Sunday, 20 October 2013

Orford

The original inhabitants of the area were the Tasmanian Aboriginal people from the Oyster Bay tribe who lived a peaceful hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Following European settlement, many died from introduced disease, displacement from their native home or conflict with settlers.
During the Black Line wars of 1830, Edward Atkyns Walpole captured a man and a boy and was granted 1000 acres south of the Prosser River. He named his grant “Strawberry Hill” in honour of the London home of Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford.

In 1837, Walpole sold his land and the area was recorded as Orford, a Post Office Town. Early settlers managed farms, were fisherman or worked in the local timber industry with very basic infrastructure around them.

The town was first established as a mainland port for the convict settlement on Maria Island. However, the marine infrastructure never consisted of more than a few short jetties in shallow waters just inside the mouth of the river which still remain today. The narrow channel at the river's mouth is flanked by a substantial sandbar, rendering the river unsuitable for larger vessels. The main source of supplies were shipped by steam vessel or small trading vessels because the road to Hobart on the south bank of the Prosser River was reported to be one of the worst tracks in the colony. It was sarcastically named “Paradise Gorge”. The Prosser River was named after Thomas Prosser, an escaped convict, who escaped in 1808 and was recaptured in the area.

In 1844, convicts started work on what is known as the “Convict Road” on the north side of the river and built the Paradise Probation station to house the convicts during construction of the road. Three years later, work ceased and the station was abandoned. Most of the buildings were destroyed by a bushfire in 1856 although a few remains can still be seen along the walking track.

By 1861, improvements were made on the south side of the river to the road and a punt began operating across the river until it was replaced by the Meredith River bridge in 1866 and further two bridges since.
From 1869, a small community grew up around a quarry near east Shelley beach. The quarried sandstone was used in buildings in Hobart and also in the construction of Melbourne’s Post office & Town Hall. With the closure of the quarry in 1882, many people left the area although Orford remained popular with campers from Hobart and nearby districts.

In the early 1900’s, Orford became known as a pleasant holiday resort with several boarding houses and holiday shacks dotting the landscape. Since the dam was completed on the Prosser River, more permanent homes and holiday houses have been built, existing infrastructures such as shops and the school have been improved and new recreational ventures commenced.

Residents and visitors continue to enjoy the river, beaches and many activities this peaceful area offers including walking the various tracks along the beautiful coastline.

Information sourced from local history signs around the Orford area

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