A layman’s guide to Launceston part I: 17 things you always wanted to know about Tassie's top town

THE PEOPLE'S TOWN: Launceston was founded by Lieutenant Governor William Paterson in the early 1800s.
THE PEOPLE'S TOWN: Launceston was founded by Lieutenant Governor William Paterson in the early 1800s.

Why is Launceston called Launceston?

Launceston began life as Patersonia - after Lieutenant Governor William Paterson, who was in charge of setting up camp there in 1806. By 1807 Paterson, being the ripper bloke he was, had changed the named to Launceston in honour of his mate Governor Philip King, who was born in Launceston, Cornwall. 

What does the name mean?

The Cornwall town dates way back to the 11th century so it's difficult to say. The 'ton' bit at the end probably means town, but 'Launces' is anyone's guess. It could have been named after a guy called Launce, or someone might have been lanced in the town. The possibilities are endless.

How do you even say it?

In Cornwall, people say it about four different ways including Larnston, Lonsten, Lanson and Larnson. Luckily in Tasmania there are only two ways to say it; 'Lonceston', which is endorsed and loved by locals, and 'Lawnceston', which is wrong.

A FARMER'S DREAM: Launceston was settled in 1806 when William Paterson brought 246 cattle to the banks of the North Esk River.

A FARMER'S DREAM: Launceston was settled in 1806 when William Paterson brought 246 cattle to the banks of the North Esk River.

When and why did people settle here?

In late 1804 our old mate William Paterson took a boatload of British lads from New South Wales to George Town - then called Outer Cove - to start a new settlement. A few months later another boat made the trip from New South Wales carrying about 600 cows and a few dozen sheep for good measure. Unfortunately the soil at Outer Cove and York Town wasn't great and more than half the cows died, leading Paterson to move the herd to the banks of the North Esk River. There he built a cattle shed and Launceston was born. 

Was William Paterson a nice bloke?

If ever there was a man you'd be proud to take home to meet your mum, it was William Paterson. Going down in the history books as an easy-going, intelligent and cultured man, Paterson was a well-respected Scotsman with no time for illegal trade or shady activities. As if he doesn't sound like enough of a dreamboat already, he was also a published author and a keen botanist. 

Was he a nicer bloke than David Collins, who founded Hobart?

Yep. 

How many people live here?

About 107,000 people live in Launceston and its surrounding suburbs. For reference, that's about 7000 more than a sold-out AFL Grand Final, and about 100,000 more than a Gold Coast Suns home fixture. 

MONKEY BUSINESS: Promotional fridge magnets were circulated in 2000 when City Park's monkey enclosure looked to be in danger of closing. Picture: Supplied

MONKEY BUSINESS: Promotional fridge magnets were circulated in 2000 when City Park's monkey enclosure looked to be in danger of closing. Picture: Supplied

Why are there monkeys in City Park?

Animals have been displayed in City Park since 1850. From early on the park set up an ingenious scheme where it traded wallabies to Japan in exchange for monkeys. In August 2000 the macaques looked to be in danger when 11 of the 26 were found to have Herpes B, however Launceston rallied together to raise $750,000 to build a new enclosure and keep the macaques in action. 

How long has the City Park Train been running?

A bit like nine-time Olympic gold medallist Carl Lewis, the City Park Train has been running since 1960 and has since won the hearts and minds of tens of thousands across the world. Three different trains have graced the City Park loop since Little Toot began chugging the circuit in 1960, the third of which can be seen in action today from 10am to 4pm daily. 

BLUE AND GREEN: Peacocks were introduced to Cataract Gorge between 1894 and 1901.

BLUE AND GREEN: Peacocks were introduced to Cataract Gorge between 1894 and 1901.

Why are there peacocks in the Gorge?

In the late 1800s the team in charge of developing Cataract Gorge set about bringing some exotic talent to the area, importing a bunch of European plants and birds such as the peacock. It has thrived ever since. 

Why does the Gorge get filled with white foam when it floods?

You've definitely seen this before at the mouth of the Gorge - it looks like a large-scale reenactment of what would happen if a work experience barista had an accident with a milk frother and a handful of pretzels. The explanation for this is that heaps of plants in the waterway contain a soap-like substance called saponin, and when it rains heavily these chemicals wash into the Gorge. When the floodwater washes down through the Gorge the saponin and water mix together and voila, you've got yourself a big brown bubblebath outside Stillwater. 

UNDER FIRE: The Alexandra suspension bridge was washed away in 1929 but has stood strong ever since.

UNDER FIRE: The Alexandra suspension bridge was washed away in 1929 but has stood strong ever since.

Have any of the suspension bridges in the Gorge ever collapsed?

They have, but not from people jumping up and down on them. The 1929 floods washed away both the Duck Reach and the Alexandra suspension bridges, while the 1969 floods saw the Duck Reach bridge washed away for a second time.

Is it dangerous to swim in the first basin?

If you're terrified of eels it's probably dangerous, but otherwise you're pretty safe. On a few occasions the basin has been found to contain unideal levels of bacteria but thankfully there's an easy rule of thumb you can remember -  if there's a sign saying 'do not swim', do what it says. 

What was the C.H Smith building? 

You know where this building is and you probably have an opinion on exactly what date it should have been bulldozed and turned into a four-storey Big W. But what actually is it? Well, it started life in the late 1820s as a flour warehouse before becoming an importing and exporting business run by Charles Henry Smith. The business stayed in the same family for another three generations before eventually being sold. 

CITY STAPLE: The Esk Brewery was bought by James Boag and his son in the early 1880s.

CITY STAPLE: The Esk Brewery was bought by James Boag and his son in the early 1880s.

How old is Boags?

It's pretty old. In 1881 the Esk Brewery was set up in George Street and less than two years later, a swashbuckling entrepreneur named James Boag came along with his identically-named son to take over the business and brew a beer that would stand the test of time. 

Is it better than Cascade?

Is the Pope Catholic?

Who is the most important person in Launceston?

One might be tempted to play up the humble journalist's role in modern society, however when it comes to Launceston it's hard to look past town mayor Albert Van Zetten. Unless it’s July, in which case the answer is definitely Richie Porte.

With thanks to Marion Sargent, Luke Scott and Rosanna Coombes.

Comments

Discuss "A layman’s guide to Launceston"

Please note: All comments made or shown here are bound by the Online Discussion Terms & Conditions.