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Old Rokeby Historic Trail


The Old Rokeby Historic Trail is a Centenary of Federation Community project, supported by the Commonwealth, developed by Tranmere-Clarence Plains Land & Coastcare Inc. and local volunteers. We invite you to walk through these fragments of history in the Old Rokeby Village and then wander further afield in the historic rural area.

Please read the interpretation signs and follow the Windmill logo.

Persons using this Historic Trail do so at their own risk. Many Trail sites are privately owned and we ask you to respect that privacy.

The Trail Starts at 26 Hawthorne Place

On this corner block, mail contractor Gordon Free's cottage, bus service and general store once stood. In the 1820s the land was joined to No. 24 next door, and an old plan shows a schoolhouse, towards the rear of what was later to become Rokeby Watch House land. A bell post was shown in the front yard. By 1849 the area was reserved for "Police purposes, pound hereabouts".

Click on the list below or on the numbers on the map to find out more about each location.

Clarence Plains has always been important both for its Aboriginal and European heritage. This area, called Nannyeleebata, was valued greatly by its traditional owners for the land itself, its birds, animals, the natural vegetation, the shoreline with Its major harvests of seafoods, and the landscape within which all this was held.

In 1808, the area named by John Hayes in his expedition of 1793 was to get a new type of land manager. Settlers from Norfolk Island, some of whom had been "freed from servitude" after their comparatively small crimes in England, were granted land in what was thought to be, correctly, a rich agricultural area.

All were to make their mark, both in the provision of food for the new colony, and in developing a community which has lasted and grown over the years. The early influence of the Church in the person of the gregarious Colonial Chaplain Robert Knopwood meant that schools came to the area as early as 1820.

In this open area of country, sheltered by wooded hills, with ready access to Ralph's Bay, with a then permanent rivulet, Rokeby village grew. By 1866 there were 180 inhabitants in the township, surrounded by pastoral and agricultural properties.

With grand mansions, working farms, humble cottages, schools, inns and places of worship, outdoor activities of cricket, horse races and ploughing matches, Rokeby continued its pleasant and peaceful existence. The semaphore and steam ferries had improved the links with Hobart, and, at Federation, life was good.

Then, the triple disasters of war, depression and fire struck. Rokeby was no longer a prosperous village. Out of disaster came change. In 1942, after Japan entered the war, a power supply was rushed through to Fort Direction and many Rokeby housewives learnt the joy of an electric iron. A sealed main road followed in the '50s, and after the disastrous bushfires of 1967, mains water, sewerage, public telephones and a Rural Fire Brigade came along.

In the 1970s the Department of Housing, added to the small private housing estates, by developing the Rokeby Grange and Clarendon Vale Estates, introducing the interactive Radburn design in Rokeby. Schools expanded with the suburbs, as did the facilities of shops, church, medical and community centres, and parklands.

Photographs used with the kind permission of:

The Archives Office of Tasmania 
Bellerive Historical Society 
Lois Bayley 
Gwen & Bernie Cook 
Audrey Hudspeth 
Sue Potter 
The Chipman Family 
Wendy Granger 
Dianne West

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