Bagdad/Mangalore

Bagdad is small rural community of approximately 650 residents. Bagdad is 40km north of Hobart on the Midlands Highway. Bagdad boasts a modern well-equipped Community Club with a Golf Course, Sporting Oval and Hall.

The town of Bagdad is one of the earliest settlement sites in the Southern Midlands. Before the 1850s, the name ‘Bagdad’ covered the area all the way from the old ‘Horseshoe Bridge’ near Bridgewater to the foot of Constitution Hill. In the early 1820s, a number of settlers with substantial means were granted land in the ‘Bagdad Plains’ area (roughly speaking, the area from Pontville to the foot of Constitution Hill). These settlers included men such as William Kimberley and Gamaliel Butler, both of whom were granted large tracts of land in the area. By 1835, Butler had cleared several hundred acres of land for cultivation and built the first phase of a grand sandstone homestead which would later be called ‘Shene’. The Butler family were keen hunting and racing enthusiasts, which is reflected in the massive and very elegant neo-Tudor stables at Shene which to this day form a landmark on the Midlands Highway.

The town of Bagdad formed around the highway, and of course included a number of coaching inns. Amongst these were two very large and comfortable establishments offering the weary traveller rest and refreshment. At the beginning of the ‘Mangalore Mile’, Thomas New ran the ‘Crown Inn’, a commodious two storey stone inn with ample stabling for the numerous horses travelling the highway. Just a few miles further north, at the foot of Constitution Hill, John Palmer established the Swan Inn in 1825, offering travellers a respite before the very steep climb up Constitution Hill. Travellers at the time noted that the Swan was a very good inn, but infested with bugs. Today the inn is long gone, but the name is commemorated in Swan Street, Bagdad.

As well as the grand homesteads of wealthy settlers, Bagdad also boasted a number of small farms belonging to families of more modest means. Many were ex-convicts or the children of ex-convicts, and their farms at Bagdad offered them the opportunity to become self sufficient. By the end of the nineteenth century, Bagdad was famous for its agricultural output. On the hills behind Shene, Mrs Fool was famous for her berries and jam-making, with a complicated irrigation system maintaining the crop. Further north, the ‘Vale of Bagdad’ was a major producer of apples, with orchards dotting the landscape well into the twentieth century. To this day, many of the descendants of the early farming family still live in the district, with the history of Bagdad echoed in names such as Butler, Foster and Bantick, to name but a few.

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Southern Midlands of Tasmania, where a blend of good old fashioned values and modern ideas co-exist