Premaydena is a small village idyllically situated on Impression Bay on the shores of Norfolk Bay. Dolphins and seals are seen from time in the mediteranean-clear and blue waters of the bay, and there are always plenty of penguins and seabirds. Premaydena is the site of the second largest colonial era convict settlement on the Tasman Peninsula after Port Arthur.
Where Is it?: Premaydena is 19 km north east of Port Arthur.
There is a beautiful quiet sandy beach at Slopen Main nearby. The beach occupies a coastal indentation between two headlands on the western side of the peninsula. Slopen Main is where coal was first discovered on the peninsula in 1833 on a survey of the Tasman Peninsula s north west. Later that year, Port Arthur s Commandant, Charles O Hara Booth, oversaw the establishment of a mine worked by convicts at nearby Saltwater River.
Site of the Impression Bay convict station
Known in convict times as Impression Bay, Premaydena was the most important out-station on the peninsula after Port Arthur. It opened in 1841, initially growing vegetables, and by 1846, there were 445 convicts based at the station and four doctors were employed. A long tramway ran through the middle of the settlement to a jetty on Premaydena Bay.
The foundation logs of a trestle bridge that carried the railway across mud flats are still visible at low tide. Most buildings were situated on a hill on the north western side of the valley. A large brick and stone prison was set into the side of the hill. Only a handful of the buildings remain.
Situated in a fertile valley, the station was a base for timber milling (primarily used at the Saltwater River coal mine) and wood manufacturing until the local timber ran out in 1857. For six months it became a quarantine station for 300 passengers from the migrant ship Persian affected by typhoid fever. The land was then sold and the area changed its name to Premaydena
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This was Tasmania's first operational mine, established as a much-needed local source of coal, but also as a place of punishment for the worst class of convicts. Along with the nearby Port Arthur Historic Site, the Coal Mines Historic Site is included in the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage listing.
At any one time, around 60 convicts were sent to work in the dark, hot damp tunnels of the mine which operated from 1833 to 1848. With its reputation for harshness and homosexual activity which was not always reciprocal, the mine contributed towards the failure of the probation system and its eventual demise.
At the site are remnants of the main settlement include the prisoners barracks, chapel, officers quarters and solitary cells. The ruins of the colliery, including the circular depressions of the mine shafts, can be viewed at close range. On the slopes above are the ruins of the military officers quarters and the remains of several stone cottages near Plunkett Point.
Many of the original roads and tramways have survived, including the formation of the incline plane, which extends from the 1845 shaft on Coal Mine Hill to remnants of jetties at Plunkett Point. Other remains include a lime kiln, which is largely intact, and a series of tan pits. The original adits and shafts are inaccessible, however the sites of the 1838, 1842 and 1845 main shafts and numerous minor shafts are readily apparent, as are the associated soil dumps and coal stockpiles. The extensive underground workings are inaccessible, but have interpretive signage.
The Lime Bay Nature Reserve is seldom visited, but contains a surprisingly large network of trails linking together some beautiful beaches and lagoons with some great convict history thrown in. The reserve is a popular spot for camping, boating and walking. Facilities include toilets, picnic tables and fire places. It is advisable to bring your own water and firewood. There are two tranquil beaches: Lime Bay is next to the camping area, while the picturesque Lagoon Beach lies in the lee of Sloping Island, an easy 40 min walk.
This island, in Frederick Henry Bay on the western side of the Lime Bay State Reserve headland, was established in 1841 as a Probation Station to house convicts arriving in Van Diemens Land. The convicts were involved in timber getting and land clearing. The station was forced to close only three years later, due to the lack of availability of fresh water. The convicts were assigned to Port Arthur. In 1824 the first whaling station in the water approaches to Hobart were established at Slopen Island by Walter Angus Bethune and John Grant.
The out-station at Cascade (now Koonya) was neat and compact. From it, convicts were employed in felling timber, which was believed to be the best on the peninsula. Most of it was used for shipbuilding in Hobart. The many buildings which are still standing were arranged on either side of a main street in an area between two streams. The old road has vanished without trace; the current road runs inland between the hospital and penetentiary. The waterfall after which the settlement was named can be seen where the present road crosses the western of the two streams.
Impression Bay convict station building