Main Road Glenorchy ushers in its 200th anniversary

3 July 2019|Community News| Off Comments off on Main Road Glenorchy ushers in its 200th anniversary|

By David Parham

Heritage officer, Glenorchy City Council


MAIN Road was opened in June 1819 when the entrepreneurial ex-convict Denis McCarty, in seeking his reward of 2000 acres of land, boldly declared his road from Hobart Town to New Norfolk to be complete.

McCarty’s confidence in his construction was, however, not shared by the Governor of Tasmania, William Sorell.

The post-construction review described tree stumps remaining on the road formation, sub-standard drainage and deficient bridges, excepting those at New Town and O’Brien’s Farm, and deemed the road to be impassable to carts.

Correspondence between the parties ensued, however any prospect of effective remediation was cut short when McCarty tragically drowned after his boat capsized on the River Derwent in 1820.

McCarty’s Road was an advance in that it rationalised a variety of even rougher bush tracks along the western bank of the Derwent, some of them likely based on pathways used by the muwinina people.

From the mid-1820s until the mid-1840s, all the work in upgrading the Main Road to engineered standards was undertaken by convict gangs, including those stationed at New Town and O’Brien’s Bridge.

As part of this work, the section established by McCarty east from the New Town Rivulet to just shy of O’Brien’s Bridge (corresponding to present day Kelvin Avenue and Coleman Street) was realigned to its current position.

While the river retained its pre-eminence, providing connections across the river via ferries and punts, the Main Road continued to evolve.

In the 1820s-30s, horse drawn passenger coaches began to ply the road between Hobart and New Norfolk with staging points at inns, including Undine, the Berriedale, Traveller’s rest (Connewarre), and the Black Snake marking the half-way point.

By 1849, the improvements were such that horses needed only be changed at Cooley’s in Moonah and at the York in Granton.

When the Bridgewater causeway and first bridge was completed in 1849, the Main Road formed part of the highway linking the southern and northern capitals.

While the arrival of the railway in 1875 had a profound effect upon the commercial viability of river traffic, the Main Road continued its evolution, accommodating new modes of transport.

Trams began operating in Moonah in 1893 and by the 1920s, operated alongside motor buses.

In the intervening period, the first cars arrived on the scene (speed limited to 16km/h in 1908).

Glenorchy’s isolation was left in the past.

Rapid industrialisation and suburbanisation saw a marked increase in private vehicle ownership after WW2, prompting construction of the first stage of the four lane Brooker Highway as far north as Berriedale.

Further extensions to Granton, bypassing Claremont and Austins Ferry in 1983, consigned the Main Road to local road status for the first time in its 164-year history.

As you travel along the Main Road, spare a thought for all those who have made their way along the western bank of the River Derwent, not just over the course of the past 200 years, but for thousands of years.

From the Aboriginal people so unjustly displaced to McCarty the ‘plausible rogue’ who struck the first blow, to the convict road builders and to the engineers and road crews past and present who have all had a hand in its evolution.

Caption: Photo of mid-20th century milepost. Photo credit: D. Parham.

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The Glenorchy Gazette is your monthly community newspaper, reaching over 24,000 homes and businesses in the Glenorchy municipality. It is the product of Nicolas Turner, Justine Brazil, Ben Hope, Simon Andrews, Tobias Hinds and guest contributors, with support from advertisers.

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