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Hamilton, TAS

Historic town in the Derwent Valley

Hamilton is a small Georgian and early Victorian village in the Derwent Valley which has remained largely unspoilt. Today it is still sufficiently removed from the commercialisation of places like Richmond to offer the visitor an opportunity to experience what the villages of southern Tasmania were like in the 1830s and 1840s. It is easily accessible being only one hour from Hobart. The appeal of the town is a product of its peacefulness and its excellent collection of well-preserved historic buildings. There is also excellent fishing at Lake Meadowbank.


Hamilton is located 73 km north-west of Hobart on the Lyell Highway.


Origin of Name

There are three explanations for the naming of Hamilton. Some claim that Governor Lachlan Macquarie, in 1821, named the town after the town of Hamilton in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. Other sources claim that it was named by Governor Arthur in 1829 after his friend William Henry Hamilton, the Hobart Town Postal Officer. A third explanation argues that Governor Arthur, being a Scot, named Hamilton and Bothwell after he had renamed the Clyde River. Hamilton and Bothwell were both towns on the Clyde in Scotland. Whatever the origins it was known as Hamilton by 1835.


Things to See and Do

Hamilton's Historic Buildings
There is an excellent brochure - Historic Hamilton - Let's Walk About Hamilton - which identifies 18 historic buildings in the small town. Of particular interest are:

St Peter's Church (1834)
The foundation stone for St Peter's Church was laid in 1834. It was completed in 1837 and consecrated by Bishop Broughton, at the time the only Bishop of Australia, on 8 May 1838.
The explanation for the church having only one door is a comment on the times. It was almost certainly to prevent the congregation, which 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 deat
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 bizarre.

1. McCauley's Cottage (1840)
This cottage was built by the Church of England for the local clergymen. It was one of three built by the Anglican Church in the 1840s. In 1906 the church sold it and it became self-contained historic accommodation in 1989. It can be rented, tel: (03) 6286 3232.

2. Jackson's Emporium (1856)
James Jackson's Emporium was built in 1856 (there is a stone plaque chiselled above the door). The Emporium was built onto the side of Jackson's house (which was 2 storeys, built in 1845 and called Franklin House).  At different times the Emporium and the house have been on separate Land Titles.  The titles are currently joined.  In about 1930 there was a fire in Franklin House. The Emporium was unaffected.
The Emporium is now a cafe, a delicatessen of Derwent Valley produce, the reception for accommodation and a retail outlet for other products and activities.  It is called an Emporium because the current business is like a tourism centre of commerce or a department store (the original meaning of the word emporium).

3. The Old Post Office (1835)
Once the home of the Hamilton Council clerk whose wife ran the local post office from the building. It is said that she had to cancel the stamps manually because the post office stamp had gone missing.

4. Warders Cottage (1840)
This simple cottage was used by the local gaolers. It is now occupied by the local Historical Society's Heritage Centre and Museum. It is located on Tarleton Street

7. Blanchs Store (1830)
No one is sure when this building was completed. It was built sometime between 1820 and 1840 and has been used as a butcher's and baker's shop for most of its existence.

8. Prospect House (1830)
This house was built in 1824 and enlarged by Dr John Sharland in 1829. He became Hamilton's first warden in 1863.

9. Three Historic Cottages
The three cottages, Emma's, Victoria's and George's, now offer historic accommodation. They were all constructed of local sandstone by convicts. Tel: (03) 6286 3270 for bookings.

10. The Rectory (1845)
This home for the local ministers has operated for over 150 years and has been the home of over 23 local clergymen.

13. Old Hamilton Inn and Barn (1834)
Built by convicts this building was an inn until the 1970s when it became a private home.

16. Glen Clyde House (1840)
Originally built by convicts as a private home, Glen Clyde House is located prominently at the end of the main street. It was licensed in 1844 and originally known as the 'Tasmanian Lass'.

17. The Hamilton Inn (1830)
William Roadnight, who built the Hamilton Inn, was a mill owner, pound keeper, policeman and postmaster. It remained a private home until 1838 when it became the New Inn. It is still a licensed hotel. It is located on Tarleton Street.

18. The Old Schoolhouse (1858)
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.



* Prior to European settlement the area around Hamilton was inhabited by the Lairmairrener Aborigines for thousands of years.

* The first European explorers to reach 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.

* By 1807 settlers had moved into the area.

* By 1828 there were a small number of houses in the district.

* A visitor in the early 1830s reported that there were 30 sly grog shops in the settlement.

* In 1832 there were sixty people living in and around the town. At this time the town successfully petitioned for a policeman as the area was suffering from robberies by bushrangers and escaped convicts.

* By 1835 the town's population had risen to 779 with 309 convicts working on buildings and the surrounding agricultural land. In this year the town became known as Hamilton.

* The police force rose to eleven petty constables and a flagellator - for whipping convicts - by 1837.

* By 1844 Hamilton had two breweries, six inns, a blacksmith, a large convict probation station and was marked out to become a major centre.

* 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.

* In 1881 the town had a population of 400.


Visitor Information

Hamilton Heritage Centre and Museum, Post Office, Tarleton Street, Hamilton.


Useful Websites

There is an official website - http://www.discovertasmania.com.au/about/regions-of-tasmania/hobart-and-south/hamilton - which has useful information.

Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

7 suggestions
  • Hello My name is Joy Ratcliffe I was looking for a picture of the Rectory at St Peters Anglican
    Church and the church. I am a descendant of Rev Arthur Edward Hutchinson and gathering research from his life there. And also If there is a window in the church with reference to his son Arthur Justin Sanford Hutchinson who was killed in France in 1916.
    Regards Joy

  • Hi Joy.. My late mother was Arthur Edward Hutchinson’s grand daughter.. Please contact me at treehutt@gmail.com

    Jan Mitchell
  • I’m researching a convict, William John who was a chain maker in Wales prior to his conviction. It is thought that he became a blacksmith at either Hamilton or Ouse Tasmania?
    Any information regarding my question would be appreciated!

    Marlene Mesenberg
  • Just wondering if there is a map detailing the old buildings

    Pamela FROST
  • How do I get a copy of the brochure – Historic Hamilton – Let’s Walk About Hamilton

    Pamela FROST
  • Hi, I am hoping to conduct some family research into the Gill and Reggett families. My great-grandfather and great-grandmother were married at St Peters on 2 May 1885. Is there a historic society which is active in the district, and is there a local newspaper archive which I might access?

    Lynn Gill
  • Hi. Sarah Lane cause of death was not bizarre for those times. Maybe hard to understand with all the health and safety in this day and age. It was not uncommon for clothes to catch fire from candles or open fires and for people to be burnt to death. Her death was reported in newspaper. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/264599320?searchTerm=Sarah%20lane

    Nick Childs