Launceston was so called after a town of that name in Cornwall, England, and the Tamar River, on which it is situated, from the English river of that name, which separates Cornwall from Devonshire. The father of Governor King, of New South Wales, came from, or was a native of Launceston, England. Hence the origin of the names in compliment to Captain King, the Governor-in-Chief, Tasmania then being a dependency of New South Wales.

From Dr. James Ross's "Hobart Town Almanack" of 1830:—

"At the distance of 124 miles from Hobart Town, the traveller enters the town of Launceston. This is the chief town of the county of Cornwall, and the second in the island. It ls the residence of a civil commandant, and ls garrisoned by a considerable detachment of troops. The Supreme Civil and Criminal Courts hold assizes here, as also the Court of Requests and Quarter Sessions. Mr, Lyttleton is the Police Magistrate of the district. There is a Government House for the reception of His Excellency when he visits this part of the island. The residence of the commandant is an elegant cottage, surrounded with pleasure grounds, on a small eminence overt looking the town. The principal public buildings are St. John's Church, the military barracks, the commissariat stores, and the gaol. There are also many good stores belonging to the different merchants in town. Mr. William Barnes, a resident magistrate, has an extensive brewery adjoining on the west.

The town is conveniently situated at the head of the navigation of Port Dalrymple, standing between the North Esk and South Esk Rivers, where they meet and form the Tamar. The tide flows up to the wharf, and rises about 10 to 12 feet. The water ls salt, and is deep enough to admit vessels of about 300 tons burden, ships of larger size being prevented from coming up to the quay by a bar of shallow, water, which stretches across the North Esk, but when the town extends to the fine plain or marsh on the opposite bank of the river, vessels of almost any burden will then be enabled to come close to the bank.

The South Esk falls into the Tamar through a chasm, between very steep, rocky banks. Boats go up to this point, which is called the Cataract, for fresh water to supply to supply the inhabitants, but an aqueduct, it is expected, will be completed In the course of the ensuing year, which will obviate the necessity of this, and materially contribute to accelerate the prosperity of. Launceston. Before falling down the Cataract the river forms a large quiescent pond, called the Basin. This is the general washing place of the town.

About a mile to the east ls Elphin, the residence of Mr. Dry. From this end of the town a road leads to the different farms, already mentioned, In Paterson's Plains. On the north side of the river opposite to Elphin, is Killafaddy, the property of Mr. Hobler, and near it, on-a small stream falling into the North Esk, is Mr. Powers's distillery.

J. Moore-Robinson, in hls "Tasmanian Nomenclature" thus wrote of Tamar River (Port Dalrymple) :-

"Discovered and given the latter designation by Flinders, who, with Bass, In the sloop Norfolk, entered Low Head on November 3, 1798. Flinders describes the discovery in the introduction to his voyages, and states that he saw the opening in the land at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. It was on this voyage that Flinders and Bass sailed through the Bass Strait, and determined that Tasmania was an island. The navigators circumnavigated the island. They left Port Jackson on October 7, 1798, and returned to that port In January, 1799.

When Flinders reached Sydney he recommended Governor Hunter, to give tho Northern Tasmanian River the name of Port Dalrymple, after Mr. Alexjander Dalrymple, the Admiralty hydrographer. Flinders spent two weeks and two days in exploring the river, which he ascended as far as Shoal Point. He gave names to Green Island, West Arm, Middle Island, Whirlpool Reach, Swan Point, Long Reach, Point Rapid, and Crescent Shore (Fenton). The natives called the river 'Fonrabbel.'

The harbour retained the name of Port Dalrymple in all official despatches until November 4, 1804, when Lieutenant-Colonel Wm. Paterson, having been appointed Lieutenant-Governor, arrived at the port in H.M.S. Buffalo. The Lady Nelson and the schooners Francis and Integrity, which were consorts of the Buffalo on this memorable occasion, arrived later. A delay of several days occurred before Paterson could land his expedition, which he did on November 11, at Outer Cove (now-George Town). In December Paterson explored the river up to the present site ot Launceston, and went up the South Esk to near Evandale. He then formally gave the river the name of tho Tamar, after the birthplace in Cornwall of Governor King. 1

From Walch's "Tasmanian Guide Book" of 1871:-

"The town of Launceston is formed at the junction of two rivers, the North and South Esks. The site originally approached to a level, and lay low. Elevated lands, or rather mountains, surround the town, but a site easier of access was preferred, on account of the never-falling supply of water obtained from the rivers. To the north of the town, separated by the South Esk, the land ls rich and flat, upon which stands the terminus of the Launceston and Western Railway and the village of New Town. To the south-east and west the continuous elevations are also laid out In streets, which, being now comparatively easy of access, are being gradually built upon.

The first settlement on the northern side of the Island was formed in the year 1804 by Colonel Paterson, who. when in charge of a small party of prisoners, took up his abode at York Town, on the western arm of the River Tamar. In 1806, however, he removed to the country above the North Esk, which flows into the Tamar; where he found extensive plains suitable for pasturage and, tillage, now known as Paterson's Plains or St. Leonards. The northern settlement was at first called Port Dalrymple, but it being deemed advisable to form a seaport town for the convenience of the northern portion of the, island, the valley on which Launceston now stands was chosen as a site. It is at the head of the River Tamar, In the 41st degree of south latitude, and about the 147th degree of east longitude. The name of Launceston was given to the place from a well known town of that name in Cornwall, England, and that of Tamar to the river on which it is situated, also from the English river of that name, which divides Cornwall from Devonshire, both names being given, no doubt, as a compliment to Captain King, at that time Governor-in-Chlet of New South Wales, whose father was a native of Launceston, in England.

The appearance of the town, as seen on entering it riverwards, with Its profusely wooded background, its hills studded with pretty villa residences and the majestic mountains In the far distance, is picturesque in the extreme. The principal streets run east and west or north and south, and are intersected by cross-streets. The number of houses in the town ls 2,303, and the number of Inhabitants 10,668. The streets are well lighted with gas by a local company, and water is laid on to every house in the town proper. For the simple mode which has been adopted to convey the water to Launceston, the Inhabitants are indebted to the late Mr. John Lamont, who knowing the country and having great power of observation, saw that at a particular point on the St. Patrick River there was a natural fall to Launceston. Although not an engineer, he convinced the authorities; a simple diversion was made, a small tunnel formed when lo!, a continuous stream flowed to within a couple of miles of town. From this point, the elevation being still higher than the town, it is conveyed by pipes to the several reservoirs; and that which at one time appeared so difficult was ultimately effected with the greatest ease.

What renders Launceston so attractlve to summer visitors is that almost every house, even in the heart of the town, has its well-stocked garden of fruit and flowers, In spring-time the blossom being so profuse as to give the impression that everything is snow-clad, whilst the air is redolent of the perfume of the hawthorn and sweet briar, which crop out over the fences In the highways and byways. The sweet songs or the migratory birds add a charmingly home aspect to the place. The salubrity of the town is most marked, since in the extreme of summer heat there ls generally a cool, grateful under-current blowing and it is but rarely that a hot wind or an oppressive night ls experienced, and snow has never or very seldom been seen in town In winter.

Of the climate a reliable authority writes:-

'Invalids from India, China and the hotter colonies of Australia, if not past recovery speedily rally in Tasmania, and the increased appetite to food ls the first and most surprising change.'

A well-known Victorian writer (Mr. James Smith), In recording his 'Impressions of Tasmania' In the 'Australian Monthly Review' (vol. 1, No. 1 March. 1866), also comments on the absence In Tasmanian cemeteries of ...

'these rows of pathetic little graves embossing their surfaces, which are so painfully numerous In Victoria, and which tell such a melancholy tale of infant mortality, domestic bereavement and house-hold desolation.'

Launceston was lighted by electricity on December 10, 1895. 2

  • 1. KNOW TASMANIA - The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) 13 November 1929: p 6
  • 2. KNOW TASMANIA - The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) 28 November 1929: p 14