William Collins journeyed to Van Diemen’s Land with his unrelated namesake, David Collins, on the Calcutta (for an unsuccessful settlement at Sorrento, Port Phillip), and then on the Ocean to the Derwent, and the first major settlement there.

He was my great great great great great uncle (maternal), and he built a shop – in the loose sense of “he built”. In August 1805, Rev Knopwood noted in his diary that he attended the opening of this, the first shop in the Derwent settlement. And the walls and flooring are still there, underneath the Bank Arcade, 68 Liverpool Street, Hobart. It is one of the very oldest standing European buildings in Australia.

Thanks to the generosity of the arcade’s owner, John Short, I was shown around it, now 3 metres below street level. He has written a fantastic book on the history of the arcade and the shop, called ” A different view of Hobart”; a major incredibly well researched tome.

Collins played a major role as the earliest Derwent harbourmaster, but also as a whaler, explorer, advisor and trader. His whaling station was at Droughty Point, very close to the land grant to my first fleet ancestor, Andrew Goodwin, who was on the western side of the Clarence Plains Rivulet.

It was Collins who rowed, again using that term in the loose sense, from Port Phillip up to Port Jackson to advise Governor King that David Collins wanted to abandon the attempted settlement at Sorrento. No doubt to their astonishment, they got picked up by the Ocean, which happened upon them about 90 km south of Port Jackson. Some naughty types have suggested that was just as well because Collins had run out of the copious supplies of grog he had taken with him – presumably just for ballast, which he managed more efficiently by swallowing it.

Collins was in league with traders John Ingle and Edward Lord/Maria Reisby. Short has identified various attempts to “pretty up” the shop, confirming the general belief that Collins was doing very well thank you.

I have to leave some of John Short’s latest discoveries, which are seminal to Hobart’s earliest European building history, to him to reveal, but again they are the result of painstaking and rigorous research and physical examination. He has, in his book, captured significant social history of Hobart, through the eyes of this building. Carefully undoing two centuries of re-building, destruction, rubbish dumping, plumbing and extensions, and building collapses, he has uncovered the earliest walls, doorways, window cavities, timber flooring and evidence of earlier less formal building attempts.

Above is one of the original window frames, revealed by the bevelled corners, which faced out of the Hobart Rivulet. Below is the frame to the door.

Short has even painstakingly measured the distances between the nails, comparing them to the original floor joists, and confirming that the flooring used to be down there rather than where it was found. He as also confirmed with our leading nail expert that the nails were made in England.

All in all, a fascinating and informative visit.

Michael Monaghan

April 2023


  1. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for sharing this interesting story. What a fascinating piece of history. Amazing that anything of the original shop is still present!

    Cheers, Caroline & Stuart


  2. How many times have I walked through the bank arcade and not known my families history beneath my feet. Fascinating espose Michael. . . . thanks for sharing.


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