Some early visitors to the Inn...


There is... an excellent inn kept by Mrs. Bridger, where, we understand, the [New Norfolk] town gentry who have not kept their Christmas with any particular festivity, intent to spend New Years Day...

-Colonial Times 29/12/1826



Any hotel as old as the Bush Inn would have had its fair share of lodgers, both short and long term, over its lifetime.  In this regard the Bush Inn is no exception.  It is fortunate, however, that particularly in the early years many of these visitors recorded their travels, and their impressions, so that we may share them today.

The French ship Astrolabe, under the command of Captain (later Rear Admiral) Jules Dumont D’Urville, was on a scientific exploration  trip and called at Hobart Town in 1827 to replenish supplies and to replace the crew who had died during the voyage.    

Captain D’Urville was greeted by Lieutenant Governor George Arthur, who D’Urville described as very correct but “aloof, in the British way”.

D’Urville and his officers were entertained and befriended by the local establishment. The French visitors recorded in glowing terms the generosity and excellent spirit of their hosts.     

An extract from the diary of Louis de Sainson, the Astrolabe’s artist:     

“Being curious to visit the newly settled Elizabeth Town (New Norfolk), 29 miles from Hobart Town on the banks of the Derwent, we (M Guilbert and Dudemaine and Dr Gaimard) left; very early one day (December 23,  1827).     

“A Tillbury and two good saddle horses were used.  At first we made rapid progress over a  road, as level as a garden path, and bordered sometimes by crops and lovely farms, sometimes by forests where axe and fire had already made vast clearings.

“About 10 miles out we found an inn where we  rested our mounts. Past  this point we continued  for a long time beside the river.     

“This vast peaceful stretch of water flowed on our right, while on our left we were in the shade of woods so far untouched by the widespread land clearing.     

“After a few hours travelling through these wild majestic places, some well tilled fields, a church, a few houses, planted here and there and widely separated, indicated to us that we were treading the ground that will one day be covered by buildings of Elizabeth Town.     

“We made our way towards a spotlessly clean brick house rising among trees and white fences; there a sign told us that we were arriving at Mrs Bridger's Hotel and that this lady kept the most fashionable lodging house in the town, which still had no streets.     

“We were graciously received and while we were admiring the house, the gardens which extended to the river and the loveliness of the surroundings in the company of the Misses Bridger, the good hostess was busy preparing a meal for us that was worthy of being considered the high point of our interesting outing.     

“In fact when the four of us gathered around the table, the cleanliness and appointments of which were almost luxurious, we were truly amazed that in such a  place and in so short a time, such a feast could be improvised.  

“We did ample honour,  particularly to a profusion of vegetables, their flavour and size attributing to the fertility of the soil that has produced them.”

One of the stated aims of the Astrolabe’s voyages was to seek information on the disappearance of the La Perouse expedition decades earlier.  Dumont D’Urville wrote of his expeditions in Two Voyages to the South Seas, Volume 1 1826-29 and Volume 2 1837-40.65     


12407419.jpg (65129 bytes)

Vue d’Elisabeth Town
Showing the Bush Inn (right).

By Louis de Sainson, 1827



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Three of New Norfolk’s earliest buildings, The Bush Inn (left), Hallgreen (centre) and Alloway Banks (right, past bridge)

Hallgreen, New Norfolk, as seen from the North bank of the Derwent.

Bull,K (1811-1889)




In August 1830 another such visitor was Mrs Fenton, who was journeying to meet her husband at their newly established farm at Fenton Forest.  She wrote on August 12:-66


The road was good and the sun shone brightly until within a short distance of New Norfolk, where light snow began to fall and heavy clouds gathered on the hills.  In the only inn, which is kept by a portly old lady named Mrs. Bridgers, we found good fires and a neat apartment.  She showed us every attention and put a most excellent dinner on the table.

When I arose next day the scenery from the window was enchanting.  The Derwent broad and deep lay below the house and on each side precipitous banks, rocks and foliage mingled.  A lofty range of mountains called Dromedary, rose from the river wooded to the very summit.  Here and there was a solitary farmhouse.

Our hostess...  appeared and ushered in a most inviting breakfast...


Another more unusual visitor to the Bush Inn was Jorgen Jorgenson and his bride, Norah (nee Corbett), who spent their wedding day there on January 25, 1831.  Both the Danish born Jorgen and the Irish born Norah had long and colourful pasts.  Jorgenson67, in particular, had been, among other things in his life, a convict, a theologian, a spy, a sailor, a policeman and a self appointed King.

The second son of the Royal watchmaker to the King of Denmark, he was born to Jorgen Jorgenson (Sr) and Anna Lette (nee Bruun) of Copenhagen on April 7 1780.  At 15 years of age he was apprenticed to the (English) collier Jane, under Captain Henry Marwood.  He served on many ships, sometimes involuntarily (he was press ganged into service with the British Navy), and in 1801 arrived at Port Jackson on the Harbinger.  While serving on the HMS Lady Nelson he was present at the first settlement on the Derwent in Van Diemen’s Land, and claimed to be the first man to harpoon a whale while there.  After being discharged form the Lady Nelson in 1804 he went sealing in New Zealand before returning to Copenhagen via Tahiti, Cape Horn and England.

After Captaining the Admiral Juul in the Anglo-Danish war he was captured by HMS Sappho in 1808 and detained in England for ten months.  It was later in 1808 that he made his first visit to Iceland, the setting for his most outrageous and notorious escapade.

In June 1809 he returned to Iceland with two Englishmen, a merchant and a seaman, and arrested the Danish Governor, and after declaring himself King, proclaimed that Iceland was now independent.  He remained as the King of Iceland for only nine weeks before he returned to England following the arrival of the HMS Talbot.

Over the next decade he was incarcerated and paroled, ran up huge debts through drinking and gambling, acted as a spy in Europe for the British, and eventually was imprisoned again.  He was sentenced to death, this sentence being commuted to transportation to Van Diemen’s Land for life.  He arrived in Hobart Town on April 29, 1826, aboard the Woodman, under Captain David Leary, after a five and a half month journey from London68.

His convict records69 show him being 5’ 7¼” [171 cm] tall, with dark brown hair and blue eyes, 46 years old.  As an understatement his trade is listed as ‘seaman’.  He worked briefly as a clerk after gaining his Ticket-of-Leave in 1827 before becoming an explorer for the Van Diemen’s Land Company in the north and north-west of the island.  The following year he was appointed as a constable in the Oatlands area.  He was granted a conditional pardon in 1830.  As an additional reward for services rendered he was allotted 100 acres [40 ha] of land at Spring Hill (Jericho), where he envisioned becoming a ‘man of the land’, even though he knew nothing about farming.

Norah Corbett was a buxom and vivacious70 woman of 31 years, the daughter of Irish peasants from County Cork, who was sentenced for life for stealing from a boarding house.  She arrived in Van Diemen’s Land aboard the Persian at age 22.  Her convict record from that time71 describes her as 5’ 4¼” [164 cm] tall with brown eyes and dark brown hair.  Her trade is listed as farmers servant, dairy maid and butter maker.  In common with many Irish in Van Diemen’s Land at the time, she had a fondness for drink and a hot Irish temperament, a combination that had caused problems more than once over the ages, and she had been arrested for drunkenness a number of times since arriving on the island.  By 1831 she had been granted a ticket of Leave.

In the 1830’s men out-numbered women three to one in the colony, (even by the 1850’s this ratio would still be two to one), and though tempted with many offers Nora remained true to the 51 year old Jorgenson.  After obtaining government permission (she was still a convict, though he was a free man), they went to see Jorgensons friend, the Reverend Hugh Robinson, Chaplain of St Matthew’s at New Norfolk, on January 12, 1831, who agreed to perform the ceremony and post the banns once they’d agreed on a date.  The morning after returning to Hobart to celebrate their engagement Jorgenson appeared before the magistrate charged with “being drunk last night”, a charge that cost him a fine of five shillings [50c].

Less than a fortnight later, on January 25, Norah and Jorgen were married at St Matthew’s, New Norfolk, before retiring to the Bush Inn to celebrate their wedding.

In summarising the life of Jorgen Jorgenson, a friend, William Hooker, said,  “His talents are of the highest order:  but his character, moral and religious, it was always of the lowest order.”



That the Bush Inn has enjoyed a reputation for its fine food and excellent lodgings there is no doubt.  Even the Quakers, Blackhouse and Walker, who would start the temperance movement in Van Diemen’s Land, gave a good account of their journey to New Norfolk and their stay at the Bush.72


29th. [Feb 1832]        We walked to Elizabeth Town, usually called New Norfolk, in consequence of a number of persons, formerly residing on Norfolk Island, being settled in the neighbourhood.  The distance from Hobart Town is about 22 miles [35 km], by the road, which is a pretty good one for carriages ; and, which passing through the little villages of New Town, O’Briens Bridge and Glenorchy, winds under the mountains by the side of the Derwent, which retains the appearance of a chain of picturesque lakes most of the way.  It is navigable for small vessels to New Norfolk, where it is about as wide as the Themes at Battersea.  The mountains are clothed with wood ; but in many places the timber is not so thick as to exclude the growth of grass.  Some narrow flats of good land, partially cultivated, occur near the river.  The rocks exposed by cutting the road are basalt and sandstone, or more dense siliceous formations, and limestone imbedding marine fossils.  A considerable piece of road has been cut near New Norfolk, by a chain gang, stationed in three poor looking huts... Evening closed in, very dark, before we reached our destination, and the noise of strange birds, lizards and frogs, became great, and very striking to an English ear.  We passed several neat farm houses, and some decent inns on the way, and at the end of our journey found accommodation at the Bush Inn, little inferior to that of decent inns, a step below first rate, in England.


The remainder of their account is also interesting, as they tell of visiting Willow Court and Alloway Banks, later known as Woodbridge, and their journey back to Hobart Town via the Molesworth area.


3rd mo. 1st   The site of New Norfolk is so laid out, that the streets will cross at right angles.  The houses were at this time about thirty in number, exclusive of an Epicopal place of worship and an unfinished hospital.  We visited the latter, which contained about forty patients, under the superintendence of one of the Colonial Surgeons.  We also visited a respectable boarding-school (Woodbridge), of about twenty fine looking boys, kept by a young man with whose family I was acquainted in England.


2nd.        We returned to Hobart Town, calling at a few small cottages on the Sorrell-rivulet ...Learning that there was “a marked tree road,” or a way through “the bush,” as the forest is termed in this country, marked by pieces of bark being chopped off the sides of trees, we ventured to take it ; and though the distance was five miles [8 km], and it was extremely hilly and rough, the variety was pleasant.  Some of the Gum-trees have deciduous bark, and consequently white trunks ; these are generally blackened by fire, that has been kindled to clear off the underwood and long-grass, at various intervals ; long strips of bark hang from the branches, and great numbers of dying and dead trees, the wreck of ages, lie on the ground in the forests.  The only quadruped we saw was an Opossum...


This account was by Edward Markham, who was visiting Henry Oakey, the leasee of Redlands, in July 1833:73


“Went up by coach to New Norfolk to meet Oakes, brother to Colonel Oakes that I knew at the Cass Filicaja at Florence.  A little cold.  Wet drive.  Found Oakes in wading and a spare horse.  I should say one of the prettiest places in Van Diemen’s land;  high hills, craggy rocks and a regular town laid out.  It is 22 miles [35 km] from Hobart Town and a coach goes out and in, and another in and out from Hobart Town every day.

I put up at the Bush Inn, Mrs Bridger’s, till I was warmed then rode ten miles and came to a fine farm...  The name of the place is Redlands, but Oakes only has the lease of it... Got a gun to have a shot at the cockatoos, there was a flock of 400 to 500 of them, on some high trees, but there was no chance, as I only made them make more noise.”


A visitor of a different kind passed by the Bush Inn, a whale.  It found its was up river to a place opposite the Bush Inn, and not being able to turn around, was soon made a prize of by the astonished inhabitants.74


“A gentleman in the neighbourhood, (says Peincep, who has another letter below)  immediately gave them a great sum of money for it, and hastened down to make the most of his treasure in Hobart Town.  He was so long making up his mind how much to take for it, that several days passed before he returned, and then behold he found swarms of small fish, with which the river abounds, without any of the respect due to his purchase right in the sea monster had eaten almost all of it.”

The Hobart Town Gazette on September 29, 1825 mentions a fin-back whale, 90’ [28 metres] long, ‘harpooned’ above the punt ferry by an old whaler living at Back River.  It can be assumed because of the discrepancy in dates, that is not the same one as mentioned here.

A friend of the Fentons at Fenton Forest, Mrs Augustus Princep, gave this account when she stayed in 183375.


...the road ended at the church, not very inviting termination to hungry, cold, wet travellers...  I looked in vain for houses...  when a charitable man conducted us over the turf to the inn, which really looked very comfortable, and its accommodation within did not belie its external experience.

The Inn window faced a splendid rock, clothed in every fissure with luxuriant verdure, which hung over the river. Still I could see nothing of a town, or even a village, and no wonder, for, upon enquiring, I found that besides the magistrate’s and the Governors Turriff Lodge which are at some distance, there are but two houses and a half, the third not being completed!  Making seven in all, including the church and the inn.  I forgot to mention the school house...  which  is well attended by children who collect from miles all around.  The Governor’s farm is extremely pretty and rural.  In this hilly country, it is indeed impossible to have other than beautiful views up and down the river;  and Elizabeth Town is advantageously situated in this respect, the ledge of rocks hanging over the river, being of a bolder and more perpendicular character than lower down.

About two miles above, at a place called Bells Terrace, these rocks assume a terrific cast;  the road is cut in the face of them, as it were, hanging between heaven and earth, with 300 feet [91 m] of precipice to the water and no projection between...  frequently huge masses of rock in their decent threaten destruction to the unwary traveller.  Here a ridge of rocks crosses the Derwent, making a little fall...  and arresting the tide, which comes up salt as far as this.

I went about six miles further... to see a gentleman on his estate and passed over Bell’s Terrace.  I can assure you that my curiosity was perfectly satisfied by one visit to this terrible pass.  I never wish to repeat it till the road is improved (but) the scenery was superb.


The “splendid rock” Mrs Princep mentions was probably the original Pulpit Rock.  This was removed when the railway line was built into the town in 1885, as it was thought too dangerous to leave where it hung above the newly planned line of construction.


12564283.jpg (305413 bytes) Pulpit Rock, Beattie JW (1859—1939) c1890
gardens.jpg (90691 bytes) The gardens of the Bush Inn. Once, the property ran right down to the River Derwent


There have also been other notable visitors to the inn.  In 1837 the wife of Governor Sir John, Lady Franklin, planted a pear tree in the gardens.  Unfortunately, this tree was burnt by vandals in the 1980’s.  Other visitors of late include the composer William Vincent Wallace, in the 1830’s and Dame Nellie Melba in the 1920’s.  Their stories will be told in a separate chapters.  

Hotels are used not only as lodgings and for entertainment, but also for meetings and places for public debate.  And as may be expected with an inn so old, some unusual and also historic meeting have been held at the Bush Inn.  The initial talk of a bridge over the River Derwent at New Norfolk has been mentioned, but there is more to that story and others still to come.


Original material © November 2000 KM Roberts