When widower William Kimberley (54) drove his sheep from the lower Midlands up to the Mersey River over the summer of 1849/1850, it was the largest flock ever to come to the North West. With family members and hired drovers helping him, getting several thousand sheep across the Mersey River was such an unforgettable event, the place was dubbed ‘Kimberley’s Crossing’. Subsequently marked on early maps ‘Kimberley’s Ford’, once the Mersey was bridged it finally became just ‘Kimberley’. William Kimberley and his family purchased much of the river flats between Native Plains and Latrobe, even grazed sheep under Mount Roland and de-pastured them on the highlands back at the Vale of Belvoir. Not only did the family give their names to the town of Kimberley and Kimberley’s Road, Railton, but also to Kimberley’s Lookout – the most southerly hill of the Badgers range overlooking the Kentish Plains.

From Norfolk Island to Van Diemen’s Land 

Young William was born on Norfolk Island in 1796 and arrived with his family aboard City of Edinburgh at Hobart Town on 3 Sept 1808. His father Edward Kimberley had been one of the first ex-convicts granted land on Norfolk Island, where he became a successful farmer, landholder, constable and even chief flogger. When the decision was made to move all free settlers to Van Diemen’s Land, the Kimberley family and their closest friends the Stanfield family were amongst the first free settlers to be transferred. At the time of arrival in Hobart, Edward and Mary Kimberley‘s four children were Maria (16), Hannah (14), William (12) and Mary (10). The Stanfield’s two children were Daniel Jnr (18) and Sarah (10), both of whom married Maria and William Kimberley respectively.

Edward Kimberley was granted 140 acres on the eastern shore of the Derwent river where the Rokeby Police Academy is located today. He gained contracts to supply sheep and cattle to the Government Commissariat stores to feed the early settlement with meat. He became a substantial property holder, before dying in November 1829 at the age of 67.

Being an only son, young William followed in his father’s footsteps, helping manage his properties and becoming a district constable. In 10 June 1816 William Kimberley (20) married Sarah Stanfield (18) at Cottage Green, residence of Rev Robert Knopwood at Rokeby. The following year William captured bushranger James Parker, one of Michael Howe’s gang who had been terrorizing the district for nearly a year and received the ten-guinea reward posted for his arrest. Between 1818-1821 while chief district constable in Hobart, William received a significant grant of 640 acres at Antill Ponds.

Kimberley – King of Bagdad 

In 1822 Kimberley moved to Bagdad to become Chief-Constable of the Lower Midlands. Over the next decade ‘in consideration of his extensive service for the Crown’ Kimberley received another 800 acres in Government grants. These were for apprehending runaway convicts James Preece and Richard Brown during which he suffered a gunshot wound and being one of the leaders of Governor Arthur’s infamous Black Line in 1830.

By the time William Kimberley was old 35 year, he had received 510 acres from his father’s estate at Rokeby, 2400 acres in settlers grants around the Midlands and 4,860 acres which he had purchased himself. He also leased land on the Break-a-day Plains (between Fingal and St Marys) and a highland sheep run up at the Great Lake. Because he owned such significant properties as Woodbourne, Shene, and The Sheiling (Pontville), Oakwood (Bagdad) and Bughtrigg (Antill Ponds) and Saltpan Plains (Tunbridge), he became known as King of Bagdad. 

In 1831 Kimberley became the first man in Van Diemen’s Land to own a a private carriage drawn by four horses by which he regularly traveled between Hobart Town to Bagdad. William & Sarah’s children consisted of four girls and four boys: Mary Ann b1817, Sarah b1819 William Jrn b1821, Edward b1824, Sophia Matilda b1826, Amelia b1829, Henry b1832 and Frederick b1833.

Fortune Fades in the 1840s 

The severe depression that gripped the island in the 1840s caused wool prices to collapse. As William Kimberley’s fortunes did the same, he developed a growing problem with alcohol. In 1841 his oldest son William Jnr aged 20 died from the effects of alcohol at a pub in Westbury where he worked as barman. In 1842 Kimberley was forced to sell his main 508 acres farm and residence Oakwood at Bagdad. The following year his wife Sarah died at Oatlands aged 45 leaving William with seven remaining offspring, the youngest being 10.

As the depression ground on, Kimberley was compelled to shed all his properties until in 1849 he was declared bankrupt. His last big holding the 7,600 acres Saltpan Plains surrounding Tunbridge was auctioned on 24 September 1849. Over the same devastating decade, most of his older children married. Edward settled at Clarence Plains near Hobart, Mary Ann became Mrs Chas Kerr of Bagdad, Sophia Matilda became Mrs John Lutterell of Oatlands and Sarah became Mrs Alex Foster Hogg of Campbell Town

Making A New Start in the North West 

Obviously, Kimberley had heard of the new plains being opened beyond the Mersey River. Perhaps it appealed to him as place where he could live away from the temptation to drink. Anyway, gathering up all his unsold livestock and accompanied by his three unmarried children – Amelia (21), Henry (18) and Frederick (17), they set out for the North West.

At Carrick Kimberley sold 20 horses, 30 head of cattle and a bull at a local sale. Eventually they arrived at the Mersey River and took possession of the old Probation Station which had closed two years earlier. The actual number of sheep he arrived with differs greatly. One report says 4,000, another 17,000. The place Kimberley chose to ford the Mersey River was not where the present White Rock Bridge has been built, but a kilometer down river, on the northern side of the present railway bridge, close to where the Coiler Creek joins the Mersey River.

Of course, Field Brothers already leased a lot of the Native Plains. However, during 1850 Wm Kimberley acquired Lots132 & 133 (both 640 acres) at northern end of Native Plains, Lot 186 (750 acres) on the eastern side of the Mersey River, and Lots 179, 180, 195, 197 and 198 (all 500 acres) along the Mersey River. At the end of that same year, on 20 Dec 1850 William’s only unmarried daughter Amelia Maria Kimberley (21) married Thomas Bramich (22) at St Mark’s church, Deloraine. Thomas was a smart young fellow who had won the first hurdle race ever conducted at Deloraine. With his brother, he had been leasing Woodlands property near Lemana, but upon marrying Amelia, they set up home on one of his father-in-law blocks near Native Plains. The following year 1851, down in Hobart, William lost his sister Hannah (Mrs Wm Nichols) aged 57 and his mother Mary Kimberley aged 77.

Vale of Belvoir – November 1851 – March 1852 

Having previously had a summer run at the Great Lake, in February 1851 Kimberley leased 1000 acres up on the Vale of Belvoir beyond Middlesex Plains to run his sheep during the coming summer. The following November as Kimberley was crossing the Mersey River at Liena ready to climb Gad’s Hill, he witnessed a tragedy.

Two men were riding one horse to cross the river. When they looked round to see if their two dogs were following, their horse stumbled, and all fell into the water. The foremost man held on to the horse’s bridle and reached the other side, but unfortunately the rear rider drowned.

It was said Kimberley made the same mistake as the early VDL Co employees did. He stocked ‘the Vale’ with sheep before first thoroughly burning off and sweetening it with new grasses. Thylacines proved more of a threat to his stock than the climate, as native tigers constantly killed his sheep. One report said William Kimberley moved away with as many hundred sheep as he took up thousands. If this is true, apparently the survivors did very well on the Vale, as many sheep were said to be almost too fat to journey home. The shepherd in charge of Kimberley’s sheep up on the Vale was ex-Irish convict Jack Francis who loved the high country so much that he later returned to Middlesex Plains as stockman in charge of Field’s cattle.

Kimberley’s Lookout 

The two senior land surveyors James Sprent and James Calder who named the most southerly hilltop on the Badgers Range Kimberley’s Lookout had obviously heard a story about Kimberley that has now been forgotten. We might naturally assume it was William Kimberley, but it may well have been his son Henry. Henry had worked with his father since a boy, and since crossing the Mersey River had recently purchased a 640-acre block for himself. Not wanting to take his own sheep back to the Vale, it seems he search for an alternative site. Standing on top of the Badgers, all he could see was the Kentish Plains completely leased out to Field Bros. However, in Sept 1851 Henry Kimberley leased Lot 259a -500 acres on the south side of the Dasher River presumably in the Claude Road area.

William and Henry Kimberley only took their sheep to the back country for the one season. What changed everything was the discovery of gold in Victoria. Between 1852 and 1854 the Gold Rush saw some 90,000 people arrive in Melbourne from around the world, including nearly every able-bodied man in Van Diemen’s Land. Tens of thousands had to live in tent cities with massive shortages of everything. William and Henry began shipping palings to Melbourne for house building, and made a couple of boat trips taking horses, carts and two bullock teams to sell at greatly inflated prices. Young Henry returned to Victoria where he married Harriett Hatchett in 1855, later returning to farming at the Mersey River. William’s youngest son Frederick married Jessie Bonney in 1858 at her mother’s home at Ballahoo.

William Kimberley’s Demise 

With all his family now married and his health deteriorating, William went to live with Thomas and Amelia Bramich and their five small children at Native Plains. William died there of dropsy on 4th November 1861 aged 65 and was buried in the Deloraine Cemetery. His Native Plains properties were then divided amongst those children who had helped him in his latter years: Sarah (Mrs Alex Hogg), Amelia (Mrs Thomas Bramich), Henry and Frederick.

Alexander & Sarah (Kimberley) Hogg and family moved from Campbell Town onto the property she inherited at Native Plains. Their eldest daughter Sophia married widower George Atkinson (1833-1920), the well-known Father of Latrobe who built the present Frogmore House in 1890. Two other daughters became post mistresses at the Latrobe Post Office. Their eldest son Alexander Hogg Jrn, after spending a few years in New Zealand, took over the Native Plains property in 1886 and turned it into one of the finest farm on the coast. He called the new homestead he built Kalangadoo. Close by, the ford across the Mersey River was always known as Hogg’s ford until it was first bridged on 11 March 1908. Today it is known as Hogg’s bridge.

Thomas and Amelia (Kimberley) Bramich also received some of William’s estate. Thomas was a big man who had become his father-in-law right hand man. Once while opening a gate to allow his bullock team through, a leading bullock horned him dangerously in his back. Thomas and Amelia had ten children before she died in 1874 aged 44. Thomas married again to Emma Lancaster and produced eight more children, while his 3rd marriage to Mary Fitzpatrick in 1891 added a final 3 children. Thomas Bramich died on 29 June 1894 in Railton aged 66.

Henry and Harriett Kimberley returned from Victoria and were working locally at the time of his father’s death. Later they spent time around Latrobe, but presumably returned to the mainland as their deaths are not recorded in Tasmania.

Frederick & Jessie Kimberley began farming at Sherwood, before taking over the hotel at Ballahoo near Latrobe. In 1882 they moved to the Don and took over the Don Hotel. Recognising the opportunities of the growing town of Formby (West Devonport), Fred built his impressive Kimberley’s Family & Commercial Hotel on the Esplanade opposite the wharves in January 1888. He died in 16 April 1900 aged 67 of Bright’s disease.

The original road route from Deloraine to the Frogmore (later Latrobe ) went via Kimberley Ford until 1857. After that a new route via Sassafras was opened to encourage those farmers to ship their produce from the small wharf erected at Latrobe. The Kimberley Ford remained the main access road for travellers heading for Kentish from Westbury and Deloraine.

The Mersey-Deloraine Tramway Co built a railway bridge in 1869 and opened a railway station called Kimberley in 1872. But it wasn’t until mid-1885 that the first much needed wooden White Rock road bridge was opened to the great relieve of our pioneers of Kentish.

Next Time: Kentisbury Or Kentishbury?