Bothwell's name was chosen by Governor Arthur after a Scottish town that also spans the River Clyde. He rejected the suggestion of New Lanark, which was the name of another Clyde mill town that had recently been built as an example of social reform.
The local Aboriginal band was called the Big River tribe. This group was known for its ferocity. Following the opening up of the area to settlement in the decade of the 1820s numerous clashes between the group and the 'invaders' are listed for the area. For more details of this subject see N. J. B. Plomley's The Aboriginal settler clash in Van Diemen's Land 1803-183, (Launceston, 1992). The famous colonial painting, 'The Conciliator', by Benjamin Duterreau includes members of this group posed around George Augustus Robinson . Members of the tribe danced their last corroboree in front of Bothwell's Castle Hotel on 5 January 1832.
Before permanent settlement the area was used for grazing stock by the early entrepreneur, Edward Lord. Hunters and bushrangers roamed the district. Mike Howe, a callous bushranger, was captured near the Shannon River in October 1818 and his head was carried back to Hobart Town for the reward. The first two farms on the Upper Clyde were 'Nant' and 'Norwood', which were taken up by the Nicholas family and Rowcroft brothers respectively. They came out on the Grace in 1821. The next big influx came on the Castle Forbes in March 1822. Their leader was Captain Patrick Wood who settled at 'Dennistoun'. Others in the group included the Pattersons at 'Hunterston' and the Reids at 'Ratho'. Tradesmen and servants accompanied them and the little settlement burgeoned. Assigned convicts contributed to the work force. Descendants of all these pioneers – settlers, servants and convicts – continue to live in the town. Surveyor Scott planned a large township in 1823 and this layout continues with an extra street, Elizabeth Street, to the north that was part of an 1832 subdivision by Thomas Burrell of 'Grantham'.
In the first two decades of settlement a church, school, soldiers' barracks and hotels were built from the local sandstone or from hand-made bricks. Building materials continued to be found locally until the end of the nineteenth century. The last major building constructed of local materials was the Council Chambers opened in 1902. Soldiers' barracks were first constructed in Barrack Street, but in 1832 they were re-built in sandstone in Wentworth Street on Mt Adelaide. Later this building housed the police. It is now a private home.
Wentworth Street is named for D'Arcy Wentworth, an early Police Magistrate, who was a son of the famous Dr D'Arcy Wentworth of Sydney. Bothwell once had four substantial churches. The Methodist church was demolished when the railway failed to reach Bothwell (it terminated at Apsley on the Jordan River). The Catholic church was also demolished and re-built on its original site. The earliest church was constructed with government and local help and was used jointly by both Presbyterians and Anglicans for sixty years. It was designed by John Lee Archer. The Anglicans, with financial support from Mrs William Nicholas of 'Nant', built their own church in 1891. This was designed by Alexander North of Launceston.
There were once four substantial Georgian-style hotels. Only one, the Castle Hotel, continues to ply this trade. Many of the surrounding farmhouses have been built from local sandstone. 'Ratho', built by Andrew Bell, the stonemason, is also home to the oldest golf course in Australia and possibly also has the country's oldest fowl house. It is therefore understandable that Bothwell should be classified as one of Australia's historic towns, but not understandable why there is such a lack of local pride in its being an historic town.
Two of Bothwell's most famous inhabitants were the Irish political exiles, John Martin and John Mitchel, who lived locally in the 1850s. Bothwell was also home to other political exiles such as the machine-breakers Robert Blake and William North, and John Frost of the Newport (Wales) Uprising. These have not received as much publicity as Mitchel and Martin. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/IREmitchel.htm
Bothwell had many bootmakers and one of the original shops has been retained in High Street. This was owned by the Medhurst family. John McWaide built a tannery in Wentworth Street to supply leather to these bootmakers. Apart from two sawmills, which have now ceased operating, Bothwell has had very little industry apart from farming. The two early watermills, one at 'Thorpe', the other at 'Nant', both bowed to progress.For a more detailed account of our history please read Bothwell Revisited or contact local historian, Mary Ramsay (firstname.lastname@example.org)