Sorell windmill

If you were living in the Pitt Water area of the district of Richmond around 1815, you would have seen a windmill. Is this an image of Robert Nash’s original windmill or another built later in the century or maybe his original mill was removed and rebuilt after his death?

Robert Nash was the son of a millwright and born at Edenbridge in Kent, England in 1771. But at age 19 he stole some boots and shoes and was sent out to New South Wales in 1791 on the Albemarle as a convict. Before being sent to Norfolk Island, he married Ann Hannaway, who was also a convict from the Second Fleet. Ann already had three children and bore Robert four daughters while on Norfolk Island. Nash was very well behaved on the island, received a grant of land and an absolute pardon in 1800.

In 1808, Robert Nash and his family was one of many who departed Norfolk Island to settle in Hobart Town. Again he was given a grant of 10 acres near the New Town Rivulet where he built his first flour mill. This unfortunately was swept away in floods in 1809. In 1810 he built a second mill, this time on the Hobart Rivulet. More land was granted as the colony needed more wheat for its growing population. He received 200 acres near Pitt Water. He built a mill at his own expense in 1815. His land was south of the present day school and bounded by Sorell and Pittwater Rivulets.

By 1817 he was supplying the Hobart Town commissariat as one of its largest contractors. Robert also put an ad in the Hobart Town Gazette warning people who lit a fire in his paddocks to summon the ferry at Pitt Water to refrain from doing so until the end of the harvest.

Robert’s health suffered with all this hard work in the early colony and he died in 1819 at age 48.

Did his windmill survive? Or was it sold after his death to pay his debts. Edward Lord and James Lord were the principal creditors of Robert Nash’s estate.  The windmill was still standing in February 1820 when Robert’s property went under the hammer at auction.

Robert’s mill in Liverpool Street, Hobart called the Old Mill was still in operation in June 1821 when Mr J A Motton opened it. It was owned by Walter Crammond. Cost for grinding was one shilling and threepence per bushel or 8lbs of wheat. The mill and acreage around it was again sold in 1824.

Update to this post:

Since mentioning this post on the Sorell Historical Society Facebook page, Karina Looby nee Newitt has added a photo of a replica of Nash’s Mill which can now be found in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery TMAG. The replica was built by her father Alan Newitt, who had lived in the Blue Bell Inn.

Replica created by Alan Newitt, father of Karina Looby, member of Sorell Historical Society Facebook page.

Sources: Much of the early information was found in Robert Nash’s biography. Information about flour milling found in this thematic study.

Windmill images courtesy of Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office, George Billing Collector – Windmill at Sorell –NS479/1/41 and NS479/1/42

Clicking on a blue link or image will open to the digitized document or book.

Readers: What do you know about the Nash family and flour milling in the district?

Shell lime needed

What is shell lime and why would the government be needing this in December 1820?  Was this shell lime to be used in building the new school house? How much is 400 bushels in modern terms?

Oyster shells were very good to create lime. The area around Pittwater was very suited to this as many aboriginal middens were located there and the bay was very shallow near the shore so convict workers could be sent out in the water to collect other shells suitable for lime making. But this could be dangerous as noted in this newspaper article of 1842.  According to Peter MacFie’s research, in the late 1830s, Henry Cooper had lime kilns on his property and it is supposed to be near Pitt Water. Could these be at the end of Shark Point Road? Or could they be the lime kilns mentioned in this advertisement of 1829 by Robert Garrett, a surgeon at Sorell.

Lime kiln on Norfolk Island. Built in 1845.

The steps to create usable lime:

  1. Collect shells and put in lime kiln
  2. Heat and burn the shells
  3. Slake the lime with water

Many of the kilns were inverted bell types shown in photo from Norfolk Island. This is the same as the one at Port Arthur. But the very earliest ways to make lime was to build up a pile of wood, put shells on top and burn quickly to collect the lime.

I put a question to the Sorell Historical Society Facebook page asking about buildings in the district with shell lime in the mortar and where might the earliest lime kilns in the district be. I then visited a few of these places to take some photos.

Horsecroft farm

Shell lime used as a whitewash on the old barn built in 1826 with convict labour. Originally owned by Captain William Henry Glover, an officer in the 31st Regiment of Foot, who had been appointed Police Magistrate of the Sorell District. Talking to the present day owners, there is also a lime kiln on the property at the top of the hill.


Lime was used in mortars and plaster in early colonial buildings. When mixed with sand, it produced a type of cement. In brick buildings, walls were often covered with a lime plaster and outside fences and walls were whitewashed with a lime solution. But for agricultural purposes, it could be mixed with clayey soil to improve the texture for crops.

Readers: Do you have any shell lime used as mortar or whitewash on your property? If you live locally, you might be able to send me a photo to include in this post. My email is on the sidebar of this blog.

Tenders called

As this blog is now part of the world wide One Place Studies, I thought I would join in their #oneplaceWednesday activity.  Every Wednesday I will write a post relating to something found in the newspapers on Trove. I will try to make it close to the date 200 years ago.

2 December 1820 and posted on 9 Dec 1820 in the Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter

The area now known as Sorell was once called the District of Pitt Water.

When teaching at Sorell School, we told the students the school was opened in 1821. According to this article in the newspaper, tenders were being called for erecting a school house or perhaps a place of confinement or maybe both. Looks like they had very little time to contact Major Bell, the acting engineer, to say they would be interested in getting the tender. I wonder how much red tape they had 200 years ago compared to today?

Aboriginals of the South East

Twelve thousand years ago, the aboriginals of the Tasmania community faced a natural disaster which flooded the Bassian plains!

The aboriginals of the Tasmania community headed to the inland during winter so they could hunt their food, such as snakes, and a small variety of birds.
After the winter is over and the summer begins, the aboriginals headed to the out-land to fish. They would spear their fish with spears. The spears were made of crafted wood, and sharp objects which they would tie to the end of the wood. (They used spears to kill most other animals but sometimes used other objects.) Speaking of creating, they created their hut with large pieces of bark.

When the aboriginals of the Tasmania community got dirty and the spring filled up they would wash themselves with the water.

Tribe Names and their areas were:

  • Moomairremener tribe lived in the Risdon Cove area
  • Pydairrerme tribe lived in the Oyster Bay area


One of many old rituals of the south east Tasmanian aboriginals, was when the frost was in the springs, the children rubbed it over their naked bodies. They did it for the boys to grow into successful hunters and the girls to grow into beautiful ladies with large breasts.

external image Trugannie.jpg

This picture of Trugannie was given permission to use on our wiki space by

If anybody can answer either of the unanswered questions please reply in the comments.
Q. What were the names of all the 9 tribes?
A. Moomairremener, Pydairrerme

Q. Were the 9 tribes near each other?
Here is an interesting link to the Andaman society which makes mention of the Aboriginal tribes of Tasmania.

Land grants

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 Charles Anthony William Baxter Jacob Billett or Bellette
John or James Birchall Richard Buckingham James Davies Frederick Dawes
J. Duncombe William Fenner Arnold Fisk Mary Fogarty
Silas Gatehouse James Grimes William Hambly James Hannaway
Jane Hobbs William Hopley Jane Horton (Gill), A.W.H.Humphrey
John Ingle Charles Jeffries Thomas Kent John Knox
Alexander Laing I. Larsome John Liddle David Lord
Edward Lord R. W. Loane William McDowall John Miles
George Morrisby Robert Nash Thomas Pennington J. Prestage
Bartholomew Reardon Walter Redpath Mary Richardson Thomas Riley
S. Sederick James Turnbull John Wade M. Wicks
Charles Willis J. Wilson William Wilson W. Wood
Thomas Richardson Thomas Solly?

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

Robert Allums William Baxter Jacob Billett John Birchall Mr Buckingham
Mr Burchall James Davis John Duncombe Arnold Fish (Fisk) Mr Fogherty
Mr Gatehouse Government Mr Gregory William Hambly jun William Hambly sen
A.W.H. Humphrey William Jenner Thomas Kent Roland W Loane Richard Loisonce
Mr E Lord Peter Mills George Morrisby Robert Nash Thomas Pennington
Thomas Prestage Bartholomew Reardon Walter Redpath Mr Riley Samuel Sedrick
John Wade Charles Willis Mr Wilson

H – Harrington – Midway Point, Orielton

Richard Coleman John Hatcher John Ingle Lieut Charles Jeffries James Lord
Mr D Lord Mr Martin Horatio William Mason James Mayberry John Palmer Stone
Dr Henry St John Younge

P – Pitt – Pittwater

Mr Champion Mr Kelly James Kelly Mr Roberts

S – Sussex – Forcett, Dodges Ferry and surrounds

Nathaniel Ayres Thomas Bowden Riley Buckingham Mr Clark Walter Colquhoun
Mr Crowder Mary Geils James Gordon James Hannaway Jane Hobbs
Rachael Hoddy John Hulan Thomas Allen Lacelles John Lakeland Joseph Pendill
William Rayner(or) jun William Rayner(or) sen George Raynor Bartholomew Reardon Mr Redpath
Isabella Riley Thomas Riley sen Thomas Riley jun Mr Scott William Shirley
Ann Shuttleworth Mr Smith Mr Steel John Tapley Mr Waddel (Alex Stewart Waddle)
John Welch Samuel Westlake William Woolley

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.