Some Australian towns have the strangest names. Brighton, a pleasant seaside resort town on the southern coast of England, can surely have very few similarities with Brighton, a military post, 27 km north of Hobart. Yet, Governor Macquarie, in 1821 when he visited Van Diemen's Land, decided that this military post should be named Brighton 'in honour of our present gracious Sovereign's favourite place of residence'. So, today, on the Midland Highway between Hobart and Launceston, a world away from the England of King George IV and the English southern coast, there is a township named Brighton.
The area around Brighton was first explored by Europeans in early 1804 and by 1806, with serious food shortages in Hobart Town, expeditions of soldiers were being sent into this area to kill kangaroos and emus. It is claimed that during one of these expeditions Private Hugh Germain, a well educated member of the Royal Marines, started giving various local sites exotic names. Thus, 12 km north of Brighton, lies the incongruously named village of Bagdad. It is said that Germain travelled through the area with a copy of The Bible and the Arabian Nights and delighted in giving places names like Jerusalem, Jericho, Jordan, and Lake Tiberius.
By the early 1820s there was some talk of Brighton becoming the capital of Van Diemen's Land but this was dropped and in 1826 it became an important military post on the main HobartLaunceston road. Brighton's moment of glory was short lived. It remained the main military outpost until the late 1830s when Pontville was established as the major town in the area.
Today Brighton's major claim to importance is based on its relationship with the Brighton Military Camp which was established in 1914 and is now the major military training facility in Tasmania. In the 1950s, as a generation of Tasmanians will remember, it was the island's centre for National Service. It is now used by citizen military organisations such as the school cadets and the CMF.
Things to see
Nearby the tiny settlement of Broadmarsh (on the C185) has a number of interesting historic buildings. The Post Office, listed by the National Trust, is a Gothic Revival three storey sandstone building completed in 1845 with a steep and gabled roof. It has been the centre of the village since it was built by Dr John Rowe.
Rowe also built 'Stoneyhurst (1840) a gracious Georgian gothic revival building which is now a tea house and craft shop.
Bagdad to the north of Brighton has a number of attractions for the visitor. Nan Chauncy, the well known children's writer from the 1940s and 1950s, established 'Chauncy Vale', a wildlife sanctuary, before her death in 1970. It is possible to visit Brown's Cave which Nan Chauncy used as the inspiration for the setting of her most famous book They Found a Cave - a children's novel about a bushranger who hides out in the cave. The local Congregational Church (1842) has an elaborate Italian look about it and Milford was once a hotel known by the extraordinary name of Mr News' Royal Hotel.