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?

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.