There was no road between New Norfolk and Hobart in 1813, when ex-Norfolk-Island-convicts William and Mary Abel were granted Valleyfield. A road was not constructed until 1818-1819. Access to the area was by river, which is navigable until a kilometre or so upriver from the property.
William Abel (1776-1850) and his wife Mary Ann Abel (1778/82-1856) (Morey) and their four children (William, Thomas, George and Henry) lived at Valleyfield from 1813 until 1826. During this time Abel increased his land holdings near New Norfolk and in the Macquarie Plains. He had contracts to supply the Colonial Government with meat. Abel and his sons also grew wheat, barley and potatoes.
We know the house on Valleyfield was built by 1822 because in that year it was licensed as a hotel called the Kings Head Inn. You could dine, sleep and house your horse at the Kings Head Inn.
The Abel family gave up living and working at Valleyfield in approximately 1826. This was due to a tragic accident. At around a quarter past ten on the night of 4 April 1826, William Abel mistakenly thought that a shadow of a man in white glimmering in the dark part of the Inn’s passage was a bushranger. The figure didn’t respond when asked who he was and William shot at him with his fowling piece. He found that the man he shot was his own son Henry and that Henry was dead.
George Lowe, another ex-convict, took over the licence of the Kings Head Inn from the Abels. Lowe built a coach house (1830) and together with a business partner, George Mills, ran a four horse coach service named the “Eclipse” to Hobart Town. The Eclipse departed New Norfolk at noon and arrived in Hobart Town a bumpy four hours later.
In 1832 George Lowe and his wife Norah sold the Kings Head Inn to Captain Richard Armstrong (1788-1859). Captain Armstrong was born in Ireland and had served in the Bengal Army for the East India Company. He retired from the army to Van Dieman’s Land. Captain Armstrong was a bachelor. He made the Kings Head Inn his home and called it “Bingfield”. It is believed that Captain Armstrong is responsible for putting the unusual ornate wooden verandah screen and balustrade on the house. We like to think that the balustrade design, featuring an eight pointed star, is influenced by his time in India.
Captain Armstrong got into financial difficulty and sold the property to Ebenezer Shoobridge. The land was said to be in a poor state when the Shoobridge’s took over. The Shoobridge family renamed the property “Valleyfield”. They ran the property as a hop and apple farm, built two hop kilns to dry the hops and planted many of now established trees that grace the garden.
Hugh Ashton Warner leased Valleyfield in partnership with the Shoobridges from 1910 and purchased the property in 1919. His family have lived in the property ever since.
The Derwent river, which has always formed one boundary of the property, is the source of water for the crops that have been grown at Valleyfield and the incomes of families who have lived here. It is the reason why the lawns can be kept green and the trees can flourish. The river makes the garden possible.