Risdon Cove

The European settlement of Tasmania had a false start, and it happened at Risdon Cove in 1803 on the eastern bank of the River Derwent. Lieutenant John Bowen was sent to establish a settlement in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) with 48 free settlers. The Lady Nelson anchored at Risdon in September 1803; it was followed five days later by the whaler Albion with Lt. Bowen on board. In 1804 Lieutenant Colonel David Collins arrived in the Derwent from Port Phillip with instructions to take charge of the colony.

Within a few days he rejected Risdon Cove as a suitable settlement site and moved his party across the river to Sullivan's Cove. The military and convicts disembarked near Hunter Island on the 2021 February 1804 and thus beginning what is now Hobart. The Risdon colony struggled on for some months with Collins and Bowen in disagreement as to who was in charge and which was the official colony. Eventually it was abandoned. A cairn marks the spot where settlement took place.

Risdon Cove was the site of the massacre of around 100 Moomairremener Aboriginal people by white settlers in 1804. The Tasmanian Aboriginal community met at Risdon Cove in 1992 determined to win back their land. In 1995, they were successful and Risdon Cove was granted to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land Council. The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre now administers it. The site today includes a visitors centre, picnic area and walking tracks.

On a private voyage of exploration between 1792 and 1794, Captain John Hayes spent several weeks in Southern Tasmania, during which time he named Risdon Cove, Mount Direction and the River Derwent after the river which flows through his birthplace of Cumberland, England.

Risdon, Risdon Vale and Risdon Cove were named after Captain William Bellamy Risdon. Captain Risdon spent time in the Dutch East Indies having many adventures. In 1794 Risdon took command of the Duke of Clarence. Holland the British were at war soon afterwards and Risdon captured a Dutch cruiser, taking her as a prize to Calcutta, arriving September 2nd, 1798.  In December, taking the command of the Anna, he returned to England.


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Where is it?

Risdon is 10 km east of Hobart. How to get there: cross the Tasman Bridge, drive north along East Derwent Highway, then left into Saundersons Rd.


Restdown Homestead

Though David Collins abandoned the Risdon Cove settlement, his lover, Martha Hayes, took up land on the western side of the River Derwent.  She was to marry Andrew Whitehead in 1811 and have a third daughter by him. In 1812, Major Andrew Geils erected a brick dwelling, which he called Restdown, the ruins of which are located on the hillside above Risdon Cove. 

Geils left our shores and became an absentee landlord and in 1820 Alfred Thrupp and his wife, Sarah were living there. Then in 1825 William Lyttleton was placed in charge of Restdown and in July 1829 it was sold to Thomas Gregson.He added on to Restdown and died there in 1874.

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