Wednesday, 2 January 2013


A small and charming colonial settlement which is registered as a classified historic town, Kempton is located 49 km north of Hobart just off the Midland Highway.
The district was first settled by Europeans in 1814 and was known as Green Ponds - a name which is still retained as the local municipality. In 1816, Anthony Fenn Kemp, a thoroughly unpleasant and despotic soldier-merchant, who seems to have spent most of his life fighting with governors and trying to manipulate the political scene in both New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land settled in the district.

Kemp arrived in Australia in 1795 and served two years at Norfolk Island as a commissioned ensign in the New South Wales Corp. In 1799 he established a shop on the corner of King and George Streets in Sydney where he managed, due to his privileged position as treasurer of the Committee of Paymastership, to sell goods to his fellow soldiers at huge profits. One contemporary report suggests that he bullied his fellow soldiers into buying from his shop and marked up his goods by 100 per cent. Attempting to maintain this lucrative sideline he ended up brawling with Governor King over a shipload of brandy, waged a pamphlet war against Governor King, and was instrumental in the overthrow of Governor Bligh.

In 1804 he was appointed second-in-command at Port Dalrymple (Launceston) and from August 1806 to April 1807 was in charge of the infant colony. He settled in Van Diemen's Land in 1816 and by the 1830s, through a combination of grants and purchases, had 4100 acres in the Green Ponds area. It was here that he established and developed Tasmania's infant wool industry, bred horses and cattle, and introduced a hardy, North American, variety of corn. In some quarters he is known as the 'Father of Tasmania' but this has much to do with the fact that his family (who married extensively into the upper echelons of Tasmanian society) consisted of seven sons and eleven daughters.

It is not surprising, given the size of Kemp's holdings, that Green Ponds was renamed Kempton in 1838 and the Main Road ran through the town and brought rapid development to the district. The construction gangs of convicts and their military guards provided an incentive for local farmers and pastoralists to produce food . Two convict stations were situated in Kempton; one on land where the Church Glebe is now and the other at Picton, three miles (6 kilometers ) to the north. Military units were housed in barracks on the present Glenfern estate close by to where a new reservoir has been built.

Kempton had a flour mill, brewery and numerous lodging houses and hotels. After the end of transportation the town continued to be a centre for agricultural activities from the numerous farms and properties. Share farming was practiced on some of the larger properties by small farmers. Two groups who settled on the east and west of Kempton were Irish and Scottish immigrants whose farms were known as Irishtown and Scotchtown. Like many small farmers throughout the state, they have now all gone and their farms have become part of larger properties.

The Heritage Highway now bypasses Kempton, however, it is worth stopping by to explore. Drive or walk down Kempton’s main street and take in the 19th century atmosphere as you pass the inn, church, shops and Dysart House. Located at the southern end of town, Dysart House is an exceedingly handsome mansion, which is now privately owned.

St Mary's Church of England

The major historic buildings in the town include the National Estate listed St Mary's Church of England, a sandstone Gothic Revival building which was probably designed by James Blackburn. It was completed in 1844 and is notable for its square tower, its interesting cemetery, and its position as a central feature of Kempton's townscape.
Congregational Church

Nearby is the Congregational Church (1840) which is a simple stone Georgian church which also has an interesting old cemetery.
Wilmot Arms Inn

The Wilmot Arms Inn (1844) in the Main Road was built by convicts and operated as a licensed inn until 1897. It is said that the proprietor suddenly got religion and stopped making alcohol and fed all his spirits to the pigs. From 1897 it became a private residence. It fell into disrepair but was restored in 1978. Today it is part of Tasmania's Colonial Accommodation circuit.
Dysart House

Another coaching inn in the area was Dysart House (now a private residence) a large two storey Georgian stone inn which was built in 1842. It is recognised as one of the finest coaching inns on the old Midlands Highway.
Built in 1842 with no concern for expense, the original inn offered fine accommodation for travellers and their steeds. The impressive stables once provided shelter for 22 horses. The ballroom was the venue for many a glamorous occasion. A peephole in the door hints at more scandalous behaviour!

St Peters Church

St Peter's was built in 1918 to replace an earlier wooden chapel in Louisa Street. Originally it had been intended that the church would cost 1600 pounds but by the time the church was finished in 1923, the costs had blown out to 3400 pounds. Although now deconsecrated and privately owned, the building stands as testimony to the strength and conviction of Kemptons Catholic community.


  1. Excellent work, thankyou

  2. Hi Geoff
    I've just came across you site on Kempton an found it very interesting, I too have an interest in the place.
    I have written the family interest of some 10/12 convicts that came out to VDL and was my great grandfather and his cousin. The cousin David Dicker came out in 1844 died a pauper in Hobart. He and another convict Susan Palmer had a child they never did marry however she died and was buried in Green Ponds on 22nd March 1894 aged 56.
    There is no death certificate as I presume the death was never registered.
    I am wondering if you by any chance have come across any records that may give me something to go on.
    I was born in Burnie 1940 and have been doing family history for a number of years, I now live in Mooroopna Vic.
    The history of David Dicker is very interesting as he lived all his life in the southern part of Tas his son went on to become a Politician.
    I am always happy to share any info.
    Congratulations on your photos they are great.
    Regards Peter Dicker email

  3. Thanks Geoff for keeping the memories alive. You might like to read SARAH FLETCHER TRANSPORTED - historical fiction about Sarah Fletcher who came to Bagdad in 1825; the local squires (Kemp, Espie, Brodribb & co) get a mention in a history told from the ex-convict viewpoint. Sarah's first husband, Thomas White, was killed at Bagdad and her second, James Cowell, was murdered at Green Ponds. The book is only available as an ebook through Amazon, Google or Apple ibooks. Cheers PK

    1. Awesome PK. Thanks very much for that tip. Will certainly check it out. Cheers

  4. Hi Geoff,
    I discovered your blog when I found my ancestor, William Brooks, advertised opening a branch of his Hobart watchmaking business at Green Ponds in premises adjoining Mr Speed's Kemp Town Stores, in 1856. I don't know that it ran for very long.
    Christine Riding

  5. Sarah fletcher is also mentioned in the thoroughly researched book brothers in exile by leon isackson. A direct descendant of james white

    1. I read the Sarah Fletcher book - it had a lot of stuff about midlands history that I didn't know. The Isackson book has only a page about Tasmania and doesn't add anything to the history.

  6. hi, I also thank you for the photos and info. My research involves Owen Clark who was in 1827 recorded as being an orphan living with Joseph Johnson and his wife, although his mother was in fact still alive. Another mystery to solve I guess.
    Will be dropping in to Kempton shortly for a visit, thanks for the heads up.
    Judy Jerkins

    1. Thanks Judy.
      Enjoy your visit to lovely Kempton

  7. I have just discovered this site and have connection to Elizabeth Bruce, her second marriage, formally Anderson, nee Bruce, all three were convicts from Norfolk Island. Frances Flexmore and wife Elizabeth settled there in 1808.

  8. Thank you Geoff for this site
    I was searching for Green Ponds from reading a newspaper account in The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 - 1880), Wednesday 8 September 1847, page 2 of a murder trial. The accused had been arrested at the hut of John Tomkins (my ggg grandfather) The murdered man was George Lowe and on finding him missing his mate William Fitzgerald (both sawyers) travelled 3 miles to Green Ponds to give information to the police. Quion Tier and Jerusalem Tier are also both mentioned which I have not found but would guess to be in the vicinity of Colebrook. Jerusalem Tier was mentioned as being 3 miles from Barren Rock. St James of Jerusalem Anglican Church has a photo linked to Colebrook.
    If you or anyone reading this know of exactly where these places are I would like to know.

  9. Hi just found your site my GGgradparents where both convicts and married in Green ponds,Independent Chapel in 1854 my GGgrandmother was asigned to a G Kemp am wondering if it could be the same Family.

  10. Does any one know the history about the cottage at 9 Erskine st.