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Historic Richmond Village

Home > Hobart > Weekend Escapes | Food and Wine | Wineries | Escape the City | Architecture
Published August 23rd 2012
Fall in love with this Georgian village and all it offers
Historic Richmond Village

Not far from Hobart at all is a little place where you feel as though you've gone back in time. It's Richmond Village and it's just half an hour from Hobart by bus. There are many options to get you there but I went with the Hobart Shuttle Bus Company. They drop you off and your guide gives you some background on the drive to Richmond. Then you have three hours there unaccompanied. You meet back at the bus and head back to town. Too easy.

Richmond is in the Coal River Valley Region and this is apparently great for wine so if you've got a few days then you could stay in Richmond and have yourself a little wine tour. Richmond is also part of the convict trail. Coal was found at the River's mouth in 1804 which is where the river gets its name. Before being declared a town in 1824, the area that is now Richmond and its surrounds were known as the Coal River district.

Originally one of the largest settlements of colonial Tasmania, Richmond was a stop on the way to Port Arthur but was actually settled before Port Arthur was founded. It is home to the oldest bridge in Australia, which was constructed by convicts in 1823. The oldest Catholic Church in the nation and the oldest gaol also call Richmond home.

Richmond is not completely historic, obviously there are people who live there and who lead normal lives, but there are many buildings still standing from the Georgian era. This is partly because when Sorell was settled it took over as the route to Port Arthur and so Richmond was left behind. How refreshing it is that for once a lack of progress has led to the town becoming a tourist attraction due to its very historic nature rather than it just fading into obscurity.

Richmond Bridge
Australia's oldest bridge built by convict labour between 1823 and 1825

As I said before, Richmond is home to Australia's oldest bridge that's still in use and is in the photo above. It was built by convicts in the 1820s to allow people to cross the Coal River.

St John's Church Richmond
St John's is Australia's oldest existing Catholic Church built in 1836

Here's a photo of Australia's oldest Catholic Church. It's a short walk from the bridge. Don't worry, we'll get to Richmond Gaol the oldest preserved gaol in Australia later.

Sweets and Treats

Sweets and Treats is a lovely little old-fashioned lolly shop that kids will love (and kids at heart). I loved the little joke on the red tins that are marked as being not for sale.

Bensons at sweet & Treats Richmond
Convicts weren't the only things that came from England

I went in just intending to browse but ended up with a bag of choc-coated raspberry jellies which were delicious with a cup of tea and also some cherry-flavoured Turkish Delight, because well who could resist? But they had all sorts of things.

Sweets & Treats in Richmond
Who could resist that Turkish Delight?

The wall of lollies tried but failed to tempt me and I got out of there while I could still resist. I asked about the products and they are mostly made nearby, or at least in Tassie so there's a nice local aspect to the shop.
Sweets & Treats in Richmond
You can't tempt me lolly wall


Upon entry to the town we passed the Maze and its accompanying café and I intended to have lunch there but instead went to Ma Foosie's.

It's a cute little café that is housed in a cottage-like building that was erected in 1831. The word Foosie was used by a lady named Mrs Duffy Senior in Ireland to describe all sweet things she found irresistible.

The set-up was cute. I ordered a pot of tea and a home-made Cornish pasty served with home-made tomato relish and a salad. The flavour was incredible but the pastry was a bit soggy like it'd been heated in a microwave rather than an oven.

Still, I enjoyed my visit to this little place. There are many other options for lunch from the Richmond Arms, the Richmond Bakery, and even a cellar door type place.


Old Hobart Town Historical Model Village

After lunch I headed to Old Hobart Town Historic Model Village. It's a model village that has been built to be an accurate representation of what Hobart Town looked like in the 1820s. It was painstakingly created by John and Andrew Quick over three years and includes over four hundred individually carved figures as well as the buildings of the time period.

There is a game to play to find four figures hidden in the town including a Tasmanian tiger so there is something for the kids to do while they walk through the town. There's also a nice sense of humour on display with many amusing things happening in the town – one man has stepped in a slop bucket, a cart has lost a wheel, there's a cheeky couple in the back of a hay wagon.

This cute place won best attraction three years in a row when it opened. The upkeep it requires is continual but it gives a nice idea of what the town originally looked like and also lets you know which buildings are still mainly as they were so that when you return to Hobart you can seek them out.

On the way to the mini village there are plaques with interesting information about the colony and lovely plants and trees. And I've popped in one last picture for a little perspective on the size of the model compared to a real building. And don't worry if it's raining - umbrellas are supplied.

Richmond Gaol

Historic Richmond Gaol was built in 1825. It is, according to the catalogue, 'Australia's oldest existing and best preserved colonial gaol'. My admittance was included in my tour price and the guide from the bus gave me a little ticket to hand over on entry.

As well as being the best preserved colonial gaol, I believe it has the only remaining examples of solitary punishment cells that women were placed in. The solitary cells were where you'd be sent for different offences such as being absent without leave, being insolent, being found in a disorderly house or absconding.

Solitary Cell at Richmond Gaol
The bucket was the loo. You also had a bucket for water. Wouldn't want to get those two mixed up in the dark...
The solitary cells were dark and women were placed in them for between 2 and 31 days but most sentences were between 7 and 14 days. I went in and closed the door. I was in pitch blackness and slowly began to lose the sense of where the walls were. Then a child's voice burst in, 'Mum, what does insolent mean?' 'It means she dropped the F-Bomb,' I heard a ladies' voice reply. Perhaps not the same effect as a woman would have felt being locked up in the darkness with no escape back in the 1820s.

Richmond Gaol housed some infamous characters such as the bushranger Martin Cash and Ikey Solomon who it is believed was the model for Dickens when he created Fagin in Oliver Twist.

I'm pretty glad we don't have to grind the washing machines anymore - I'd never be in clean clothes if I had to work that hard for them.

The rest of your visit

During your visit you could get your portrait taken at the Olde Time Portrait Shop.

Then there's also some really cute little shops in the town, a woodwork shop too where this little barrow sits out the front.

There's a shop called Giraffic Park, and there are plenty of other little antique and home-wares shops.

Richmond is a lovely little town and I would certainly visit there again. Although next time hopefully it won't rain.Three hours was barely long enough so if you can spare the time and you're really interested in the area then give yourself longer. There's also 30 vineyards in the Coal River valley so you're going to need a few days if you want to visit them all.

There are many more things to see and do than what I did there. There's the café with a maze, and winery tours and apparently historic horse-drawn and walking tours. I didn't see any of these in operation but perhaps they don't happen in winter. I'd quite like to go on a horse-drawn tour next time I'm in town.

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Why? Have a grand day out in a Georgian town
When: Whenever you would like
Where: Richmond Village, Tasmania
Cost: Varies
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