Perth, Tasmania

A National Trust classified town situated by the South Esk River, Perth is the first major town out of Launceston on the route to Hobart, and also serves as a major junction for people bypassing Launceston on the route from Hobart to the northwest of the state.

Where Is it?: 19 kms south of Launceston

Perth is a quiet historic village which has largely been by-passed by the tourism that has turned many of Tasmania's other historic villages into centres full of gift shops and antiques retailers. There are a number of buildings of achitectural interest including Eskleigh, the Baptist Tabernacle, and St Andrews Church. A National Trust brochure, available around the town, lists no fewer than 41 building heritage buildings. These range from hotels, to private homes, to old shops. It is an invitation to wander around the town and explore its heritage.

A Tasmanian Governmenmt Railways 4-8-2 steam locomotive on display in Lions Park, 26 Main Road, Perth. The locomotive, H6, was built by Vulcan Foundry No. 5954 in 1951. H2 and H6 were the first TGR steam locos in the TGR red livery, which they acquired in 1956 for passenger train working working the 2nd. Division Western Line. H2 is currently under overhaul by the Derwent Valley Railway, New Norfolk.

Brief history

The area was first explored by Europeans as early as 1806 shortly after the establishment of Launceston (Perth is only 19 km from Launceston) and it was passed through by Governor Macquarie on his first exploration of 1811. Ten years later, on 30 May, 1821 he stood near where the Perth bridge stands today, and declared it as a site for a future town, naming it after Perth in Scotland (Perth in Western Australia was still 8 years away from being founded).

Subsequently a ferry across South Esk river, a military post and an inn were erected. The first settler in the area was Thomas Massey, the Chief Constable of Launceston, who established a farm in the district in 1814. Famously the farm was raided, and the barn was burnt down, by the bushranger Matthew Brady in 1824. The town was laid out in 1833 and a bridge across the South Esk river was constructed by convict labour three years later. It was subsequently destroyed by floods in 1880, and again in 1929 and 1971. It has been rebuilt on each occasion.

In 1837, five years after the practice ceased in England, the body of John McKay was gibbetted near the spot where he murdered Joseph Wilson near Perth. There was great outcry, but the body was not removed until an acquaintance of Wilson passed the spot and horrified by the spectacle of McKay s rotting corpse, pleaded with the authorities to remove it. The place where this occurred was just to the right (when travelling towards Launceston) of the Midlands Highway on the northern side of Perth, and is marked by a sign which reads 'Gibbet Hill'. It was the last case of gibbeting in a British colony.

Leather Bottle Inn

The Leather Bottle Inn at 55 Main Street, Perth, dates from the 1830s and is the oldest (or second oldest) building in Perth. It was named after a hotel in Cobham, Kent, England which was a popular watering hole for the novelist Charles Dickens. He even had his favourite seat. Some of the walls are over 60 cm thick and there are still handmade nails in the original cedar. John MacNamara, a police constable was shot and killed at the inn by two other constables (ex-convicts) who were tried for his murder and found guilty of the crime. Both were executed. Over the years the Leather Bottle has been a Hotel, Post Office, a private boarding house (it was originally two storeys), a private residence and more recently a licensed restaurant.