Saturday, May 17, 2014

Captain Edward Goldsmith and the land at Lake St Clair 1841

LAKE ST CLAIR Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania)

"This part of the country unknown" north of the Great Lake was printed on the Surveyor-General's map of Van Diemen's Land in 1824. Of course that part of the country - as every other part - was known to the Aboriginal inhabitants of Tasmania since their arrival sixty thousand years ago right up to the period before colonisation at the beginning of the 19th century. The decimation of their numbers within a few decades of the British establishing the colony they called Van Diemen's Land (1804) is widely regarded as genocide (Robert Hughes, James Boyce, Lyndall Ryan etc)

Tasmanian Heritage and Archive Office
Title: Chart of Van Diemen's Land from the best authorities and from actual surveys and measurements / by Thomas Scott Assistant Surveyor General ; engraved by Charles Thompson (Cross) Edinburgh
Creator: Scott, Thomas, 1800-1855
Map data: Scale [ca. 1: 545,000]
Publisher: [London : s.n.], 1824
Description: 1 map : col. ; 83.5 x 59 cm
Format: Map
Notes: "from the original survey brought by Captain Dixon of the ship Skelton of Whitby 1824"
Map of Tasmania with land grant, distances from Hobart, comment on topography and settlement. Relief shown by hachures and bathymetric soundings
Table of references with grants and owners

By 1840, master mariner Captain Edward Goldsmith had acquired 100 acres from Thomas Drew in this area of Van Diemen's Land, now known as the Lincoln Land District of Tasmania. He was well aware of the success of The Van Diemen's Land Company (also known as Van Dieman Land Company) in the north-west, and envisaged a similar operation in the Falkland Islands. The Van Diemen's Land Company was founded in 1825; it received a royal charter and a grant of 250,000 acres (1,000 km2) in 1826. The company was a group of London wool merchants with plans to supply the British textile industry. Captain Edward Goldsmith was aware of disputes with the VDL Company's white servants over Aboriginal women which had escalated into the Cape Grim Massacre of 1828. The Falklands did not present such problems. In a letter to the Sydney Gazette, July 1839, he wrote: -
I am satisfied that the Falklands, from their position and internal resources, and being free from natives, will, under a company, thrive much faster than Van Dieman's Land. Sheep will do well, and may be easily imported from New South Wales.
Source: The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842) Saturday 27 July 1839 p 2 Article ADVANCE AUSTRALIA SYDNEY GAZETTE.

Coincidentally, there is a road called the Gad's Hill Road which runs through the Mersey Forest (7304), due east of Lake St. Clair, which Captain Goldsmith may have named after his estate, Gad's Hill, at Higham, Kent. He may have visited the region before conveying it to George Bilton in February 1841. Bilton's co-partnership with Edward Goldsmith, Andrew Haig and William Williamson in The Derwent Ship Building Company was dissolved a few weeks later, in March 1841.

Lincoln Land District is one of the twenty land districts of Tasmania which are part of the cadastral divisions of Tasmania. It was formerly one of the 18 counties of Tasmania. Its south-eastern tip is surrounded by the River Derwent on one side, and the Nive River on the other. It is bounded to the north by the Pieman River. It includes Cradle Mountain, the Overland Track, Lake St Clair and most of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.

George Bilton, 100a., Lincoln, originally Thomas Drew, who conveyed to Edward Goldsmith, who conveyed to the applicant; claim dated 20th January, 1841.-Bounded on the east by 40 chains southerly along Lot .'350 located to Thomas Burnett, on the south by 25 chains westerly along Lot 358, on the west by 40 chains northerly along Lot 359, and on the north by 25 chains easterly also along Lot 359 to the point of commence-ment.
Source:Classified Advertising. (1841, February 12). The Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 - 1859), p. 1. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from

Memorial to Lieutenant Thomas Burnett
St David’s Park, Hobart, Tasmania
Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2014 ARR

The land at Lake St Clair in the county of Lincoln, VDL, conveyed by Captain Goldsmith in February 1841 to George Bilton was bounded on the south by land allocated to Lieutenant Thomas Burnett, who had drowned four years earlier, on 21 May 1837 while conducting hydrographic surveys of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel aboard the colonial cutter Vansittart. Lieutenant Burnett had accompanied the newly-appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the colony, Captain Sir John Franklin on the voyage to Hobart on board the Fairlie just months before he (Burnett) drowned, arriving on 6th January 1837. He was buried with full naval honours in St David’s cemetery, where his monument still stands. Designed by John Lee Archer, Colonial Architect, the monument stands on the stone plinth intended as the main stand for an observatory for Burnett.

Detail: Memorial to Lieutenant Thomas Burnett
St David’s Park, Hobart, Tasmania
Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2014 ARR

George Bilton acted as proxy for John James Meaburn in the dissolution of the enterprise “The Derwent Ship Building Company” dated March 3rd, 1841, witnessed by Captain Goldsmith’s neighbour in Davey St, Robert Pitcairn.

NOTICE.- The Copartnership hitherto carried on by the undersigned, under the style or firm of "The Derwent Ship Building Company", has been dissolved as on this date.
George Bilton
for John James Meaburn
Andrew Haig
E. Goldsmith
Wm. Williamson
Witness- Robert Pitcairn
Hobart Town, March 3. [1841]
Source: Classified Advertising. (1841, March 5). The Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 - 1859), p. 3. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from

The company was originally established in 1839 once the acquisition of land at Secheron Bay, Battery Point, was settled, with Captain Goldsmith's expressing his intention of establishing a patent slip there. The local press reported the venture with considerable optimism:
LAND.-The property of Mr H. W. Mortimer,sold on Wednesday last by Mr W.T. Macmichael, realized the following prices, viz.-an allotment fronting the Derwent, 115 feet,£5 5s per foot,£903 12s do do. 115 feet, £9 10s, £1092 10s; and the dwelling house and premises, £625.-Messrs Bilton & Meaburn, and Captain Goldsmith of the Wave were purchasers, and we have been informed it is their intention to lay down a patent slip, which Captain Goldsmith will bring with him next voyage.-

Source: Southern Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1838 - 1844) Wed 6 Nov 1839 Page 3 V. D. LAND EXTRACTS.
SHIP BUILDING. - A Ship Building Company, composed of Messrs. Bilton, Goldsmith, Haig, Meaburn, and Williamson, are just about to commence, on the ground lately purchased from Mr. Mortimer, where an extensive and well sheltered building yard, and patent slip, are to be erected; an enterprise very much required, and deserving of encouragement. The parties are all gentlemen of practical knowledge, a qualification very much calculated to give general satisfaction, and to ensure success, for the attainment of which they have our best wishes.
Source: Colonial Times, Tues 29 October 1839, page 7, Domestic Intelligence

Artists such as John Glover (in 1834) and Skinner Prout (in 1845) had travelled in the region and represented Lake St Clair and surrounding mountains in sketches, but it was not until the 1860s when photographs taken by Morton Allport of his party's excursion to Lake St Clair made the region a better known traveller's destination.

Glover, John. (1834). [Four Tasmanian views]
NLA Catalogue online:

In: Excursion to Lake St. Clair February 1863 No. 12
Publisher: Hobart : M. Allport, 1863
Archives Office of Tasmania$init=AUTA001126254101P34

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