Nestled between the junction of the St Pauls and South Esk Rivers, the small village of Avoca is the most westerly of the Fingal Valley settlements and is overshadowed by the sentinel of the entrance to that region, 1027 metre high St Pauls Dome (Ben Lomond vNational Park). The town was officially settled in 1834, and has relied almost continuously upon farming and mining for its economic stability, likewise enduring the fortunes and failures of these industries. Sadly the coal and tin mines which for so long provided the life blood for this isolated community, are now all closed.
Horse racing has a long history at Avoca, Simeon Lord first brought thoroughbred racehorses and racing was held on the Bona Vista estate. Frank O Connor still has the Correct Weight Siren which his father made from old car horns for that track. Racing then moved to St Marys.
Where Is it?: Avoca is 28 km south west of Fingal, 81 km south east of Launceston
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The old State School, which houses the museum and information centre, opened in 1908 at a cost of £348, and in 1929 there were 73 pupils enrolled. Prime Minister Joe Lyons visited the school in 1936, the year the wireless set and electric power were installed. A new school was built in 1951. Location: Avoca Museum and Information Centre, 16 Blenheim Street, Avoca. Ph: (03) 6385 2002.
St Thomas Anglican Church
The town still has a number of historic buildings including the local Union Hotel built in 1842, the former Rectory built in 1845 and the Parish Hall built around 1850.The most significant of the old buildings in the township, however, is St Thomas Anglican Church, which is set on a hill on the northern side of the main road and overlooks both the St Pauls and South Esk Rivers. Its Romanesque Revival style is a design attributed to James Blackburn, the architect who is believed to have designed the old church at Port Arthur. St Thomas was consecrated on the 8th May 1842.
The first baptism recorded is that of Charles Berwick on 1st October 1841. Avoca's Catholic church was built in the 1850s but in 1956 the weatherboard building was dismantled and rebuilt at Rossarden, it is now a home. A new brick church was erected on the site and opened in 1956, this also is now a home.
Near St Thomas' Church is Marlborough House, also known as Blenheim, constructed in 1850 it is understood to have initially been intended for use as an hotel, but a licence was not granted because of its proximity to the church. The building was later used as a grammar school, a coaching stop and a private residence. Of similar construction is what is now the Post Office, also built around 1850, and initially intended as a storehouse. It later became the Parish Hall where local functions were held.
One of the oldest houses still standing is in Churchill Street, erected in 1838 it is now owned by a local resident, Peter Stirrup, who has the original deeds. Other services to the town included the railway in1886, which helped with employment as the line was busy carrying coal from Fingal and tons of tin ore from Aberfoyle. The Post Office was opened in 1838, up till then the police magistrate was responsible for mail. Telegraph operations began in 1876 and continued for many years until the telephone exchange opened in 1921.
Just a stone throw from town, on the Rossarden Road, is the old homestead of Bona Vista. This fine example of Georgian architecture was built in stages by Simeon Lord. He was transported to Botany Bay in1791, sentenced to seven years for stealing. He worked as a servant, a baker s assistant, an auctioneer and shipping agent, becoming a friend of Governor Macquarie he was made a magistrate in 1811. His business interests included whaling, sealing, pearling, woolen and timber goods. He became one of the richest men in the colony, an amazing story for a convict.
Lord commenced building his home around 1840, but it appears to have not been completed until 1848, at which time 43 residents lived on the property, 18 of whom were convicts. The homestead seems to be designed with an emphasis on security, as early settlers in this region were under constant threat of attacks from bushrangers and natives.
An elaborate system of walled yards near the house offered some safety to valuable stock, which could be herded there when an attack was feared. The house itself is surrounded by a stone wall some 3 metres high and 60 cm thick. As well as a place for social gatherings Bona Vista was also the scene of several tragic events. In 1853 two bushrangers held up the homestead and shot a local constable. They were subsequently caught and both were executed. A nice irony is the fact that Tasmania s most famous bushranger, Martin Cash, worked as a groom at the property. In 1862 there was the murder of the child of a German couple, and in 1898 a young man is said to have been murdered on the homestead woodheap. Location: 75 Storeys Creek Road, Avoca.
Avoca Post Office
In 1825 Colonial Government Surveyor John Helder Wedge surveyed the area and called it St Pauls Plains. But it wasn't until the early 1830s, when a Police Barracks was built, that a township developed and took on the Irish name of Avoca. The area around Avoca in County Wicklow inspired Thomas Moore to write his poem The Meeting of the Waters in 1807. So the meeting of the St Pauls and South Esk rivers might have reminded a homesick Irishman of home. Previously the area was known as St Pauls Plains.
Early records show that James Gilligan was the first settler to the area in around 1820. He took up residence on his 1600 acre land grant a few miles east of the present township, and named his property Clifton Lodge. It was here in 1843, whilst District Constable William Ward was a dinner guest of the Gilligan's, bushrangers Riley Jeffs and John Conway raided the homestead. In the scuffle that followed Constable Ward was shot dead by one of the misguided men, and it is said the policeman s ghost still lingers amongst the old ruins today.
In colonial times convict probation stations were established at Avoca, Fingal, St Marys and Falmouth. In 1832 a garrison was here and for the first time the troops were recorded as being stationed at Avoca. The settlement was also known as Camp Hill and it is thought to be a camping area for any traffic to the East Coast. A bridge over the St Pauls river was established around 1846 and a coaching service through Avoca to St Marys began in 1852. The earliest mention of Avoca was an entry in the diary of John Helder Wedge the Government Surveyor in 1829, his 1833 diaries inform us that the village of Avoca was 'protracted and planned'. The township of Avoca was technically proclaimed in 1866.
In the 1960s and early 1970s Avoca gained national fame for what was headlined across the country as the 'The Avoca Shoot'. This referred to the Avoca Wallaby Shoot, an annual event organized by the Avoca Football Club to raise funds for the club and at the same time cull the wallabies which were in plague proportion on properties in the Avoca area. Hundreds of shooters would converge on Avoca each year where they would pay an entry fee to the footy club, head into the hills and if we believed the headlines in many Mainland papers "mass slaughter would take place".
In The Area
A scattering of old weatherboard and corrugated iron buildings is all that remains of the one-time boom town of Rossarden. Nestled at the foot of Ben Lomond, Rossarden was buzzing as late as the 1960's, when the Aberfoyle mine was working to full capacity. The mine, which opened in 1931 produced wolfram another name for tungsten operated until February 1982, when its closure sounded the death knell for the town. In its heyday, Aberfoyle was the biggest tin mine in Tasmania; at its peak in the 1950s, it employed an average of 230 men. When it closed, the mine tried to sell its former employees their home for a dollar, but few took up the offer and the town s population fell from 500 to just 90. Within a month, what was not sold was demolished and carted away.
Story's Falls is a cascading waterfall situated on Story's creek, near Rossarden. The waterfall works it way down from Stacks Bluff, part of the Ben Lomond plateau, and meanders it's way down the side of the mountain. The falls can be reached along Story's Creek Road, which is off the Avoca-Rossarden Road. From Story's Creek Road, you can see part of the waterfall from the bridge that crosses Story's Creek.
Royal George is a former mining village on the St Pauls River. At the 2006 census, Royal George had a population of 127. The mine and locality were named after one of the HMS Royal George ships from the 19th century. The first Royal George Post Office opened on 5 May 1914 and closed in 1920. The second office opened in 1955 and closed in 1971. Royal George is reached by turning south from the A4 Esk Highway onto C410. In the St Pauls River area towards Royal George were the Royal George Tin Mine, the Brookstead Tin Mine and Roy Hill Tin Mine and the Merrywood Coal Mine. None of these achieved big outputs, but struggled on for a few years. Well known mines in the area included Ben Lomond Tungsten Mine, the Great Republic Mine, the Long Tunnel Mine, the Rex Hill Silver Mine and Stanhope Coal Mine.
A small village on the road from Campbell Town, near the South Esk River, Llewellyn is often alternatively referred to as Stony Creek, a small tributary of the South Esk. Stony creek was a named rivulet in the 1800s but does not appear on modern maps. It was mentioned in colonial times in reference to the eponymous Tasmanian Aboriginal tribe (the Tyerrernotepanner clan) that still bears this name. The town now is a ghost of its former self and remains a mapped locality and railway siding. Salisbury Rivulet crosses the track at Llewelyn before flowing into the Esk. Salisbury was also the parish name in the area of Conara. Stony Creek and Salisbury Creek may well be one and the same.
Llewellyn first appears in early newspapers as being surveyed as a township and also as a site of a murder. A hotel was opened in 1873 by a publican from Campbell Town and by 1886 a siding was created at Llewellyn, with a trestle bridge over Stony Creek, and mention is made of the inn by the road, which had seen busier times. By 1899 the town had hosted horse race meetings, and there were at least two streets, but by 1903 hotel had already closed as business in the area declined and the town had only the school as a public building - the post office being contiguous with a private residence.
The remains of an old railway trestle bridge across Salisbury Creek can be found just east of Llewellyn station. The original 19th-century bridges on the Fingal Line were all timber trestles. By the 1950s these bridges were not worth maintaining and a decade-long program of gradual replacement commenced. A hazard speed restriction of 10 or 15mph applied to timber trestle bridges.