Campbell Town, to the north of Ross and Oatlands in the Midlands of Tasmania, was originally established as a Garrison Town. During the early nineteenth century, the hazards of travel between Hobart and Launceston due to threats from escaped convicts necessitated the construction of military posts throughout the Midlands, even before the area was extensively settled. Key historical features in Campbell Town include the Fox Hunterﾒs Return, built in 1834, the convict-built Red Bridge (opened in 1838), St. Lukeﾒs Church (designed by the well-known nineteenth century Tasmanian architect John Lee Archer) completed in 1839, and the Grange Homestead and Keanﾒs Brewery (1840). The Campbell Town Agricultural Show is the oldest and longest running show in the southern hemisphere, starting in 1838, and is known for its superfine Merino wool exhibits and livestock. The town now has a population of around 800 people.
Campbell Town, situated in the Midlands region of Tasmania, Australia, has a rich history that dates back to the early 19th century. Its development and heritage are closely tied to the broader history of Tasmania, particularly the significant influence of the convict era.
Early Settlement and Exploration:
The area around Campbell Town was explored and settled by European colonists in the early 1800s. Governor Lachlan Macquarie played a crucial role in the establishment of the town, granting land to John Batman in 1821. The town was named after Macquarie’s wife, Elizabeth Campbell.
Convict Era and Penal Settlement:
Campbell Town, like many other parts of Tasmania, played a significant role in the convict era. Convict labor was instrumental in the town’s development, contributing to the construction of essential infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and public buildings.
One notable structure from this period is the Red Bridge, built between 1836 and 1838. This sandstone bridge spans the Elizabeth River and is an enduring symbol of the craftsmanship of the convicts. The bridge is one of the oldest surviving examples of a convict-built bridge in Australia.
Heritage Buildings and Architecture:
Campbell Town is renowned for its well-preserved Georgian architecture, much of which was constructed during the convict era. Notable buildings include the Grange, a Georgian-style mansion built in 1838, and the Foxhunters Return Inn, established in 1833 and still in operation today.
Decline of Convict Transportation and Post-Convict Era:
The decline of convict transportation in the mid-19th century had a profound impact on Campbell Town. With the cessation of convict arrivals, the town saw changes in its population and economy. Free settlers, attracted by the fertile land and agricultural opportunities, began to shape the town’s future.
Heritage Preservation and Tourism
In recent decades, there has been a concerted effort to preserve and showcase Campbell Town’s convict-era heritage. Many historic buildings have been carefully restored, and the town has become a popular destination for tourists interested in Australia’s colonial history. The Heritage Highway, which runs through Campbell Town, connects various historic sites and towns in the region.
Campbell Town stands as a testament to Tasmania’s colonial past, with its convict history and well-preserved heritage. The town’s architecture, including the convict-built Red Bridge, provides a tangible connection to the challenges and achievements of the early settlers. Today, Campbell Town is not only a thriving community but also a living museum that allows visitors to step back in time and appreciate the convict legacy that shaped this picturesque town in the heart of Tasmania.
Things to Do and Places to Visit in the Campbell Town Area
From Hobart: 1 hr 33 mins
From Launceston: 50 mins
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Population: 772 (2006)
Elevation: 209 m
Location: 68 km S of Launceston
Local Council: Northern Midlands | Visit Council Website