Terry family celebrates 200 years in the valley

Helen and Robin Terry at their property on the Derwent at Gretna.

THE Terry name has been synonymous with agriculture in the Derwent Valley for 200 years, originally milling corn and wheat before diversifying into hop growing, orcharding and primary production.

It’s a record unlikely to be matched in Australia – one family farming on the same river for two centuries – but the story is nearing its end.

A family reunion this Sunday will celebrate the bicentenary of the arrival of John and Martha Terry in Tasmania in December 1819 and it coincides with the decision of hosts Robin and Helen Terry to retire from farming, bringing the Terry era to an end in the valley.

1960s sketch by E. Ratcliff, said to be
 the first house John Terry built at New
New Norfolk in the early 19th century.

John and Martha arrived in Sydney in March 1819 with their eight daughters, three sons, two servants and two millstones. “John and his ancestors had been millers in the Yorkshire Dales for many generations,” great-great-grandson Robin Terry explained.

“He brought with him the equipment to establish a mill in Sydney but Governor Macquarie advised him to go to Van Diemen’s Land where he would give him land grants on rivers suitable for driving mills,” Mr Terry said.

John Terry selected a 40 hectare site at the junction of the Derwent and Lachlan Rivers at New Norfolk and 567ha on the Derwent at Gretna. On the New Norfolk site he built the first water-mill erected outside Hobart.

Tynwald House and the ruins
of the Lachlan River Mill.

This Lachlan River Mill had a plentiful water supply that kept it operating at the height of summer when most others ran dry. Its water came from a 2km-long mill race which tapped into the Lachlan River in the vicinity of the present Humphrey St bridge.

Some of the original grinding stones from the mill can now be seen on display outside St Matthew’s Close (Quilted Teapot tearoom) in Bathurst St, New Norfolk. The grand home John Terry built is now known as Tynwald House, a restaurant and bed and breakfast, while the riverflats where his son Ralph planted hops are now the Tynwald Park sportsgrounds and his hop-drying Oast House is today a woodwork school and short-stay accommodation provider.

The Terry millstones outside St Matthew’s
Close (Quilted Teapot).

The larger site at Gretna was given the name Askrigg after John Terry’s birthplace in England. The Terrys also acquired properties at Hayes – the well-known Slateford (202ha) and the smaller Sunnybanks – which remained in the family until the turn of the 21st century.

These were orcharding properties, exporting mostly apples and pears, but there was also some livestock production for the local market. For a time there was also the Apple Pip roadside fruit stand which grew to become a well-known stop on the Lyell Hwy for visitors and locals like.

The Terry window in St Matthew’s
Church at New Norfolk.

Despite this pedigree, Robin Terry did not take up farming until he retired as a valuer, aged 60, purchasing 140ha on the Derwent at Gretna, which he named Wensleydale after the region in Yorkshire which was home to the Terrys.

With more than 2km of river frontage, this property has been used for agisting and grazing, but after 25 years a second retirement is beckoning and Robin and Helen are looking to a future closer to their family in Hobart.

“We are the last people by the name of Terry to be farming on the Derwent,” Robin said. But the family tradition is far from over, with descendants of John and Martha Terry  growing truffles in the Meander Valley, while others grow grapes at Meadowbank and another manages a cattle station in north Queensland, to name just a few.

The lasting contribution by John and Martha Terry and their descendants is memorialised in a stained-glass window at St Matthew’s Anglican Church in New Norfolk.

View of the Derwent Valley from Wensleydale, Gretna.

All branches of the family are welcome at the reunion at noon this Sunday, November 17, at Wensleydale, 21 Clarendon Rd, Gretna. BYO picnic lunch. For more information call 6286 1430.

One Comment

  1. I came across this article & instantly bought back memories, as a child I would accompany my grandmother every Wednesday, we would catch a bus in High Street New Norfolk & travel to Hayes, we would get off near the apple pip then cross the road to Slateford house, walk up a long dirt road but sometimes be picked up by Mrs Terry ( who I recall had a small dog “sam” I think its name was and it hated me lol but once to the house my grandmother would clean all day, we would sit at the table with Mr & Mrs Terry for a home cooked lunch..I still remember the house & was always amazed how beautiful it was. They had children, a boy Ben & I think 3 girls, Linda was one but cant remember the other names .. Beautiful memories of such kind wonderful people…

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