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«FLINDERS UNIVERSITY MARITIME ARCHAEOLOGY MONOGRAPHS SERIES Number 7 Convict Probation and the Evolution of Jetties in Tasmania Rick Bullers FLINDERS ...»

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The system had various shortcomings, and several modifications were made to the system by Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Stanley, and his successors, Gladstone and Earl Grey.

The system was eventually abolished in 1853 with the cessation of transportation to Van Diemen’s Land.


The second stage of punishment, whereby convicts were sent to probation stations around Van Diemen’s Land, is of relevance to this report because of the attendant infrastructure and transportation/communication requirements.

Convict Stations on the Tasman Peninsula About eighty probation stations were established in Van Diemen’s Land between the probation system’s inception in 1839 and its abolishment in 1853 (Brand, 1990: 225). A number of these had existed as punishment stations under the old assignment system prior to probation.

The Tasman Peninsula, like Sarah Island and Maria Island, was set aside by the Crown solely for use by the Convict Department. Except with special authorisation, private boats were not permitted within three miles of the peninsula (Brand, 1998: 112). Therefore, the settlements established on the peninsula were all related in some way to the management of convicts.

There were about eleven substantial stations established on Tasman Peninsula during the convict period, including two on nearby islands. Table 1 provides a summary of these stations and their period/s of use (also refer to Figure 1). However, not all stations accommodated prisoners. Little Norfolk Bay was a transfer station, to distribute stores to the various other stations and provided a safe entry to Port Arthur so that the rough sea passage around the southern end of the peninsula could be avoided. Eaglehawk Neck operated a garrison with a chain of dogs across the narrow isthmus to deter escape from the peninsula, and a number of much smaller posts were spread between Eaglehawk Neck and Little Norfolk Bay for the same purpose. There was a small party stationed on Woody Island to house a cutter that serviced the other stations, and to operate the semaphore signal system to allow communication between stations on the peninsula.

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Port Arthur was the first station established, in 1830, as a timber-getting camp and slowly rose in importance as the benefits of its location were realised. In 1833 coal was discovered on the north western end of the peninsula and the Coal Mines station was established to exploit the natural resource and act as a place of punishment for misbehaving convicts at Port Arthur.

The majority of stations, however, were set up as labour stations following the introduction of the probation system in 1839. The Coal Mines and the juvenile prison of Point Puer, which already existed as punishment stations, also adopted probationary characteristics.


Following the cessation of transportation in 1853, a number of the stations continued to function as probation stations until about 1856. Subsequently, several of these, including Cascades and Saltwater River became attached to Port Arthur as agricultural outstations.

Jetties and the Post-Convict Period The Tasman Peninsula during the convict era has been described as an “island of exile” because it was a suitable geographic location for segregating society’s undesirables (Jackman, 2004: 12).

Surrounded by sea, and with few or no roads, transport and communication to, from and around the peninsula was conducted almost exclusively by shipping. Jetties to support this maritime commerce were a vital piece of infrastructure for the efficient operation of the penal system.

However, while the convict era is undoubtedly a seminal period in the history of the Tasman Peninsula, the importance of the jetties to community development in the post-convict, freesettlement period should not be underestimated. Settlers took up parcels of land in new communities centred on the old probation stations. The infrastructure the government established for convict management greatly assisted the orderly progression to a free community on the peninsula. Orchards sprang up across the northern side of the peninsula from the 1880s and continued expanding during the first half of the 20th century. Though better roads had been pushed into the interior, settlers still relied on the sea to transport their produce to external markets. The jetties retained their importance until regular steamer services ceased in the 1950s.

The story of the Norfolk Bay jetties is the story of the white settlement of the region, from penal beginnings through to living memory.

Cascades Station Establishment Cascades Probation Station was established in late-1841, and was the third labour station established on the Tasman Peninsula under the probation system. Cascades, in what is now the community of Koonya, was located approximately midway between the transfer station at Norfolk Bay and the Impression Bay Probation Station (Jackman, 2004: 18) The site was named for the small stream that flowed through the valley, over a waterfall, and into the bay (NPWS, 1984).

The site was chosen primarily to access the stands of tall hardwood forest, supplying timber to other peninsula stations as well as for other government projects, including new wharves in Hobart (Tuffin, 2004: 78). For the sake of efficiency in transportation, labour and materials, Cascades became the major centre for timber production on the peninsula between 1846 and 1856, surpassing Port Arthur during that period (Tuffin, 2004: 75).

Twenty-five convicts with their supervising constables initially settled the station (Tuffin, 2004:

73). In 1842-43, there were 205 prisoners, and by 1846 the number of prisoners had risen to 445, of which about 200 were employed in agriculture (Brand, 1998: 73; McMahon, 1966: 65).

However, by the following year (1847), the number of prisoners had dropped to 403, of which 104 were in chains (La Trobe, C.J. cited in Brand, 1990: 185). This is despite the fact that in 1847 Cascades Station, along with Saltwater River and Impression Bay, were used to help accommodate 600 prisoners from Norfolk Island (AOT GO 46/1, 1848: 179-180). A steady decline in prisoner numbers is evident over the next 10 years. In 1850 numbers had fallen to 304 prisoners (183 employed in timber related tasks) and again to 299 in 1852 (AOT Misc 62/34/A1141/21370, 1855a).

In 1852, the probation stations at Cascades, Impression Bay and Saltwater River were proclaimed by Executive Council as “Houses of correction for the reception and punishment of transported

and other male and female convicts” (Hobart Town Gazette, 3 August 1852, cited in Lord, n.d.:

23). However, the probation system was short-lived, and was terminated the following year.

Although transportation had ended, there were still prisoners at the station that had to see their sentence through.

By 1856, the area’s timber resources were exhausted, and Cascades station was evacuated and its prisoners transferred elsewhere (AOT GO 46/3, 1857). In November of that year, Cascades (along with Impression Bay) became a quarantine station for a total of three months, receiving 86


quarantined immigrants. In February 1858 it was placed under a caretaker, A. T. Stuart (Lord, n.d.: 65). By 1863 only nine men remained in residence, growing vegetable crops and carrying out some animal herding (Godfey et al, 1982, cited in NPWS, 1984). This low level of activity continued until the station closed in 1873.

In 1882, the buildings at Cascades, like those at other convict stations, were in poor condition, and the land they stood on was sold off by the Government. The list of private owners is as follows: Henry Chesterman (1882), James Roxburgh McClymont (1891), Edward Brown (1901), George Worladge and Thomas Frank Lock (1907) and James Dyson Lacey from 1907 (NPWS, 1984). In 1915, the property passed into the Clark family commencing with Belmont Moses Clark (1915), Alfred Belmont Clark (1951) and Donald Alfred Clark (1970).

The community of Cascades formally changed its name to Koonya in 1903 (Hobart Mercury, 28 April 1903: 3). The property Cascades is listed on the National Estate and Tasmanian Heritage Register, and many of the buildings have been refurbished as guest accommodation. Although under private ownership, a management plan was prepared under section 19 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1970 (NPWS, 1984). However, the management plan does not encompass the headland or any infrastructure associated with the jetty.

Operations From 1842 land at Cascades was progressively cleared, first for roads and buildings, and later for agriculture, but more importantly timber production. By 1846, 200 of the station’s 445 prisoners were employed in agriculture. The years 1846 to 1847 saw quite a variety in the station’s

production. In 1846, wheat was first sown and 500 bushels were harvested (McMahon, 1966:

65). However, the experiment with wheat failed and was abandoned in 1847; agricultural cropping changed to vegetables (NPWS, 1984). Also in 1846, after Impression Bay was converted to an invalid depot, Cascades took over the manufacture of carts, wheelbarrows and other implements required by the Convict Department (AOT CO 280/199, 1846: 280-281, cited in Lord, n.d.: 20).

However, by far the biggest priority for production at Cascades was timber. 1846 was also the year in which Cascades surpassed Port Arthur as the prime timber production centre on the Tasman Peninsula (Tuffin, 2004: 75). As a result production, and consequently infrastructure, steadily increased. Production received a further boost in 1851 when a steam sawmill was established about one mile (1200m) south of the main settlement. It is likely that even prior to the installation of the steam mill, the same site was used for sawing timber, rather than at the main settlement or at the site of felling operations (Tuffin, 2004: 76).

In 1853, Quaker missionary Frederick Mackie described an interesting method of transporting the timber to the sawmill via a timber-lined ditch heading downslope from the harvesting area to the sawmill. Logs would be placed in the ditch, then shoot down under gravity at great speed until reaching the mill (Tuffin, 2004: 76).

From the mill, timber produce, cut to order, was transported to the Cascades jetty via a tramway (see below), and stockpiled on the jetty awaiting trans-shipment by passing vessels (AOT Misc 64/34/All41/21370, 1855b).

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21). In June 1846, La Trobe reported that 44 hard labour convicts were “erecting a jetty.” (Brand, 1990: 134). However, it is not clear whether this was part of the initial construction phase (4½ years after commencement), an extension of the existing jetty after it had been initially completed, or construction of an entirely separate (new) structure.

Given the speed of construction of jetties at the Coal Mines, it is unlikely that this jetty would still be under initial construction in 1846. The Superintendent at Cascades was said to be “very steady and energetic” (Brand, 1990: 185). The most likely explanation is that the type of work being performed in 1846 was actually maintenance rather than construction.

The tramway from the sawmill to the jetty is shown on the plan of the station in 1857 (Figure 1), but it has been conjectured that the tramway would have been in place before the increased production rates following the installation of the steam sawmill in 1851 (Tuffin, 2004: 76). The tramway ran in a straight line from the mill until it reached the south western corner of the settlement, where it veered westerly and circled the bay to the western headland and jetty. Given that the station (and its infrastructure) post-dates the station at Saltwater River, it is likely that the tramway at Cascades used similar iron rails and rail chairs, rather than the older-style timber rails used at the Coal Mines. The tramway skirted close to the shore where it approached the jetty and was held in place by a retaining wall some 200ft in length (Guiler, 1998: 170).

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Timber was stockpiled either on the pier itself or in a nearby shed whilst awaiting shipment (AOT Misc 64/34/All41/21370, 1855a). Unfortunately, the 1857 plan does not show the jetty or shed on the headland, so the shed’s exact position is unknown. However, a second-generation rebuild in 1885 used the original abutment, and the plans show an existing shed, which may be the same one.

There is little mention of a formal ballast dumping area in the historical record. Timber was mainly transported to (Little) Norfolk Bay (for overland shipment to Port Arthur) via the Woody Island cutter, steamers and a number of launches (AOT Misc 64/34/All41/21370, 1855a).

Whether vessels from other ports, such as Hobart Town, arrived at Cascades in ballast for the express purpose of shipping timber is not known. If such arrangements were made, then it is feasible that evidence of ballast dumping will be found in the archaeological record. Guiler (1998: 170) states that a second jetty (known as the Old Jetty) was built at the end of jetty road as a separate structure to the convict-built jetty. Little is known about it but it is said that it was as long as the convict jetty, and that the only remains are ballast stones dumped beside it. The piles from one of these jetties were still standing in 1888, when concerns were made about the risk to shipping at the adjacent new jetty (AOT PWD 18/1/362, 1888).

A survey conducted by G.C. Smith in 1876 shows the position of the original convict-built jetty (Figure 2). By that time the jetty was in ruins, and the plan shows the jetty to be in two sections with a large gap between.

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In August 1882, Parliament voted £1100 to construct new jetties at Cascades, Impression Bay and Carnarvon, near Port Arthur (AOT, 1882b: 126). For most of 1883, debate raged on where to site the new Cascades jetty. There were two principal camps. The first, led by George Kingston of Carnarvon, wanted the jetty built at a new site at Newman’s Creek, about 3km east of Cascades (AOT PWD 18/1/362, 1883a). The second, and more numerous group, was led by M.J.

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