The Mersey River, from which the division takes it name, is often described as the 'gateway' to Tasmania. It offers thousands of visitors a year their first experience of Tasmania as they disembark from the Spirit of Tasmania at Devonport.

The name also encompasses the prominent Mersey Bluff and several streets in Devonport.

The Mersey River rises high on the Central Plateau traversing 146 kilometres before reaching the sea at Devonport.

The first European sighting of the Mersey area was by Bass and Flinders during their circumnavigation of Tasmania in 1798. They named only prominent features, which did not include the Mersey.

In 1804 a settlement was established on the Tamar River (Port Dalrymple) and during exploration from that settlement four rivers were named, the second of which, named Second Western River, would later become the Mersey.

In 1823 Lieutenant-Governor Sorell ordered exploration of the land west of Launceston (the area now known as the North-West Coast), with several expeditions passing through the area covered by the Mersey division. One of those early explorers, Captain Charles Hardwicke, who sailed along the coast in 1823, described the area as: "... mountainous, extremely barren and totally unfit for habitation".

In 1824 the Van Diemen's Land Company was formed in London. The company received a royal charter to open up grazing land, principally for merino sheep, in the north-west. Under the direction of Edward Curr, the first manager, the company sought out suitable land before establishing its headquarters at Highfield, Stanley.

The VDL Company continued its investigation of the area. In 1826 Curr or the surveyor William Goldie named the river the Mersey, following the then custom of copying English names. The Mersey flows through Liverpool in England.

If only Charles Hardwicke could see the region today that he judged so harshly all those years ago.


This page was last modified on Wednesday, 4 March 2009.
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