Jericho, Tasmania

Founded in 1816, the tiny historical village of Jericho is one of the oldest townships in Australia. Like its better known neighbour, Oatlands, the main road of Jericho contains some fine examples of early colonial sandstone architecture, and constructions including examples of convict cut culverts, bridges and walls, many of which date from the 1830s. A mud wall, a relic from the convict probation station, is appropriately known as the Wall of Jericho.

Wher is it?: Jericho is 71 km north of Hobart and 125 km south of Launceston on the Midland Highway on the nanks of the Jordan River.

Old Jericho Road, one of the few surviving examples of the convict built road of the 1830s, still has some interesting convict constructions including stone walls, a bridge and some culverts. Notable buildings in Jericho include the Commandant's Cottage (built in 1842) and remains the Probation Station (built in 1840)

The site of The Probation Station (1840), which housed over 200 convicts under secondary sentence working on the road can be viewed. The land adjacent to the station was originally known as Fourteen Tree Plain and was the site of the first horse race in the colony of Van Diemens Land, held in April 1826. Skilled convict tradesmen and artisans were in great demand as were those with literacy skills who acted as clerks and bookkeepers. Convicts were assigned to settlers who often treated them as virtual slaves. There was no accountability on the part of settlers as the government was relieved of the burden of housing, feeding and general management.

The probation system was implemented in 1839 as an experiment but continued as a major phase of convict management until after transportation to Van Diemen’s Land ceased in 1853. It was a uniquely Australian approach to convict management, intended to provide punishment to ensure that transportation remained a deterrent, but also to provide opportunities for reform and betterment. Probation stations existed only in Van Diemen’s Land, although Norfolk island also participated in the probation system.

Remnants of walls are all that remain of the station which housed convicts under the probation system. It was in operation until late in 1845 when the buildings were taken over by the roads department and used to house convicts working on the main road. The buildings were closed in 1848. The superintendent lived in a stone house a 400 metres to the north.

The station was built of pise, and ancient building technique using compacted sil to build the walls. By May 1841, the station held 188 men, of whom 160 were in chains. The chain gang worked long hours quarrying stone for the road, manacled to eachj other as a means of extra punishment and to prevent escape. By the end of 1844, the Jericho convicts had built 35 culverts, built six miles of new road and quarried 121,770 cubic yards of road metal.

Jericho station was abandoned in 1845, but resumed shortly after when the old Jericho bridge fell into disrepair. A gang of stone masons and another gang sawyers were sent into the hills above Jericho to provide the massive timber beams and decking needed for the bridge. The first bridge over the Jordan River at Jericho was a wooden structure of two arches built some time before 1824. The present bridge was erected in 1847 by Captain Forth although the wooden deck has been replaced more recently with a concrete paving. In his correspondence of 1847, Captian Forth stated, in part, “This bridge was begun on the 19th January last and was contructed entirely by convicts under sentence with the assistance of one stone cutter hired for one month and of a sawyer for two months”. The station was finally closed in October 1848 when the bridge was completed.

St James Anglican Church (1888) contains the grave of Trooper John Hutton Bisdee, who was the first Tasmanian to be awarded the Victoria Cross. Four years before the settlement of Oatlands began, the first recorded religious service was held at Jericho, on the 23 February 1823. It was conducted by the Reverend Samuel Marsden from N.S.W. in the home of Mr. Thomas Gregson, Northumbria, Jericho. The first church was consecrated by Bishop William Grant Broughton in May 1838. Fifty years later, cracks appeared in the building, and it was decided to erect another building on the same site. The new church, designed by Henry Hunter and built by Walter Fish at a cost of £839 pounds, was consecrated in April 1888. It is also thought that St. James Church was the first church in the southern hemisphere to have conducted an Ecumenical Service. St. James Church now houses a Pioneer and Heritage Museum.

Sandhill, Jericho

Sandhill Estate

In 1839 farmer and politician Edward Bisdee (1802-1870), bought Lovely Banks near Melton Mowbray and went to live there with family other members, including hos brother Isaac Bisdee MLC (1813-1868). Edward had already established at White Hills one of the largest hop gardens in the island by 1829. In 1839 and 1840 Edward topped the London market with his highest grade merino lambs' wool. In 1843 he was made a justice of the peace, and about this time acquired the well-known property of Sandhill 1km north-west of Jericho. Soon after retiring from the Legislative Council, Edward returned to England where he became the owner of Hutton Court, and lived there as squire. He left his brother Isaac in charge of Lovely Banks and his youngest brother, Alfred Henry, bought Sandhill.

A single storey stone Georgian house with Colonial outbuildings, Sandhill was erected in the 1830's by James Bryant and later owned for many years by the famous Bisdee family. At the time of writing, the buildings were not inhabited and the house in particular had been vandalised. Sandhill's outbuildings include two storey brick stables and coach house with stone quoins and reveals, a single storey stone outbuilding, stone barns of one and two storeys, a stone cottage and a sheep dip carved from sandstone. Location: 140 Lower Marshes Rd, Jericho.

Northumbia estate, Jericho

Northumbria Estate

Northumbria consists of an excellent group of stone Colonial buildings built about 1828 with a later stone homestead built in 1860. All the buildings are intact and align on an easterly orientation which creates great unity. Their setting in the landscape is spectacular, and the view of them from the Midland Highway is most memorable. The sandstone homestead is set on semi-basement. Its double storey wings at the rear create a small courtyard with large stone entry pillars. Other buildings include two single storey stone workman's cottages (possibly original house), a single storey stone stables and two stone toilets.

Four years before the settlement of Oatlands began, the first recorded religious service was held at Jericho, on the 23 February 1823. It was conducted by the Reverend Samuel Marsden from N.S.W. in Northumbria, the home of Mr. Thomas Gregson, which adjoined what would be the site of St James church. Gregson was Premier of Tasmania in 1857. Location: off Jericho Road (old Midland Highway), 1km north of Jericho.

Huntworth Homestead, Jericho

Huntworth Homestead

Early maps illustrate Jericho and the settlers there – John Meredith, William Pike (‘Park Farm’), Thomas Anstey (‘Anstey Barton’), William Pike (‘Park Farm’), Benjamin Jones (‘Rosehill’), Dr John Maule Hudspeth ('Bowsden'), Charles Mills Cogle ('Huntworth'), Thomas Gregson (‘Northumbria’), James and Edmund Bryant (‘Sandhill’) and Samuel Page. Charles Mills Cogle's property was Huntworth homestead. It was later owned by the wealthy Archer family. On 9 March 1885, Edward Archer's Eldest son, Edward Archer II, purchased 'Norwood' while living at Huntworth homestead. Location: Huntworth Homestead, 42 Stoner Road, Jericho.

About Jericho

Jericho was originally known as Jericho Plains and was named after its biblical namesake by a marine Lt. Hugh Germain, who, the story goes, had been sent with a convict named Jorgensen, to shoot kangaroos for food and guard the local shepherds. According to the story, the only books carried by them were the Bible and The Arabian Nights and they amused themselves by naming geographical features from each book in turn  hence Jericho, and the nearby Jerusalem and Jordan River.

The area was first settled in 1816 and became an important way station for coaches on the road from Hobart to Launceston. It is now one of the oldest townships in Australia. The town flourished for a time in the nineteenth century as a stage coach resting post, but declined in the twentieth century. Now bypassed by the Midland Highway, the state's main north-south highway, it is a sleepy village that retains its colonial charm and is part of Tasmania's Heritage Highway.