In the days of the horse and buggy, Bagdad was an important rest area and horse-changing place for those continuing their journey up Constitution Hill. It is now an area of orchards and small mixed farms and a commuter settlement.
Where is it?: Central. 37 km north of Hobart on the Midland Highway.
Like many other localities nearby, the town was named by the explorer Hugh Germain, a private in the Royal Marines. He was said to carry two books in his saddlebags while travelling: the Bible and the Arabian Nights, which he used as inspiration when he named places. In the early years these were mixed farms with labour supplied by convicts. Later, wheat growing was of great importance to the early settlements both here and on the mainland. Flour mills were built by the Bagdad Rivulet to grind the grain. Early in the 1900’s Apples, Apricots and small fruit took over.
In April 2003, during the early part of the Iraq war, the town's website was bombarded by confused internet users from around the world trying to contact Iraqis.
Bagdad was one of the first country areas to be settled and when the road was being put through to what is now Launceston, gangs of convicts and their overseers were housed in and around Bagdad. Before the 1850s, the name ‘Bagdad’ covered the area all the way from the old ‘Horseshoe Bridge’ near Bridgewater to the foot of Constitution Hill. In the early 1820s, a number of settlers with substantial means were granted land in the ‘Bagdad Plains’ area (roughly speaking, the area from Pontville to the foot of Constitution Hill). These settlers included men such as William Kimberley and Gamaliel Butler, both of whom were granted large tracts of land in the area.
By 1835, Butler had cleared several hundred acres of land for cultivation and built the first phase of a grand sandstone homestead which would later be called ‘Shene’. The Butler family were keen hunting and racing enthusiasts, which is reflected in the massive and very elegant neo-Tudor stables at Shene which to this day form a landmark on the Midlands Highway.
There are a number of properties that are of heritage significance in Bagdad and Mangalore. The ‘Heritage Mile’ at Mangalore is a significant heritage ‘precinct’ of the area. The ‘Heritage Mile’ consists of four homesteads set within expansive rural landscapes with hedgerows and significant trees. Of the four homesteads, all are intact and highly prominent from the Midland Highway, three (Oakwood, Marlbrook & Woodburn) are of the early 19th century and Wybra Hall is one fine example of a large Federation Queen Anne homestead with associated rural outbuildings. Wybra Hall, Oakwood and Marlbrook form a string of gracious, private and historic homes along the Heritage Highway at Mangalore which are included in a heritage precinct. They are also the legacy of an area that became prosperous from wheat growing in the early nineteenth century.
The Mangalore Heritage Mile precinct also contains the Commandant’s Cottage, which is a small cottage associated with the use of convict labour in the valley and the probation station at Pontville. Winton Hill acts as a backdrop to all these properties and helps to places them in a significant cultural landscape. When driving along the Mangalore section of the Heritage Highway see Historic Shene Stables in the distance, a monument to the wealth of early settlers and excellent example of the skill of convict stonemasons.
Built in 1828, Marlbrook is a beautiful double-storey sandstone home on 6ha. Marlbrook was built by John Hayes, son of one of the pioneer settlers of Hobart. The home was originally supposed to have had three storeys, built in the style of the blue-and-white Willow-pattern plate often seen on Chinese-style porcelain. Location: Marlbrook, 1063 Midland Highway Pontville.
Built in the 1830s, Oakwood is a late Georgian two storey stone house with considerable thought given to the approach and visual impact through the use of an axial driveway and flanking walls, giving the house extra dimension. Location: 1125 Midland Hwy, Mangalore.
The residence Cornelian Hill is a two storey Georgian house built of Brighton stone and featuring four panel door with sidelights. This Georgian convict sandstone house was probably built in stages starting around 1837 with four main rooms – two living rooms downstairs with two large bedrooms and a smaller room above. Next, two wings were added which formed a central courtyard, on one side was a kitchen and dining room, while on the other, two more rooms. It is unclear who actually built the house but the original grantees (as trustees) of 275 acres were Thomas Reynolds (of Bay of Fires) and William Hodgson (of Richmond). They were both farmers. Location: 1358 Midland Hwy, Bagdad.
Milford Manor was built by George Armytage in the 1830”s. It is built of sandstone block in the Georgean style of architecture. Although George Armytage was granted 500 acres at Bagdad in 1817 it wasn’t until around 1822 that he and his wife moved to his Bagdad property. Michael Howe the bushranger visited the farm and stole $300 worth of goods. Milford Manor was also known as “News Inn,” which was visited by Cash the bushranger in 1844, but he failed to find $500 hidden there. Armytage ran The Saracens Head hotel which was situated nearby. By 1847 Milford estate consisted of 4,000 acres and numerous buildings. Unfortunately unsympathetic restoration has dramatically reduced Milford Manor’s significance. This includes the removal of the kitchen wing and the front bell cast verandah and the addition of new roofing and guttering. Location: 1708 Midland Hwy, Bagdad.
Armytage House and its smaller neighbour Milford Manor were built of local sandstone and hand made bricks and mortar. Armytage House is a superb renovation of the 1830s barn that used to store the grain for Milford Manor. The manor is long gone but the sandstone and handmade-brick walls of the barn enclose honey-coloured polished floors, a timber staircase and mezzanine loft bedroom in this luxury country hideaway.
Just opposite Bagdad railway station is Sayes Court, the residence of Mr. Robert Chalmers. Many a traveller must have noticed the picturesque stone out-building, with its gables, tall chimney, and shingled roof. Just at this spot the valley narrows, and the creek, the orchard levels, and wooded hills, together with the buildings themselves, have attracted more than one artist, among such being Mr. Norman Lindsay. The freestone barn at Sayes Court, Bagdad, on the Hobart to Launceston road, is where Carl Diehl and some of his family were employed from their arrival in Hobart in July 23, 1855. Location: 1552 Midland Highway, Begdad.
Located at the beginning of the ‘Mangalore Heritage Mile’, Thomas New ran the Crown Inn, descrived at the times as "a commodious two storey stone inn with ample stabling for the numerous horses travelling the highway." Known today as Woodburn House, it is a heritage listed symmetrical, ashlar sandstone building with a corrugated iron hipped roof, boxed eaves, and corniced chimneys. There are also two single storey buildings to the side and rear of the main building, with hipped roofs and double-hung windows with twelve panes. A further building is a row of conjoined cottages of ashlar sandstone, each with a central door under a simple portico and with an 8-paned casement window to each side. Location: Woodburn, (Woodbourne) House 1007 Midland Highway, Pontville.
Wybra Hall was built about 1905 for Alfred Taylor Hart – He died suddenly soon after the house was completed. This two storey brick building is in the Federation Queen Anne style. There is a two storey returned verandah sheltering all sides, this is partially infilled on one side. The verandah is decorated with cast iron brackets and panels and the posts are ornately painted. The tower is nearly 20 metres high, the house was fully piped for gas and has a heart-shaped driveway. The 24-room house was once used as an institution for wards of state.
Sunnyside is of historic heritage significance because of its ability to demonstrate the principal characteristics of a single storey weatherboard Old Colonial Georgian domestic building. This is a timber building with a central door and flanking double hung windows with a verandah over the front. To one side of the building is a lean to addition whilst on the other side is a skillion addition. There are also several early additions to the rear of the building. Location: RA 1657 Midland Highway Bagdad.
Anglicans worshipped in the Bagdad Hall in the early 1890’s before St Michael’s Church opened in 1904. The foundation stone for the church was laid five months later in November 1903. The church was initially to be dedicated to St Thomas but this changed to St Michael before the building was completed.
former Bagdad Chapel and graveyard
The Congregational or Independent Chapel at Bagdad was established in 1842. It became part of the Uniting Church in 1977 before closing in 2006. The Bagdad Congregational church was built as a result of the efforts of Mr George Armytage and Mr John Palmer to a design by noted colonial architect, James Blackburn. There is little information about the church following its opening. It was closely connected with the Congregational Chapel at Kempton (then called Green Ponds) until 1858 when it was transferred to the care of Colonial Missionary Society (a Congregational institution).
The church fell under the authority of the Congregationalists for over 130 years until it became a part of the Uniting Church in 1977. Following its closure in 2006 it was converted into a house. The owners beautifully maintain both the church and the adjoining historic cemetery.
Secret Cave, Chauncy Vale
As one of the oldest private conservation areas in Tasmania, the Chauncy Vale Wildlife Sanctuary presents 380 hectares of native bushland to explore. While there are many walking options available in the area, the 6km Brown's Caves loop is perhaps the most accessible and rewarding. This route offers an interesting mix of local history, cave formations and abundant wildlife while strolling through open dry sclerophyll forest. Alternative routes, wildlife guides and historical information are all available from the information boards at the start of the walk. A small donation is required upon entry.
Chauncy Vale was home of Nan Chauncy, a multiple award winning children’s novelist. Her books were translated into several different languages and adored by many around the world. Nan's writing captured a vivid picture of the Tasmanian landscape, it's people and it's living creatures that were "real" life, not the mechanisation and gadgets of modern society. She wrote to share her love of Tasmania- Her island shaped like a heart. She also portrayed issues surrounding early colonial life, isolation, identity, migration, enduring hardship, domestic violence and the aboriginals of Tasmania.
The sanctuary can be accessed off the Brooker Highway (A10) in the town of Bagdad. Turn east onto Chauncy Vale Road and follow for 4 kilometres to the picnic area