Thursday, 20 December 2012

Hamilton


Located 74 km northwest of Hobart on the Lyell Highway, Hamilton is a typical Tasmanian Historic Town combining a setting which dates to the early nineteenth century with a range of historic accommodation. It is relatively unspoilt and still sufficiently removed from over-commercialisation to offer the visitor an opportunity to experience what the villages of southern Tasmania were like in the 1830s and 1840s as the town remains relatively unchanged.
The first Europeans into the Hamilton area were the botanist, Robert Brown and his party who attempted to trace the Derwent River to its source in March, 1804. They reached the Hamilton Plains and followed the Fat Doe River (now known as the Clyde) up to the Clyde Falls near the present site of Bothwell.
Hamilton's proximity to Hobart Town meant that the region was visited regularly by search parties, escaped convicts and bushrangers. By the late 1830s the land had been divided and settled.

There are a number of conflicting explanations for the town's name. Some sources claim that it was named Hamilton by Governor Macquarie in 1821 while others claim that in 1829 Governor Arthur named the district after his friend William Henry Hamilton.
Now the accepted explanation is that Governor Macquarie named the locality as 'Sorell Plains', and it became locally known as 'Macquarie' and 'Lower Clyde'. Governor Arthur finalised a name for the locality and this was announced in 1826 (Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser, Friday 28 July 1826, page 3). Hamilton was named after William Henry Hamilton, a wealthy free settler who had arrived in Van Diemen's Land in April 1824.

Hamilton Post Office opened on 1 June 1832.
Hamilton was once a bustling frontier town that contained many inns and several working breweries. It was once destined to be the capital of Tasmania despite its vast distance from any port.
It contains a few small shops and buildings, such as the court house, many of them dating back to convict times.

Whatever the origins the town was known as Hamilton by 1835 and by 1859 a traveller could describe the town as 'Here is a neat Church, a handsome bridge, large inns, breweries and some good shops. And round the village are some of the largest landed proprietors in the country possessing 20 000 and even as many as 40 000 sheep'. Hamilton was declared a municipality in 1863.

Visitors to Hamilton will find historic buildings in the town and scattered amongst the farmland, while many of the town's few small shops date back to convict times.
Of particular interest is St Peter's Church, completed in 1837. The church has only one door. The reason for this was almost certainly to prevent the congregation, which in the early days was about 50 per cent convicts, from attempting to escape.
Also of interest is the Old Schoolhouse, a huge two storey structure built by convict stonemasons in 1858. It was originally constructed so that the Headmaster lived in the room above the central staircase and the children, according to their sex, entered the school from different doors.
Several interesting historic accomodation options are available including three cottages - Emma's, Victoria's and George's Cottage, all built of local sandstone by convicts.

The area was settled by Scottish farmers. Hamilton developed as a transport hub and by the 1830s had two breweries, six inns, stone quarries and agricultural implement makers. It was once destined to be the capital of Tasmania despite its vast distance from any port.
Hamilton's Historic Buildings

This sleepy little village has a number of historic buildings. The most important are St Peter's Church (consecrated in 1838), Glen Clyde House (1840), now a craft gallery, and the accommodation at the Old Schoolhouse (1856), Emma's Cottage (1830), George's Cottage (1845), Victoria's Cottage (1845) and the Hamilton Inn (1834).

St Peter's Church
The foundation stone for St Peter's Church was laid in 1834. It was completed in 1837 and consecrated by Bishop Broughton, the only Bishop of Australia, on 8 May 1838.
It is worth noting that the church has only one door. The reason for this was almost certainly to prevent the congregation, which in the early days was about 50 per cent convicts, from attempting to escape. The original church was a simple stone building. There were plans to add a spire to the tower in the 1920s but they never eventuated.

The headstones around the church date back to the 1830s. One of particular interest is that of Sarah Lane who died at the age of 8 years in 1844.
The inscription on the headstone reads:
This little inoffensive child
To Sunday school had trod
But sad to tell was burnt to death
h
Within the house of God
The dropped 'h' is the result of the stonemason getting his measurements wrong while the untimely death of the child as a result of a Sunday school fire seems extraordinary.
There is an interesting history of the church titled A History of St Peter's Anglican Church, Hamilton by Ernest Beavan.

The Old Schoolhouse

The Old Schoolhouse, a huge two storey structure, was built by convict stonemasons in 1858. It is an interesting comment on the times that it was originally constructed so that the Headmaster lived in the room above the central staircase and the children, according to their sex, entered the school from different doors. It was seriously deteriorating and was condemned to be demolished in the early 1970s but its restoration has made it one of Hamilton's most unusual and charming places to stay.
The Old School House building was built for then a princely sum of 700 Pounds. Half of this was raised by the forward thinking Hamilton locals. The front part of the building was one large class room which could accommodate up 80 children. The Head Master lived up stairs with his family.

The School House was closed down as a school in 1932 and “modernised” for the head teachers family, the stone porches located on both sides of the main building, where the girls and boys had entered the class room were removed. The students were relocated into a new weather board class room next to the main building. This building remained as a class room until the early 1960’s where it was closed down and converted into a library for the Hamilton area. The School library was converted into cottage accommodation in 2002. Rose cottage which is attached to the main school building was built in 1972 from sandstone blocks salvaged from the Old Hamilton brewery built in the early 1800’s.

Three Historic Cottages

The three cottages, Emma's, Victoria's and George's, also offer interesting historic accommodation. Like the Old Schoolhouse they were all built of local sandstone by convicts. Their current owner's passion for antiques has meant that they are probably better furnished now than they were when the first residents moved in.
The appeal of Hamilton, which is a truly charming and unspoilt village, is based on its peacefulness and its outstanding range of historic accommodation and overall local history which stretches back to the earliest years of the colony.

9 comments:

  1. I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it.Hamilton Accomodation

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, David. Hope you'll keep coming back to check out the new posts.
      Regards

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  2. I have a real mystery with the birth of a child at macqarie plains in 1862. have you any idea what the population was back then and how many inns-pubs there were.
    regards lisa lisa.shanahan@bigpond.com

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    1. Hi Lisa,
      Sorry I cant help you with that sort of info but the Hamilton District Historical Society certainly should be able to.
      This is the link I have found to contact them
      http://tasmanianhistorygroups.edublogs.org/hamilton-district-historical-society/
      Hopefully they can help with your query.
      Cheers Geoff

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  3. Hi Geoff, my Great, great, great Grandparents Henry Lodge & Elizabeth Stephens were married in St Peters Church in Hamilton. They later moved to Evandale. Do you know if the Church is still functioning and whether the records are accessible? Regards Jenny jenny_dm_59@hotmail.com

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    1. Hi Jenny,
      Yes St Peters is still operating as part of the Hamilton Parish. Details for the parish can be found with this link - http://www.anglicantas.org.au/parishes/?item=19
      They should be able to answer your questions regarding record accessibility.
      Kind Regards Geoff

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  4. Fantastic and very generous to list this resource. Well it certainly is a resource for family history researchers. Thank you. Jo Whitbread

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