Wisemans Ferry

Wisemans Ferry is a unique place, with its Courthouse Cave, convict built road and carved stone lions that guard the old stone steps of the Inn. It was named after Solomon Wiseman, and is a small farming settlement on the southern bank of the Hawkesbury River. By 1821 settlement had arrived at the mouth of the McDonald River, and opposite, at Portland Head and Solomon Wiseman opened an Inn called The Packet. In 1827 he obtained a license for a ferry across the river thus giving the name to the place. The Inn is said to be haunted.

Solomon Wiseman was a former convict (1778 1838) who received a land grant in the area from Governor Macquarie in 1817. Wiseman established a ferry service on the Hawkesbury River in 1827 for the transport of produce and provisions to the convicts building the Great North Road and was known to many as King of the Hawkesbury.A dying convict who Wiseman had flogged is said to have cursed him, and years later the burial vault of Wiseman and his wife was broken open, the coffin smashed and bones scattered.

The town is a tourist spot with picnic and barbecue facilities, with a large park on the river flats of the Hawkesbury. Waterskiing, fishing and bushwalking attract people to the area today. As well as a rich convict and colonial heritage in the area, the Dharug National Park and Yengo National Park are close by. Two ferry services cross the Hawkesbury River from the town of Wisemans Ferry. The eponymous Wisemans Ferry crosses the river to a point down-stream of its confluence with the Macdonald River, connecting with the old Great North Road. Webbs Creek Ferry crosses to a point upstream of the confluence, connecting with the St Albans Road that follows the west bank of the Macdonald River.

Wisemans Ferry Park's wetlands complex provides important habitat for native fauna species (incl. frogs and small birds) and is one of the last stands of Wetland Complex within the Hills Shire. The threatened species Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is known to occur within Wisemans Ferry Park.

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Wisemans Ferry Cemetery

Gave of First Fleeter Peter Hibbs at Laughtondale Gully Road Cemetery

Wisemans Ferry Cemetery at Laughtondale Gully Road contains the graves of pioneer settler George Laughton; miller James Singleton and first fleeter Peter Hibbs. Hibbs was a Marine with HMS Sirius and later captained the Norfolk on its voyage when George Bass and Matthew Flinders became the first to circumnavigate Tasmania in 1798 (they named Point Hibbs in his honour). There is strong evidence that Hibbs visited Australia in 1770 as James Cook's cabin boy aboard HMS Endeavour. More >>

The graves of Solomon Wiseman (the ferry operator) and his first wife are also located there. Wiseman was notoriously hard on the 300 convicts assigned to him, so much so he became known as "King Solomon". One convict dying as a result of an horrific flogging he had received at Wiseman's hand is said to have put a curse on Wiseman. Years later, the vault in which Wiseman and his wife were buried was broken apart, his coffin smashed and his bones scattered. The late King's skull was said to have been used by youths as a football. The remains of his skeleton were re-buried in the local cemetery.

Great North Road

The Great North Road, the first road linking Sydney and the Hunter Valley, was built in the late 1820s using convict labour. The road passed right through Wisemans Ferry. There are numerous well-preserved sections around Wisemans Ferry that can be seen on what is known as Devines Hill. More >>

Thomas James Bridge
The Thomas James Bridge on Wisemans Ferry Road near Wisemans Ferry crossing of the Hawkesbury River, is the oldest in-use bridge on mainland Australia (Tasmania has older bridges) and is one of several convict built bridges along the Old Great North Road. The bridge was built during 1830 (the timber deck is more recent) and was named after the overseer of 'Road Party 25' which built the bridge.

Thomas James was a Ticket of Leave overseer. We do know who was responsible for overseeing the actual work - Thomas James, the overseer in charge of the 25 Road Party (the men who built the bridge). He was a Ticket of Leave overseer. James had arrived in NSW onboard the convict ship Recovery in 1819 when he was 24, sentenced to life. By 1824 he was in the Bathurst road party stationed at Richmond, then later was transferred to Road Party 25 at Wisemans Ferry. By 1837 he was living at Penrith and in 1842 obtained a Conditional Pardon. Nothing more is known about him, except that he could inspire convicts to produce high quality work in difficult circumstances, as the bridge named after him, and Clares and Circuit Flat Bridges, show.

Devines Hill
Devines Hill is a 43 km section of the Great North Road immediately north of Wisemans Ferry which goes through very steep and rugged country. Beginning 500m west of the Wisemans Ferry landing on the northern side of the Hawkesbury River, contains fine examples of high walling with massive buttresses, drainage systems and quarries. These include Clares Bridge, near Ten Mile Hollow; the Circuit Flat Bridge, near Mt Manning; the descent into Wisemans Ferry from the south; the Bucketty Wall, Mt McQuoid, at the intersection of George Downes Drive and the St Albans road; Ramsays Leap and the Murrays Run Culvert between Bucketty and Laguna.

Beacuse of its significance as an impressive example of convict workmanship, and its out-of-the-way location which has kept it relatively intact, the Devines Hill section of the Great North Road has been preserved and opened up for visitors to walk part or all of it. Much of this quality construction was carried out under the supervision of Assistant Surveyor Percy Simpson who was based at Wisemans Ferry between 1828 and 1832, and Heneage Finch, who was in charge of construction around Bucketty and Laguna in 1830-31. Simpson was an engineer who had sound knowledge of road construction techniques being developed in Europe and was given the most difficult sections to build. Much of the high quality work created by convicts under his command remains intact today - a tribute to his ability to lead an unskilled and unwilling labour force and get the best out of them. Up to 700 convicts worked?? on this section of the road at any one time - clearing timber, digging drains, blasting and shaping stone, and shifting it into position. Some of the blocks weighed up to 660 kg. Originally 33 bridges were built, their timber decks often supported by elaborate stone foundations. The few which remain are the oldest bridges on mainland Australia. Construction required highly skilled stonemasonry as stone walls were often needed to support the road where it climbed steep hillsides and crossed gullies and watercourses. One wall on Devines Hill reaches almost 10 metres, and is supported by five massive buttresses.

Hangman's Rock

A walk along part or all of the the Devines Hill section is recommended. From the car park and intersection on Wisemans Ferry Rd (about 500m west of the car ferry), the walk passes an information sign, and follows the Old Great North Road up the hill. This section passes numerous cuttings and retaining walls built with convict labour. There are several information signs on the way, making the walk more interesting. It passes Hangman's Rock, a beautiful sandstone cave/overhang has some steps and a bench seat cut into the rock. It is uncertain what purpose the spot served, but stories that convicts were hanged through the hole in the roof of the cave appear unlikely to be true, despite giving a name to the atmospheric spot. From Hangman's Rock, the walk follows the management trail gently up the hill; information sign identify points of interest.

Dharug National Park
Dharug National Park covers rugged bushland just north of the Hawkesbury river, with dramatic sandstone cliffs and a variety of natural habitats. It s the perfect place to escape to on a daytrip or for a weekend getaway. Take a walk, mountain bike or guided tour into history along the Old Great North Road - World Heritage walk; built by up to 720 convicts between 1826 and 1836. Download the Convict Road app before heading out to accompany you along the track. Take a canoe or kayak out to explore the Hawkesbury river or camp out under the stars at Mill creek or Ten Mile Hollow campground.

The park is bursting with bird and animal life, you re likely to see gang-gang cockatoos, satin bowerbirds and green catbirds on the mountain slopes and, if you re camping overnight, be sure to take a torch to look for yellow-bellied and greater gliders and sugar gliders. If you can t see the yellow-bellied glider, you may well hear their loud shrieking and gurgling calls. Go there >>

St Albans

St Albans

St Albans is not so much a town as a fascinating historic relic on the banks of the Macdonald River. The village was opened up for settlement in 1842 largely because it had become an important stopping point for people wanting to ship their goods down the Hawkesbury River. The Settlers Arms was constructed at a cattle drover s camp on the limit of navigation on the Macdonald River in 1848. The two-storey sandstone building has been largely unaltered and is full of genuine charm. It serves excellent meals and light refreshments, and is an ideal place for a stopover before commencing the return journey.

Upper Hawkesbury Drive

Macdonald River

Wisemans Herry is located in the upper reaches of the Hawkesbury River. If you are interested in exploring the area, we have created a full day drive through the Upper Hawkesbury and the Macdonald Valley, which takes in all of the historic attractions and places of interest in and around Wisemans Ferry. The drive begins and end in Windsor, on Sydney's north west outskirts.
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