Bothwell, a small rural village, situated in the beautiful Clyde River Valley and gateway to the Central Plateau, is about an hour’s drive north of Hobart. Bothwell had its beginnings as early as 1807, when Thomas Laycock, a Lieutenant in the N.S.W. corps was sent by Lieut-Governor P. William Patterson from Launceston to Hobart for food, the settlement of Port Dalrymple (now Launceston) was in a state of famine and it was believed food was more plentiful in Hobart Town. On his way, Thomas Laycock camped on the banks of the Clyde River, near where Bothwell now stands, on 8th February, 1807. And so began the rich and colourful history of the Bothwell region, a story of convicts, of bushrangers and of religious disputes as settlement began.
Bothwell: Gateway to the Central Plateau
Over the next fourteen years settlement of Van Diemen’s Land was progressing, and with New Norfolk settled in 1807, new settlers began to move North. In 1817 the Bothwell area was first surveyed, and in 1818, Michael Howe, a convict who had absconded, reputed to be the worst of the Bushrangers was captured and killed on the banks of the Shannon at Hunterton, a little north of Bothwell, and it’s reputed his head was carried back to Hobart Town as proof he had been killed.
In 1821 the first settlers to take up land in the area began to arrive, the first being predominantly Scottish. The first settler on The Clyde River (then known as Fat Doe River) however, was Edward Nicholas, who arrived in 1921 from Wales and settled on 1800 acres, the property was named Nant. The early days of Bothwell’s settlement is well known for two Australian ‘firsts’… Pioneer Captain Patrick Wood created Australia’s first Aberdeen Angus stud at Bothwell and it is also claimed the first recorded game of golf in Australia was also played near Bothwell, on Alexander Reid’s ‘Ratho’ property in the 1830’s.
Today Bothwell is a quiet little village, a village one stands in and feels as though one is lost in the passage of time, where many of the historical properties and buildings still stand, and many descendants of those early settlers still live. The historic village of Bothwell is today listed on the Australian Heritage Register, along with many of its historic buildings, some of which details follow.
The Nant Estate
The Nant Estate, about 1.5km from the Bothwell Village centre, was home to Edward Nicholas, the first settler at Bothwell. Edward Nicholas arrived from Wales in 1821, either with or followed by his wife and four children. Nant was the first European settlement in the Clyde Valley region and was for many years one of Tasmania’s largest pastoral landholdings. The estate consists of a convict built Georgian sandstone cottage and a farm complex, all of which are an integral part of Australia’s heritage.
Here Edward Nicholas raised Angus cattle and Suffolk sheep, and grew wheat. The cottage was used by the Irish political exiles, John Mitchell and John Martin, during their stay in Tasmania in the 1850s, both these men had been arrested for treasonable writings and were transported to Van Diemen’s Land as convicts. In 1823, Edward Nicholas built a water driven flour mill on the property, then in 1857 a new mill was built. Today this second mill has been restored to it’s former glory and now houses the Nant Whisky Distillery. The farming of Angus cattle and Suffolk sheep continues also at Nant today.
Ratho Golf Links
Alexander Reid was a free settler who came to the colony from Scotland with his wife and two children, arriving in Hobart Town on 1st March 1822. They lived in Hobart Town for a short time until Reid was granted land on the Clyde River, nearly fifty miles from Hobart. The land was in two sections, 1400 acres which he named Ratho after the family property back in his homeland, and 600 acres five miles downstream, which he named Humbie after the town of his birth in Scotland.
The Reid family moved to Ratho in 1822, where they lived in a mud cottage for three years until building a permanent homestead. While living in the cottage, Mrs Reid was held up by bushrangers while her husband Alexander was absent. It is written, “she showed characteristic self-control and coolness by handing over her keys so that her furniture would not be smashed”.
The Ratho Golf Links were first laid out and played on by the Reid family. It is claimed to be Australia’s oldest golf course, and the oldest remaining outside of Scotland. The Ratho Golf Links is among the best preserved of all the world’s early golf courses. Almost like a time capsule, here at Ratho one can stand and watch golfers play a round amongst the sheep, which graze on the course, with fences to keep them off the square greens. One sees this course as a mixture of farming and recreation, so it is, for this is how golf began many years ago.
Church in Bothwell
The first of Bothwell’s churches was opened in 1830. St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church was designed by colonial architect, John Lee Archer but not entirely accepted by Governor Arthur, who directed the designer to change the rounded windows, for he found them to be unchristian. The church was built by the colonial government for joint use by the Anglican and Presbyterian congregations.
Many of the materials used to build the church were prepared at Bothwell for example: 500 bushels of lime which was quarried and burned on the property of John Thompson, forty loads of sand were to be brought along with 3,000 shingles and 120 loads of stone which came from the quarries on the outskirts of the township. The foundation stone was laid by Alexander Reid of “Ratho” on 24th May 1830.
The Church, dedicated to St. Luke bears two Celtic symbols, male and female, representing fertility, set on either side of the doorway,. These sculptures were the work of Daniel Herbert, a convict sculptor whose many works can be seen in heritage buildings in the state. Daniel Herbert also carved the famous Ross Bridge heads. St. Luke’s was opened for service in 1831, the Reverend Dr. Drought, resident clergyman of Green Ponds and Reverend James Garrett shared the service. The clock which is seen in the tower was a gift from Dennistoun Wood, the bell bears the inscription T. Meares, London 1828 and the entrance gates were the gift of George Nicholas of “Nant”.
Today St. Luke’s has now become the Uniting Church in Bothwell. Surrounding the St Luke’s Church is also the Bothwell Cemetery, the site was selected and fenced in 1827 and serves as a burial ground for all of Bothwell. The first recorded burial was in 1829, and the oldest existing headstone dates back to 1834 and is on the grave of a ‘James Dean’. Edward Nicholas, the first settler of Bothwell who arrived on the ship ‘Grace’, is buried here within a family grave.
The Anglicans, with financial support from Mrs William Nicholas of ‘Nant’, built their own church in 1891. St Michaels and All Angels Anglican Church was built owing to disputes and differences between the Anglican and Presbyterian congregations, who until this time had to share the one building. Designed in the French Gothic style by Alexander North in 1887, this small country cathedral was built by Lewis & Son and Hallet from locally quarried sandstone by stonemason Thomas Lewis, St Michael’s and All Angels Anglican Church was consecrated by Bishop Montgomery in 1893. The tower was added in 1923, though not completed until 1929.
Scots and Tartan
As you wander through Bothwell, you’ll notice all the street signs are of tartan design. The tartan was created by Mrs Isabella Lamont Shorrock and her husband Jock, of the Lamont Weaving Studio formerly of Bothwell. The sett (pattern) and the colours are taken from the history of Bothwell and from Tasmanian nature. The Bothwell region is known for its early Scottish settlers including the McDowell family, so the design was based on the McDowell sett. The colours taken from nature, the eucalypt and acacia (wattle), representing the two soft grey-greens of the living eucalypt leaves, and the maroon and pink seen as the leaves are dying, while the yellow is representative of the acacia flowers.
Bothwell is home to many more historic buildings and locations. A stroll can be taken through Croakers Alley Historic Walk where one follows the footsteps taken by the troops from Fort Wentworth (still standing and used as a private residence) to cross the River Clyde, today a beautiful meandering river. Mount Adelaide Lookout, known locally as Barrack Hill will provide you with views across the village of Bothwell and beyond to Table Mountain, Woods Quoin, Barrs Hill and Den Hill.
The Bothwell Literary Society Building which once housed a collection of books forming the oldest country library in Australia, founded in 1834 and moved into the building in 1856, today this building is the Municipal Council Chambers. The Castle Hotel, one of four original hotels in Bothwell, this one being continually licensed since 1829. The Gothic style old state school, circa 1887, always a two teacher school, it now houses the Australasian Golf Museum and Tourist Information Centre.
Bothwell is certainly a town holding so much of our state’s history. There are so many historic buildings and properties, from quaint sandstone cottages to large elaborate homesteads, stores, churches, stables, outbuildings and mills, so much history in one small village. Definitely a must see.
Accommodation at Bothwell can be found in one of numerous heritage buildings now serving as B&Bs, Motels and Lodges, while good food can be found at cafes or the Castle Hotel. While in Bothwell we called into a newer eating place called Devil’s Den Café and Takeaway. A lovely eating place, where nothing is too much bother for staff. Delicious food and good conversation with friendly staff can be found at Devil’s Den.
All photos strictly ©Carol Haberle, H&H Photography. You can follow Carol on Facebook at Haberle Photo Cards. Carol writes feature articles for this website about all things Tasmanian. If you’d like Carol to visit you, please contact Think Tasmania.
If you like this article about Tasmania, and you’d like to read more, just subscribe to our newsletter or join us on social media via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. If you really like this article, and you want others to see it, you can choose one of the “share” options below. We’d love that!
Comments relevant to this article are always most welcome, just leave a reply below. But first… please confirm the date of this article. Have you found something current, or is this ancient information? Either way, thanks for your company and come back again soon.