pubs to be built in Australia.

The Turriff Lodge Homestead is constructed, serving as a country retreat for the Governor.

1817

Pardoned convict Thomas Shone builds “Stanton” a Georgian homestead on land at Magra with convict bricks and labour. Today, the property is the popular Stanton Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast.

1818

The first road linking Elizabeth Town with Hobart is built.

1820

Soon after arriving in Elizabeth Town, John Terry constructs the region’s first flour mill.

1825

Wanting to preserve a link with their heritage, the townsfolk rename the settlement “New Norfolk”.

St. Matthew’s Anglican Church is founded, and is the first church established in Tasmania.

The Bush Inn is first issued a license, starting an unbroken line of licenses up to present day.

Woodbridge was built by the first Chief Constable, Thomas Roadknight at a cost of over 1000 pounds. Now operating as the luxury accommodation establishment Woodbridge on the Derwent.

1826

A movement to have New Norfolk be the colonial capital was vetoed – with Hobart receiving the title of capital.

1827

By order of Governor George Arthur, the Willow Court infirmary is established as an asylum for sick convicts across Tasmania. The establishment later develops into the Royal Derwent Hospital.

1830

The historic Tynwald country mansion is constructed in New Norfolk by John Terry.

1832

On the Willow Court site, the now iconic Barracks were constructed. The Barracks were controlled by the military until 1955 when the government took over the administration.

The New Norfolk Post Office is established.

1835

St. Paul’s Methodist Church is founded. Today it is St Paul’s Uniting Church.

1842

The first bridge for vehicular access across the Derwent River in New Norfolk is constructed. The tollhouse was built to collect payments.

1846

Hops are first introduced to the Derwent Valley, becoming one of the area’s most vital industries.

c. 1850

New Norfolk becomes the home of the exiled Irish nationalist figure Terrence McManus – later joined by another exiled Irish nationalist, William O’Brien.

1856

The colony of Van Diemen’s Land is renamed as Tasmania.

1864

Salmon and trout are first successfully introduced to the southern hemisphere at the Salmon Ponds just upstream from New Norfolk.

1880

After the destruction of the initial bridge, the second is built across the river in town – built mostly of timber and costing £4,169.

c. 1887 – 1889

A new structure is built within Willow Court featuring a clock tower centrepiece – an iconic landmark for the town.

1887

The first railway tracks reach New Norfolk as a part of the Derwent Valley Line. This combined with the use of steamboats, hydro-electricity and rich soil would later contribute to the timber industry boom in the region.

1888

The first telephone trunk call in Australia is made between Hobart and New Norfolk’s Bush Inn. The telephone used to make this call still survives, mounted on the wall of the Bush Inn.

1900s

The Derwent Valley develops at a fast pace due to the access to railways, steamboats, hydro-electricity, rich soil and plentiful timber.

1924

During her last visit to Tasmania, Dame Nellie Melba sings several lyrics from the opera “Maritana” at the Bush Inn.

1926

The Pioneer Woodware Company establishes a peg factory, using locally-harvested timbers to become the country’s primary supplier of clothes pegs.

1931

A new bridge of steel and concrete replaces the 50-year-old wooden bridge across the Derwent River. However, with low kerbing and no handrails seperating traffic from pedestrians, the bridge posed a risk to those walking across.

1941

The Boyer Mill is opened by Australian Newsprint Mills just downstream from New Norfolk, and produces the majority of Australia’s newsprint. This marks the beginning of a prosperous era for the region, as New Norfolk almost doubles in population.

1965

The iconic clock tower in Willow Court is demolished during efforts to modernise the site for the Royal Derwent Hospital.

1968

Modernisation of the Willow Court site is complete, with the Royal Derwent Hospital serving around 1,000 patients at the time.

1974

The fourth and current bridge is completed, replacing its hazardous predecessor.

2000

After 173 years in operation under various names, the Willow Court Royal Derwent Hospital closes.

2002

The Boyer Mill is acquired by major Norwegian paper company, Norske Skog.

2016

An urban myth about a secret underground tunnel leading from the hospital site to the banks of the Derwent River is investigated by the Flinders University Archaeology team. Rumoured to be used for the smuggling of patients at night, it was found to be an old, arched sewage tunnel made from bricks.

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