A Timeline of Launceston

1798 – Matthew Flinders and George Bass sheltered from bad weather at Port Dalrymple and spent sixteen days exploring the river as far as Freshwater Point. The river was called Ponrabbel by the indigenous people. Governor Hunter named the estuary after the naval hydrographer Alexander Dalrymple.

1802 – A French expedition led by Baudin was commissioned by Napoleon to undertake scientific research in the South Seas. One group led by Faure explored the entrance to Port Dalrymple.

1804 – An expedition to settle the area was formed in NSW under Lieutenant Colonel William Paterson. He arrived on the Buffalo on 4 November and set up a camp at Outer Cove, later named George Town. The site was not considered suitable for a permanent settlement with limited water, sterile soil and poor quality native grass.  Most of the soldiers and convicts moved across the river to Western Arm to establish a new settlement called York Town.

1805 – 4 March, York Town became the headquarters of the Port Dalrymple settlement. On 19 March the Sydney arrived with 612 Bengal cows, ten calves and 34 ewes. By December only 246 cattle had survived, so Paterson moved the remaining cattle to the banks of the North Esk River. Sheds for the cattle and an eight by ten foot hut were built at the ‘Plains’.

1806 – The farming settlement near the Cataract was called Patersonia by Governor King and Richings Park by Paterson. In June the Venus arrived in Port Dalrymple from Sydney with much needed supplies, but the convict pilot, first mate and guard sailed the ship away to Chile. On 26 August Paterson left for Sydney on the Sophia. Captain Kemp was left in charge.

1807 – Paterson returned in April and found the inhabitants in a miserable state without food or clothing. The new settlement was being referred to as Launceston, the birthplace of Governor King in Cornwall, England. Government House built in Launceston, in what was to become City Park.

1808 – William and Elizabeth Paterson departed for Sydney in December, leaving Launceston with a thriving herd of cattle and gardens. Lieutenant John Brabyn arrived in November to take command at Port Dalrymple.

1809 – As Commanding Officer of the NSW Corps, Paterson reluctantly became Governor of NSW on 26 January.

1810 – Governor Lachlan Macquarie took over from Paterson as Governor of NSW. In February Brabyn was replaced by Major George Gordon of the 73rd Regiment.

1811 – Governor Lachlan Macquarie visited Launceston in December and was not impressed. He ordered the northern headquarters of VDL to be moved to Outer Cove (renamed York Cove) where he laid out his plans for a new settlement called George Town.

1812 – Governance of the Island is moved to Government House in Hobart. Captain John Ritchie appointed Commandant on 1 July, subordinate to Major A Geils in Hobart, instead of receiving orders directly from Sydney. But Macquarie continued to order the removal of the northern headquarters to George Town against the wishes of the settlers.

1814 – Captain James McKenzie of the 46th Regiment became the Commandant.

1815 – Work began on George Town.

1816 – Major James Stewart of the 46th Regiment became the Commandant.

1818 – Colonel Gilbert Cimitiere of the 48th Regiment appointed Commandant at Port Dalrymple on 7 April. He replaced Major Stewart who departed on the Elizabeth Henrietta with his detachment of the 46th Regiment.

1819 – The seat of Government for Northern Tasmania was moved to George Town.

1820 – Visit by John Thomas Bigge to conduct an enquiry into colonial administration. He recommended that building works in George Town were to cease and the headquarters be moved back to Launceston. Macquarie refused.

1821 – Second tour by Governor Macquarie. He continued with developments at George Town as the headquarters until his departure from office in 1822.

1822 – Col Cimitiere left in December and was replaced by Lt-Col Charles Cameron who was tasked with moving the headquarters back to Launceston.

1823 – Bigge’s report was published. Rev. Samuel Marsden consecrated cemeteries in the Port Dalrymple area.

1824 –  The Cornwall Hotel, now Batman Fawkner Hotel is built in Launceston.

1825 –  Lt-Col Charles Cameron departed George Town on the Cumberland. He was replaced by Lt-Col William Balfour of the 40th Regiment who was appointed Commandant of Port Dalrymple on 6 April 1825. His wife Charlotte died at Government House on 22 August. She was buried at St John’s Church which was being constructed at the time. The northern headquarters were moved to Launceston under orders from Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur.

1826 – Edward Abbott appointed Civil Commandant at Launceston in January.

1829 – On 9 February the first issue of the Launceston Advertiser went on sale. The proprietor was John Pascoe Fawkner.

1832 – Edward Abbott died at Government House, Launceston on 31 July. Major Fairtlough of the 63rd Regiment was appointed Commandant in September.

1834 – Major Fairweather of the 21st Fusiliers was Commandant from 4 January, succeeding Major Fairtlough who proceeded to India.

1835 – Major Deare of the 21st Fusiliers was appointed Commandant in April to replace Fairweather who went to Hobart. In December Major Ryan of the 50th Regiment took command.

1838 – Franklin House is built by convicts for Britton Jones, an ex-convict inn keeper and brewer, at Franklin Village.

1839 – Major Mainwaring of the 51st Light Infantry was appointed Commandant in May.

1840 – Major St Maur of the 51st Regiment was appointed Commandant in July. Many enterprising people migrated to the mainland, and the new colony of New Zealand, seeking work. Tasmania in a depression due to economic issues and manpower shortages that continued for 40 years.

1842 – St John’s Square Chapel was built (now known as Milton Hall). The Launceston Examiner founded by James Aikenhead. The Examiner is Australia’s third oldest surviving newspaper. The Launceston Mechanics’ Institute was founded.

1843 – Lt-Col Cumberland of the 96th Regiment was Commandant from March.

1845 – In September Lt-Col Cumberland left Launceston. The office of civil commandant in the north was discontinued.

1847 – Dr William Russ Pugh performs the first operation with anaesthetic in Australia at Launceston’s St John’s Hospital, now Morton House, Charles Street.

1850 – The Anti-Transportation League was established to end the transportation of convicts to Tasmania.

1851 – First intercolonial cricket match is hosted in Launceston. (Van Diemen’s Land v Port Phillip)

1853 – The Launceston municipal government established with elections on 1 January. William Stammers Button elected Mayor with six aldermen, Thomas Button, Charles J Weedon, Adye Douglas, Henry Dowling, John Crookes and Francis Evans.

1860 – Launceston Volunteer Artillery Company formed with Captain RCD Home as the Commanding Officer.

1864 – The Council commissions the design and construction of a Town Hall. The South Esk Bridge, now called Kings Bridge was opened.

1867 – Launceston Town Hall is first occupied.

1904 – The second span of the South Esk Bridge is opened, and the name is changed to Kings Bridge.

1911 – A suburban tramway opens in Launceston, remaining in operation until 1952.

1913 – Trams begin running to Trevallyn, sharing Kings Bridge with cars.

1929 – Launceston is flooded, the worst floods in Tasmania’s history.

Article written by Phil & Matt Stephens of Stephens Creative