Probably Rokeby received its name from the parish of Rokeby on River Lees, Yorkshire, England. For many years it was known as Clarence Plains, so called after Commodore John Hayes's ship, Duke of Clarence, in 1794. Dr. James Ross's "Hobart Town Almanack" of 1830 records: -

"From Kangaroo Point (now Bellerive) the road continues down near the bank of the Derwent, through a sandy soil, passing several small farms, until it arrives at the Glebe land belonging to the chaplain at Hobart Town. Between this road and the beach is a long, narrow lagoon of fresh water, situated at the west end of which, on a projecting point, into the Derwent, is Wentworth, the property of Mr. R. L Murray. The house which is large, stands upon a promontory, and a little farther on is the neat and commodious little farm of Mr. Peter Roberts, D.A.C.G. These farms command beautiful views of the Derwent from Hobart Town, and the adjacent country, to both sides of the opening of D'Entrecasteaux Channel. Fronting the Derwent, two miles lower down, is the thriving and conspicuous farm of Mr. Charles Hippesley Cox. About a mile beyond is the settlement of Clarence Plains, originally settled when Norfolk Island was abandoned. The road runs through the centre of the district, which is mostly in a state of cultivation. Besides a great many small farms, that of Mr. Nicholls, on the left of the road, and Mr. D. Stanfield deserve to be particularly mentioned. In the centre of this district is a respectable inn, kept by Mr. Hance."

From Walch's "Tasmanian Guide Book" of 1871, we cull the following:-

"Rokeby, five miles from Bellerive, is beautifully situated on the shore of Ralph's Bay. The whole of the surrounding plain is divided into farms, and, instead of lines of posts and rails, the fences chiefly consist of fine hedges of hawthorn. Few spots in Tasmania have a more thoroughly English aspect than this fair expanse of meadow, corn land, garden, and orchard, with here and there a thin, blue wreath of smoke, guiding the eye to some pleasant nook, where lies a cottage home amidst its fields, or perchance a goodly mansion, encompassed by lawns and plantations.

The chief ornament in the village is, as it should be, the church dedicated to St Matthew, with an adjacent parsonage and burial-ground. In the latter are several conspicuous monuments. The remains of the Rev. Robert Knopwood, the first minister of the established church, who arrived in this colony, and who for many years resided near, are here interred. The organ in the church was also the first instrument of the kind received in Tasmania, having originally been placed in St. David's Church, Hobart. One of the chairs in the chancel is of English oak, part of H.M.S. Anson, a 'seventy-four,' which for some years was moored in the Derwent, and occupied as a hulk for female prisoners. Then, without one valid reason for such wanton waste, the grand ship was broken up, and chiefly consumed as firewood, a few timbers only being by individual solicitation saved from destruction, and kept, like the Rokeby Church chair, in remembrance of those wooden walls of old England, with which so much of our national glory is lovingly and reverently associated. The principal estates and residences in the vicinity are Rokeby House, Mr. George Stokell; Clarendon, Mr. Daniel Stanfield: Clarence Vale, Mr. J. Chipman; Droughty Point, Mr. I. Chipman. Messrs. Holmes and Chipman have also very extensive gardens".

Middleton and Maning's "Tasmanian Directory and Gazetteer" of 1887 discloses that the Rokeby district was inhabited by many farmers, whose family names have been associated with the neighbourhood's history and progress in the old Clarence Plains days - Stanfields, Stokells, Youngs, Frees, Luckmans, Morrisbys, Percys, Chipmans, etc. Mr. Wm. Free, senior, was then hotel keeper there, and the addresses of residents were variously given as Clarence Plains and Rokeby.

On August 16, 1832, James Backhouse and George Washington Walker, famous Gospel missionaries, began a tour of the Clarence and Muddy Plains localities, and stayed at the house of Robert Mather, Muddy Plains (now Sandford). Among the many beautiful and attractive places which abound in Tasmania are some which are so secluded and alienated, as it were, from the sphere of tourist traffic that they are practically unknown beyond their own locality. But this is not so with Rokeby, which offers numerous pleasing and expansive combinations of land and water views within a few miles of Hobart. Peppermint, box, she-oak, and black and silver wattle are among its chief indigenous trees, whose foliage blends
admirably with sea and sky to limn a delightful picture.

The chief productions of the district are hay, oats, wheat, apricots, and apples, and dairying and wool-growing receive considerable attention on its good pastoral areas. A good portion of Rokeby is watered by the Clarence Plains Rivulet, on the banks of which the main part of the village, with its two churches, public hall, post and telephone office, State School, smithy, and store, is situated. For years Rokeby has earned fame in the realm of sport through its cricket team. 1

  • 1. KNOW TASMANIA - The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) 22 August 1928: p 4