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New Norfolk, Tas

An Oast House near New Norfolk

St Matthew's Church

Willow Court

Glen Derwent

River Derwent near New Norfolk

The Toll House

A picturesque Georgian town set idylically on the banks of the River Derwent. New Norfolk is centrally located and is a perfect base from which to explore the surrounding areas. Mount Field National Park with its rugged beauty and seclusion is only 30 minutes away.
New Norfolk is a recommended day trip destination from Hobart. The stretch of Lyell Highway between Bridgewater and New Norfolk is particulary pretty, especially in the early morning with the river is calm and the reflection on the water of the hills is mirror-like.

Where is it?: Tasmania: South. 35 km from Hobart on the Lyell Highway between Hobart and Queenstown.

Things to see and do:

  • St Matthews church is the oldest church in Tasmania. Sections date from 1823.
  • The Methodist Chapel is the oldest church of that denomination in Tasmania (1837).
  • Bush Inn is claimed to be the oldest licensed hotel in Australia (1825). Dame Nellie Melba once sang on its balcony, Lady Franklin (wife of Governor) planted the pear tree in the garden.
  • Old Colony Inn, another early hostelry, is now a folk museum.
  • The Toll House, built in 1841, displays and sells Tasmanian produce and local crafts
  • The Oast House Hop Museum was a working oast house from 1867 to 1969. It has now been converted into a museum, gift shop, craft market and tea room.
  • Willow Court is a superb old stone building which was erected as a military hospital in 1830-31 by Major Roger Kelsall.
  • Derwent Valley Railway operates most of its regular passenger trains from its New Norfolk base, while some special trains depart from Hobart. Short trips from New Norfolk to Plenty and return (1 hour return), operate each Sunday.
  • Rosedown Cottage Gardens features hundreds of roses in this four and a half acre garden, which was transformed from orchards and hopfields into a series of delightful gardens.

Events: The Derwent Valley Community Market operates on the 3rd Sunday of each month in the old hospital grounds - lots of bric-a-brac, fresh produce and crafts.

Lookouts: Pulpit Rock and Peppermint Hill

Surrounding area:

Magra (3km north): In the grave yard of the Methodist Church is the grave of Betty King, the first white woman to set foot on Australian soil.

Black Hills (5km north): Olmec Alpaccas

Plenty (11km north west) The Salmon Ponds is the oldest trout hatchery in the Southern Hemisphere - in operation since 1864. Includes Museau of Trout Fishing and Hall of Fame.

Boyer (2km east): tours of the Norske Scog Boyer Newsprint Mill are available Tuesdays and Thursdays for groups to see the papermaking process from start to finish.

Bushy Park (19km north west): pretty village in the heart of hop growing country. Its fields of hops are broken by rows of Lombardy poplars. In the middle of one field of hops is the famous Text Kiln constructed by Ebeneezer Shoobridge in 1867. On the walls of the Text Kiln are quotations from the Bible, such as 'And these words that I command thee this day shall be in thine heart and thy shall write them on the posts of thine house and on thine gate'.

Mt Field National Park (29km west): featuring Russell Falls, Marriotts Falls; Lady Barron Falls; Horseshoe Falls; Lake Dobson, Tarn Shelf walk, Wylds Craig walk; Florentine Valley walk; Tall Trees walk

Trivia: origin of street names

About New Norfolk

Established as a new home for the residents of Norfolk Island when its settlement was closed down in 1811, the site was chosen by Gov. Lachlan Macquarie. New Norfolk was the third planned settlement to be undertaken in Tasmania, after Hobart and Launceston.  In 1803-4 when Hobart was first settled on the banks of the Derwent, it was considered important to explore this waterway and find out the potential of the surrounding areas. 
Starting in November 1807 and on through the following year, people from the Norfolk Island penal colony were persuaded to come to Van Diemens Land by offers of a generous exchange of land (4 acres for each acre held on Norfolk Island), a house of similar standard to that left behind, two or more convicts to assist them in clearing their new farms, and food and clothing from the stores for 12 months. By late 1808, 544 people (soldiers, convicts and free settlers) had arrived and they put an enormous strain on the colony's fragile economy. Although they were promised compensation for their forced move, many had the sense to realise that it would be impossible for the government ever to fulfil the wildly optimistic promises held out to them and some offered to supply themselves with housing if they could be provided with nails and a few necessary tools. Others proposed to wave all their claims for housing in exchange for stock (bengal cows and sheep) equal in value to the houses they had left behind on Norfolk.
Of the new settlers, 30% came to New Norfolk. The settlement there was at first known as The Hills because of its setting among hills, valleys and gentle streams.  In 1811 Governor Macquarie came to visit Van Diemens Land and mapped out a town site and named it Elizabeth Town (after his wife) in the District of New Norfolk. The name did not catch on although it was used on and off from 1811 to 1825, but the local settlers, wanting to preserve a link with their old island home, won the day and the town became officially known as New Norfolk.  The stream called the Thames by the locals, was renamed the Lachlan by Governor Macquarie (in honour of his son).
The going was tough for the early settlers and most had to be supported on government rations until 1812. There were no roads and no transport as we know it and the population was entirely dependent on river transport or following dirt tracks overland using horse-drawn vehicles and bullock wagons, but the settlement slowly grew and prospered.
In 1846 the first hop plants were brought in from Maria Island and this became a flourishing industry resulting in the traditional "New Norfolk" landscape - oast houses, fields of wired poles and windbreaks of Lombardy Poplars, a spectacular sight in autumn.
The Derwent Valley was rich in soil and timber and by 1902, had began to develop at a rapid pace. One of the contributing factors was the extension of the railway line. This much needed facility brought greater prosperity to the rural communities and in 1907 the Hydro-Electric Power & Metallurgical Company commenced operations at the Great Lake. Flooding in the lower reaches of the Derwent River has been a periodic event and New Norfolk has rebuilt the bridge, linking both sides of the town, four times. Floods and the Pneumonic Flu in 1917 decimated the population of the island as it did across the world.

Historic buildings of note

The Oast House Hop Museum
The building served as a working oast house from 1867 to 1969. It has now been converted into a museum, gift shop, craft market and tea room. It is located on a hill overlooking what were once the extensive hops fields that drove the economy of the town and surrounding district. The museum in the Oast House has interesting displays which explain how the hops were processed and the hop farming methods which were used throughout the Derwent Valley.

Toll House
Built on the northern side of the River Derwent, the Toll House (right) was erected in 1841 by private enterprise along with the first bridge over the river at New Norfolk. The toll keeper collected the toll, firstly from foot traffic in 1841 and in 1842 the bridge was opened to vehicles. It is believed it was used this way until 1874. In the 1970s, the tiny building was used as a youth hostel, providing very basic accommodation for a maximum of six women and six men. The Toll House is now managed by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service, leased now to operators for the display and sale of Tasmanian produce and local crafts.

Willow Court
A superb old stone building which was built as a military hospital in 1830-31 by Major Roger Kelsall. Only one room wide, with wide verandahs and gabled two storey sections at the corners and in the centre, Willow Court was originally conceived by Governor Arthur as a location where invalid convicts could be housed. Willow Court is part of the former Royal Derwent Hospital and is the oldest mental hospital in Australia on its original site. It is a remarkable and simple building of great elegance and character.

St Matthew's Anglican Church
One of the oldest churches in Australia, construction commenced in 1823 and it was consecrated in 1828 by Archdeacon Scott from Sydney. In 1833 extensive additions made it a much more impressive building. A tower was added in 1870 and in 1894, after a period of energetic fund raising, the chancel was added and the windows, roof and transepts were altered. All that is left of the original church are the walls and flagged floor of the nave and part of the western transept. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the church are the excellent stained glass windows.

Glen Derwent
An early colonial convict built property classified by The National Trust. The property started life as an inn, being licensed as the King of Prussia Inn in 1829. The licensee was Oscar Davis who came to Van Diemen's Land as a convict sentenced to 14 years for forgery. Later it was known as Elwin's Hotel, where for two and a half years it was home to the exiled Irish revolutionary William Smith O'Brien. Smith O'Brien was the leader of the failed Irish uprising and rebellion in 1848, following the potato famines. Smith O'Brien spent some time at Maria Island, then Port Arthur for a few months, then came his time at Glen Derwent, where he rented a room with adjoining lounge for £6 per month. Although still a convict and in exile, he was permitted by the authorities to roam the district.

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New Norfolk
Derwent Valley

Where Is It?: Tasmania: South