Tasmanian Family History Society Hobart header

Joseph Law (1816 - 1902)

By Maureen O'Toole

TFHS Inc. Member No. 7146

Joseph Law (circa 1816 - 20/3/1902)

Just a year after his marriage to sixteen-year-old Elizabeth ATKINSON in 1845, [i] Joseph LAW, a rough carpenter, had built a 4 roomed cottage on Marine Terrace [ii].  The land, on which the cottage was built, was part of the Van Diemen's Land Company's Emu Bay estate from which they leased small town allotments.  Hoping to establish the first and much requested tavern at Emu Bay, LAW immediately applied for a victualling licence.  At the sitting of the licencing board that September, he was denied the privilege. After granting a licence to William CASTLES, one member of the board, Mr Ronald Campbell GUNN, decided one such facility was more than enough for the district.  CASTLES was considered a much more respectable applicant and the Emu Bay Inn on Surrey Road was opened in September 1846.  Twelve months later, Law applied again.  This time he was supported by John Lee ARCHER, the local Police magistrate and several of Emu Bay's gentlemen.  The Burnie Tavern was finally licenced to LAW and began operation in September 1847.

As a fourteen-year-old, LAW had been sentenced to fourteen years transportation on the charge of housebreaking in Staffordshire, England [iii] .  The register, taken on his arrival in Hobart Town in 1832, described him as a labourer's boy [iv] .  Six years later, when assigned to the Van Diemen's Land Company in the North Western corner of the colony, Law first felt the lash under the order of magistrate, Ronald Campbell GUNN.  Of any magistrate in that district, GUNN was recorded to have ordered the greatest number of floggings with LAW receiving 50 lashes for disobedience [v] .

With victualling licence in hand, Joseph LAW named his cottage the Burnie Tavern, changing the name to the Burnie Inn in 1851 [vi] .  The inn had been well patronised in those early years with LAW being described as a 'creditable proprietor and a jolly host' [vii] .   He had done well in the industry. So much so, that he constructed a brewery next door to his inn.  And when the Company began offering its lands for sale in 1852, LAW purchased the properties on Marine Terrace on which the Burnie Inn and the Burnie Brewery [viii] stood.  In doing so, he became one of Emu Bay's very first private land holders [ix].

Within the next two years LAW purchased lot 12, a property of 86 acres on the western outskirts of town and had moved there with his wife and two daughters to begin farming.  He had already begun building another, larger tavern on the property [x] which would be called the Stratham Hotel.  And later described as a double storey tavern complete with a malt house and brewery [xi] .  

When the LAW family moved to their new abode, the Burnie Inn had been leased to Elizabeth's sister, Mary REDGATE [xii] [xiii] until its sale to Tomas WISEMAN in February 1856 [xiv] .  Wiseman retained the inn until 1901 and over seventy years later, the Burnie Inn was fully restored and relocated to the Burnie Park and commemorated as Burnie's first hotel.

It seems that the Stratham Hotel did not open to the public for some years after the Marine Terrace properties were sold.  LAW had enjoyed the physical feats of farming and applied for another property lease at St Mary's Plains.  He had received information from Peter Lemonde LETTE, the district surveyor, that the land was not part of the grant of the Van Diemen's Land Company so he applied to the Commissioner of Crown Lands.  The reply from Deputy Commissioner BOOTHMAN confirmed St Mary's Plains was owned by the Crown and available for lease.  LAW applied for and received approval to lease 500 acres of land known as Lot 141. Rents were paid in advance and the lease taken up in July 1859. James GIBSON, the superintendent of the Van Diemen's Land Company had also granted Law access through the Company's roads [xv] .

Over the coming years, LAW improved the St Mary's Plains block, cleared four miles of road, built a small cottage, a barn and holding yards.  He had laid pasture, built fences and ran more than 30 head of cattle on the property.  All was going well until, in 1861, Mr Ronald Campbell GUNN visited the St Mary's Plains property.  LAW would have undoubtably, been very displeased to renew the acquaintance.  GUNN had since replaced Mr BOOTHMAN as the Deputy Commissioner of Crown Lands and strongly argued the land of St Mary's Plains belonged to the Van Diemen's Land Company, not the Crown.  Therefore, not available for private lease. LAW's copy of the lease clearly outlined his tenancy was on the western side of the St Mary's River hence, not the Company's land.  He appealed to the House of Assembly.

Four years passed before Law received notice advising a decision had been made by the Surveyor-General that St Mary's Plains was indeed part of the Van Diemen's Land Company's Hampshire Hills block and surveyor Peter Lemonde LETTE, had made an error on the lease [xvi] .  Compensation of £1200 for loss of rent, improvements and stock was claimed but I have found no evidence that compensation was ever paid.

Their elder daughter, Caroline, had died of consumption (tuberculosis) not long after GUNN had visited the St Mary's Plains property.  She was aged just 17 years. [xvii] Their second daughter, and only surviving child, Elizabeth, died in 1877 [xviii] leaving behind five small children. 

By 1868, LAW was advertising 'Superior Pale Ale' and accommodation for travellers at the Stratham Hotel [xix] but he had failed to meet his mortgage repayments with foreclosure ensuing.  The assets of his farms went to auction.  All 150 head of livestock, farm and brewery machinery, farm produce and even the family's personal furniture being auctioned.  He lost his home, his farm and the Stratham Hotel at West Burnie.  He also lost an interest in another 96 acres, located near Ridgley [xx] which reverted to the Van Diemen's Land Company. 

Joseph LAW and Ronald Campbell GUNN never crossed paths again.  LAW died in March 1902 aged 87 with no assets.  At the time of his death, he had been living at the Menai in South Burnie [xxi] .  His wife, Elizabeth had been relocated to the New Town Charitable Institute where she died a solitary death aged 67.  It is not known how or when Elizabeth got to Hobart nor the real reasons for her senility. The only relic of Joseph LAW's life, the Burnie Inn, stands alone in the Burnie Park, just 300 metres from where the Stratham Hotel once stood. 


[i] Tasmanian Archives RGD34/1/4 Horton

[ii] Emu Bay officially became known as Burnie from 1856 onwards.

[iii] Law was initially retained on the convict hulk 'Euraylas'[iii] before being sent to Van Diemens Land on the transport ship Elizabeth. (AJCP HO9/2 Euryalus Prison Hulk register)

[iv] Tasmanian Archives CON 18/1/6

[v] Dean, Geoff, Convicts With the Van Diemen's Land Company, 2007, thesis

[vi] Pink, K., Campsite to City: A History of Burnie 1827-2000, Burnie, 2000

[vii] [vii] Cornwall Chronicle 22/10.1850 Emu Bay p720

[viii] Advertising (1855, February 24).  The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 - 1880), p. 1. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65715788

[ix] Van Diemen's Land Company Conveyances Vol. p.59; http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-818665320

[x] Cornwall Chronicle 19/11/1850 p.814

[xi] Billett, Basil, Commercial Heart of Burnie: 'Lest We Forget', 1984

[xii] Mary Atkinson had married Henry REDGATE who died only months after taking up the lease.  Mary then married James FLOWERS who took over the lease of the Burnie Inn until WISEMAN purchased the properties

[xiii] Pink, K., 2000

[xiv] Thomas Wiseman purchased the properties and took out a mortgage with Law in 1856 for £800.  (See historic deeds 3/9004 and 4/2504)

[xv] Parliamentary Papers HA1866 no.64 The Petition of Joseph Law

[xvi] Parliamentary books, paper 64 of 1866 Petition of Joseph Law

[xvii] Tasmanian Archives Register of Deaths in Launceston and country districts Bothwell to Westbury RGD35/1/32

[xviii] Tasmanian Archives Register of Deaths in Launceston and country districts Bothwell to Westbury RDG35/1/46

[xix] Cornwall Chronicle 25th July 1868 p.6

[xx] Tasmanian Archives Country Maps Wellington 22 AF396/1/1187

[xxi] Tasmanian Archives, Deaths in the district of Emu Bay. AG18/1/1 no 554

Related family names:

Law Redgate Lette Gunn

For more information:

You can use this contact form to send an email message to Maureen O'Toole

Your first name*:   Your last name*: 

Your email:*        Phone number: 

Your message*:

©TFHS Inc. All rights reserved
Site last updated December 2022