Home » Towns » Tasmania » North East Tasmania » Tunbridge, TAS
Print

Tunbridge, TAS

Tiny, bypassed town famed for its convict-era bridge and historic buildings

Tunbridge was an important staging post on the road from Hobart to Launceston. Today, because it was bypassed in the 1960s, it is a tiny, sleepy little village with a number of interesting historic buildings. Most notable is the town's convict-era bridge which, built in 1848, is one of the oldest single span bridges in the country.

Location

Tunbridge is located just off the Midland Highway 95 km south of Launceston and 106 km north from Hobart.

^ TOP

Origin of Name

The tiny settlement of Tunbridge had been named by 1828. It probably took its name from the famous English spa town of Tunbridge Wells. The name was subsequently taken by the local pub, the Tunbridge Wells.

^ TOP

Things to See and Do

Historic Buildings
The appeal of Tunbridge lies in the number of historic buildings. All the visitor needs to do is walk around town and admire the buildings. For example, the small cottage next to Bowerman's General Store (see photograph) was built in the early 1850s and has been beautifully maintained with a simple, but beautifully maintained, garden.

Tunbridge Manor which dominates the centre of town has been well preserved. It was built as the Victoria Inn around 1851. It became an important staging post offering stables for the horses as well as accommodation, meals and drinks for the weary travellers. Today the building is privately owned but has up to eight bedrooms and the outbuildings include stables and sheds. Bowerman's General Store is in the process of major restoration. It is an impressive two storey Georgian building with a five window facade. Other buildings of importance are the Tunbridge Wells Inn (which was originally a farmhouse and was licensed as an inn in 1834 - it is a single storey Georgian Inn); The Victoria Inn (outside is a sandstone roller used to roll the roads by the convicts); the Coaching Stables (1843) and The Blind Chapel - now the Masonic Hall and reputedly 'blind' - no windows - on one side so the Wesleyan Church parishioners didn't have to look at the local pub.

Tunbridge Convict Bridge
Tunbridge Convict Bridge is the town's most important structure. Built in 1848 it is one of the oldest single span bridges in Australia. It spans the Blackman River at the northern end of the town. A simple structure it is important as a rare example of a convict-era sandstone bridge with timber decking. The bridge achieved notoriety as it was a place where Thomas Meagher, a "Young Ireland" rebel, held secret meetings with his co-conspirators.

^ TOP

Other Attractions in the Area

Ross
Only 15 km north of Tunbridge is the town of Ross (see https://www.aussietowns.com.au/town/ross-tas) which is famed for its outstanding convict-era bridge which dates from 1836 and is considered one of the finest examples of convict stonemasonry in the country. The town also has a fascinating Female Convict Factory (ruins) and a large number of significant Georgian buildings.

^ TOP

History

* Prior to European settlement the district was occupied by Lairmairrener First Nation people.

* In 1807 the surveyor Charles Grimes travelled through the area on his journey from the north to the south of the island.

* The town came into existence in 1809 and developed into an important coaching stop between Hobart and Launceston. A number of inns, with stables for the coach horses, were built in the town.

* The area developed in the 1810s as convicts worked on the main road from the north to the south of the island.

* In 1816 the first Hobart to Launceston mail service passed through the town.

* In 1848 convicts built the historic single span bridge across the Blackman River.

* In 1851 Tunbridge Manor, now the most impressive building in town, was built as an inn and staging post for the coaches which passed through the town.

* The Tunbridge Post Office was opened in 1856.

* By the 1960s the Midland Highway had bypassed the town. As a result the town has been able to maintain much of its historic charm.

^ TOP

Visitor Information

The nearest information is at the Ross Visitor Information Centre, Tasmanian Wool Centre, Church Street, Ross, tel: (03) 6381 5466.

^ TOP

Accommodation

No Accommodation or Eating facilities are available.

^ TOP

Useful Websites

There is a detailed website - http://ontheconvicttrail.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/tunbridge.html - created by combining information from other sources and a number of excellent photographs. It is worth checking out.

^ TOP
Got something to add?

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

7 suggestions
  • How is it that the bridge is reputed to be the oldest “single span bridge” in Australia when it clearly has two spans with a central pier?

    Paul Turvey
  • As of June 2018, the only gliding club in TAS is in the process of relocating to an airstrip near Tunbridge.

    Mike
  • Hi, Could tell me where the school would have been inn the 1930’s. My Mum went to school there when grandad was the policeman at Tunbridge.

    Marette Lawson
    • Strictly speaking, it is not the oldest single span wooden bridge in Australia but one of the oldest. It has five piers and the span refers to the length of the deck

      Ruth Macdonald
  • As a Tunbridge resident some of your info is incorrect. The old general store was owned by the Hazelwoods not Bowerman. The manor you talk about is not the original inn. That is on the original road and is a single story residence dated 1826.

    Julie
  • Much written about Tunbridge online and in print is inaccurate and being perpetuated. My documentation collected over the last ten years indicates the following:

    The bridge is ONE of the oldest single span timber bridge in Australia but not THE oldest, even if it is arguably the most impressive.

    The Tunbridge Wells Inn was originally a farmhouse and not licensed as an inn until 1834 whereas the Township of Tunbridge (which indicates the town boundaries not a built up area) was named in 1828 in a lease taken out by T. Harrison. So it seems the inn adopted the earlier government name.

    The named 1850’s cottage was not built until much later. Tunbridge Manor was built as the Victoria Inn about 1851. The Colonial Homestead said to date from 1820 is a fiction. The building referred to was built in about 1846 as the residence of the Superintendent of Convicts who were building the bridge and new line of road. The Victoria Inn and its coaching stables were not built in the 1840’s but date to about 1851. See above. The Blind Chapel is no longer the Masonic Hall but is privately owned and is in serious need of repair. Ballochmyle replaced its timber predecessor in 1842.

    Comments suggesting that Tunbridge became a town rapidly after 1809/10 are completely inaccurate. Even in 1858 the Assessment Roll lists only two private dwellings in the “township”. They are the Victoria Inn and the former Tunbridge Wells Inn, both owned by Charles Sutton. The Probation Station and residence, being government owned did not pay the valuation duty. Ballochmyle was outside the official “township” boundary.

    The photos are excellent but the “Tunbridge Manor” is at least ten years out of date and is misleading. The property is now a private residence and not named.

    Ruth Macdonald