Elizabeth Town – the first Capital of Tasmania

New Norfolk, then called Elizabeth Town, was the first ‘capital’ of Tasmania.

At this stage, the Hobart docks were rudimentary and the ships used to come up river to drop anchor in the calm and safety at the ‘top of the tide’, right in front of Woodbridge.

Woodbridge had been built by the local first constable, on a strategic site from where he could oversee the comings and goings on the river, as the row boats ferried goods from the ships to the storage sheds on the opposite bank. People wishing to cross the river depended on the ferryman, whose cottage still stands nearby until, in 1834, the first (wooden) bridge was constructed across the Derwent River next to Woodbridge. This bridge gives Woodbridge its name.

As the docks in Hobart became more profitable, the lobbying from commercial interests moved the centre of power from Elizabeth Town to Hobart, and the Derwent Valley remained a quiet backwater.

While Elizabeth Town was the official title, the small settlement had several names. It was often locally referred to as Richmond Hill and also Black Hills (which name is retained for the hills on the south-east of the river). When the fledgling colony on Norfolk Island was abandoned by the government as unviable, the Norfolk Islanders were transported en mass to Elizabeth Town. They refused to call the settlement anything other than ‘New Norfolk’.

For the History of Woodbridge, the 2005 Restoration and the History of the River and Bridges, click on the lefthand menu.