Local History

Settlement of Swansea and the East Coast

After the arrival of Abel Tasman in 1642, the East Coast remained unvisited by Europeans for 160 years except for occasional visits of other early European explorers. Even then most of the ships sailed past. Although Maria & Schouten Islands had been given a European name by Tasman, it was not until 1789 that Captain Cox in the ship ”Mercury“ anchored in and named Oyster Bay.

Serious exploration commenced in 1806 following the establishment of the colony at Hobart town.

Early sealers and whalers had established transient camps at various points along the coast as early as 1810 but what is regarded as the first permanent European settlement did not occur until 1821. In 1827 a military detachment of the 88th. Regiment under established Barracks on Waterloo Point . The fact that the 88th. had not long before seen service at the historic “Battle of Waterloo” must have had some bearing on the naming of the new settlement. Their deployment was partly to discourage occupation by the French who had much earlier explored the region; and to “protect” the new settlers from the original inhabitants as, although a few were friendly, the majority were rather resentful of change and in fact the “Oyster Bay Tribe of Aboriginals were known to be one of the most fearsome warriors of the island.

Waterloo Point was never a penal settlement as such, although a penal colony was in operation at Rocky Hills (15km. South) and a number of convicts were regularly seconded to work for the local administration and free settlers.

By 1830 Waterloo Point settlement had a recorded population of 320 persons comprising free settlers, their servants and allocated convicts. It is probable that an itinerant population of Sealers, Whalers & Trappers together with a number of Bushrangers & Escaped Convicts who while having contact with local residents preferred to remain unknown to the administration, substantially extended this figure. The regiment was withdrawn in 1860 and all signs of the settlement have now disappeared.

In 1850, the name of the region was changed from "Great Swanport" to Glamorgan and the town renamed Swansea No one seems to know exactly who or why the re-naming took place although George Meredith, the town's 'elder statesman', was once a land owner in Glamorgan in Wales..

In 1859 a petition from residents was presented to the administration of the colony requesting Local Government and in consequence the Rural Municipality of Glamorgan was declared in January 1860. This made Glamorgan the first Rural Municipality to be declared in Australia. Sadly in 1993 politicians decreed that Municipality must cease to exist and is now amalgamated with Spring Bay (to the South) at considerable financial and economic cost to Swansea and its residents.

A history of the Glamorgan Municipality was published in 1988 and is readily available. Other books such as "The East Coasters" and "Louisa Anne Meredith" also provide an insight into the background of the region.

Early transport was almost entirely by sea. Only a horse trail connected the region south to Hobart and a the only ‘roads’ were to join the Midlands Highway at Campbell Town and the ‘old coach road’ to Avoca.

Never less, social events linking the local settlers to others of similar standing in the Midlands and North were common. Most farms had their own tennis court and weekend tournaments (together with a full day travel each side) occurred regularly.

The requirement on Sea Transport resulted in may farms constructing their own jetty for loading/unloading of supplies and produce. In 1855, public subscriptions raised the sum of £655.oo for the construction of a jetty at Swansea. In 1879 this was extended to deep water, a distance of around 500 metres.

This was of great significance to the local population not only for commercial shipping but also as a very popular and productive fishing platform. Decline of sea transport (1960) saw the jetty fall into disrepair and the majority was demolished in the 1970’s.