|The bridge at
The most beautiful historic town in Tasmania.
Tasmania has an excess of beautiful and
fascinating 19th century colonial towns. Places
like Campbell Town and Richmond are famous for
their gift shops, their pretty vistas and their
overt tourist appeal. But, of all the early 19th
towns, there is nothing quite the equal of Ross.
The secret is that the Midland Highway (the
main route between Hobart and Launceston)
by-passes Ross thus preserving the original,
sleepy character of the town.
The great quality of Ross is that it has not
been overly corrupted by modern tourism. The
town is very typically English and, with its
warm Ross sandstone, is reminiscent of the towns
which can be seen in the Cotswolds or in north
Oxfordshire. In many ways Ross is a town which
has been held in aspic. It is beautifully
Located 117 km north of Hobart and 78 km
south of Launceston, Ross is 76 metres above sea
level. The district was first explored by
Europeans in 1807 when the surveyor Charles
Grimes travelled from the north to the south of
Tasmania's central valley area. He mapped
sections of the river which subsequently became
known as Macquarie River (Governor Macquarie
named it after himself when he travelled through
the area in 1811).
On his second journey through central
Tasmania, Macquarie chose the location beside
the river for a township. He called it Ross
after the home of his friend H.M. Buchanan who
lived on Loch Lomond in Scotland. At that time
the river was forded. Later that year a wooden
bridge was built and by 1836 the stone bridge,
one of the finest in Australia, was completed.
Throughout the nineteenth century Ross was an
important stopover point between Launceston and
Hobart. As such it was a horse coach changing
point, a town for the local garrison and an
important destination for produce from the
Today it is arguably the finest nineteenth
century village in Australia. It has resisted
the excesses of commercialism and the
combination of the tree-lined main street, the
beautiful bridge and river, and the location of
the Wesleyan Church at the top of the slight
hill, combine to give it a remarkable aesthetic
beauty and tranquillity.
Things to see:
Quite rightly the pride of the village this
beautiful stone bridge was constructed by
convicts in 1836. It is the third oldest bridge
still standing in Australia and is recognised as
the most important convict-built bridge in the
country. It was constructed on the orders of
Governor Arthur and designed by John Lee Archer.
Built by convicts its beautiful stonework is the
result of two convict stonemasons - Daniel
Herbert and James Colbeck. They were paid one
shilling a day. Herbert, who had been
transported for highway robbery in 1827, was
freed after the bridge was completed and is
buried in the Old Cemetery. He is credited with
the beautiful carvings on the side of the
bridge. Experts have described the carvings as
'possibly the richest achievement of the earlier
colonial period if not the most significant
sculpture on any edifice in the Commonwealth.'
Leslie Greener, who was largely responsible for
discovering that Daniel Herbert was responsible
for the carvings, has written: 'Ross Bridge is
the most beautiful of its kind today. The
carvings have in them that delight in the shapes
themselves that our sculptors lost somewhere in
the 13th century.'
from the War Memorial
The main crossroad in Ross is known, with some
humour, as Temptation, Recreation, Salvation and
Damnation. The reason for this combination is
that on one corner (Temptation) stood the
Man-O-Ross Hotel, on another corner (Salvation)
was the Roman Catholic Church, on the third
corner was the Town Hall (Recreation) and on the
fourth stood the Jail (Damnation). More details
are provided under the Church Street heading.
The field gun in the middle of the crossroads
was actually used during the Boer War.
|A cottage in
There are a total of 40 historic buildings in
Ross (to do the village justice get a proper map
or a copy of 'Let's Talk About Ross') of which
no fewer than 22 are located on Church Street.
If you drive to the Wesley Church (now the
Uniting Church) at the top of Church Street and
walk three blocks down the western side of the
street and back three blocks (on the eastern
side) you will experience much of the appeal of
1. Uniting Church - built in 1885. Note
particularly the blackwood pews, the font with
its carved cherubim, the beautiful stained glass
windows and the modern tapestry which depicts
the tree of life and was woven in Aubusson in
2. Walk down the hill. You will pass the old
Drill Hall which was used by the Light Horse
Regiment in the lead up to World War I.
3. Next to the hall is and old cottage. It
was used as the first Army headquarters in the
4. The Tasmanian Wool Centre. This
interesting centre includes a museum, wool
exhibition, and a wool and craft area.
5. The Ross Memorial Library and Recreation
Room. Built in the 1830s this building was the
original headquarters for the Royal Ordnance
Corps. It is still possible to see the corps
crest - three cannons on a shield - carved above
the door. It is rare to find such an insignia
above any door in Australia.
6. Damnation. It is now a residence but it
was originally the local gaol.
7. Over the road is the Roman Catholic Church
which was once a store. It was converted into a
church in 1920.
8. Next door to the church is a small cottage
which was once used as the town's first post
9 and 10. Further along the street are the
Scotch Thistle Inn and its coach house. The inn
was licensed in 1840. It now operates as a
11. Further down the street (before you reach
High Street) is the Ross Post Office which was
built in 1896. It still has many elements which
recall the way it operated in earlier times.
There is a mounting stone outside to help people
get on their horses and there is still an old
post box and a stamp vending machine.
12. Cross over High Street and keep walking.
About halfway up the next block is an old rubble
stone building which was built in 1830. It is a
fine example of early colonial architecture.
13. On the corner of Church and Badajos
Streets, and across the street, is St Johns
Church of England which was built in 1868. The
organ is more than 100 years old and the church
is notable for its fine stained glass windows,
its oak lectern and its unusual Caen stone
14. Head back towards the Uniting Church on
the eastern side of Church Street. There are a
number of very old houses in this block - you
pass 'Elphinstone', once the Sherwood Castle
Hotel, which dates from the 1830s;
15. Macquarie House and Store. The building
dates from the 1840s. It now contains a fine
collection of military memorabilia dating from
1800 including both Australian and foreign
military equipment, uniforms, vehicles etc.
16. Next door is the stone residence of one
of the town's earliest inhabitants, Dr. McNamara
and on the corner;
17. Is the old St John's Sunday school. It
has stood on the corner since the 1840s although
the present building dates from 1902 when it was
18. Across High Street on the corner is an
old restored cottage which is believed to have
been a military hospital at one time in its long
19. Further down the street is Hawthorn
Cottage which dates from 1910 when it was built
for the Tacey family;
20. and the Old Ross General Store which is a
fine example of the stonemason's art.
21. Back at the corner of Church and Bridge
street are 'Temptation' or the Man O Ross Hotel
which was established by William Saddler in 1835
and, directly opposite, is:
22. 'Recreation' - the Old Ross Town Hall.
It is, by any means, a remarkable street
which simply has no peer in Australia. A fine
collection of colonial buildings on a wide
street edged by elm trees. The first settlers
couldn't have recreated their mother country
The area on either side of the Ross Bridge is
protected for swans and ducks but the river is a
popular haunt for fishermen and women eager to
catch an elusive trout.
In the District
A couple of kilometres south of Ross and to the
east you can see the beautiful Somercot's
Cottage. Built around 1840 by Captain Samuel
Horton it has 20-paned French window and a
cobbled courtyard. It is privately owned. Nearby
in Mona Vale Road is Wetmore House, a
single-storey Victorian house built in 1888 with
extensive views over the Macquarie River. There
are typical of the area. Ross is actually
surrounded by buildings of great historical and