Richmond, Tasmania

Brimming with old world charm, Richmond is one of Tasmania's most loved and visited Georgian era colonial villagers. Rich in history and heritage and contains the oldest bridge and St Johns, the earliest Roman Catholic church in Australia, as well as a perfectly preserved colonial gaol. Established in 1825 to house the gangs of convicts used as labour in the area and prisoners in transit, the Gaol has been restored and is now a major tourist attraction. It is older by five years than the buildings at Port Arthur.

Where Is it?: 26km north east of Hobart.

The main East Coast road went via Richmond until after the Pittwater causeway was completed in 1872. In 1872, the Sorrell Causeway opened providing a more direct link between Hobart and Port Arthur. Traffic no longer had to pass through Richmond and it was left entirely as a rural community. The concurrent opening of the mainline railway through Brighton, Tea Tree, Campania and Colebrook was a second blow to Richmond. Suburban development continued slowly, the township was declared a municipality in 1861 (and the 1825 court house was used for municipal purposes), and the Burns’ mill on the south-east side of the bridge was erected c1864, and an extension to the township was gazetted in 1878. The change of emphasis is highlighted by the population figures. In its heyday in 1862, the municipality had 1,608 residents, but almost one hundred years later in 1957, the population was 1,680.

Around Town

Richmond Gaol

The original section of the Richmond Goal was commenced in 1825, probably to a design by Colonial Architect David Lambe. The Cookhouse, Solitary Cells and Women's room were added in 1835 and the stone wall was built in 1840. Unhappily, the gaol building itself was not as substantial as first thought, because parts of it actually blew down during a heavy gale in 1827. Today it is a wonderful museum that shouldn't be missed.

Richmond Bridge

Richmond's centerpiece is the magnificent bridge, Richmond Bridge, built between 1823 and 1825. It is the oldest bridge in Australia still in use. Situated in Richmond, Tasmania, roughly 25kms from the state capital, Hobart, the Richmond Bridge spans the Coal River in the heart of a region known for its boutique wineries, history, and beauty. The bridge was built by convict labour and like much of Tasmanian convict history, is shrouded in tales of hardship, tragedy, an restless spirits. It is said that the Richmond Bridge is haunted by the ghost of the vicious flagellator, George Grover, who was beaten to death by convict workers and thrown into the river from the bridge in March 1832.


Old Hobart Town Model Village

Old Hobart Town is a unique multi award winning model village depicting life in Hobart as it was in the 1820s. Individually handcrafted with passion by Andrew and John Quick over a three year period, the authentic model village has been reconstructed from original plans and it gives a unique glimpse into the tough life of Australia s convict past. A unique attraction that is not to be missed.

Historic Buildings

Bridge Cottages

Quaint, dignified and classified by the National Trust, Bridge Cottages were built by convicts around 1823, before the Richmond Bridge, to accommodate the sergeant in charge of building the bridge and the arms store, hence the names - The Sergeants Quarters and The Armoury. The buildings are now restored and decorated in character and used for visitor accommodation.

St John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church

The oldest Roman Catholic church in Australia, the nave of the Gothic Revival stone church was built in 1836. The square tower has an unusual square projecting stairwell tower. The church was built in a little under two years to a design by architect Henry Edmund Goodridge. The Richmond church’s original appearance was very different from the building which now stands in the town. It was a small rectangular structure with early English detail and pinnacled buttresses at the corners, measuring 15m long by 6m wide. The only existing image of this church is Thomas Chapman’s sketch of Richmond where the building features as a small part of a broader landscape. The church was formally opened on 31 December 1837.

In 1859 the church was substantially enlarged and it was transformed into a significantly different building. The alteration of the church was driven by Father William Dunne, who had overseen the construction of the Pugin designed St Patrick’s church at nearby Colebrook. The alterations were adapted from one of Pugin’s three scale-model churches that Bishop Willson had brought to Tasmania in 1844. The considerably enlarged 1859 church included a tower and spire. The spire was one of three spires to adorn the tower of the church over the years.

Richmond Arms

One of the youngest buildings in the town, this hotel was built in 1888 as a replacement for the Lennox Arms that burnt down in 1886. Richmond Arms is a two-storey Victorian structure with rusticated quoins and reveals, and an iron hipped roof. The hotel has a two storey verandah with twin timber columns, iron brackets, frieze and balustrade.

Old Store and Granary Group

A group of Georgian buildings, consisting of a granary, store and residence, were built around 1832 by James Buscombe. The Granary is a three-storey stone building with iron gabled roof, 12-pane windows and the original horse-operated hoist. The two storey store and residence are also built of stone, but stuccoed.

Court House

Municipal Buildings, Court House, Watch House and Hall

These stone buildings were erected after the completion of the original section of the Gaol in 1825-26. They are considered to be the work of Colonial Architect David Lambe. The Court House was built in 1825. In the early days, it was also used for church services. It was used as Council Chambers from 1861, when the Richmond Municipality was established, until 1993, when Richmond Council amalgamated with Clarence City Council.


Built as a steam mill on the Coal River by convicts in 1853 by George Burn, the millhouse was later used as a butter factory and now a guest house. Four bricks thick at the base and with massive hand-cut eucalypt beams in the ceilings, the three-storey Georgian building is National Trust-rated building. It features hand-hewn eucalypt beams, wide-planked Tasmanian oak floors and convict bricks. It was converted into a heritage home and studio by the famous Australian painter John Eldershaw. Millhouse is one today a guest-house.

St Luke's Anglican Church (1836)

St Luke’s is the oldest intact church in Tasmania. The design by Colonial architect John Lee Archer has changed little in its external appearance over time. The foundation stone was laid in 1834 by Governor Arthur. Designed by John Lee Archer and built by convict labour, the church was completed in 1836. James Thompson, the convict who was responsible for the original timber work inside the building, was granted his freedom as a reward for his work.

The church was erected on land given by Mr. Butcher. The stone for the church was quarried from the hill overlooking the township known at Butcher's Hill. The first occasion on which the church was publicly used was the marriage of Mr. William Chambers with Miss Mary Heyward, on the 11th of March, 1836. The church was not properly finished even then. The convicts who attended service sat in the body of the church on forms placed just before the gallery. The soldiers that formed their guard sat on corresponding forms, on the opposite side of the aisle.

The clock in the tower was one of six turret clocks manufactured by London clockmaker Thwaites and Reed for consignment to Australia for use on public buildings. It was first used in the original St David's Church at the corner of Murray and Macquarie Streets, Hobart. The clock was not installed in the new St David's Cathedral when it was constructed in 1874. It was placed in storage for nearly fifty years before it was donated to St Luke's, where it was installed in 1922.

History House

Tasmania's History House was built in 1826 as Strathford House by Simon McCullough, an Irish convict pardoned for his role in apprehending a murderer in 1825. The land on the north-west corner of today’s Wellington Street / St Johns Circle junction was purchased by McCullough for ₤44 in September 1835. McCullough had been found guilty of burglary and robbery, and been sentenced to transportation for life in August 1817. McCulloch arrived in Van Diemen’s Land the following year and was granted a conditional pardon in September 1826.

McCulloch advertised its lease in the Colonial Times in October 1839. The property was described as ‘a Commodious new two-story Brick House, containing five good rooms on the ground floor, and four upstairs, one of which is twenty-six feet long, kitchen and cellar below. It seems that the property wasn’t leased and the following year McCulloch licensed the premises as the Union Hotel. Although situated outside the town centre, the pub was adjacent to the main route to the east coast, and to Sorell and the south-east. McCulloch operated the Union Hotel for many years before getting into financial difficulties and was declared insolvent in August 1868. The amount of passing trade was drastically reduced by the opening of the Sorell Causeway in 1872 – Richmond was effectively bypassed.

After a time as the Jolly Farmer's Inn, the building subsequently became a private residence and was purchased by William Bone, the owner and operator of the nearby Richmond Steam Flour Mills. Bridget Smith bought it in December 1894 and lived there until 1934 when it was purchased by Albert Thornton, the publican at the Commercial Hotel (today’s Richmond Arms Hotel). History House is one of Richmond's oldest colonial houses and is open to visitors or for private events. Location: 15 Wellington St, Richmond.

Oak Lodge (c1830)

A fine two storey Georgian stone house built about 1840 by Henry Buscombe. In 1843 the property was purchased by Captain James Richard Booth, brother of Charles O'Hara Booth, commandant of Port Arthur. Oak Lodge was also once the home of Richmond's noted American-born doctor, William Clark. Now owned by the National Trust of Australia (Tasmania), it houses the Coal River Valley Historical Society Inc. location: 18 bridge Street, Cnr Blair Street, Richmond.

Former Star and Garter Inn

The shop and two dwellings were erected in the early nineteenth century as two workingman's cottages and an inn, types of co-joined structures once common but now becoming rare. The land where these buildings are situated was granted to William Wise by Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur in February 1832. It was part of a one acre block that extended between Bridge and Bathurst Street. Wise split the parcel of land in two and in November 1841 he sold the northern half, which fronted onto Bridge Street, to Thomas Burgess for ₤250.

In October 1845, Burgess licensed the premises as a pub, the Star and Garter. (This was the name of a famous pub on Richmond Hill, south-west London, England.) The Star and Garter was operated by the Burgess family until 1864 and then by Henry Briggs until 1871. The opening of the Sorell Causeway provided a more direct route between Hobart and the south-east, and when the Main Line railway was constructed it passed some eight kilometres to the north of Richmond. With less through traffic there was less demand for public houses and the Star and Garter was advertised for sale in November 1874. The notice in The Mercury stated that ‘the Hotel contains Bar, Parlour, Dining room, Kitchen, and Scullery on the ground floor, large Cellar, and 8 Bedrooms up stairs … adjoining the Hotel are two stone fronted Cottages.’ The property didn’t sell at auction and wasn’t licensed as a pub again. Location: 28-30 Bridge Street, Richmond.

Mrs Currie’s House

Today’s 4 Franklin Street was built in two stages – there is an older one-storey cottage at the rear, which has had a two-storey brick house added at the front. During the 1840s, most of the land extending back from the northern side of Bridge Street was owned by David Lord.In May 1858 the property was being used as a house, shop and store, owned and occupied by John McGowan. In May 1860 the premises were licensed by James Cavey as the Prince of Wales Inn. Notices in The Mercury advertised shooting competitions and skittle matches at the pub. The lease of the premises was advertised in October 1867 when it was described as 'that well-known property, the Prince of Wales Hotel, situated in the centre of the township of Richmond, together with a large store, 12 stall stable, skittle alley, sheds, &c., with large garden and paddock attached'. The lease wasn’t taken and the McGowan family continued to operate the pub until 1870 when John McGowan was declared insolvent.

In 1879 the Prince of Wales was purchased by Henry James, who operated the Tasmanian Brewery in Elizabeth Street, Hobart. The Cascade Brewery bought out three local breweries, including the Tasmanian Brewery, in April 1883. This meant that the Prince of Wales became the property of Cascade, but they already owned the Lennox Arms (on the site of today’s Richmond Arms Hotel, 42 Bridge Street). The Prince of Wales was licensed for the last time in 1885. Cascade leased out the property and continued to own it until 1911. The house was purchased by Mrs Jane Cooley for ₤365 in the 1920s and she lived there until her death in July 1952, aged 87 years. The property then passed to her daughter, Alma, who had married Leonard Currie. From the early 1990s the property has been operating as a bed and breakfast, known as 'Mrs Currie’s House.' Location: 4 Franklin Street, Richmond.

Morton Lodge

A two storey Georgian building constructed about 1844 on land granted to Frances Atkinson and thought to be his Sawyers Arms Hotel. The building is complemented by brick stables. In September 1846, Atkinson licensed the premises as the Sawyer’s Arms. Pubs are normally located on busy thoroughfares rather than halfway along side streets, and the Sawyer’s Arms soon closed. Atkinson was declared insolvent in May 1847. The property has been rented as a house until Vivian Claude Richardson purchased the house and the adjoining 3 acres in June 1950. He subdivided the land at the rear, creating 11 residential blocks with frontages on Napoleon and Victoria Streets. Location: 9 Gunning Street, Richmond.

The Old Rectory and the Dispensary

The rectory is a large two storey Georgian Colonial house set in 4ha of grounds. Also set in the grounds is a small two room stone cottage used in the 1850s by Dr John Coverdale as his dispensary. The old rectory, the dispensary and St Lukes Church form an historic group. This two-storey Georgian colonial was reputedly built by James Gordon, the Police Magistrate for Richmond between September 1829 and March 1832. In September 1838 the property was purchased by William Henry Breton for ₤1,900. Breton was Police Magistrate for Richmond between December 1835 and April 1841. Breton subsequently became the Police Magistrate for Launceston and he rented out the house until May 1854 when he sold it to Dr John Coverdale.

Indian-born Coverdale studied medicine at Glasgow, Scotland before coming to Australia, arriving in Hobart around 1837. He moved to Richmond a few years later and established a medical practice. Coverdale reputedly used the compact stone building that is today’s 11 Edward Street as his dispensary. The property was purchased in April 1901 on behalf of the Church of England in Tasmania for a parsonage and dwelling house for the use of the Incumbent or Curate in charge for the time being of the Parish Church of St Luke situate in Richmond. Location: 11, 15 Edward Street, Richmond. <

Saddlers Court

A two storey Georgian shop and residence, formerly Mr H. G. Thompson's saddlery, located on an important corner position in the main street of Richmond. TThe painted brick building features twelve pane windows, a timber shopfront with panneling below and recessed double doors, and a verandah added later. <


Originally an ostrich farm and miniature pony stud, Zoodoo first opened to the public in July 1999 with just a few native animals. It has grown quickly to become one of the Tasmania's largest wildlife parks and today boasts meerkats, white African lions and zebras among many other native and foreign species of animals and birds. <

Brief History

Richmond was initially established as a pioneering district within the Van Diemen's Land penal colony. Richmond later developed as a police district for the surrounding region after Governor George Arthur appointed a number of paid magistrates to oversee penal discipline in 1827. Arthur implemented this measure as a way of increasing penal order, punishing crime and keeping an accurate record of the movements and behaviour of all convicts in attempt to hold the colony up as an orderly colony, enforcing strict convict discipline. <

Consequently, Richmond grew as a centre of local government with a centralised justice system, holding council and court hearings from the Coal River Valley to Campania and Colebrook. According to historian Peter Macfie, there was a high degree of prejudice among the senior public figures of Richmond toward the convicts, which resulted in a ‘caste system’ within the community – something that was maintained in the region through most of the nineteenth century. Immigrant settlers mostly occupied the estates within the township, whereas emancipists eventually settled on farms on the fringes of the township.

Richmond Gaol

The Grass Tree Hill Road and Governor Arthur's Road leading into Richmond were built from 1833 to 1838 by groups of convicts known as Chain Gangs. These prisoners were sentenced to day labouring near the town and were employed in construction within the localised area. They frequently experienced shortages of food and clothing, which lead many of the men to steal from each other as well as from neighbouring houses. Prisoners also lay kangaroo traps as a means of supplementing rations. Anyone that was found to be stealing or was caught laying traps was severely punished. <

In 1834 and 1835, there were a number of resistance efforts in response to the shortages. Some men refused to attend church, refused to labour and there was even a rebellion led by five prisoners who wielded their picks against authorities. Many of the Georgian style buildings which are present in the township today were constructed by these convict gangs, including the Bridge, the Court House and the Gaol. <

The name given to the region was the Coal River district. Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell was the first to take steps to form a town and later he took up land there himself. The Land Commissioners surveyed land for a township in the mid 1820s. <

James Backhouse reported Richmond had a court house, a gaol, a windmill and about thirty houses by 1832. Backhouse visited the town again in February 1834 and reported Richmond had nearly doubled in size. The court house was built in 1825-26 and the northern part of the gaol in 1825. Richmond Post Office opened on 1 June 1832. Richmond bridge was built in 1823, using convict labour, and is known as the largest stone span bridge in Australia. <

The main East Coast road went via Richmond until after the Pittwater causeway was completed in 1872. In that year, the Sorrell Causeway opened providing a more direct link between Hobart and Port Arthur. Traffic no longer had to pass through Richmond and it was left entirely as a rural community. The concurrent opening of the mainline railway through Brighton, Tea Tree, Campania and Colebrook was a second blow to Richmond. Suburban development continued slowly, the township was declared a municipality in 1861 (and the 1825 court house was used for municipal purposes), and the Burns’ mill on the south-east side of the bridge was erected c1864, and an extension to the township was gazetted in 1878. The change of emphasis is highlighted by the population figures. In its heyday in 1862, the municipality had 1,608 residents, but almost one hundred years later in 1957, the population was 1,680.