Derby, a history of tin, Tasmania

Derby once an important centre of tin mining in Tasmania is just south of Scottsdale. If you want to drive from Launceston, the town is about one hour and 15 minutes’ drive (104 kilometres/65 miles) north east of Launceston on Highway A3.We were impressed with the museum display and the building is quite a feature in the town. The curators have brought to life the history of the area using still photography, graphics and the projections on the large wide screen would entertain children and even impatient teenagers.Yet you could drive past the museum as it is set down on the low side of the main road but once you are out of the car, the building reveals its lines. I asked the staff for the name of the architect but they had not a clue….In 1874-75 thousands of European and Chinese miners came here to work in the area of the Ringarooma Valley. But Derby was originally known as Brothers’ Home referring to the Krushka brothers’ mine as it was the first in this area. The name changed in 1887 to honour the then Prime Minister of England, the Earl of Derby.

The peak for mining here was reached in the early 1900s. Once the Briseis Tin Mining Company took over it was the most productive tin mine in Tasmania. But mining came to a temporary halt in 1929 as a result of the Briseis Dam disaster. The depiction of this catastrophe is a centrepiece of the display today.The mine was re-opened in 1937, but the main operation closed again in 1946.A little cafe serves snacks and light meals and it is an ideal stopover on the long drives through this part of the countryside. The history of the dam breaking in this town is the major subject of the audio visual display at the museum but I found just as interesting the exhibition of the role that tin played in the past, particularly for preserving food when refrigeration was not available for the masses or even the pre-refrigeration times.

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  1. #1 by Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial on January 6, 2011 - 8:09 pm

    Thanks Roz! Fascinating read…

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