Stepping back in time
Richmond Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
Just as I promised myself after my last little getaway - the one to soothe my soul, I got out of my house and took a day trip out of town to discover something about this pretty little state I hadn’t previously known.
Today I chose to explore Richmond. Only 15 minutes from my home, I have been to Richmond many times in the past but never taken to the streets and just walked; I have walked up the main street but never explored any of the back streets and lanes.
Driving into Richmond is like driving onto the set of an 1800’s movie without all the funny costumes. In 1872, the Sorell causeway opened, effectively bypassing all traffic away from Richmond which, in its favour was what prevented the destruction of all the gorgeous Georgian buildings, leaving Richmond as one of the best-preserved Georgian towns in Australia. When founded in 1824, Richmond opened up the route to the east coast of Tasmania from Hobart with the completion of the Richmond Bridge in 1825, making this the oldest bridge in Tasmania. It is hard to look at the bridge and not think of the convicts who laboured, probably under unbelievably harsh conditions, to build this beautifully elegant yet simple structure...
We’ll come back to the part in my story where I spend time at the bridge a little later; right now, I am going to take you back to the beginning of my story and to St Luke’s Anglican Church standing majestically at the end of a picturesque country lane.
I parked my car on the street in front of the church where I could see the sandstone tower glowing in the mid-morning sunshine. Before going in to the church I strolled back down the street to take a picture of some pretty, colourful trees I had noticed. When I was taking my photo, a woman passed, walking the biggest dog I think I have ever seen. It was nearly as big as a Shetland pony and I said as much to the woman. She introduced me to the dog, and for the life of me, I cannot remember his name, but she did tell me that she named him after a big black grape growing in her back yard, because they were both big and black. After a few minutes, the woman and the dog continued on their walk and I stayed to take a few more photos before following in their footsteps and making my way back down the street towards St Luke’s Church.
Governor Arthur laid the foundation stone for St Luke’s Church in 1834. John Lee Archer designed the building, but again, convicts built it, with work finishing in 1836. The convict responsible for the original timberwork inside the building had his freedom granted as a reward for his work. He probably only stole a loaf of bread in the first place, so I think after having been sent halfway around the world away from family and loved ones, then labouring to help build a church, it was the least they could do. Not that they would have given him the option of returning to his homeland....
When I stepped into the cool interior of the church, I was surprised to see my new friend the big black dog lying at the back of the church in quiet contemplation while his mistress redid the church flowers. He was a big slobbery dog but I couldn’t resist another pat. He sat quietly while I explored the church, and as there was another person vacuuming up near the pulpit, I sat in the back row of the pews to ponder for a moment.
When I went back outside to explore, I found the owner of the dog and stopped for a chat. Apparently about four years ago, the pastor of the church tried to give the church to the local council as the church had fallen into disrepair and could not afford to do the work that needed doing in order for the church to keep its doors open.
I learnt the story of how much fun they had trying to find someone who could do the restoration works to the clock in the tower. Unable to find the help they needed here in Australia, in desperation, someone hopped on his or her computer and Googled the name of the clock maker. There was surprise all around when they found the clock maker, still in business in London and very excited to receive correspondence from a little village in ‘Van Diemen’s Land’ where they had sent five clocks 150 years earlier (the other four clocks are still in Tasmania, I don’t know if they are still in working order). The clock makers sent all the information they had on the clock, including the original plans to the people of Richmond who then had the task of finding someone here in Australia who could repair the clock. There was the option of sending the clock back to London for the repairs but with the size of the clock it would have cost a fortune and taken a very long time as the clock would had to have been shipped by sea (which is the way it would have travelled to Australia in the first place). After much searching, the group found a Sydney clock maker who could and would fix the clock. He travelled to Richmond to do the job and on completion asked the group, “who would be responsible for winding the clock?”, as he needed to give instruction on how to do it. He said to come back the next day with the clock winder and he would show them how it’s done. Once again, the villagers came through for St Luke’s Church finding 36 friends who volunteered to keep the clock wound.
After taking a little while to look around the grounds of St Luke’s, I made my way back down the street to the Richmond Bakery. What I wanted was a notebook from the little shop next to the bakery, as I wanted to make some notes of what I had just learnt, and I had left my journal at home. With notebook in hand, I went to find some lunch at the bakery, famous here in Tassie for their delicious pies. I tried one of their curried scallop pies. When my friend Renee came to visit last December and drove around the state with her boyfriend Brian, one of the things she raved about were the scallop pies she ate where ever she could get one, as I had never tried one, I thought I had better find out what all the fuss was about. I don’t know that I was that impressed with it, but I can see the attraction if you are into that type of thing. :) It was tasty enough, different, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing back for one anytime soon. (Sorry food lovers, I didn’t take a photo)
With my belly full, I was off to discover what I could of this idyllic little town.
I made my way to the old Richmond Gaol, just a short stroll from the bakery. I paid $7, and armed with my information pamphlet, took a self-guided tour. The Gaol, built in 1825 is small compared to some of the other prison institutes elsewhere in the state, but just as disturbing.
I explored the solitary confinement cells, which were the length of an average man and only a door width wide with no lighting, I can only imagine how horrible it would have been to be locked in one of these for any amount of time, I felt uncomfortable enough just walking into the one lit for our benefit. It was not a nice place.
The goal is full of all sorts of titbits about life in this prison in the mid 1800’s.
After leaving the gaol, I found my way onto a little country lane that passed fields of vegetables and gently rolling hills. The lane led down to the river and a path that I followed along the bank amongst the trees until the view opened up to reveal the gorgeous Richmond Bridge.
Completely mesmerised by the view in front of me, I pulled up at a park bench overlooking the river and the bridge with St John’s church poking its steeple up beyond the bridge straining to be seen from the hill in the background. There were children playing down on the banks, ducks floating on the water and big white fluffy clouds gently making their way across the beautiful light blue sky.
After a half hour or so of enjoying the idyllic scene and feeling as if I were witnessing a pretty painting come to life, I decided to go and become a part of this real life work of art.
I followed the path down to a little platform jutting out over the water with the perfect ducks eye view of the bridge. I sat down on decking and watched as the ducks played and swam among the reeds that softly swayed in the stream, and reflections played across the water; the trees on the other side of the bridge glowed golden in the late afternoon sun which made shadows on the arches of the bridge through which I could see the trees. I had walked into 1800’s heaven.
I climbed the path to the road and crossed to the other side of the river where I came upon a little school that has been educating our children since 1843. The little lane running down the side of the school led me to St John’s church sitting proudly up on a little hill next to an old gum tree. I wondered which of the two was older; people have been confessing their sins at St John’s since the doors opened in 1837. I didn’t have anything to confess today so continued down the lane peaking in backyards and day dreaming about buying the home I found for sale on the banks of the river.
Back at the bridge, I strolled across the grass and took some photos of the warm sandstone of the bridge with the bright blue sky above before slowly making my way back to my car and making my way back home.
Today was another lovely day. I came to sightsee, I came to take photos, I came to get out of the house; I am glad I did.