Early Settlement


To live in West Hobart is to live in the hills. It is no wonder, then, that it was one of the last parts of inner Hobart to be settled. When the
Land Commissioners reported to Lieut-Governor Arthur on the use of land in the Colony, in 1826, the Plan they attached to their Report showed a number of roads approaching what is now West Hobart, but which fell short of actually climbing those hills. Another map from about the same time and now in the possession of the Department of Lands, told the same story: Patrick and Brisbane Streets pointed from one direction and Molle from another, but none of them braved the heights.

The Land Commissioners had the job not only of making a survey of the whole Colony, but they were also charged with making valuations of lands in the settled districts. Their valuations of the yet unallotted West and North Hobart area are interesting. Most of it was valued at £4 per acre, while far more accessible land, lying between Argyle Street and the Domain, beyond Warwick Street, was listed at only £3 per acre. The uphill pull to these other sites might be a stiff one, but the Commissioners obviously thought it worth the trouble.

It was some time before the people who wanted land saw this point of view. The 1830’s were expansionist years for the young Colony but, at the end of that decade, when Government-Surveyor Frankland’s famous Plan of Hobart Town was published, it showed only very thin habitation of the large area around Hill Street. There were even fewer people living in the higher ground towards Knocklofty Terrace. The semi-circle, bounded by Hill Street and Landsdowne Crescent, was absolutely free of any buildings. But at last the key streets of West Hobart were now a reality.

One of the earliest grants made in this part of town covers land common to both West and North Hobart. It was made in 1822, to William Shoobridge, and covered the area bounded today by upper Elizabeth, Arthur and Mellifont Streets, and Mount Stuart Road. The name it held for many years was Providence Valley, apparently given by Shoobridge (a very religious man) after he had been shot at by bushranger, John Logan, while working on his crop of hops. The bullet is believed to have been deflected after striking a metal carpenter’s rule in Shoobridge’s thigh pocket, thereby probably saving his life.

Before it was settled, North Hobart existed as a heavily wooded barrier between Hobart Town and New Town, and was supposed-with some justification, it seems-to be the haunt of bushrangers and others who had put themselves outside the law. Both Matthew Brady and Martin Cash are believed to have camped there.

Even before settlement of West and North Hobart began, the government was exploiting the properties of the earth there by taking lime for cement and use in farming and cleaning. They were also mining clay for making bricks, and had limekilns and a quarry on six-and-a-half hectares between what is now Lochner and Brown Streets, virtually on the border between West and North Hobart. The kilns and quarry were in use for many years. Shoobridge managed the works in the 1820’s and his son, Richard, had the lease of them later.

William Shoobridge, a Kentish man, came from a long line of farmers and hop-growers and produced his first, marketable crop in Providence Valley, in 1825. His yield went up in succeeding years and he sold all of his hops locally. The Shoobridge family later grew hops in the Derwent Valley.

Increasing coach trade between Hobart and New Town and points north led to the establishment of public houses-The Dallas Arms in 1828, the Rose and Crown (now the site of the Empire Hotel) in 1831, and the Eagle Inn, in 1833.

Between 1826 and the early 1830’s came the first, real spurt in the development of North Hobart, and the emergence of a number of market gardens to feed the growing population in the town proper.

To process the increasing amount of wheat being grown, William McRobie (who gave his name to the road and gully where the Hobart Council Tip now graces the landscape) established a windmill at the top of Campbell Street, in 1830. So quickly was the area coming under cultivation that one William Hutton wanted to erect a storehouse for the great amount of manure being generated by the increasing numbers of livestock.

In 1826, Henry Condell received a small grant near what is now Condell Place and established a brewery. At about this time, in the largely undeveloped West Hobart, Stanwell Hall was built. Six years later, it would become the home, for a while, of that great colonial painter, John Glover. No road ran past its door for some years. An 1829 Plan of Hobart shows Melville Street ending at Barrack Street, with the Hall standing in splendid isolation in open land beyond this. Melville was extended some time in the 1830’s but, as late as 1841, the Census Map for that year shows only one other building on the same side of the road as Stanwell Hall in the whole block, and only two on the opposite side. Development was very slow indeed in these higher parts of West Hobart.

By this time-the 1840’s-North Hobart was well on the way to becom¬ing urbanised. Upper Murray Street-Veteran’s Row as it was known had about 150 people living in forty cottages. It had its name from the number of old soldiers-discharged men of the Royal Veteran Company of New South Wales-who were given grants there from 1825. Earlier this century The Critic published a reminiscence of a very old man who remembered these cottages:

When one was a lad one remembers the old veterans all battle scarred at the doors of neat little houses smoking pipes…

Years later, most of them were pulled down to make way for the Elizabeth College Sports Field.

The difference between development in North and West Hobart is dramatically illustrated by a survey of Hobart Town prepared by the Assistant-Surveyor, James Sprent, in 1841. Murray and Elizabeth Streets are full of houses all the way to Burnett Street, and Argyle is nearly as well off. But, while Upper Liverpool, Goulburn and Bathurst Streets are mod¬erately well supplied, houses are few and far between in Melville and beyond-all the considerable distance to Hamilton Street. It would be many years before there was parallel development.

Four years after this survey, one Jeremiah O’Sullivan, who later went into the public-house business, built the dignified 351 Liverpool Street in West Hobart, now owned by well-known Hobartian, Geoffrey Stilwell.

Years later again, when the gap between New Town and Hobart had all but disappeared, the distinguished Dr. Harry Benjafield had his mansion, The Willows, built in Elizabeth Street, North Hobart. That was in 1878, and it still stands there today as Mimosa.
Together with most of Hobart, these two old suburbs have their share of fine buildings and, most importantly, people dedicated to their preservation.

Mansions, cottages and All Saints: residences and churches, the heritage of Greater Hobart, Tasmania

Creator: Holiday, Audrey, 1925-2009
Pubs & Brothels – Goulburn Street

Timber gathering on Knocklofty

Water supplies?

View over Murray / Warwick Streets


4 Responses to Early Settlement

  1. Justin Hadley says:

    Hi, very interesting article/ Just by curiosity when was the photograph of the view over Murray and Warwick Sts taken? I live in Patrick St. between Harrington and Murray and the house in which I reside was built in 1910, but I believe there may have been a building on that prior.

    • martine says:

      Check the old maps of Hobart from the library (linc tasmania), you can see them online , also the drainage board map of 1908 is interesting as some house numbers changed then.

  2. Sir John Stuttard says:

    Fascinating. Well done. My wife is descended from William Shoobridge. He is her great-great-great grandfather. William Shoobridge had a granddaughter, Ruth, who married Allan McCall in Glenorchy, Hobart. Their son, William McCall, is my wife’s grandfather who was born in Hobart in 1885. I have written a book on their family entitled ‘A History of British McCalls’ which you can buy for £10 via Amazon. It describes the Shoobridge family history from Kent to Hobart and then (Allan, Ruth and William) to Sydney and to the UK. It also describes the rabbit meat canning factory which Allan McCall established in Hobart in the late 19th century which was a financial failure. It’s clear that the Shoobridges had better business acumen. We shall be visiting Tasmania in January 2020 to see some of the places where the family lived. Normally it’s Aussies that come to the UK to find their ancestors. In this case, we pommies will be doing it in reverse. Bw, Sir John Stuttard

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