Let’s join Kentish’s old Bridle Track at the top of Bannon’s Hill where a long strip of plateau-like land begins and continues westward as far as the township of Sheffield. This bridle track was originally surveyed by Nathaniel Kentish as part of a grand plan to open up an inland route along the NW Coast from Deloraine to Emu Bay. By 1843 convicts had cleared it as far as the Kentish Plains, but, following Surveyor-General Calder’s fateful inspection of this route, the whole project was scrapped. Interestingly, Calder was so impressed with the huge trees along this 3-mile stretch into Sheffield that he called it ‘Forest of Arden after the famous forest in Warwickshire that Shakespeare used for the setting of his play As You Like It. Calder wrote: “We next enter one of those marvellous forests so common in the western half of Tasmania, but dissimilar I believe to anything known in the rest of the world… it is as famous for the excellence of its soil, as for the vigorous and gigantic forests that adorn it… The soil of the Forest of Arden is rich and thick… and of every hue from brownish red to deep black… Divested of these terrific trees… it would make fine farms.

In the late 1850s timber cutters and splitters were the first to exploit it. Surveyor Dooley tells us that during the summer of 1858 an immense quantity of palings were split in this forest and carted to Ballahoo. After the forest was culled, it was quickly recognized for its superior soil, and through the early 1860s most of the land was acquired by either genuine pioneer settlers or visiting speculators. Fifty years later, in Mar 1913, a traveller, commenting on the progress of this district, writes that these huge ‘dead’ trees can be seen for miles, and at an elevation of about 1000ft above sea level a splendid view opens up both eastward and westward.

Bannon’s Hill to Sheffield Rd Junction.

The most easterly property with its infamously steep road (known later as Bannon’s Hill) was first purchased by James Kirkcaldy Snr from Exton. He disposed of it to Bassett Ferrar who, in about 1889, sold it on to Wm & Agnes (Dodd) Bannon (6 chn). Fire destroyed their first dwelling, so in 1904 they built a new house called Fernhill at the present site on the crown of the hill. The Bannons had four sons: Albert, Arthur (Bob), Gordon, and George; and a daughter, Jessie (Mrs Eric Castles). Oldest son Albert & wife Winifred (Revell) Bannon built their house at the corner of what is now Blackberry Hill Rd that leads to huge gravel pits. In May 1951 a road deviation was cut across Bannon Hill to reduce its very steep grade. In early motor cars, because petrol was gravity-fed to their engines, it was claimed the only way to get some models up Bannon’s Hill was to turn them around and reverse up backwards. In 1963, Gordon Bannon sold their family farm to Rex (Nugget) & Audrey Diprose.

On the northside of Bridle Track Rd, the land westward of James Kirkcaldy’s original block was purchased by his nephews James and David Turnbull. In the 1880s their father Alexander Turnbull (brother-in-law to James Kirkcaldy) purchased the property between his sons’ land and Sheffield Rd, previously owned by entrepreneur Wm Lade. Hence, Stoodley Hill became Turnbull’s Hill.

Isaac Tyler’s sons & Tyler’s Rd: In the 1880s, three married sons of Isaac & Mary Tyler of Exton occupied blocks along the south side of the Bridle Track and Sheffield Rd, some of which Isaac Snr had purchased nearly 20 years earlier. The first to arrive was oldest son Isaac & wife Minnie (Sullivan) Tyler Jnr (6 chn). They occupied a 244-acre property Pleasant Banks at 2764 Sheffield Rd at the junction of Bridle Track Rd & Sheffield Rd, hence Tyler’s Corner. Isaac Jnr became a prominent farmer and was elected Warden of Kentish in 1916. Tyler’s Rd ran up the eastern boundary of his property to access several blocks south of his farm. Next to come was Charles & Keziah Tyler (5 chn), who occupied 88 Bridle Track Rd, east of Tyler’s Rd. When Thomas & Maria Tyler (10 chn) arrived, Isaac’s Pleasant Banks was split in half, each brother getting 122 acres. Thomas & Maria built their house Glenleigh at 34 Tyler’s Road. Eventually their son Thomas Jnr & wife Alice Tyler took it over, followed by Peter & Dianne Tyler. The Tylers together with the Sullivans of Vinegar Hill were the first Catholic families to settle in the Sheffield area. Both were pro-active in establishing its Catholic Church in 1922.

Charles & Keziah Tyler sold their property at 88 Bridle Track Rd in the early 1950s to Mrs Asenath Breen with her three adult children: Myrtle (Mrs Des Hayes) and bachelor brothers Arthur and Jack Breen. Following their deaths, this property is now owned by nephew Richard Hayes. Isaac & Minnie Tyler of Pleasant Banks sold out to Oscar & Eva Tyler. Afterwards, Stotts farmed it for 22 years, then in 2006 Brett & Juliet Rosendale bought it to develop their Sheffield Berry Gardens, where they grow high quality berries for fruit & vegetable stores and farmers markets state-wide. Farm-shed sales are also available from their Berry Gardens. At the end of Tyler’s Rd, the small boutique Helvetia Swiss Retreat has been operated since 1994 by retired couple Francis (now 95) & Rose Marie Finks. Helvetia means ‘Switzerland’, where Rose Marie was born in Basel.

Sheffield Rd Junction into the Town

The original cart track coming from Railton over the Stoodley Hill ran up through the middle of Wm Lade’s 156-acre property prior to its junction with the Bridle Track. An early property entrepreneur from the NE coast, Lade bought this investment block in the heart of the Forest of Arden after the timber strippers had been through it. When his neighbour Richard Boothman died in 1876, Lade purchased that property as well and leased both farms to Sam & Martha Oliver from Fingal. Over the next four years, Oliver continued Boothman’s goal of establishing one of the first dairy farms in Kentish. Wooden tubs of butter were sent to Tarleton on the floor of the mail coaches, between passengers’ feet. In 1881 Albert & Gertrude Anderson (no chn) took over the lease, while Alexander Turnbull, as already mentioned, settled across the road. About 1900, the Andersons moved to Railton and the Turnbulls moved down the Coast. Both properties were bought by James and Percy Smith, sons of the pioneer Henry & 2nd wife Mary Smith at Springfield, West Nook Rd, Sheffield. Another of their brothers was Henry Smith Jnr (Sheffield School headmaster 1901-1916) and two sisters Mary Smith (Mrs Wm Braid Jnr) & Annie Smith (Mrs Wm Hope). James Smith married Ethel Beaumont, a Sydney dressmaker who had come down to work in Thomas Clarke’s clothing store (later Slaters of Sheffield). They built Gragril on the eastern side of Sheffield Rd and had five children. Percy Smith m Eva Shaw, resided on the western side; their married daughters becoming Joyce Mason and Molly Sheridan.

2711 Sheffield Rd:  Richard & Christina Boothman purchased their 100-acre property in Jan 1862 and were amongst the earliest settlers. The fertility of Boothman’s farm became apparent when he began growing potatoes. One weighed nearly 5lb, another 4lb and several from 2lb to 3lb each.. An ex-convict, falsely accused of murdering a policeman, Boothman’s lamentable life story was told in the July 2019 issue of Kentish Voice. Christina (57) d Sept 1871 and Richard (56) d Aug 1876. Their gravestone, now relocated to the Sheffield General Cemetery, is the oldest surviving headstone in the Kentish Municipality. In the 1920s this property was bought by Ingram Rockliff, in 1960 by Bruce Skirving, and later by Neil Lillico and Wayne Brown.

2728 Sheffield Rd: Original settlers were James & Margaret Jeffrey (8 chn) who were related to Christina (Jeffrey) Boothman. They arrived in Jan 1861 but four years later moved to Longford before returning to Sheffield a couple of decades later. when three Jeffreys married three Hopes. Later, childless couple Arthur & Emma (Bannon) Hammant lived on this property there, followed by Eric & Jessie Castles. Now part of Fairlawn property.

2696 Sheffield Road Fairlawn: John & Elizabeth (Bannon) Shaw (5 chn) came from Sassafras to this property in 1884, purchased from entrepreneur Henry Gamble of Westbury. Thirty-two years later (1916), Shaw left his sons on the farm and built a substantial house opposite the Sheffield Baptist Church. A prominent citizen, Shaw became Warden of Kentish 1927/28 and Treasurer 1939/43, spent 14 years on the Devonport Marine Board and Devon Hospital Board, and was Trustee of Sheffield Methodist Church. In 1951 the farm was bought by Les & Beulah Crowden, later by Wayne & Kaye Sherriff, and in 1985 by John & Jan Macmillan. Its pleasant tree-lined laneway leads into the present homestead, which still has parts of the original house.

Rockcliff Rd & Romani Hill

Pioneering settlers up this road were Richard & Caroline Murfet (14 chn) from Hadspen who developed their 100-acre Ivy Green property, plus several other blocks. Their children: Caroline b1859 (drowned), Clarence b1860 Staverton, Alfred b1861 Kimberley, Frederick b1863 Sheffield, Ernest b1864 Kimberley, Walter b1866 Merseylea, Roseatta b1868 (Mrs James Knowles), Emma b1870 (Mrs Henry Knowles), Alice b1872 (Mrs Jack Ripper), Amos b1874, Ada b1876 (Mrs Wm Lockett), Rhoda b1878 (Mrs Rob Sellars), Louisa b 1881 (Mrs Joe Drew), and Ettie b1881 (Mrs Arthur Jessup). In the mid-1870s, all except the eldest son joined the Kentishbury Gospel Hall where Richard became an original trustee. His children helped establish district churches at Upper Beulah, Kimberley, Merseylea and Railton. Around 1904 Richard & Caroline Murfet moved to Stewart St, Devonport, where Richard died in Oct 1908.

George & Mary (Ingram) Rockliff purchased all Murfet’s properties. After their marriage at Sassafras in 1892, they farmed along Old Paradise Rd where their three children were born: Clara b1892 (Mrs George Shaw), Ingram (b1895) & Vernon (b1898). In Dec 1906, George bought one of the first cars imported into Tasmania – a 1901 Oldsmobile. At Rockliff Rd, Wm H Morris built them a new house called Reoglyn. A trustee of the Sheffield Methodist Church, George was also a keen supporter of both cricket and football.

Eldest son Ingram & wife Addie Rockliff (1 dau) farmed adjoining properties until they moved to the mainland. Younger son Vernon & wife Alva Rockliff operated two harvesting gangs (each with a traction engine, threshing machine, chaffcutter & hay-press) before taking over his father’s farm. His last two engine drivers were Dick Munday & Roy Murfet. Vern & Alva Rockliff’s children were Peter, Dennis, Betty & Robyn. They owned a family shack at Port Sorell where Peter first became interested in fishing. In 1949 Peter & Una Rockliff (OAMs) founded Petuna Seafoods, Tasmania’s largest multi-species seafood business, providing jobs for hundreds of Tasmanians. Dennis & Jill bought Reoglyn in 1964, are active members of Kentish Lion’s Club, and hold a special interest in hosting overseas students. Son Wade & wife Helen now run the family farms. Their original property runs alongside ‘Romani Hill’. ‘Romani’ is a name given to the race of itinerant gipsies. Apparently, in earlier times, visiting gipsies from the mainland had campsites here near Redwater Creek.

Early in the 1900s, James & Edith Wright (2 sons, 3 dau) from Stoodley settled on this property at 129 Rockcliff Rd under the shadow of the Badgers Ranges. Hence their family nickname, the Badger Wrights. After his father died in 1953, Ray (single) carried on the farm with his mother until she died aged 87 in 1973. During D & S Foster’s tenure they called it Forestry View. Today this property and adjacent land extending into the town of Sheffield is owned by the Rockliff family.

2653 Sheffield Rd: Although the house is on Sheffield Rd, the original block ran up the west side of Rockliffs Rd. In the mid-1870s, Owen & Margaret Ridley (3 chn) from Launceston bought this block and called it Rockleigh. A flour-miller by trade, Owen built a 2-storey flour mill in 1889 on the corner of Main/Spring St, Sheffield. The Ridleys were founding members of the Sheffield Baptist Church. Other owners of their farm were Des Hayes, Doug King, Denny Rockliff & Les Crowden. Some 30 years ago, Geoff & Marie (Crowden) Winwood bought the farm and built a house with spectacular views on top of a hill behind the initial house and sold the original houseblock to Peter Bannon.

The present property at 2601 Sheffield Rd was subdivided from the large 300-acre block that joined the eastern boundary of Sheffield. An early building on this block was home to Henry & Ruby Crack (9 chn). Later Mick Martin (sheepshearer) owned it, until Peter & Dianne Bannon purchased it in the late 1960s and named it Terama (Aboriginal for ‘mountain’).

Reaching Sheffield

The large 300-acre block that joins the town of Sheffield was first purchased by the Powlett family on 11 June 1860. Born in Sheffield, England, it was James Powlett who suggested Sheffield as the name for the town and his son John Powlett who erected its first building the Sheffield Inn on the corner of Main & High St. In 1870 Powlett’s big block was sold to Duncan Munroe of Sassafras, who had ex-convict James & wife Anges Dodd (13 chn) as tenant farmers. Later, James & Elizabeth Butt (7 chn) purchased it, then Henry & Ruby Crack, followed by Geoff & Dawn Crack. Their sturdy house Greenbanks, built on this significant corner in 1898, is now amongst the oldest in Sheffield.

Next time: Sheffield’s Golden Era (1880-1900) Part 1