Captain Samuel Horton (1796-1867)
Having been a Captain in the Merchant Navy and trading in the China Seas for some years, Horton arrived in Van Diemens Land from Calcutta in 1823 aboard the brig .
He was persuaded to come to Tasmania by his cousin Rev William Horton, the first resident Wesleyan minister in Hobart Town. Lieutenant Governor Sorell granted Horton 1000 acres of land ‘near the Ross Bridge’ in consideration of the £1640 in goods and cash that he brought with him to the colony.
He lived alone for 10 years in what is now part of Rose Cottage. Emphasis was placed on buildings such as stables, barns etc, fencing and quarters for those who worked here. It was not until all the other dwellings and outbuildings had been finished that Somercotes Homestead was completed and the property was named after the Lincolnshire area where Horton had spent much of his early life.
By 1828 an additional 800 acres were granted. Livestock figures at this time comprised 60 head of cattle, 1000 sheep and 1 horse. Permanent improvements were valued at £827. He was afterwards to considerably increase this holding property by purchase.
On April 26, 1833 Captain Horton married Miss Elizabeth Pridden Hudson at Park Farm, Jericho, Tasmania. In later years Mrs Horton laid the foundation stone at the present Uniting (Methodist) Church in Ross.
The 1842 census shows that the present Somercotes had been completed. It is described in the return as being built of stone and complete. Twenty-two people were living there, but five were free.
Captain Horton was a recognised philanthropist and benefactor who became actively involved in both church and community affairs. He was a devout Methodist and in the years before a chapel was erected in Ross, made rooms available at Somercotes for church services.
On 9th June 1858, Horton was appointed a Justice of Peace and was later a member of the first Ross Municipal Council. He died in 1867 and was buried in the family vault on College Hill, overlooking Somercotes.
Ticket of Leave Scheme
A Ticket of Leave allowed a convict the freedom to obtain employment and to travel within a restricted area. This was generally awarded to convicts who had served half of their sentence of transportation and who had stayed out of trouble in the colony.
In the period 1835-1846 there were 42 of the ticket of leave individuals employed at Somercotes.
The 1842 census records seven ticket of leave personnel to be in service at Somercotes. During the period 1847-1856 archival records suggest that there may have been more than seventy ticket of leave convicts employed at Somercotes.
These people were housed and lived in quarters aptly named the Ticket of Leave building at Somercotes. It is a building of ashlar faced stonework on rubble walls with flat galvanised sheet cladding and some galvanised iron over original shingles. The flat galvanised sheet is Moorwood and Rogers (patent 1850).
Today it houses our small commercial kitchen, the road side café and our meeting rooms
Raid by bushrangers
Captain Horton built Somercotes with every possible protection against the danger of attack by bushrangers and aboriginals. Allwindows were fitted with both internal and external cedar shutters, the doors and windows were barred and the courtyard was secured by heavy gates and a high sandstone wall topped with an imposing iron palisade. The spikes on the palisade, still evident today are nearly 16cm in height and angled outwards and upwards to deter any would be assailant.
Somercotes was considered to be one of Tasmania’s more secure homesteads and is believed to have survived all but one attack from the feared bushrangers.
Despite these measures, in 1843 Somercotes was raided by Tasmania’s infamous bushrangers, Martin Cash, Kavanagh and Jones. Martin Cash in later years describing his attack upon Somercotes remarked:
“We soon arrived within sight of the fortress – it being the most appropriate name I can find for that gentleman’s residence, which was defended by an outer wall with embrasures, and in fact all the other appliances of a citadel about to be besieged.”
In the heist a shot was fired and the bullet lodged in the architrave of the door where it still remains. The opposite door show gun barrel indentations, further visual evidence of this raid.
In 1850 Captain Horton offered 20 acres and £1350 to the Wesleyan Church for the establishment of a boys college. In 1852 the foundation stone of Horton College was laid.
The multi-storeyed Horton College built of red brick with dressings and trimmings of carved sandstone was not opened until 1855 due to the delay caused by the discovery of gold in Victoria. In the first eight years there were four headmasters at Horton College.
The portico, some foundations and a brick underground water well are all that remain today.