Last week, Maggie and I spent four days in and around Hobart, the capital city of Australia’s island state, Tasmania. For this short break, we used a package deal offered by Flight Centre, the country’s largest retail travel chain. The package included airfares, three nights’ accommodation, a hire car and a half-day coach tour.
The last of these took us to Richmond, one of Tasmania’s most historic towns, best known for its bridge, the oldest in Australia and still in use today. The bridge was built in 1823, using convict labour, to enable movement of people and goods between the emerging European farms and settlements to the north and east of Hobart; the town itself, was declared the following year.
The bridge is quite handsome and much photographed.
From the bridge, it is a short walk to the main street of the town. The buildings are a mixture of stone or timber cottages, a few grand residences and several commercial establishments, many of them dating from Richmond’s boom period during the 1830s.
As you would expect of a small town that draws a steady stream of visitors, much of the main street is taken up with businesses which offer food or souvenirs. Based on previous experiences, our expectations were not high. However, we found several shops where the quality of the art and craft products was very good. These included The Sensory, Saddler’s Court and Exquisite Style Jewellery.
For the final half-hour of our visit, Maggie and I went our separate ways – she in the quest for gifts for grandchildren, me to Richmond’s old gaol.
It was the gaol, more than anything, that symbolised Richmond’s place in the early decades of the European takeover of Tasmania. The colony’s economy relied on cheap convict labour and the system for managing this resource was ruthless and brutal. Richmond was declared a ‘police district’ in 1825 and a very small, basic gaol was constructed to give effect to this purpose; further additions followed over the ensuing decade.
In my photo, the contemporary remains of the gaol look innocent enough but, within those walls, a plain but informative series of exhibits leaves you in no doubt as to the grim reality of the prisoners’ lives. Not recommended for those with a delicate constitution! (Subsequent posts will cover happier topics from our visit to Tasmania, including – surprise, surprise – dining experiences.)