April 28 - May 4, 2013: Issue 108
by Robyn McWilliam
Ross on Tasmania’s Heritage Highway is perfect for a mid-way stopover between Launceston and Hobart. Tranquil scenery, colonial buildings and country-pub meals make for a pleasant interlude while touring.
Comfortable accommodation is available at the Ross Motel, far enough away from the highway to ensure a peaceful night’s sleep. Its adjacent caravan park with large shady trees is flanked on one side by an ancient stone wall. In front of both, the Macquarie River lazily flows by in this last month of summer. The village also offers B & Bs and self-catering cottages, a number complete with English cottage gardens.
Bright green poplars pierce the sky; distant hills shimmer. Sparrows chirrup and flit around bushes. The occasional ‘baa’ from grazing sheep adds to the bucolic scene. Sitting on a riverside seat it’s pleasantly warm in the sunshine. Islands of bulrushes inhibit the river’s flow. Allow some down time before meandering off to see Ross’s treasures.
The village has a great colonial feel to it. Apart from its timber cottages, many of the buildings are of solid stone as if the founders were sure of its future. Ross began as a garrison in 1812 hence its convict associations and military history. The sale of land to settlers commenced in 1832. Ross became a staging post with inns for the coaching business until rail travel came in the late 1800s.
One highlight is the intricately carved Ross Bridge built by convicts. Stonemasons, Daniel Herbert and James Colbeck carved Celtic symbols, animals and the images of notable personalities above the arches spanning the river. In appreciation of their craftsmanship they were emancipated on completion of the bridge in 1836. Herbert lived in Ross for the remainder of his life and has the most impressive monument in the original burial ground.
Carvings on the Ross Bridge
The Uniting Church (c1885) stands atop a hill overlooking the tiny township. With its spire, gables and arched windows, it is a masterpiece of stonework. A pity its huge keyed lock prevents visiting the interior but it is rewarding to walk around.
The Uniting Church
An historic walk leads to another of Ross’s main attractions: the Convict Female Factory site. In the early days convict gangs employed on public works were stationed here overseen by the famous Rum Corps. The Female Factory established in 1848 in the old buildings held up to 120 women and their babies. Separated into three classes, the worst the Crime class were hardened criminals. In the remains there’s a scale model and numerous stories of the occupants before the factory’s closure in 1854.
On the main crossroads of Bridge and Church Streets are the four corners of Ross. The Man O’ Ross Hotel (1835) is designated Temptation. Directly opposite, the Town Hall is Recreation. Adjacent is a private residence, once the Town Gaol known as Damnation and on the final corner is the Roman Catholic Church (1920) deemed Salvation.
Man O’ Ross Hotel
Central crossroads of Ross
Allow time to wander into The Little Box to purchase a gift or souvenir of your visit. I loved its enticing display outside of a straw man and a teddy in a trike. Classwood, a family owned business, has a range of superbly crafted timber items from boxes to bowls to kitchenware. Further along Church Street there’s an antique shop full of colourful vintage and old wares. Some may trigger memories of grandma’s afternoon tea parties with patterned cups and saucers. Several bakeries provide tempting treats for lunch: scallop pies, pastries along with tea or coffee.
If you’re interested in pastoral history head to the Tasmanian Wool Centre. Learn the story of merino wool in this district. Touch fine wool, feel the finely-ridged fleece and smell the lanolin. On display is a model of a merino ram, once the symbol of national prosperity to Australia. Some of you may remember the saying, ‘Home on the Sheep’s Back’, before the arrival of synthetic fabrics.
The entrepreneurial enthusiasm of Scotswoman, Eliza Forlonge was behind the successful wool industry in this region. Several times she travelled to Saxony to buy the best sheep. She sold some to the Australian Agricultural Company then in 1829 sent her son William off to Australia with 100 Saxon merinos. His land grant in nearby Campbell Town began the local fine wool industry.
When travelling Tasmania add historic Ross to the itinerary. Whether you wish to delve into the colonial past or just enjoy its atmosphere today this is a delightful stopping place. Scenery to soothe the soul.
Peaceful Macquarie River
Daniel Herbert’s tombstone
Copyright Robyn McWilliam, 2013.