The first pioneers on the Kentish Plains settled on both sides of the Don River between Shoreys Rd and Careys Rd, and from them emerged the first signs of community. Francis von Bibra, a committed Wesleyan, opened his home for church services and tea meetings. He also used his home as an evening school for older children who, during the day, helped their parents clear their blocks. Robert Manley (Glenfield) added a storeroom in his house to carry basic supplies needed by settlers during the long winter months when their outlet road became impassable. John Dyer (Cloverdale) offered his barn for public gatherings and his extensive river flats for picnics and ploughing contests. Neighbouring settlers were William Braid (Spring Hill), George Redpath (Parkville), John Charleston (Tower Hill) and John Davies (Springfield), and George Butler, who leased (Vermont Vale) prior to purchasing his own property in Nook. After Francis von Bibra moved on, local settlers erected the Don School Room close to the creek on the edge of his property, where John Harris became the first teacher, followed by John Nunn. Close-by they also erected the Don Chapel, a small Wesleyan church, to serve this emerging community. Two decades later, in 1883/4, this district was given the name West Kentish for the first time. Let’s take an overview of the district commencing from the township of Sheffield.

South along West Kentish Rd:

Between Sheffield and Shoreys Rd, Surveyor Dooley and other speculators had secured all the prime land along its western side. Later Charles & Agnes Banfield (10 chn) lived in the house on the corner of Cables Road, where they produced bacon for the West Coast mining towns. Banfield eventually sold to Benjamin Bye.

Original settlers up Cables Rd were James & Mary Cables from Arboath, Scotland, who built the first flour mill in Kentish driven by a water wheel. Well-educated James often helped his semi-literate neighbours with their business matters. Next property was Edwin & Jane Morse (8 chn) at Glenfield, and on top of the hill was Henry & Mary Day (6 chn) at Mt Pleasant. Between Cables Rd and Shoreys Rd, Moss Bank‘s first owner was Ben Meyers, followed by Arthur Davis, son of our first local doctor, then Horace Smith, and later A J Skirving & son Joe. In the early days there was another farm between Moss Banks and Shorey Rd owned by A Evans, then Woodburys.

Commencing again from Sheffield along the eastern side of West Kentish Rd, Thomas Johnson Snr of Sherwood purchased land which included Field’s stockyards opposite the entrance to Cables Rd. Johnson divided it into three farms, selling the first to William McCoy (now school farm), second to Wm & Susan (Manning) Jones (Kentish Vale), and the third farm, Banksyne, he kept for his son, Lewis. Between Banksyne and Haberles Road,  all remaining land was purchased by Joseph Crack. In the early 1870s, after the Christian Brethren evangelists had such a revival in Kentish, Crack gave one acre of this land to erect the first Gospel Hall in 1875. It stood 200m before Haberle’s corner until destroyed by fire in 1930. The intriguing story of this influential church and its many families is told in my book God was their Rock, now available online. Upon Cracks‘ death, Harry & Anne Day purchased this prime property, and in 1908 erected their commodious homestead Beracah, which still dominates the landscape today.

Haberles Rd: On the corner Charles Billing Snr had a blacksmith shop and next-door was John Turnbull’s house. Further along Haberles road, Joseph Crack lived with 2nd wife Jane (4 boys), where they planted those lovely English trees which today surround the family home of Mayor Tim & Helen Wilson. Across the road lived the James Kirkcaldys, then Northrop family, later Geoff Haberles, now the Felcher-Ways.

Shoreys Rd: Opposite Billing‘s blacksmith shop, John May had a wheelwright shop prior to moving to Staverton. William Shorey from Gloucestershire spent 10 years farming in New York State, USA, before coming to Tasmania and establishing his Gretton Hill farm.  Over the Don River from his farm is the corner entrance to Blackberry Park, leased for a time by Isaac Wilson. In 1877 David & Margaret (Charleton) Hope Jnr (7chn) built Donside, now one of the oldest surviving pioneer homes in Kentish. Between Donside and the entrance to Blackberry Park was the Don Chapel, opened 9 September 1879. Most trustees of this little Wesleyan Church, like William Braid, George Redpath, David Hope, William Shorey, David Cormack, John Duff, Thomas Hope, and William Morris, were Scottish Presbyterians, who, finding no church of their own faith, initially threw their lot in with the Wesleyans.

Further along Shoreys Rd was the Don School Room already mentioned, which Wm Braid helped build in 1870. He had a Sunday School there prior to building the Wesleyan Chapel. Today an Ash tree marks the spot of this first school in Kentish. Beyond the Don School, we come into the heart of ‘Braid country’, where a group of inter-related Scottish families settled. In May 1861, William & Ann Braid (7chn) bought Spring Hill, then added (in 1882) Eureka, previously owned by von Bibra. George & Margaret (Braid) Redpath (2chn) settled at Park Hill, and behind them John & Isabella (Braid) Charleston (9 chn) lived at Tower Hill.

Back to West Kentish Rd: Wendur was originally owned by Edward Easton, then William Lutterell in 1901, and George Parker in 1918. In 1925 Max & Elsie Braid bought it to raise their 3 children, the youngest being the present owner, Ian Braid, who now leases it to tenants.

Brown Hill Rd: John & Margaret Duff arrived Jan 1864 and called their property The Gully, later Glenleigh. Duff undertook some road contract work. When eldest son Robert married, John divided his property. The top half he sold to Robert & Eva (Day) Duff, who accessed Lily Valley farm off West Kentish Rd. Across Brown Hill Rd, opposite the Duffs, lived William & Christiana Morris in an area called Inchman’s Hollow. Son George &  Agnes Morris took over after their parents. Later Colin Duff and Wm Kirkcaldy lived there before the house was eventually destroyed by fire.

Continuing along West Kentish Rd: John & Elizabeth Dyer’s original home was built down beside the Don River, but in 1902 his son George with wife Louise Dyer built the replacement Clover Dale up on top of the hill next to the West Kentish Rd, which has since been demolished. It was Surveyor Dooley’s original intention for the West Kentish Rd to continue directly southward along what later became Lockwood’s Rd. Instead, early settlers took a sharp turn westward and cut through the middle of both Glenfield and Vermont Vale properties, crossing the Don River to access land further west towards the Promised Land.

Lockwood Rd: First settlers were Angus & Mary (Duff) McNab (9chn), Peter & Grace Pease (6chn) at Cragalee, and his ex-convict brother Robert & Mary Anne Pease at Holly Hill. Mary Anne, with 2 small children, followed her convict husband to Tasmania. Later she and Robert sponsored his brothers Peter & George Pease to come and join them. After Peter died, Grace married pioneer widower Joseph Wilson in his son J T Wilson‘s Sheffield Inn.  When the West Kentish Railway Siding was constructed in 1914, Lockwood Rd was re-routed to pass by this station. 

Careys Rd & Browns Rd: John & Margaret Davies (9chn) at Springfield were one of the first to buy land in Kentish. With their neighbours William & Eliza Excell (10chn) across Careys Road, both Welsh families had originally come out to the Tarleton coal mines. South of the Excells were William & Hannah Jackson (3chn). Jackson had dropped his medical studies in England to try his luck on the Victorian goldfields. In Kentish he tried to help the sick. Henry & Dinah (Dyer) Arnott owned Glentana, while his brother Robert & Eva (Day) Arnott lived on the corner block where today entrepreneur Des Brown has developed his cluster of luxious Eagle Nest accommodation villas with sensational views of Mt Roland. Further down Carey’s Rd were John & Mary Carey at Wantirna. At the end of Brown’s Rd, William & Elizabeth Morris Snr lived in their Rose Bank home, which was later destroyed by fire.

Further out West Kentish Rd, two influential speculators from Torquay (E. D’port) put their heads together and bought two adjoining 320 acre blocks that covered all the land from Davies’ property to as far west as the present road to Roland. They were Police Superintendent John Reynolds and Police Magistrate Wm T Noyes, who had both arrived at Torquay at the end of the 1850s. John Reynolds had charge of the Police District between Port Sorell and Penguin district for 18 years, during which time he purchased Devonport‘s Formby Hotel. Eventually his property was sold to brothers Sam & John Lamprey who had both married Carey sisters. Wm Noyes was a bachelor who retired in 1866 and returned to England. Part of Noyes‘ land was eventually purchased by Donald & Rachel Cameron of Wesley Dale, Chudleigh in 1884.

West Kentish Township

In that same year, 1884, the Government purchased a small corner of John Davies‘ big block on the northern side of the West Kentish Rd to build a new public school and Post Office. It was what to call this new district that resulted in the name West Kentish.

State School and Post Office 1886: Local builders Harrison & Charleston built this new school, catering for 60 children and a schoolteacher’s residence. Late in 1885 John W Hutton was appointed school principal and local postmaster.  The new Post Office opened on 1 Jan 1886, and the new school a month later. On 1 March 1886, John Hutton‘s wife Elizabeth (21) gave birth to their second child in the new school-teacher‘s residence, where they remained for 18 years, eventually having 10 children. John Hutton was a popular figure, encouraging the formation of both the West Kentish Cricket and Football Clubs.

Cameron’s Hall & Sportsground 1890: Donald Cameron was also a sports-loving community man who offered his flat paddock as a cricket and football ground. He even erected a slab building, known as Cameron’s Hall, where the sport clubs and locals met. West Kentish produced keen sports clubs with many notable players. In 1890 the Presbyterian Synod of Tasmania sought to open several Presbyterian churches amongst the many Scottish settlers throughout the Kentish district. Being Scottish, Don & Rachel Cameron offered their new hall for a Presbyterian tea meeting on Wednesday 3 December 1890, attended by the Church Moderator of Tasmania. Catering was done by Mesdames Cameron, Braid, Redpath, McNab, Morris, Boutcher, Arnott, and others. This resulted in most of the Scottish people deserting the Wesleyan services in the Don Chapel on Shoreys Rd and commencing Presbyterian services in Cameron Hall, West Kentish. A minister was assigned to visit each Sunday, a Sunday School started, and a couple of years later a block was purchased to build their own Presbyterian church.

Padman builds New Country Store. In 1899, Donald Cameron sold part of his farm to young entrepreneur Vern Padman from Sheffield, who erected a large general store with a house behind that still stands today. Then he replaced Cameron’s Hall with a larger hall that had a movable stage and gallery capable of holding 100 people. It was opened on 13 June 1900 with the West Kentish Cricket Club holding its annual concert and ball. Padman did stay long, and in February 1901, sold his new general store/house to Irishman Joseph McClenaghan, but retained ownership of his new Hall. In May 1903, Donald Cameron sold the remainder of his farm to Jim & Elizabeth Cox before moving to Penguin. Jim dug miles of trenches to drain his marshy ground and in 1915 erected the present house Eden Vale. In 1946 Claude & Jean Davies bought this farm which is still owned by family.

McClenaghans take over Store 1901. Joe McClenaghan had worked for Holder Brothers, Fingal for many years before commencing on his own. He and his wife Ethel walked from Sheffield out to West Kentish, each carrying just one suitcase. But before long, these two popular shopkeepers had a thriving business. Walter Parker opened a blacksmith shop and George Wright a bootmaker business. An Exclusive Brethren Hall opened in 1907, but only lasted about 8 years before closing. When the Roland Railway Line opened, Vern Padman removed his hall from West Kentish into Sheffield opposite the new Railway Station. In August 1936, Jack & Gertrude McClenaghan, who succeeded his parents in the shop, built a new galvanised Public Hall.

The surviving Presbyterian trustees of the original Wesleyan Chapel on Shorey’s Rd sold it 20 May 1912, for a private residence to John Jordan, who was leasing Blackberry Park farm. On 15 Aug 1915, the new Presbyterian church, built opposite the West Kentish shop by Horace Padman, finally opened. Its church elders were Rev John Meers, James Hope (Sheffield), James Braid (WK) & Wm Milne (Paradise).  Things went well for a couple of decades, but when the Synod was unable to replace their ministers, all three Presbyterian congregations in Kentish closed. In a strange twist of events, in Oct 1937 the Sheffield circuit of Methodist churches decided to purchase the empty Presbyterian church to recommence Methodist services in West Kentish. These continued for nearly two decades, but eventually the old wooden church was demolished. The West Kentish School closed in 1935 and Luck Bros transported its two buildings into Sheffield to become the domestic science block of the first Area School opened in Tasmania.