Ross, Tasmania

A small historic town that is the commercial centre for a district that produces high-quality merino wool. Ross has a very English country village feel, with its warm Ross sandstone reminiscent of the towns of the Cotswolds or North Oxfordshire, England.

Where is it?: Ross is 117 km north of Hobart; 78 km south of Launceston, off the Midland Highway

One of the most attractive aspects of Ross is that it has not been overly corrupted by modern tourism  that the Midland Highway (the main route between Hobart and Launceston) by-passes Ross, thus preserving the original, sleepy character of the town is largely the reason for this being so.

The wide main street is remarkable for its fine collection of colonial buildings and elm trees which line it; it simply has no peer in Australia. The first settlers couldn't have recreated their mother country more precisely. The whole town of Ross is listed on the Register of the National Estate and many of the town's historic buildings, many built from sandstone, are listed in their own right. Many of its old buildings are home to art galleries and shops selling bric-a-brac, collectables, antiques, gifts, second-hand treasures and timber, wool and craft products. Allow yourself at least a few hours of browsing time if you are drawn to such places.

The town is centred on the crossroads of Church and Bridge Streets with a field gun from the Boer War and a war memorial as a central part of the intersection. The crossroads area is humorously referred to as the "Four Corners of Ross" with each corner having a label, potentially leading your soul in one of four directions:

1. Temptation: the Man O’ Ross Hotel, which dates from 1835, was established by William Sadler.
2. Re-creation: the Town Hall, where dances and other social events were often held, was originally part of the home of the Governor of the Prison.
3. Salvation: the Roman Catholic Church, originally a store, home and bakery owned by the Bacon family, but converted to a church in 1920.
4. Damnation: the town jail and police station, now a private residence.

When passing through the area long before the town was established, Gov Lachlan Macquarie camped at the locality in 1821 and record in his journal "I named our last Night's Station "Ross", in honor of H. M. Buchanan Esqr. – that being the name of his Seat on Loch-Lomond in Scotland; this part of Argyle Plains on the Right Bank of the Macquarie River being very beautiful and commanding a noble view."

Around Town

Ross Bridge

Four years in construction and built of stone quarried locally by convicts and completed in 1836, it's unquestionably one of the most picturesque and unusual bridges in Australia. Its ornate carvings are the work of Englishman Daniel Herbert, who came to Van Diemen's Land a convicted highway robber. He died here a free man - he was buried in the local cemetery on a hill not far from the bridge - and he would have thanked Ross Bridge, for it was his work on its construction that gained him a pardon and his release from a chain gang. James Colbeck, another stonemason who worked alongside Herbert, also received a pardon for his work on the bridge.

The bridge was designed by the Government Architect, John Lee Archer, as a replacement for an earlier wooden structure that had fallen into disrepair. Archer's plan was for a freestone bridge built for "beauty and durability". His design was for a solid stone structure with three symmetrical arches. a curved stone staircase at each end of the bridge goes down to the river, and chain linked stone pillars lead to the bridge on both sides of the road at each end of the bridge.

Stone and timber for use in the bridge's construction was readied but a delay in the commencement of the bridge's construction prompted Gov. Arthur to send Divisional Jorgen Jorgenson and six constables to Ross to investigate. It appears that some of the materials prepared for the construction of the bridge had been used in the building of a number of houses at Ross as a result of dealing with settlers and the supervisor of the work.

Work on the bridge finally commenced in 1833. The main credit for its construction goes to convicts Daniel Herbert and James Colbeck. As overseers of the workforce, they laid all the stones and Herbert did most of the carving.

Tourists from all over the world come to photograph the bridge and marvel at the sandstone panels, with its 186 carvings consisting of abstractions of shapes - animals, birds, insects, plants, Celtic God and Goddesses, and heads of friends and foe, including the Governor of day, George Arthur. The fine craftsmanship of the Ross Bridge is a unique colonial legacy, cast in locally quarried sandstone. Why the carvings and there and what they represent is discussed elsewhere (follow the link below).

The Ross Bridge Carvings

Ross Female Factory

A former Australian workhouse for female convicts, the Ross Female Factory was operational between 1848 and 1854. It is now one of the 11 sites that collectively comprise the Australian Convict Sites, on the World Heritage List. Representing the female experience, the Ross Female Factory demonstrates how penal transportation was used to expand Britain's spheres of influence, as well as to punish and reform female convicts.

The Ross Female Factory opened in March 1848 and closed in November 1854. Transportation to Van Diemen's Land had ceased in 1853. The site served as a factory as well as a hiring depot, an overnight station for female convicts travelling between settlements, a lying-in hospital and a nursery. Female convicts were hired from the factory as probation passholders to local settlers, mainly to work as domestic servants. They could be sent back to the factory for punishment if they were charged with an offence by their master or mistress. Hundreds of female convicts passed through the Ross Female Factory during its six and half years of operation. Some of their stories appear in Convict Lives at the Ross Female Factory. Today the site has the remains of the assistant superintendant's and overseer's cottages which includes a scale model of what the site used to look like as well as other interpretive displays.


Tasmanian Wool Centre

Ross is located in a region famed for its fine merino wool. The Wool Centre at Ross is the place to go to see some of Australia's finest woollen products. The Ross Visitor Information Centre is located in the wool centre. The Tasmanian Wool Centre offers in its Retail area a distinctive display of high quality wool products and Tasmanian crafts. Stroll around the Heritage Museum and Wool Exhibition and acquaint yourself with the wonder of Tasmanian wool. Delight in entertaining audio-visual presentation on the Australian Wool Industry and also experience the historic displays on the convict period, including the Ross Bridge.

42 Degrees South

When Col William Paterson was sent to establish and oversee Port Dalrymple at the mouth of the Tamar River, NSW Governor Phillip King was aware that Paterson, an Army man, was not thrilled at the idea of being under the control of Lt. Gov Collins, a naval officer, who was the Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land, based in Hobart. To avoid conflict between Paterson and Collins, Gov. King decided to split the island in half. This established two counties of equal status - Cornwall in the north and Buckingham in the south - both governed from New South Wales, separated by the 42nd parallel south, but independent of each other.

The establishment of a border between north and south served its purpose, and though King did not have to deal with any major disagreements between north and south, the border did foster revalry between the two that continued to influcence Tasmanian social, politican and economic life long after the 42nd demarkation line was dissolved. Even today, community differences are celebrated but also have acted as hindrances to the overall well-being and unity of the island. Though Hobart is acknowledged as the state capital, northerners still view Launceston as the "northern" capital.

The 42nd degree demarcation is celebrated in a series of display panels near the Four Corners of Ross, which sits on the 42 Degrees South parallel.

Heritage Buildings

Ross Barracks

The Barracks were built to house the soldiers responsible for maintaining law and order during the early settlement of Ross. In 1831 there was one officer, one sargent and eighteen men stationed here. The building is now a Private Residence. Between 1824 and 1854, many regiments of the British Army were stationed in the area including the 3rd East Kent Regiment (1824-1825), the 40th Foot Second Somersetshire (1824-1829) and the 4th Royal Lancashire Regiment (The King's Own, 1831-1832). Stonemason Daniel Herbert married Mary Witherington at these barracks in 1835. Location: 3 Bridge Street, Tas.

Ross Library

The library was the original headquarters of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps whose crest is carved above the lintel of the door. The building dates from 1836. The recreation rooms were added as a memorial to the soldiers of World War II. In the 1840s it also housed the office of the visiting magistrate dealing with convict misdemeanours.

Ross War Memorial

The war memorial commemorates the young men of the district who served their country in times of war. The earliest is a memorial to Trooper Fitzallen aged 20 who died in service at the Boer War in 1902. There is a 15 pound field gun which is also a relic from the Boer War, it is one of only two left in Australia and is a bit of a mystery as to why it is here in Ross. The World War I memorial, topped by a statue of an infantryman, is unusual in that it also includes the rank of the soldier. A plaque recognising Lewis McGee who was awarded the Victoria Cross in WWI. There are other plaques that list the servicemen of World War II and the Korean War.

Old Stables

The old stables on the hill, south of the bridge were part of the early military establishment. The stables, along with the cowshed and chicken house are all built into the side of the hill with the natural rock providing part of the structure. The manger in the cowshed is carved out of the rock.

Old Ross Primary School

Built in 1875, the Old Ross Primary School operational from 1877 to 1999 when falling pupil numbers forced it's closure. This was one af a handful of schools that operated in Ross in those early days. The Gothic Revival schoolhouse is a very important element in the historic village both in its position on the crest of the hill to the south of the Council Chambers and as an example of an early educational structure. Location: Bridge Street, Ross, Tas.

Army Orderly Room

The former Army Orderly Room is a stone Colonial building which was the first army headquarters in Ross. Nearby is the Royal Ordnance Corps Store, which was erected in 1836 and has the corps crest carved above the door. This building now houses the Ross Memorial Library and Recreation Room. Location: 50 Church Street, Ross, Tas.

Council Clerk's Cottage

The Council Clerk's cottage, situated on the south-west corner of Church and High Streets is a single storey Georgian building. The western wing of this building incorporates the former police buildings. The building is the 'damnation' site of the Four Corners of Ross as the town gaol stood on this site.

Ross Bakery Inn

Ross Bakery Inn was convict built in 1832 for John Dickinson, a free settler from Nottinghamshire England, the Ross Bakery Inn is a classic Georgian house built from Ross quarried sandstone. Originally named the Sherwood Castle Inn (a clear link with Nottinghamshire) it served for many years as a coaching inn and horse change on the Hobart Road. It takes its present name from Ross s original bakery that has operated alongside the inn for over 100 years. The Ross Bakery formed the inspiration for Studio Ghibli s cult anime film Kiki's Delivery Service, and every year Japanese fans make the pilgrimage to Tasmania to have their photo taken in front of it.

Ross Town Hall

The Town Hall is a neo-classical style late-Victorian building. The adjoining Council Chambers is a timber building with a stone facade. The Post Office was completed in 1889 and has a verandah with twin cast-iron columns. The schoolhouse is a Victorian Rustic Gothic building with random rubble sandstone walls.

Man O' Ross Hotel

The Man O' Ross Hotel was built in 1831 by William Sadler. It was originally a two-storey Georgian building, but was later converted to a Victorian Style. Two former inns, The Scotch Thistle Inn (licenced 1840) and the Sherwood Castle Inn, no longer function as hotels, the former is now a private residence and the latter has been renamed and operates as the Ross Bakery Inn.

32-34 Church Street

The release of Holden's first motor car in 1948 led to a flurry of new dealerships springing up around Australia. One of these opened in Church Street, Ross, early in 1949. Amazingly, the Holden sales and service garage is still standing today and painted above its doors is the very first Holden emblem which graced the car manufacturer's early models. Attached to the showroom/service centre is a 2 bedroom residence built as the manager's quarters. The building is currently used as crafts gallery.

Captain Samuel's Cottage

Captain Samuel's Cottage has been used as a convict barracks, a grindstone shop, butchery, antique shop and private home. Built Circa 1830, it is named after a wealthy merchant seaman, Captain Samuel Horton, who decided to hang up his sextant and settle in Ross. He became well known for many achievements, one being having a magnificent Methodist college built on his land and having it named after himself, Horton College. He bought the cottage after the government had finished using it as a low-security convict barracks.

Poppy's Cottage

Daniel Herbert, a convict stonemason famous for his work on the Ross Bridge, lived in this small stone cottage by the Macquarie River after he gained his pardon, from February 1842 until his death in 1868. Location: 2 Badajos Street, Ross. He would have had a good view of his bridge from the cottage. Daniel Herbert died of bronchitis on 28 February 1868 at Campbell Town, survived by his wife; they had three children. Private property, no public access.

Thistle Gallery

This fine standstone building is the former stables building for the old Scotch Thistle Inn. Extensively restored, the sandstone building houses a gallery focused on glass, ceramics, photography, sculpture and paintings. The Gallery showcases and encourages the talent of emerging artists. The old Scotch Thistle Inn is a fine example of one of Australia s early colonial inns, and beneath the floor remain colonial stone drains; the roof timbers are held by hand made nails and the doors swinging on original, handmade hinges. Like many of the town's buildings, it is constructed of Ross stone quarried by hand, pick-dressed and set in lime mortar.

Ross Wesleyan (Uniting) Church

The Churches of Ross

The town of Ross has three churches, all located on elm-lined Church Street. The Uniting Church, situated prominently on the hilltop, was built in 1885 and is noted for its blackwood pews and carved cherubim baptismal font, the beautiful stained glass windows and the modern tapestry which depicts the tree of life and was woven in Aubusson in France. The present church replaced the First Methodist church which fell into disrepair.

Roman Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Church building was originally a store and was converted in the 1920s in Gothic revival style. The catholics of the town were were mainly Irish convicts and emancipits and were too poor to build their own place of worship. Earlier services were conducted at the female factory site after it closed as a prison. In 1920 Father John Graham arranged for the present church to be converted from a store, bakery and residence. The walls were raised and the roof and tower added. The spire was rebuilt with a cross on top in the early 1980's.

St John's Anglican Church

St John's Anglican Church, on the corner of Badajos Street, was built in 1868 and contains a 100-year-old pipe organ, an oak lectern and a stone pulpit. It was erected using stone from the original church built in 1835. That church had to be demolished due to the failure of the foundations. The clock in the tower was made in Birmingham, England.

It is the earliest of all three Churches in Ross, with Mr Kermode bearing most of the costs. It is considered one of the finest parish Churches in Tasmania of fine proportions. The original Burial Ground was the site of the first St John’s Church. The foundation stone was laid by Governor Arthur on the 20th of October, 1835. William Grant Broughton consecrated it on the 11th May, 1838.

The Three Churches of Ross

Old Burial Ground

>Located on a windswept hill overlooking Ross, the Old Burial Ground offers panoramic views across the southern fields of Ross, which have changed little over two centuries. From this hill there is a view of the Female Factory in Ross. From the Ross Bridge there is a heritage trail that runs beside the Macquarie River and up past the Female Factory, across the railway line, along past a stone wall next to the Anglican cemetery and across Park Street to the laneway that leads to the Old Burial Ground.

The Old Burial Ground was the first cemetery in Ross, when a military outpost and convict station was established in the 1820s. The ground continued as a cemetery after the convict era closed in 1853 and continues from then until now as a place of reflection. Many of its stones date back to the 1830's and 1840's. Some of them have been attributed to stonemason Daniel Herbert, who built Ross Bridge. There is a substantial monument built for two young children of the McCraken family who both died on 3rd June 1853 from scarlet fever. Another stone honors Phillip Maher, barrack sargent of Ross who also served in the Waterloo campaign.

Daniel Herbert's own grave is here marked by a table-top tombstone he designed for his son who died in infancy. At one time the remains of the stone urn on Herbert’s memorial was taken away, but later returned to Ross by train in 1976 and can now be seen in the Tasmanian Wool Centre in Ross. A new urn was carved, following a design by Herbert and placed on his memorial.

In The Area

Tacky Creek Road Bridge

This stone bridge, which carries a service road from Ross to Midland Highway 2km north of Ross, forms part of an historical route from Hobart to Launceston. With two small stone arch spans, the bridge was commenced in the second half of 1836. As such it is one of Australia's oldest existing bridges. Although small, it features fine stonework and large stone balustrades of a type that is characteristic of many other small Tasmanian bridges. The bridge has two 4m stone arch spans with substantial stone balustrades. The width between the characteristic curved balustrade walls is surprisingly large and is sufficient for modern traffic.

In 1836 Gov. Arthur had observed the difficulty of crossing Tacky Creek and gave orders to Captain William Turner to build a timber bridge. This was replaced by the present stone bridge under the direction of Alexander Cheyne, Director of Public Works, using masons who had worked on the Macquarie River bridge at Ross.

Lake Leake

Lake Leake was built in 1880 to supply permanent water for Campbell Town, approx 30 mins drive to the east, enjoy the beautiful bush scenery and great trout fishing. Currawong Lakes trout fishery and wildlife retreat are on the Long Marsh dam Road at Lake Leake.

Kirklands Presbyterian Church and cemetery


10 km west of Ross is the tiny hamlet of Kirklands (it is so small it does not appear on most maps), first settled by Scottish immigrants, where the poet A.D. Hope's father was Presbyterian minister during the 1910s. The manse, where Hope spent his childhood, was built as early as 1828.

Kirklands Presbyterian Church, built mainly with convict labour, was dedicated in October 1836. It is closely associated with the establishment of the Presbyterian Church in Tasmania. It opened in 1836 and was one of the earliest Presbyterian churches in Van Diemen's Land. Presbyterian worship at the settlement along the Macquarie River commenced in the late 1820’s, some time before the Kirklands church was built. Today the church appears very much the same as when it was built. Kirklands' substantial cemetery is probably one of the best tended in rural Tasmania. It has large numbers historic headstones, reflecting the churches long history and the generations that once populated this area.