What is Launceston's oldest building?
This title belongs to 15 Brisbane Street, which was built in 1824.
Situated opposite City Park, the stone house is tucked away from the main street and has a 200th birthday just around the corner.
Who built it?
Even by current standards, Englishman William Effingham Lawrence could be considered pretty well-off.
Lawrence had a good education, a cutter sailboat swankily titled the Lord Liverpool and a merchant dad with houses in London and New York.
So what do you give a man who already has it all?
A house in Launceston, that’s what.
Lawrence sailed up the Tamar in 1823, carrying instructions for Governor Brisbane that he should be granted 2000 acres of land.
Fifteen Brisbane Street became Lawrence’s town house, and it remained in his family until being sold to David Ritchie, the owner of Ritchie’s Mill, in 1868.
Why is Penny Royal called Penny Royal?
Considering the number of Launceston streets, places and buildings named after high-ranking Brits, one could be forgiven for thinking the site had been named after a historic duchess of some description.
The real explanation, however, dates back to the historic watermill which formed the foundation of the Penny Royal site in 1972.
The mill was built in 1825 by former Yorkshireman Andrew Gatenby, his sons and one convict at Penny Royal Creek - now known as Isis River - between Cressy and Ross.
When workers began transporting the mill to Paterson Street in 1972, it was covered in pennyroyal, a herb which likely provided inspiration for the creek’s name.
As an aside, pennyroyal is a useful insect repellent and smells like peppermint.
Now Birchalls is closed do I get let off my parking fines from the adjoining car park?
The car park is privately owned, so the short answer is no.
But the long answer is that you probably weren’t going to pay them anyway, were you?
When was Cataract Gorge developed for tourists?
The Launceston City and Suburban Improvement Association formed in December 1889 with the aim of sprucing up Cataract Gorge with walkways and exotic plants to help bring tourists to Launceston.
And they weren’t mucking around.
In the space of just one month, a walking route had been found along the northern side of the Gorge, and one month later workers began cutting out a path.
After one year on the job, the trail reached about halfway to the First Basin and the caretaker’s cottage had been erected outside King’s Bridge.
What did the caretaker do?
In 1891 the improvement association built a turnstile outside the King’s Bridge entrance, where those entering the Gorge were encouraged to voluntarily donate a penny to help finance further upgrades to the grounds.
When the voluntary payment system fared as successfully as you would expect a voluntary payment system to fare, the caretaker took on the role of fee collector.
And it was a big job.
The caretaker often worked from 6am to 9pm in the summer months for a return of only seven days annual holiday, which was eventually upped to 14 days in 1916.
Is the Prince’s Square fountain myth true?
If you’ve not heard this one, you’re in for a treat.
In 1857 Launceston’s newly-formed council commissioned a fountain from French art foundry Val d’Osne to celebrate the opening of the town’s first reticulated water supply.
Rumour has it that in an administration error of fountain-sized proportions, the order got mixed up with another fountain commissioned at the same time by Launceston’s UK namesake in Cornwall.
This supposedly led to the Cornish town being sent the inferior of the two fountains, while our own Launceston made off with a first-class fountain for the price of a workaday water feature.
Unfortunately, this tasty tale is not favoured by historians but at the very least, it’s lovely to think about getting one over our Cornish counterparts.
Where's the Lady Stelfox at?
Years before the Tasmanian Fox Taskforce was even thought of, Launceston was home to the finest and foxiest fox of them all.
The Lady Stelfox paddle steamer was built in 1982 along with its very own service shed near Ritchie’s Mill.
For about 20 years Stellsy, as she may or may not have been known to locals, jaunted about the Tamar River before her waterway tours came to a halt in the late 1990s.
In 2002 our fair lady was sold to Melbourne businessman Peter Mitz, who intended to drive it up and down the Yarra River.
Unfortunately, the Lady has since fallen on hard times and was last seen abandoned in the Port of Melbourne in mid-2015.
The Port of Melbourne advertised its intention to dispose of the vessel soon after.
What is the circular metal framework opposite City Park and why is it there?
As chance would have it, it’s not a leftover set piece from a sci-fi movie filmed in Launceston, but rather the remains of the Launceston Gasworks.
Opening in 1860, the gasworks operated until late last century and was still servicing 6000 domestic customers in the 1970s.
The structure in question is the frame of the site’s last remaining gasometer, which is where gas was stored before distribution.
The company had four other gasometers during its years of operation, all of which have now either been demolished or built over.
Who is Alphonse Bugler?
Well, he’s the only man to have ever walked across the Gorge chairlift cable.
In what can only be described as a massive oversight from whoever was in charge of the scheduling process, the German tightrope walker attempted the feat on Friday the 13th of March, 1987.
As if that date doesn’t already scream bad luck louder than a black cat stuck up a ladder, it was also eight years to the day his brother Rene had been killed in a circus accident.
Nevertheless, Big Al took to the cable with all the confidence of a man who scales five-storey buildings in his spare time and completed the 308m walk in just 12 minutes.
He even pulled off a cheeky 180-degree spin at the halfway point to wave to the 2000-strong crowd below.
Life insurance agents hadn’t been queueing up to get his signature before the stunt, but plenty of Launcestonians were after it.
Good on you, Al.
With thanks to Marion Sargent, Paul Richards, Murray Johnson, and if I'm honest, Wikipedia.