RISDON COVE, FIRST LANDING
So that the 13th September, 1803, is the exact date of the foundation of the settlement in Tasmania. In July, 1805, writing in London to Under-Secretary Cooke, Bowen says:—"I had the satis faction of landing on the banks of the Derwent on the 13th September, 1803, pitched on an eligible spot for the set tlement, and named it 'Hobart.' " On the 20th September, 1803, Bowen sent the Lady Nelson to Sydney with an ac count of the foundation of the settle ment to the Governor-in-Chief, and on the 13th October, 1803, Bowen's com
mission as "Commandant of Hobart and Van Diemen's Land" was issued.
In his first letter or despatch to Go vernor King, Bowen thus writes: — "There are so many fine spots on the borders of the river that I was a little puzzled to fix up
on the best place, but there be- ing a much better stream of fresh water flowing into Risdon Cove than into any of the others, and very extensive valleys lying on the back of it, I judged it the most convenient, and accordingly dis embarked all the men and stores, and have been since wholly employed in se curing ourselves from the weather. We are situated on a hill commanding a per fect view of the river and the land, with the fresh water at the foot of it; the land excellent. . . I have been up the river rather higher than Captain Flinders went, and have examined Herdsman Cove, which I am of opinion will be the best place for the settlers, the Derwent being perfectly fresh all above it. The banks are more like a nobleman's park in England than an un cultivated country. Every part is beau tifully green, and very little trouble might clear every valley I have seen in a month. There are very few rocky spots, except on the high hills, and in many places the plough might be used immediately, but our workmen are very few and very bad. I could, with ease, employ one hundred men upon the land about us, and with that number, some good men among them, we should soon be a flourishing colony. . . I have not seen a single native yet, but some of the people found them on our first arrival, but they appeared very shy, and have since retired entirely from us. Not apprehending they would be of any use to us, I have not made any search after them, thinking myself well off if I never see them again."
In January 1804, Lieutenant Bowen arrived back in Sydney by the South Sea whaler Ferret, on business. He had heard of war between England and France, and asked to be allowed to re turn to his profession as a naval officer. But Governor King requested him to go in search of Colonel David Collins. Col lins's colonising expedition had sailed from England in April, 1803, and reach ed Port Phillip in October. Collins set tled, for a brief time, at the place now called Sorrento, at Port Phillip Heads, but left the place on the 27th January, 1804, as unsuitable for a settlement.. Collins's party was a very large one, on board H.M.S. Calcutta and a hired transport, the Ocean. When Collins left Port Phillip, the Calcutta proceed ed to Sydney, and the Ocean to Risdon Cove, where she arrived on the 15th February 1804.
When Collins reached Risdon he found that the landing place was situated on what was little more than a creek, and was only accessible at a certain time of the tide. To make a channel sufficient for cargo-laden boats it would be neces- sary to remove 130 or 140 yards of mud and sand. Other reasons besides those induced him to look for a more eligible site lower down the river, and he pitch ed upon a small inlet on the opposite side
of the Derwent.
Bowen cast anchor at the mouth of a creek, Risdon Creek, whose water is brackish for some distance up, and then becomes good and drinkable. The road traversed is one of the ways to Rich mond. After a time the pilgrim passes through a gate, and gets upon private property, belonging to Mr. G. Albury, and gently ascending, reaches the top of a hill where a dwelling of a composite kind in construction, occupied by Mr. Frank Dixon, stands on the spot once occupied by Commandant Bowen's house. This is the site of the first Go vernment House in Tasmania. For many years the property, as it now stands, was the residence of Mr. T. G. Gregson, once a well-known member of Parliament, and a Minister of the Crown. Mr. Gregson died in the early seventies. As Bowen testified, there is a splendid view from the hill compris ing the Derwent, Prince of Wales Bay, Glenorchy, with Mount Wellington in the background. The trip by water and land from O'May's wharf to the top of the hill at Risdon occupies an hour and forty minutes.
A number of remains of the first set tlement are still to be seen. The stone steps made by Bowen to give access from the creek to the shore are there still. Close by are the remains of three walls of a store house — composed of mudstone, with a few layers of brick. On top of the hill, in the neighbourhood of the site of Bowen's house, is an old chimney, covered with ivy, which is part of the original "establishment." And there is a dead gum tree in this region, under which, it is said, the Rev. Robert Knop- wood, chaplain to Collins's expedition, preached the first sermon in Tasmania.
What may be regarded as the first step in the celebration of the Centenary of the settlement of Tasmania was taken on the 28th March last, when His Wor ship the Mayor of Hobart. Mr. Thomas Bennison, and an invited party of citi zens, went up the Derwent from Hobart, and visited the spot where, in Septem ber, 1803, the first settlement was made by Lieutenant John Bowen, R.N., on be half of His Majesty King George III. The day was happily chosen for the in teresting excursion, for it was the cen tenary of the issue of Lieutenant Bow en's instructions to found the settle ment "on a proper place about Risdon Cove" . . . "at the River Derwent, on Van Diemen's Land," and his ap pointment as Commandant and Superin
tendent of the settlement.