The Hobart Rivulet (1)

When we went to Tasmania earlier this year, one of the delights was walking along the banks of the Hobart Rivulet; it was a lovely riverside walk, partly through natural (but tidy) woodland, partly though landscaped parkland – although on a small scale! The Rivulet was low, it was summer and there had been no significant rain for a while, but we noticed that flood defences were in place, and at intervals there were grills across its course to stop bits of tree, branch, debris etc being washed downstream or causing a blockage and so a flood. All was fairly neat and tidy although we did see some litter, the detritus of modern life, plastic bottles (inevitably) bits of paper and plastic, cans etc.

We really enjoyed our walk down as far as where the Rivulet became culverted, and if we had time we would have walked it again. Definitely on the list for next time we visit! However all is not well, as I shall reveal in further posts…

Meanwhile, partly for the series of 73 (73 blogs on a variety of different given subjects) and partly because I want to respond to what has gone wrong for the Hobart Rivulet, I have begun to write about it.

Here is part 1 (and if anyone spots any errors i will be so grateful if they tell me!)

Wherever you go in Hobart you can see kunanyi – now known as Mount Wellington. In the winter it is covered in snow and it must look strikingly marvellous. We saw it in the middle of summer, a reassuring presence overlooking the busy city. We took a trip to the top… on a day which was wet and rainy, and all we saw was cloud and mist… it was tremendously atmospheric – literally, and although yes, I would like to travel up to its peak again on a good day to see the view, there was an almost mystical sense of it being a special place.

The first people who lived here were the mouheneener people and the pure fresh water flowing down the mountain was a precious resource… It flowed down and joined the mighty Tasmanian river, timtumili minanya

… and then at the end of the seventeenth century wooden ships sailed into the bay bringing white people who would colonise the area, and eventually the whole island. This land was then named Van Diemen’s Land. The English colonists, mainly prisoners from Britain’s overflowing jails and soldiers to guard them, had tried to establish a settlement at piyura kitina, which they called Risdon Cove, but lack of drinking water sent them in search of a more ‘suitable’ site. They found it at the confluence of that little fresh water river, where it joined the timtumili minanya, which the new arrivals named The River Derwent.

It wasn’t many months after their arrival that a flour mill was built on the rivulet in 1805, and by 1820 there were three more. The settlement was called Hobarton and was named after Lord Hobart who was the British secretary of state for war and the colonies – or to be precise, Robert Hobart, 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire, the Lord Hobart. Hobarton became Hobart, and the river flowing off the mountain became the Hobart Rivulet. Originally the Rivulet met the Derwent at what became Franklin’s Wharf, but later is course was altered, the water piped and culverted and it now emerges into the river near the Cenotaph.

Now the area is named the English way, any mouheneener names have been forgotten although many features are being renamed with new Aboriginal names. The Hobart Rivulet flows from its source on the slopes kunanyi, over O’Grady’s Falls and the Strickland Falls until it reaches an imposing edifice opened in 1828 as a prison for female convicts (and their children), a prison and workhouse, the Cascades Female Factory. In actual fact it was originally supposed to be a distillery – what does a distillery need to operate? Water – and what as flowing past the proposed site? Pure mountain water. However, by the time the owner arrived from England and opened it in 1824, there were at least sixteen other distilleries already operating and he went out of business. The Cascade Brewery, which still is there today, was opened in 1824, again using the fresh pure water to make its world famous beers, lager and cider.

© Lois Elsden

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