BHS logo Bothwell and its Chronology

Site of the Town:

Bothwell:       Latitude 42° 23’ S    Longitude 147° 01’ E



482 at 2016 Census


Situated on the Highland Lakes Road (A5), still called the Lake Highway by the locals, it is the last major town on the way North before crossing the Western Tiers.  It is an hour’s drive from Hobart and two hours from Launceston.  The town was developed on the banks of the Clyde River, occupying the one location that was not taken up amongst those marked out along the broad river valley.

Bothwell was the administrative centre of the former Bothwell Municipality and is now a major town in the Central Highlands Municipality.


The Historical Development

For thousands of years this area was part of the lands of the Mairremmener people who moved seasonally between the central highlands and the coast.


This updated time line is based on an earlier one prepared by an unknown Bothwell resident.


Thomas Laycock, a Lieutenant in the NSW Corps, was sent by Lieut. Governor Paterson to walk with a party of men from Launceston to Hobart for food.  They camped on the banks of the Clyde River, somewhere near Bothwell on 8th February 1807.  After this, kangaroo hunters visited the area.  Grazing licences were issued, and stock keepers and stock huts occupied the area.

Thomas Laycock


Michael Howe, reputed to be the worst of the Bushrangers, was killed on the banks of the Shannon near Hunterston.  His body was buried on site but his head was taken to Hobart for the reward.

Michael Howe


In the December, Lt. Governor Sorell accompanied by Surveyor G. W. Evans visited the area and found land suitable for sheep farming.


The first two settler families arrived per Grace in August 1821.  They were Charles and Horace Rowcroft who at settled at Norwood and Grassy Hut and Edward Nicholas and family who settled at Nant.

Charles and Horace Rowcroft


The Clyde River acquired its official name about this time. It had previously been called the Fat Doe River, named probably by kangaroo hunters.  (For some years in the 1990s, there was a bakery called The Fat Doe Bakery.)


The ship the Castle Forbes brought the following to the area –

   Captain Patrick Wood, a retired officer of the East Indian Army – who settled at Dennistoun

   Myles Patterson and his family who later settled at Hunterston.

   Captain and Mrs Sockett, who settled at Logan.

   Phillip Russell, who later established Strathbarton.

   Alexander Reid and family who settled at Ratho.

   Adam Smith who established part of Meadsfield.

Captain Patrick Wood

Phillip Russell

Alexander Reid


Thomas Axford built a water mill at Thorpe.  It had a brick mill-house with an undershot water wheel deriving its energy from the Clyde River.  He met an untimely death in 1855 at Bagdad at the hands of a bushranger called John, alias Rocky, Whelan.


Dr James Ross LL.D was granted the Hermitage on the Shannon River.  He called this property, which was a great distance from Bothwell, after Hermitage Castle in Scotland which was a far distant property of the Earl of Bothwell.  (Ross later sold it to Walter and Frederic Synnott).  Ross soon moved to Hobart and became Government Printer and a publisher.

James Ross


Hon. Capt. William Langdon RN received a grant of 1,500 acres on the Clyde River, which he called Montacute after his village in Somerset, England.  He settled permanently in Tasmania in 1834.  He later became a member of the Tasmanian Legislative Council.  To him also belongs the dubious honour of having introduced the blackbird to Tasmania.

William Langdon


Archibald McDowall and family arrived in the Portland.  He had been injured at sea and took over the property Logan close to the Bothwell settlement on the invitation of Captain Wood who had bought it from Captain Francis Sockett.  Sockett had left the colony but died at Cape Town on his return home.


The Triton arrived with a Fifeshire bull in the charge of James Foster.  This was the start of a herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle at Dennistoun, which was destined to become the oldest in Australia.


Captain William Clark settled at Cluny.  Augustus Earle’s painting of his original cottage is held by the National Library of Australia.


Dr William Crowther was granted 800 acres on the banks of the Clyde at Hollow Tree (not far from Montacute).  From his family came two Premiers of the State of Tasmania.  The Crowthers did not live on the grant.

William Crowther


During this year Bothwell received a visit from an extremely colourful character by the name of Jorgen Jorgensen who was to become known as the ‘Viking of Van Diemen’s Land’.

Jorgen Jorgensen,


Governor Arthur, on the recommendation of Archdeacon Scott (the first Archdeacon of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land), appointed Archibald McDowall catechist for the district at £50 a year.  The position of Commissariat Clerk was added soon afterwards.  Sunday services were held in the barn or house at Logan.


Archdeacon Scott, during a visit to Bothwell to conduct a service, chose the site for a church.


The first mail service was commenced, the postman usually being a ticket-of-leave man.


The first resident minister, the Rev. James Garrett was appointed.

James Garrett


In the May, the foundation stone of the Church of St Luke, was laid by Alexander Reid.  The church cost £1,000 to build and was opened in 1831 as a combined Church of England and Presbyterian Church.  The Rev. Dr Drought, Rector of Green Ponds (now Kempton), alternated with Rev. Garrett in holding services in the Church.

In October, what was to be known as the “Black Line” was formed by Governor Arthur with the intention of rounding up the aborigines and placing them under the control of a competent establishment.  It cost the government at least £30,000 and was a failure.


During this period, the following persons were recorded against the respective positions –

      Mr E. A. Wheatley, Chief District Constable

      Mr Phineas Moss, Chief Constable’s Clerk

      Mr N. S. Quick, Postmaster

      Major C. Schaw of 21st Regiment, Police Magistrate

It is of interest to note that it cost five pence to send a letter from Bothwell to Hobart at this time.

Probably the first golf in Australia was played by Mr. Alexander Reid.  Golf was played on many farms about Bothwell.  When a club was formed it played on both Logan and Ratho but eventually played only on Ratho and continues to do so.


The Church of St Luke was opened.  Also in November of this year the Hobart Town Courier reported that during the winter months, 100,000 kangaroo skins were taken around Bothwell.


George Augustus Robinson passed through Bothwell with the remaining members of the Big River and Oyster Bay bands.  They danced a corroboree in front of the Castle Hotel in Bothwell.

The inhabitants offered to contribute 100 guineas towards making good the Melton Mowbray to Bothwell road.  During this year, the Cape of Good Hope Inn was opened at Black Marsh (now known as Apsley).


Wentworth House, known at various times as Bothwell House, Inverhall, the Parsonage, Schawfield, and the old Rectory, was built for Captain (later Major) D’Arcy Wentworth.  The house was bought shortly afterwards by his successor, Major Charles Schaw, who altered it.

Charles Schaw


In the June, Alexander Reid introduced clover to the district for fodder.

This year also saw the formation of the first country library in Tasmania through the inauguration of the Bothwell Literary Society.  The foundation members included Alexander Reid, Archibald McDowall, Dr Sharland, Capt. Wood, Rev. James Garrett, and Messrs. Barr, Russell, Axford, G. Nicholas, Patterson, Allardyce, G. Russell, Tod, Howell and Thompson Literary Society.htm


Dr. E. Swarbreck Hall, M.R.C.S., L.S.A., the pioneer epidemiologist of the Australian colonies, gave a lecture to the Bothwell Literary Society while he was stationed in Bothwell.

E. Swarbreck Hall, M.R.C.S., L.S.A.,


Bothwell inhabitants presented George Augustus Robinson with a silver cup made in Hobart.  This was in gratitude for removing the local aborigines.  This cup is one of Australia’s colonial treasures.


In March of this year, the governor Sir John Franklin became Patron of the Bothwell Literary Society.

Later in the year Sir John and Lady Franklin visited Bothwell and were entertained to dinner and a grand ball by Major Charles Schaw, the police magistrate.

Charles Schaw


About this time moves were made to declare the Church of St. Luke the property of the Church of England.  Rev. James Garrett resigned as minister for the district.

James Garrett


To show their appreciation of the efforts of Rev. James Garrett, the members of the Bothwell Literary Society presented to him a silver tray made in Hobart Town.  This tray is one of Australia’s colonial treasures.

The Thomas Wigmore S.P.C.K. was appointed the first resident Chaplain of the Church of England on 23rd. March 1841.

James Garrett


A petition was lodged, by the inhabitants of the district before the Governor, Sir John Franklin, complaining about the state of the Bothwell/Melton Mowbray road.  The petitioners asserted that very little money had been spent so far by the government on their roads.

John Franklin


A second petition was lodged in the May, complaining about “the wretched state of the road between Bothwell Township and the main road”.  A toll-gate was even suggested to help pay for road gang.


Thomas Wilkinson opened Wentworth House as a private boarding school for boys and girls.


Clifton Priory was built by the second Anglican chaplain, the Reverend Robert Wilson.  He hoped it would become the rectory, but the Bishop and governor would not fund it.  The house became the property of the enterprising Maria Lord.


An Act of Parliament was passed for the making, repairing and maintaining the road leading from the Township of Bothwell to the main road and for making, repairing and maintaining other roads in the district of Bothwell  (13 Victoria No 5 1849).

At dawn on the 27th day of July 1849, a pistol duel was fought between the son of Captain William Clark and the brother of Archibald McDowall II in the old cemetery behind the church.  The duel was over the daughter of Captain King, the officer in charge of the military guard on Barrack Hill.  No one was hurt as the seconds had loaded the pistols with raspberry jam.


Two “Irish Exiles” – John Martin and John Mitchel – lived in Bothwell.  For some time they were in a cottage at Nant.  Later Mitchel’s family joined him there.  An account of his life was written by John Mitchel, and subsequently published in book form as the “Jail Journal”.

Writing in his journal in the April, John Mitchel mentions that at this time Bothwell contained 60-70 houses, a church, four large public houses (“establishments which are much better supported on the voluntary system and have much larger congregations than the church”), a post office, several carpenters’ shops and blacksmiths’ shops, a police office, police barracks and a police magistrate.  There were also two mills on the Clyde.

John Mitchel


A “well-horsed conveyance” belonging to a Mr Blackwell of the Royal Oak Inn at Cross Marsh was running three times a week to and from Bothwell to connect with the fast mail coaches on the main road.


Wentworth House was purchased by Reverend Wickham Hesketh as the Rectory.  It remained so until 1956.

The building in Alexander Street known as the Literary Society Building was opened as a school, headmaster’s residence and home for the Literary Society’s library.  It is now part of the local government offices.


The Hon. Captain William Langdon built the Church of St James at Montacute.  It was consecrated by the first Bishop of Tasmania, the Right Reverend Russell Nixon.


The Wesleyan Chapel was opened in Dennistoun Road.  This has now been demolished and the sandstone used elsewhere.


Bothwell was proclaimed a rural Municipality on 22nd October, 1862.  Also in this year the Bothwell Cricket Club was recorded as having forty members with Mr. W. Bedford as Captain of the Team and Mr. S. Arnett as Secretary.


On the 30th January, 1863 the first Municipal Council was elected comprising Archibald McDowall (Warden), Thomas Axford, Edward Nicholas, Alexander Reid, Frederick Synott and William Blackburn Wood, Councillors.  The first Council Clerk appointed was Matthew Robinson, at an annual salary of £170.  He held the position for eighteen years.


James Wilson was appointed as Superintendent of Police for the district from south of Longford to the Shannon Tier.  He named the property Steppes after the Scottish place of that name.  His pioneer home is now a state reserve.

St. Andrews Catholic Church, designed by Henry Hunter, was opened in Bothwell.  It was demolished in the twentieth century.


On the 3rd. July, 1866, Bothwell was proclaimed a Town.


The first English trout, trwenty-five in number, bred at Salmon Ponds from ova brought from England, were released in the Clyde River at Logan by Archibald McDowall.  Eleven trout were also released in Lake Crescent.


Reports on the irrigation of lands in the Bothwell district said that it was being carried out there to a greater extent than in any other part of Tasmania.  An irrigation tunnel was constructed to lead water to Sherwood that was about 150 yards long, by about 5-7 feet high and 2 feet wide.  At Dennistoun, about 11 miles of waterways were constructed to lead water from the Clyde.


The Bothwell Football Club was formed with Mr. A.A. Reid as Captain.


Bothwell State School opened in Market Place.  This was the third public school building.  It is now the Australasian Golf Museum.


The first sod was turned on the proposed Brighton-Apsley Branch Railway Line.


The Branch was opened, providing a comfortable and easy means of communication between Apsley and Hobart, serving what was known as the Bagdad Valley.

Bishop Henry Montgomery consecrated the Anglican Church of St Michael and All Angels.  Funds had come mostly from the Nicholas family of Nant.

Henry Montgomery


The Clyde Water Trust was constituted to ensure that, at all times, there was an adequate quantity of water for domestic purposes for the Towns of Bothwell and Hamilton, and to control irrigation.  The Trust comprised the Wardens and one Councillor from each of the Municipalities of Bothwell and Hamilton, and the Council Clerk of Bothwell.


Mr A.C. Hirst, who was to create a near-record for length of service, was appointed Council Clerk.  His residence was the house known as Clifton Priory, situated on Barrack Hill.


The district of Black Marsh was proclaimed as the Town of Apsley on the 3rd. October, 1902.


The Bothwell Freemason Lodge was formed on 6th. December, 1904.


The Church of St Bartholomew at Strathbarton was consecrated on August 24th. 1910.


The Church of St. Luke at the Steppes was dedicated on 18th October 1911.


In partnership with Sir Philip Oakley Fysh, Mr Bayard Edgell rented the Estate of Dennistoun, buying the property in 1918.

Philip Oakley Fysh,


Bothwell sent 110 men to the First World War.  Five received Military Medals.  Twenty-nine were killed.  A memorial in the shape of a vertical sundial was erected in the park.  Designed by Alan Cameron Walker, it is the only one of its kind in Australia.

Alan Cameron Walker


Waddamana ‘A’ Power Station was put into commission comprising two 5,000 hp units.  It was extended to 65,800 hp in 1922.


The Miena multiple-arch Dam was commenced.  It was intended to raise the level of Great Lake by 40 feet to provide a greater storage capacity to feed the Waddamana ‘A’ and ‘B’ stations, and the Shannon Power Station.


Construction of the Shannon Power Station was commenced.


The Shannon Power Station was put into commission with a capacity of 14,500 hp.


The Brighton-Apsley Branch Railway Line was closed on 30th June, 1947.


Waddamana ‘B’ Power Station was put into commission with a capacity of 66,800 hp.


The Church of St Michael and All Angels was visited by His Grace, the Lord Bishop of Canterbury during his tour of Australia.


A new Church of England Rectory in Patrick Street was purchased.  It was formerly the house and surgery of Dr. John Brennan.

The Bothwell Area School moved into new premises in Patrick Street.


Dr Grote Reber of Wheaton, Illinois, USA, “the father of radio astronomy”, moved to Bothwell and set up an instrument to record radio waves at Dennistoun, Bothwell.

Grote Reber


Bothwell sale yards were moved from within the town boundary to a site on the Hollow Tree Road.


Formation of the Bothwell Historical Society.


International Highland Spin-In began at Bothwell.


New concrete bridge built across the Clyde River.


The Bothwell and the Hamilton Municipal Councils were amalgamated to form the Central Highlands Council.


Establishment of the Australasian Golf Museum in the former school building in Market Place.


Farm practices changed with the advent of pivot irrigators and the growth of cropping in the district, especially crops of opium poppies.


Bothwell Historical Society published its history, “Bothwell Revisited: a History – Foundation, Federation and the Millennium”.  In 2020, a second edition was printed.