Thursday, January 19, 2012

Jericho, Colebrook and some wonderful old churches

2012 has started well for us.  Our first job has been a beauty.  A really interesting task.  A Queenslander asked us to find information supporting family folklore that his ancestors had lobbed at Tasmania as early as 1842.  And we’re pleased to report that the folklore has become fact, for we were able to trace the people he was looking for and validate our research with photos of their burial places.

It’s interesting how many Tasmanian pioneers’ births, deaths and marriages are not on the Pioneer Index and this was the case in this instance.  Fortunately, however, this gentleman’s predecessors had done a few things worthy of mention in early Tasmanian papers, and from there, with a bit of effort mind you, we were able to trace them to two specific areas – Jericho and Colebrook districts.  So, with our camera, we went to Jericho first.

For those of you who don’t know Jericho, now days it is a beautiful peaceful spot that time forgot, but, in fact, after being settled.in1816,  it became a key stop-over for coaches on their way from Hobart to Launceston.  It is one of Australia’s oldest settlements and was originally known as Jericho Plains.  No prizes for deducing where the name came from. Yes, you are absolutely right, it came from the Bible. History has it that right back in the early 1800’s, when food was pretty scarce in Hobart Town, parties of Royal Marines were sent out in search of game such as emu and kangaroo.  It is said that during these expeditions, a well-educated Marine Private named Hugh Germain, with the Bible in his pack, started giving places religious and Middle Eastern names.  Hence, in an area not too far from Hobart Town, we have Jericho, Jerusalem (now Colebrook), Bagdad, Lake Tiberius, and of course, the Jordan River.

Even today, excellent examples of colonial sandstone architecture are to be seen in the Jericho area; culverts, bridges and walls for instance, that date back to the early 1930’s.  St. James Church of England dominates the tiny town.  It was first built in 1838 and served the community well until, 50 years later, cracks appeared in the building and it was decided to build a new church on the same site.  In 1888, the new and present church was consecrated.  We had our lunch in the shade of the 1838 church’s remaining derelict wall. 

St. James’s adjoining cemetery is a treasure trove for people with an interest in colonial history and of course, genealogists.  Alas, though, like so many of our old burial grounds, many of the headstones are crumbling and broken now and reading inscriptions is not an easy undertaking.  It is worth noting that Australia’s first VC recipient is buried in this cemetery; a man named John Hutton Bisdee, who was a member of a well-known family of the district.  He received the medal for bravery in the Transvaal War and went on to serve in WW1.

As well, Jericho was home to the Probation Station of 1840, which was built to house the 200 convicts who constructed the Hobart to Launceston road and the Commandant’s Cottage (1842).  The Probation Station has all but disappeared, although the site which contains some of its sandstone walls is there to seen and, we are pleased to report, is well protected now.  The Commandant’s Cottage still stands.

We really enjoyed our visit to Jericho and of course, the sense of achievement we experienced when, with painstaking patience, we pieced together the badly smashed headstone that belonged to our client’s Jericho ancestors.

Next day, we tootled off to Colebrook, once known as Jerusalem, on behalf of our Queensland client, looking for other ancestors he hoped to find. And, once again he did.  It was the same old story, people who came here very early in the island’s settlement and stayed, yet for some reason their births, deaths and marriages don’t appear on the Pioneer Index.

Now, like Jericho, Colebrook is an historic settlement.  It was first called Jerusalem Plains, as we previously explained, thanks to Private Germain, but by 1834 it was called Colebrook Dale and in 1894 the name Colebrook was officially gazetted.

In 1834, Jerusalem was used as a convict probation and hiring station. Convicts stationed there built a sandstone courthouse and gaol which still stands today and they worked in the coalmines and quarries in the area.  The probation and hiring station ceased to operate in 1848.

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and its cemetery overlook the town.  The church is truly a little-known jewel.  It was designed by Augustus Pugin, the man considered the instigator of the Gothic Revival Movement in England, the man who designed the British House of Parliament, including the world renowned Big Ben.  Pugin designed the church in 1843 and it was the last of his works to be built.  It was, in fact, built after his death in 1857, at the cost of 1,000 pounds.  Fortunately for the church, and for us, it comes under the control of the Pugin Foundation, a foundation established to help in the conservation and maintenance of the designer’s Australian buildings.  Ah, if only there were more foundations and organisations about that cared for our rapidly disappearing historic buildings and burial grounds.

Anyway, we were surely blessed with good fortune on this visit for not only did we find a once again crumbling headstone (not a jigsaw puzzle effort this time) that marked the resting place of our client’s ancestors, but we gained access to the church even though we hadn’t taken the time to prearrange it.  An oversight on our part at Jericho and Colebrook, for normally when planning a tour, one of the first things we do if we know the church involved in the baptism, death or marriage, is to find the person able to admit us to the church and organize to be admitted.  This time, however, fools that we are, I guess neither of us saw the need.  Well, like they say in the classics, we won’t make that mistake again.  At any rate, getting into St. Patrick’s was a real bonus for us and believe me, we felt privileged.

St. James Anglican Church too is a delight to the eye and its cemetery is a treasure trove for historians and genealogists.  This stone church, with its beautiful stained glass windows, was consecrated in 1884.

Sadly, the town was almost completely destroyed by 1967 bushfires but it has since been rebuilt.  People told us that many buildings were lost, in fact we were told that one side of the road was all but wiped out while the other side lost buildings randomly – one here and one there.  It was hard for us to imagine this terrible time as we poked around in the cemeteries of both St. Patrick’s and St. James’s, almost, it seemed, in a place whose serenity had been undisturbed for centuries.

Today, Colebrook is a lovely rural community that still contains a number of buildings listed on the register of the National Estate and like Jericho, it’s well worth a visit.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A trip across the Tasman finds fruition

It’s about time we shared some more of our touring experiences with the outside world because, so far, we’ve been enjoying ourselves enormously.  In fact, like my dad used to say, fancy doing what you love to do and getting paid to do it.  Well, that’s almost how it is with us. We love what we do and hopefully, in the not too distant future, we’ll be making enough money to pay our rent.

In the meantime, however, let’s get to our tours.  A few days ago, we had the good fortune to take a New Zealand couple on a 3 day tour of discovery.  They had booked this tour six weeks previously, asking us to do 4 hours research for them because the female member of the duo, Louise by name, knew, without doubt, that her father had come from around Devonport, Burnie but she was unable to track him down.  They also requested we arrange their accommodation for the 2 nights of the tour we’d be spending in the north of the state, telling us how much they were prepared to spend on this. Even if I say so myself, we did well and the accommodation turned out to be excellent both nights. 

Louise, who is in her sixties, told us that her dad had been an older father, a man in his sixties himself when she was born.  Her mother, who died some years ago, had told Louise what little Louise knew about her dad’s history.  In a nut shell, Louise knew the names of her New Zealand born mother and her Tasmanian born father and that they’d married in Dunedin in 1941.  Not a lot to go on.  But, fortunately, her father had a distinctive name – for the purpose of this tale, as we don’t have Louise’s permission to do otherwise, we’ll call him Tasman Royal Lucas.  That’s to say, the name had a ring to it, it was pretty unique, so we had something to work with.

Now, to cut a long story short, it turns out that Louise’s father, when he arrived in New Zealand, simply shed his true surname and for the rest of his life went by the surname of Lucas and Lucas was, in fact, actually his 3rd given name.  He was born Tasman Royal Lucas Smith and he’d simply dropped the Smith. At this stage anyway, no one knows why, but that’s detective work for another day..

Anyway, Louise was pleased when we located him up north – his birth was registered at Port Sorell – and even more pleased when we found his family had lived at Latrobe and Wynyard and Stanley between 1880 and 1900.  Clearly his father had been chasing work and of course, his family had moved around with him. And his family had consisted of mum, dad, two older sisters and two older brothers. All of this had been news to Louise.

So, we picked up Louise and her partner, Bob, from their accommodation in Hobart mid morning on a cold and wintry day, glad that we’d stressed the need for really warm clothes during our earlier discussions.  Not that our warnings were necessary, Louise told us, because her home country was no tropical island.   Anyhow, we set off for Launceston which was to be our first port of call.  On the way, we detoured to have a look at Kempton and Oatlands, popped into Ross for lunch, walked through that lovely old town, taking a look inside the historic churches, stopped on the bridge to marvel at its beauty and then headed off to Campbell Town.  We stopped in Campbell Town too because our guests wanted to stroll the street, reading the names of the convicts on the paving bricks.

Then we were off to Launceston where, after checking into our accommodation, we spent what remained of the daylight hours wandering around beautiful Launceston loving its architecture and its old world charm. That evening, we dined well and slept like tops until the following morning, when bright and early, we took off for Latrobe. 

It took us about an hour to get to Latrobe and what a wonderfully restored historic town Latrobe is.  Our guests loved it.  We had a tasty breakfast in a pleasant cafĂ© and once again, using our legs to cart us around, we had a look at some of what Latrobe had to offer and that was plenty.  Historic buildings galore, plus the Axeman’s Hall of Fame and a visit to the town’s beaut family history room where a willing volunteer looked with us for evidence of Louise’s family’s presence in the town.  We didn’t find anything more than we’d already discovered, but Louise said that the photos she saw there and the information imparted by the volunteer meant she was forming a picture in her mind of how life must’ve been for her father and his family.  Finally, we visited St. Luke’s Anglican Church where, during our researching, we’d discovered Louise’s grandparents had married.  Louise was rapt.  Out came the camera, Bob became the photographer, and snap after snap of Louise and the church together were taken.

Then we traveled through Devonport, Penguin and Burnie to Wynyard, taking as much time as we dared to cover the miles because both Louise and Bob were muttering that they wished they had longer so that they could explore these towns, especially Penguin.  Louise loved Penguin and swears she’s returning to that gorgeous little coastal town some day.

Wynyard was a delight and, as Bob said, there was so much to see and do in the area that you’d need a week or more to do the area justice.  As it was, we had an hour or so around the town, enjoyed a cup of coffee and a delicious cake and took a look at Table Cape.  Table Cape is breathtaking and gazing out over Bass Strait, it wasn’t hard to feel admiration and enormous respect for the people who settled this rugged lovely island. They were tough.

Stanley came next and it was in Stanley that we truly made a great find.  What a stunning town!  What a stunning location! Story book stuff.  We all expressed our delight at being in Stanley and decided, after we’d eaten mouth watering fish and ships, washed down with a reasonable brew of coffee, that we’d climb the path to the Nut’s plateau and return via the chairlift.  Most people, we agreed, would do it the other way round but we also agreed that we needed the exercise.  You know how it is when you’re traveling any distance in the car; out comes the block of chocolate, out comes the packet of potato chips and before you know it, you’ve eaten the lot and you’re looking for more.  Anyway, on our way to the path up to the Nut’s plateau, we spied the family history rooms and decided to go inside to see if we could discover anything relating to Louise’s family.  The volunteer who looked after us was great.  She gave us a potted history of the little town and was giving us the low down on the old records available in the history room while I flicked through a baptism book that sat on a desk, when lo and behold, my eyes settled on the baptism record of Louise’s father and some of his siblings.  On the same Sunday, Tasman and one of his brothers and one of his sisters were christened at the Church of England at Stanley.

Well I shrieked with delight, as you do when you make such a discovery, and then Louise was shrieking too as she looked over my shoulder.  I considered myself a hero. Next, the volunteer was photo-copying the page for Louise and we all were scouring any records in the room.  We didn’t find anything else but somehow this didn’t seem to matter.  We were so excited by our discovery that I swear we flew up that winding path to the Nut’s plateau without feeling any pain at all.  The spectacular view at the top was awe-inspiring.

On the way out of town, we had a look at Woolnorth, an historic working property, taking in the old farm buildings, the wind farm and Cape Grim where the Bureau of Meteorology has measured the cleanest air in the entire world.  A great experience.

It had been a long rewarding day, and that night we slept comfortably at an hotel in Ulverstone, had a great breakfast at the same venue the next morning, did a quick tour of the town – another place Louise and Bob wished they could explore more fully – and headed back south.  On the return journey, we slipped into have a quick peek at the lovely Deloraine and the lovely Westbury, by-passed Launceston, dropped into Hagley, then went off to Longford, via a pleasant narrow country road, and stopped in that fine old town for lunch.  We had a look at Christ Church and its historic cemetery where Louise became quite excited when she saw not 1 but 4 headstones sporting her newly-learned family name.  Now, she didn’t know at that time, whether these graves were the resting place of other members of her clan, but she photographed the headstones and said that as soon as she got back to NZ, she’d be chasing information on these people.

After Longford, we zipped straight down the Midland Highway to Hobart, stopping just once for a cuppa at Oatlands.  Louise and Bob said that they had a wonderful time, and so did we.  In fact, so pleased were we with each others company, that we arranged to meet at 10 am the following morning at the Tasmanian Archives Office in Hobart so that we could assist Louise and Bob to use the couple of hours they had left in our state to find out more about Louise’s relies.  And we did pretty well that morning.  Being aware of her grandfather’s real surname, Louise discovered so much about her grandparents, her grandmother’s family and of course, her grandfather’s siblings.

Louise and Bob are back in NZ now and Louise, no doubt, via the internet, is already looking for more information on her family.  She should uncover quite a bit now that she knows their surname. We are going to keep in touch.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hobart, New Norfolk, Hamilton, Bothwell, Richmond and Beyond

Recently we had the pleasure of taking our first group of people on a tour they designed themselves.  The group consisted of 6 people, one of whom was a man and their ages ranged from 30 to 70.  Some were from Victoria, some from Queensland.  Of the six, 4 were from the same family and they were all friends.
When the booking first came in and we noted the ground these people wanted to cover in a single day, we were doubtful that they knew much about our island.  Because of our roads and our hilly terrain, it’s difficult in Tassie to relate travel time to distance and that’s exactly what we told the would-be tourers.
“Listen,” we said, “if we travel your requested rout, we’ll be in the bus a lot of the day and there’ll be no time to visit sites connected to your  relies.”
But, no, that’s the tour they wanted, so that’s the tour they got.

We picked up the group at 9.00am in Hobart on a bright crisp Sunday morning, and immediately sharing the first of several blocks of creamy milk chocolate that we’d share that day, we headed out towards the lovely old town of Hamilton on the Clyde River via New Norfolk.
On the way, we detoured slightly, to visitor, the old Back River Cemetery and its quaint historic Uniting chapel, but in particular, the grave of Betty King, the woman who is purported to be the 1st white female to set foot on Australian soil. They were suitably impressed.  Photos were taken, not only of Betty’s grave, but of the cemetery itself and its chapel.  Everyone loved the story of Betty King.  

Next we zipped through the little settlement of Rosegarland and the tiny town of Gretna, took a quick look at St. Mary’s Anglican Church and its surrounding burial ground, where photos were taken of the graves of some of our tour group’s relies, and then on to Hamilton.   All the while, we drew people’s attention to the grand old properties we passed and gave them a potted history of these places.

Hamilton delighted our visitors.  We walked through the town at a leisurely pace, stopping to discuss the fine old Georgian sandstone buildings that still exist in this pretty town for a quick cuppa and snack.  Well worth the stop. Then onto Bothwell.

The trip to Bothwell was pleasant.  We traveled through Hollow Tree, talking again about the old properties and their creators and we discussed dry-land farming and the lives we believed the pioneers must have lived. Our travelers agreed with us, Bothwell is a delight to the eyes. Here we wandered the streets, marveling at its old stone cottages, its lovely churches and discussing its colourful history.  A couple of our group shot into the Australasian Golf Museum for a look, most impressed by the fact that Bothwell was home to the oldest course in Australia and to learn that the course actually remained part of a working farm, just as it had been 165 years ago when it was first came into being. 

Others of us popped into the historic cemetery to read a bit about our heritage on headstones that commemorate our settlers.  Just as is in Hamilton, the Scottish influence of its early settlers is evident in this great old town.
Time, however, was on the wing and we still had miles to make before we stopped for lunch, so off we went, through Melton Mowbray,  through Colebrook which as Jerusalem, was developed by convict labour, and on to that special place called Richmond.  Before we talk about Richmond, though, let me say that all of our tourers deeply regretted that time did not permit us to stop to explore the peaceful old farming settlement of Colebrook and all told us they’d be back to do just that.

Anyway, Richmond in the Cole Valley was our final destination before we returned to our starting point, so we parked the bus across that famous 1823 bridge, close to St, John’s Catholic Church and set off on foot to explore the town, but not before we’d eaten lunch.  This time, according to the wishes of our clients, we’d pre-booked a table at a pleasant eatery and although we arrived 20minutes late, we were welcomed with opened arms.  Of course, being good tour-operators, we had phoned the restaurant just before Colebrook to let them know we were running a bit late but, nevertheless, their warm welcome put smiles on our faces.  As did the food.

With full stomachs and recharged by delicious cups of coffee, we spent the next 2 hours experiencing Richmond’s historic past and the delightful arts and crafts culture of its present. All agreed we could have done with another couple of hours in Richmond.
By the time we dropped off our clients at Hobart early that evening, we were all tired and much to our delight, our clients said they were more than satisfied with their day out. 

They all agreed they knew far more about Tassie’s colonial past than they’d known before and that our island was a fascinating and beautiful part of Australia. As we parted, they assured us they’d be back and when they came back, they’d want a similar tour of Colebrook, Oatlands and Ross.

We look forward to seeing them again.

St Mary's Gretna

St Mary's Gretna
Visiting the relies at the historic St Mary's Church at Gretna