It was in 1803 that James Meehan, a surveyor of the time, first passed through the district now known as Sorell. On one of his trips, he was reported as exploring north west of the Coal River and returning by way of Prosser’s Plains and the Sorell district. He was the first non-aboriginal to travel in this direction and the range of hills between the Derwent River and Sorell municipality now bear his name.
Until 1821, the district was known as Pittwater, but it is uncertain how this name came about. Perhaps it was named after William Pitt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in England. Perhaps it was named after an early settler, Thomas Pitt, who visited the district in 1804. James Meehan knew of Pitt’s interest and often referred to the area as Pittwater.
In 1805 George Prideaux Harris was sent by Lieutenant David Collins to survey the Pittwater area. He had high hopes for a fine harbour with a lovely city on its banks but was disappointed when the report mentioned shallow water and not suitable for a harbour.
By 1806 the first farms were under cultivation in Gloucester as Sorell district was then known. The first land grants were confirmed by Governor Macquarie in 1812 to the following people:
|Robert Alloms or Allomes
||Jacob Billett or Bellette
|John or James Birchall
||Jane Horton (Gill),
||R. W. Loane
By 1815, so much wheat was being produced that a flour mill was built by Robert Nash and a year later a site for a township was purchased. This site was originally part of a grant given to John Clarke, then sold to James Gordon, who further sold it to Thomas Archer who immediately sold it to the Government at an advance of £150-0-0 (CSO1/301/7306 at archives of Tasmania)
In the Hobart Town Gazettes of 1816-1818 Nash, Allomes, Gordon, Hannaway, Birchall and Thorne had their goods advertised by creditors. In the same period, the editor of the Gazette placed reminders that subscribers of Pittwater and other parts of the country who were up to three years in arrears with subscriptions could make payment in wheat. Goods were often exchanged because currency was often in short supply.
John Birchall of Marsh Farm, began in 1816 a wheat delivery service from Pittwater to Kangaroo Point on his new schooner ‘Young William’ at a rate of 1/6 a bushell. He offered a free delivery for those who wished to contribute to the fund for the relief of relatives of those wounded at the battle of Waterloo.
By 1819 there were 9 residents but there were about sixty farms in the district which was now known as “The Granary of Australia.”
More land grants were given in 1824 and the municipality had been divided into four areas.
G – Gloucester – Sorell, Pawleena and surrounds
||Arnold Fish (Fisk)
||William Hambly jun
||William Hambly sen
||Roland W Loane
|Mr E Lord
H – Harrington – Midway Point, Orielton
||Lieut Charles Jeffries
|Mr D Lord
||Horatio William Mason
||John Palmer Stone
|Dr Henry St John Younge
P – Pitt – Pittwater
S – Sussex – Forcett, Dodges Ferry and surrounds
||Thomas Allen Lacelles
|William Rayner(or) jun
||William Rayner(or) sen
||Thomas Riley sen
||Thomas Riley jun
||Mr Waddel (Alex Stewart Waddle)
The Tasmanian Archives has many links to land grants in the state and they can be found here. Some are online and others you need to visit or contact the Archives.
To find out more about land settlement in Tasmania, the UTAS eprints has a PDF available here.