History of Launceston

The City of Launceston was first settled in 1806 by Colonel Paterson.  Prior to this the Tasmanian Aboriginal people, also known as the Palawa people, lived in the area utilising the rich resources of the region.

Launceston was originally called Patersonia for a short time but was later changed to Launceston in honour of Governor Philip Gidley King who was born in the Cornish township of Launceston.  The renaming marked the beginning of a long association between the two locations.  Launceston is one of Australia’s oldest cities and is the first to have underground sewers.

A tiny region 18kilometers north-west of Launceston is still called Patersonia to this day.

Explorers Bass and Flinders originally landed at Port Dalrymple which is nearby to the later settled township of George Town. They spent 16 days exploring the Tamar river.

Having one of the earliest intact cityscapes in Australia, Launceston’s Colonial and Victorian buildings give Launceston a wonderful historic character.  Buildings can be dated back to 1824.

In 1829 the Launceston Advertisers first edition went on sale.  The proprietor was John Pascoe Fawkner.

The Paterson Barracks which were completed by 1830 today house the sixteenth Field Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery, and Launceston’s cadet units.

St John Street’s public buildings show strong growth of self-government in Tasmania and have been more than just offices for poloticians. The post office and telegraph office were originally located here too.

In the 1840’s thousands from Tasmania migrated to the mainland and New Zealand leaving Tasmania in a state of economic depression that would remain for the next 40 years.

In 1842 The Launceston Examiner was founded by James Aikenhead.  The Examiner is the third oldest surviving newspaper in all of Australia.

1847 marks the date of the first operation performed in Australia with anaesthetic.   This operation was performed by Dr William Russ Pugh at Launceston’s St John’s Hospital.

At the beginning of the 50’s the Anti-Transportation League was established with a goal of ending the transportation of convicts to Tasmania, and the first intercolonial cricket match was hosted in Launceston in 1851.

In the 1880s Launceston processed the ore from the rich tin mine at Mt Bischoff, and also supplied the mine fields on the west coast.  Trade flourished and customs duties contributed to a boom in the economy of early Tasmania.  During the next 2 decades Launceston grew to be a thriving urban centre, and was declared a city in 1889, second only to the state’s capital, Hobart.

In 1895 Launceston was the first city in all of Australia to have electric street lights!  This feat is attributed to the Duck Reach Power Station generating hydroelectricity.  And in 1911 a suburban tramway opens in Launceston operating for more than 40 years.

As you can see from this informative article, Launceston was in some ways leading the rest of Australia with innovation and infrastructure.  What a great history to be a part of.

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