Then and Now
The Beginning
When the English settlers came to Tasmania they didn’t like the aborigines.  Some of the aborigines were taking farmers’ sheep and other animals. In 1830 they had what is called the Black Line and soldiers and settlers tried to round up the aborigines so that they could send them all to Flinders Island. The aborigines were too smart for the white men and only two were caught, an old man and a young child. The man who caught them was Edward Walpole and he was granted one thousand acres of land in this area in 1831.
Our town was named by Edward Walpole.  He named his grant “Strawberry Hill” after the London residence of his relative Horace Walpole who was the Second Earl of Orford.  A township reserve was set aside on the south side of the Prosser River. Edward Walpole didn’t really want that piece of land anyway so he sold it. He only stayed a year before selling the grant, but the name stuck.
Orford really became a town when sandstone from this area was quarried for use in buildings in Hobart and Melbourne.  A small community grew around the cliffs in the 1860s.

Early East Coast settlers begged for a direct road to Hobart Town throughout the 1830s.  The three miles on the south side of the Prosser River were called the worst track in the colony, so they sarcastically named it Paradise Gorge. It has always caused problems. In 1830 Governor Arthur got lost for three days.
The road at Paradise was just a track in 1831. There were five river crossings in the space of six miles because of bad terrain. Crossing the mouth of the Prosser River was extremely dangerous at high tide. Work was started by convicts on Paradise Gorge in 1844 on the north side. This is what we call the Old Coach Road or the Convict Track. The convicts used picks and shovels, carts and wheelbarrows and had occasional help from gun powder. But before the road was finished the convicts were withdrawn in 1847.
The track remained difficult until 1861 when it was widened.  A punt started operating to get people across the river at Orford. When the Meredith Bridge was opened, it was finally decided that it would be better if the track was built on the south side of the Prosser River. Improvements were made to the track and the new road was open to the public from the Orford Bridge to Buckland.        

The Convict Station
The ruins of the building usually referred to as the Paradise Probation Station does not seem to have been a probation station at all.  It was certainly used for convict accommodation and was originally established some time in about 1844. It mainly housed convicts who were building the road on the north bank of the Prosser River which was to be used for general wheeled traffic. The buildings at Paradise were made from the boards, shingles and nails of the dismantled Buckland Probation Station.  The station was abandoned by 1847 and the buildings were destroyed by fire in 1856.
Nowadays it’s a very pleasant walk along the old convict road up the northern bank of the Prosser River.  Follow the main track, go across the stony bed of a small creek and before you get to the dam you can go up the bank to the right of the old road to the relics of the old convict built station.  It is still possible to see the outline of one of the cells.  They were very small.

Orford Bridges
Before any bridges were built over the Prosser River people used to wait until the tide went out and they walked across the sandbar or swam.
In January 1866 the first bridge across the Prosser River was opened.  It was a timber bridge of twenty-one spans, each 30 feet long.  The bridge had side rails 2ft high, and both ends had a hinged gangway. It was strong enough to support a weight of one and a half tons. It was called the Meredith Bridge. Vehicle speed crossing this bridge was not allowed to be any faster than walking pace in 1910.
The second bridge that went across the Prosser was a one-way bridge with one traffic light. In 1961 it was reported that the bridge was giving way on the northern side, and vehicles of more than three tons were not to cross it.  But people did take their heavy trucks over it and it was said that you could see the bridge sinking a bit more as the trucks went over. 
The bridge we have now at Orford was finished in 1963. At the opening of this bridge across the Prosser, Orford State School students were invited to be part of this parade too.  A competition was held to see who could have the best-decorated bike for the occasion.  After the ribbon had been cut and the Premier and official cars crossed the bridge, the Orford students were allowed to follow on bikes and on foot. They went across the old bridge and back over the new bridge. They each received a small packet of lollies at one end and an ice-cream at the other! The prize for the best bike was won by a boy who made his bike look like a fish. 
Louisa Meredith
Louisa Anne Meredith was probably one of the most famous people to live at Orford.  Louisa was a successful author with many publications to her name. Her collection of writing and painting give us a clear picture of the life of white Australian settlers and spans fifty years of Tasmania’s pioneer times.
She was born in 1812, in England. Her original surname was Twamley, and four of her books published in the late 1830’s were published using that name. In 1839 Louisa married her cousin, Charles Meredith, and came to live in Tasmania, where she continued to write and paint. Her artwork mostly consisted of Tasmanian plants and animals.  Her husband Charles wasn’t very good at managing money and eventually became a politician and spent a lot of time away from his family. They had three boys: George, Charles and Owen.
Louisa lived in about fifteen different places before coming to Orford and building the house called Malunnah (which means “The Nest”). The family lived there from 1868 until 1888.
Prosser’s Bay Quarry
In about the late 1860s the Orford Quarry began. It was known as the Prosser Bay Quarry or Crabtree’s Quarry and it was located near East Shelly Beach. Most people now call it The Shelly Beach Quarry. A man named Jim Crabtree was listed as an Orford resident in 1899, so it’s likely that he worked there.
Orford became well known for its great sandstone. Orford’s sandstone was used for some of Melbourne’s main buildings like the post office and the town hall. Ships used to come to the cliff-face jetty to load and the rocks were rolled down the slopes on small tram cars to the boats. Boats could only load at Orford when the wind was blowing in a certain direction.
All of the tools they used at the Orford quarry were hand made. They used oyster bay pine props to hold ledges of stone in place.   Oyster Bay pines are only found on the east coast. Some of the slabs of stone still lying in the quarry still show the marks of the picks of quarry workers who have long since been forgotten.
While the quarry was operating there was a school, a post office, two shops and lots of houses all built on and around the cliffs nearby. Lots of people lived there to work at the quarry.
Quarrying from Orford stopped after a faulty load was sent to Melbourne and they refused to accept any more. After that many of the buildings were moved to other places and reused and most of the people moved away. Individual people continued to cart stone from there for a long time and for years old Jim Fieldwick used to tell stories about the quarries.
When the quarry was open there used to be two shops at the edge of the cliff face. Edward Powell and Joseph McNeil were the storekeepers but these shops closed in the early 1880s when the quarry workers moved on.
Norman Bellette had a shop in the 1920s just near the bridge on the north side.  Frank Hood wrote in 1922 that the shop had trouble keeping up supplies to their family of seven.  The shopkeeper said he had never before had to get in so many nails. 
In about 1935 a shop was built on the other side of the river by Clyde Castle. It was situated where the holiday units are now.
Post Offices
Letters were very important and sometimes the only means of contact that people had. Orford’s first post office was located at the Prosser’s Bay Quarry. In 1864 mail was brought to Orford twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays in Mr Fennell’s mail cart.  It used the Old Coach Road.
From 1872 until 1940 the Turvey family ran the post office at Sanda.  Miss Grace Turvey had to go down to the bridge to get the mail, no matter what the weather was like.  If she expected a lot of mail, she would take the wheelbarrow.  Usually some of the men, coming for their mail pushed it back for her. Daily mail services to Orford started in 1925.
In the early 1940s, Captain Boddam, who was the owner of Beach House, ran the post office from a small building beside the boarding house but after the big storm of 1942 the building was moved to Charles St.  Later it was moved again to a Charles St shop on the other side of the road.  In the 1980s it was moved to the supermarket in Alma Road and finally moved to it's current location in 2008 when the Alma Road supermarket was closed.
The first Orford church was a tiny wooden building that used to be the timekeepers’ office at Okehampton Quarry.  When that closed down it was carried round to the Shelly Beach Quarry. It was there unused for many years until it was positioned behind the present church in 1883, where it stood among the wattle trees and was used by the congregation for fifty years. It was called “St Michael’s on the Mount”.
The bell hung on a nearby gum tree until it cracked when Fred Mace rang it with great excitement at the end of World War 1.
When the new church was opened in 1929, the little building was moved again, below Sanda in Walpole St. 
The foundation stone of the present church was laid by Fred Mace. The church cost $450.  Timber for the church was carted from Shelly Beach by Hector Hood in his truck. There is still a bell in the tower but it doesn’t have a crack in it.

Orford Boarding Houses
Orford boarding houses were very popular for guest accommodation before and after World War 1. However, by the late 1940s most of the boarding houses had just about closed because holiday houses and beach shacks became more common.  The main boarding houses that operated in Orford were Beach House, Davidsons' Boarding House and The Bungalow.
In 1867 the population of Orford was 35. With the activity in the quarry it had risen to 60 by 1876.  However during that year most of the people of Orford moved away when the quarry closed and by 1910 there were only about twelve houses in the Orford township.  Most of them were on the south side of the river. 
In 1920 there were about 25 houses in Orford. By 1940 this had nearly doubled because Orford had a reputation as a holiday place. The population of Orford in 1942 was 134.
Before the 1960s people were allowed to camp anywhere they wanted to, and did. Then a lot of new government regulations about camping came into existence and people started buying blocks of land .  Since the dam was built, supplying water to the town in 1963, a lot more people have built houses and holiday homes in Orford. In the holiday period the population of the town of Orford would jump dramatically, as it still does.  In 1961, from a regular population of 224 people on Christmas Eve, it would swell to about 1 500 by Boxing Day. 
The present population of Orford is about 500.