York Grove Centenary
Extract from “The Mercury” – September 1925
The centenary of the Watson family, of Sandford, will be celebrated in that centre today. The late William Watson and his wife, with their two sons (John and Thomas) and two daughters (Martha and Hannah) arrived from Whitby (Yorkshire), at Hobart Town on May 1, 1825, in the ship Harvey, an old East Indiaman commanded by Captain Peache, the voyage occupying 11 months. The vessel was compelled to put back to Plymouth owing to the very boisterous weather on the English coast that winter, and remained there about a month. They also called at Santiago di Cuba, where an exchange was made with beef and goats’ flesh. The following were the names of the other passengers:- Mr. Thos Lempriere, wife and two daughters ; Mr. Wm Sams, mother, wife and child, and a female servant; Captain William Sunster; Mrs. Johnson (wife of Mr. Johnson, of the White Horse public house); Mrs. Honey and child; Mr. Rayner; Mr. Wise; Major Loane, wife and four children; Mr. W. Wilkinson; Mr. James Robertson; Mr. Duncan Cameron; Mr. V. Clarke; Mr. J. Jackson; Mr. J. Salter, wife and three children ; Messrs. T and C. Fenton; Mr. John Grose; Mr. John Ayers; Miss Mary Smith; Mr. F. M. Banks; Mrs. Colson and four children; Mr. John Garth; and Mr. Colin Stewart.
Temporary Sojourn in England
Mr. Watson received his grant of the York Grove Land from Lieutenant-Governor Arthur on June 11th, 1825. He died a few years after his arrival in the State, and was buried in St. David’s cemetery. After the death of Mr. Watson word was received from England to the effect that property had been left to his widow and children, and in consequence Mrs. Watson, her son Thomas, and her daughters, Martha (afterwards Mrs. Winspere) and Hannah (afterwards Mrs. Calvert of South Arm) returned to England. Thomas and Martha both remained in England for some years and followed up some farming pursuits. Prior to returning to Tasmania, the latter married Mr. Winspere in England, but on the voyage to Tasmania Mr. Winspere died. Mr. Watson’s widow died on November 29, 1877, aged 86 years.
After Mr. Watson’s death the estate of York Grove was left to his eldest son John, who was born on April 12, 1814. It was mainly through his energies that York Grove was transformed into one of the best cultivated farms in Tasmania. He married, when 35 years old, Amelia, the daughter of Robert Alomes, who was the first man as sergeant of marines under Colonel David Collins, R.M. (afterwards Lieutenant-Governor) to plant the Union Jack at Hobart Town at the spot where Risby Bros.’ mill is now located. Mr. J. Watson was an enthusiastic sportsman, and gained a great reputation as a marksman, and also distinguished himself as an oarsman in some of the State’s early regattas. It is said of him that he was a good father, a faithful friend, and that his hospitality was well known throughout the district. The name of John Watson was a household word for miles around. Besides cultivating York Grove, he rented several adjoining farms as well as leasing Crown Land, all of which was greatly improved under his management. He died on November 2, 1881. His funeral was one of the largest ever known in the district, being attended by nearly all the residents of South Arm, Sandford, and Clarence, whilst Hobart, Bellerive, and Sorell sent representatives to testify to the respect in which he was held by all. His remains were interred in the Rokeby cemetery. He raised a family of three sons and 12 daughters. The surviving members of the family (two sons and eight daughters) are all married. Mr. J. Watson’s wife survived him for many years, dying on September 16, 1917. His brother Thomas died on March 8, 1864, at the age of 42.
York Grove’s Splendid Setting
It would be interesting to give a short description of York Grove. The land was included in what was called in the early days the York district, also Muddy Plains, and later Sandford, after Bishop Sandford, as it was the first place in Tasmania where he held a confirmation service. The property is situated on a charming spot, having a panoramic view beginning from the entrance of the Derwent and stretching across Storm Bay, including a good view of the Derwent light, Bruny and Franklin Islands, Tasman’s Peninsular, and Frederick Henry Bay – truly a wonderful and picturesque scope of scenery. On the property is a very large stone barn, which has been in existence for a great number of years. In the distance it could easily be mistaken for a fine homestead. The land is very fertile, producing wheat and root crops in abundance; sheep thrive on large portions, and wonderfully good clips have been obtained for many years.
After the death of John Watson, the estate of York Grove was left to his eldest son, John Edwin, who has three sons and one daughter. The other surviving son of John Watson sen. is William Robert, who is well known in the sporting community. Like his father, he is a successful shot with the fowling piece, and a great cricket enthusiast, having been captain of a team on several occasions. Although he will attain his 70th anniversary in a few months, he has had the pleasure of securing a trophy recently for the second best bowling average in the club to which he belongs.
The youngest son (James Theodore) died during 1900, at the age of 40 and his widow (Eleanor) followed him in 1908, aged 44. One daughter and two sons were left. The first mentioned served as a sister in the A.I.F. at Salonika. One son was munition worker, and the other, John T. (youngest) in an infantry battalion at the front. He is well known in Tasmania and in the other States as a champion cyclist, having held records for distances of 50 and 100 miles, the latter being the world’s professional record.