Deddington, Tasmania


Deddington is a village on the Nile River and lies in the foothills of Ben Lomond near Evandale. There not a lot at Deddington, and were its name spelt slightly differently, one could say it was appropriately named, however Deddington was a hotspot of the Black Wars; its early pioneers played a role not only in the development of present day Central North Tasmania, but the city of Melbourne also. For these reasons, its story warrants telling.

Like all of the Central North, the first inhabitants of the Deddington area were Tasmanian Aboriginal people of the Ben Lomond Nation. Aboriginal artifacts indicating land use (hunting) and seasonal camps have been found along the Nile River and Patterdale Creek. It is uncertain which clans had specific use of the area but the Plindermairhemener clan is referred to in colonial records as occupying the western South Esk region. The palawa kani (Tasmanian Aboriginal Language) name for the Nile River at Deddington was witakina. It appears that the Deddington area was a hunting ground as well as part of the seasonal migratory route for both the Ben Lomond Nation clans (the Plangermaireener), and also clans from the North Midlands; who visited the Ben Lomond plateau in summer.

European settlers were granted land around the site of the current town in the second and third decades of the 1800s. James Cox was granted land at Nile, Anthony Cottrell to the North at Gordons Plains, and Massey was granted land to the south at Mills Plains, now the Deddington district. It is likely that stockeepers, kangaroo hunters and timber-cutters (convicts assigned to colonial landowners) moved in advance of settlers to the fringes of the Ben Lomond escarpment and up the South Esk Valley. As was common at the frontier, stockkeepers both negotiated and came into conflict with the Aboriginal clans in the Deddington area.

Aboriginal people often traded at the frontier with assigned men, the currency being food, sexual favours and hunting dogs. But, relations would often sour: sometimes with fatal consequences and the first recorded killing of convict stockmen at Deddington occurred in 1825, when two convicts assigned to work for Barclay and Cox - Arnold and Booth - were killed at their stock hut in a dispute over ownership of hunting dogs and abuse of women. Unusually, a Plangermaireener witness, Temina, gave evidence under translation at trial in Launceston and he stated that the two men were speared to death and further mutilated by women of his people who 'crushed his head with a stone'.

In subsequent years, there are several records of disputes at the frontier - with killing of cattle and retributive violence on both sides. Escalating pressures on the Plangermaireener from encroaching settlement on hunting grounds, increasing violence, the removal of women and children for sexual or domestic enslavement, and a lack of governmental acknowledgement of indigenous rights to land led to the desperate violence of what is now referred to as the Black War.

During the Black War, the remaining Aboriginal Clansmen of the Plangermaireener prosecuted a desperate campaign of harassment and theft along the South Esk and Nile valleys. John Batman and Anthony Cottrell were both involved in Roving Parties, essentially bounty hunters contracted to remove Aboriginal people from contested areas by force. It was reported in August 1829 that violence had escalated around the Deddington area, culminating in the fatal spearing of an assigned of the settler, Lord. At this time Batman received his commission to establish his Roving Party, consisting of several NSW Aboriginal people procured for this purpose, supported by a convict party and the Tasmanian Aboriginal 'Black Bill' Ponsonby.

John Batman made numerous forays from his home at Kingston, near Deddington, following the Plangermaireener up the South Esk Valley to the South and East of Ben Lomond. John Batman describes in his letters of July 1830 how he had dispatched women of the Ben Lomond Nation along tracks around their 'usual haunts' around Stacks Bluff and to Pigeons Plains - the Nile Valley near Lilyburn Bridge, north of Deddington.

By the 1840s the remnant peoples of the Ben Lomond nation had long been exiled to Flinders Island and there was sufficient settler population in the Deddington area for a chapel to be constructed above the Nile River. Local legend has it that the artist John Glover built the chapel but it is likely that it was erected by the land donor and Rev. Russell from Evandale, with Glover assisting financially. Glover is buried in the cemetery.

Services for the emerging town and rural area were instituted from the 1860s when the town area was set aside. Deddington Post Office opened on 1 December 1862 and survived over a century befoe being closed in 1970. A school opened in Deddington in early 1865, at the chapel, at the urging of Rev. Russell and the first teacher employed at 50 pounds a year.

By mid 1866 land had been set aside for police barracks and a constable was permanently stationed in the town. Perhaps coincidentally the Deddington Inn was licensed in December of the same year. In 1882 a correspondent to the launceston Examiner newspaper stated: "Deddington contains one hotel and store combined, a brick building, a smithy, post-oflice, and about a dozen other buildings."

By 1980 the town centre had declined with the post office, school and general store long closed. The Deddington Inn burnt down in 1980 and now the town, and rural area, is serviced by the nearby town of Evandale.

John Glover's homestead
John Glover's homestead, 173 Uplands Rd, Deddington.

Deddington was named by John Glover after the English village where he lived before he moved to Tasmania in 1830. John Glover’s property, Patterdale, is located 4 kilometres east of Deddington. The association of the great colonial painter John Glover with Patterdale began with his application for a land grant a few months after arriving in Van Diemen’s Land on his 64th birthday in 1831. Only months after arriving in Tasmania, Patterdale homestead was built and ready for occupancy in the first half of 1832.

Perhaps because of the rushed construction there were many structural defects which necessitated ongoing repairs from the time the house was completed. Particularly, the footings, which became unstable, and later resulted in the front wall collapsing in the 1920s. Repairs were expeditiously undertaken using concrete and weatherboard externally and panelling over all of the internal walls. The meticulous restoration of the property began in 2016 with the assistance of a grant from the Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund.

James Cox

Nile Chapel, Deddington

Built in 1840, this chapel sits on land gifted from Robert Pitcairn. Brothers Robert and Thomas Pitcairn arrived in Hobart, Van Diemen's Land on the ship "Portland" on 10th September 1824 holding letters of recommendation. The chapel comprises a simple painted brick chapel, built around 1840, with gabled roof; the front elevation has central double doors with two narrow recessed panels at the side. The sides are divided into three bays with plasters and frieze and the windows have mullion and transom in the form of a cross. John Glover is buried in the cemetery. Location: Deddington Road, Deddington, Tas.


Pioneers of Note

James Cox

John Batman

John Batman (1801 – 1839) was an Australian grazier, entrepreneur and explorer, best known for his role in the founding of Melbourne. Born and raised in the then-British colony of New South Wales, Batman settled in Van Diemen's Land (modern-day Tasmania) in the 1820s, where he rose to prominence for hunting bushrangers and as a participant in the Black War.

He later co-founded the Port Phillip Association and led an expedition which explored the Port Phillip area on the Australian mainland with the goal of establishing a new settlement. In 1835, Batman negotiated a treaty with local Aboriginal peoples by offering them tools, blankets and food in exchange for thousands of hectares of land. The treaty resulted in the founding of Batmania, a settlement on the Yarra River which became Melbourne, eventual capital of Victoria and one of Australia's largest and most important cities. Batman moved there with his convict wife, Elizabeth Callaghan, and their seven daughters, settling on what is now known as Batman's Hill. He died of syphilis shortly afterwards at the age of 38.

Batman's Treaty was a matter of controversy in his day, and the colonial government in New South Wales refused to recognise it as legitimate. Although his proposed transaction was exploitative, Batman's treaty stands as the only attempt by a European to engage Australian Aboriginal people in a treaty or transaction rather than simply claiming land outright. One suspects he addressed the matter of indigenous land rights by negotiatng a treaty with the native population in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the violence and bloodshed that surrounded him during his years at Deddington. The treaty remains an event of great historical interest and debate.


James Cox

John Glover

John Glover (1767 – 1849) was an English-born Australian artist during the early colonial period of Australian art. In Australia he has been dubbed "the father of Australian landscape painting". Glover was born at Houghton-on-Hill in Leicestershire, England. Glover achieved fame as a painter of "Italianate" romantic landscapes of Britain (including The falls of Foyers on Loch Ness, the Lake District and London) and Southern Europe. He became known in both England and France as the English Claude.

Glover decided to move to Australia, arriving in Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) on his 64th birthday in 1831. He brought with him a strong reputation as a landscape painter. From April 1831 until early 1832 he lived in Hobart on a property named "Stanwell Hall", which can be seen in his work Hobart Town, taken from the garden where I lived. In 1832 he acquired one of the largest grants of land in Van Diemen's Land at the time at Mills Plains, Deddington. He named his new property Patterdale after Blowick Farm, a property near Patterdale, at the foot of Ullswater in the Lake District. Glover's grant placed him in close proximity to Kingston, the home of John Batman and his relationship to his neighbour appears to have been fraught. Glover helped build the Chapel at Deddington and is buried within its grounds.

Glover is best known now for his paintings of the Tasmanian landscape. He gave a fresh treatment to the effects of the Australian sunlight on the native bushland by depicting it bright and clear, a definite departure from the darker "English country garden" paradigm. His treatment of the local flora was also new because it was a more accurate depiction of the Australian trees and scrubland.


James Cox

James Cox

James Cox (1790-1866), landowner, was born on 1 November 1790 at Devizes, Wiltshire, England, the second son of Captain William Cox, later of Clarendon, Hawkesbury, New South Wales. Educated at King Edward's Grammar School, Salisbury, he went to sea to fit himself for colonial life, before joining his parents in New South Wales in 1806. He helped his mother to manage their estates of Clarendon and Fernhill during his father's three years absence in England. On 12 June 1812 he married Mary Connel at St John's Church, Parramatta.

In 1814 Cox moved to Van Diemen's Land, where he received a grant of 700 acres (283 ha), and successfully petitioned for another 6000 acres (2428 ha) at Morven. This he named Clarendon, after his father's home, and took up residence in 1816. Next year, mainly through fear of bushrangers and Aboriginals, he moved to Launceston and became a wholesale merchant, also contracting with the government commissariat to supply meat to the settlements at Launceston and George Town. At the end of the year he was made a magistrate, and in 1820 reported on the establishments at Port Dalrymple to Commissioner John Thomas Bigge.