The historic town of Richmond has long been a place where Tasmanians have visited for a family day out, and with good reason too, as this intact early colonial town provides visitors with a delightful experience of a 19th century town which has reinvented itself.
The sandstone and brick Georgian and colonial buildings and the abundance of European trees give Richmond the appearance of an English village. Only 20 minutes drive east of Hobart, several roads lead here from various directions, so one way or another visitors end up on picturesque Bridge Street as it winds its way through the centre of the town. This street hosts an assortment of cafés, an antique shop, arts and crafts galleries, an historic pub, and shops selling all manner of goodies. A steady stream of children can normally be seen entering and leaving the old-world sweets and ice-cream shop. There’s a portrait shop where you can dress up in period costume and have your photo taken and a maze where kids (young and old) can get lost.
Although today Richmond provides an air of civility, genteel country life and recreation, it wasn’t always so, as its history goes back to the earliest days of Van Diemen’s Land. Historian, former Richmond resident and Chair of the Tasmanian Heritage Council, Dr Dianne Snowden, explains.
“The town of Richmond was proclaimed in 1824 and grew from the construction of the bridge over the Coal River which provided access to the east coast and the Tasman Peninsula. Richmond is really a microcosm of Tasmania’s colonial development – it was a military post, convict station, police district, agricultural market town, and an electoral and civil registration district, as well as a municipality,” Dr Snowden says. “Traces of these phases of development can still be seen in Richmond today: the 1825 Court House, 1832 Richmond Gaol and the convict muster yard [now known as the Richmond Village Green] were an integral part of Governor Arthur’s police district established in 1825”.
Visitors to Richmond can wander around and still see these features, and the gaol is open to the public so it is possible to get a real insight into the lives of the convicts once incarcerated here.
No visit to the town is complete without a wander down to the picturesque tree-lined Coal River to feed the ducks. A perfect photo opportunity presents itself from the riverbank with a sandstone-arched bridge behind. The well-known convict built Richmond Bridge dates back to 1823. It is considered so historically significant that it is entered on the National Heritage List as well as the Tasmanian Heritage Register. Dr Snowden says the bridge was critical to the town’s development.
“The construction of the bridge opened up a transport route from Hobart to the east coast via Richmond, providing impetus for the town to develop, as it was a logical place to stop overnight,” Dr Snowden says.
Read more about the historic town of Richmond in the Autumn 2013 issue of Tasmanian Life MagazineWords: Robyn Shaw © DPIPWE Images: Simon de Salis © DPIPWE