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Past News

7 April 2020


From Ribble Valley to Van Diemen's Land

The story of salmon and trout in the southern ocean.

Clitheroe Civic Society is frequently contacted to assist with both family and social history research relating to people and events of yesteryear in Clitheroe of the Ribble Valley. Most are regionally based enquiries, some national - and occasionally – some international, as with this recent one. Most will be familiar with the story of convicts being sent from Britain to the fabled and, at that time, notorious ‘Van Diemen’s Land’. From the 1800s to the abolition of penal transportation in 1853, Van Diemen's Land was the primary penal colony in Australia. During this period some 73,000 convicts were transported to Van Diemen's Land representing approximately 40% of all convicts sent to Australia.

The story being researched here is also one about transportation. Thankfully this is not about convicts but fish, or to be more precise the ova of salmon and trout. By 1856, the Colony was granted responsible self-government with its own representative parliament. The name of the island and colony was officially changed to Tasmania on 1 January 1856.

The Civic Society’s Archivist, Shirley Penman, was contacted by a Tasmanian Local Historian and Author who is researching the life and times of Robert Ramsbottom Snr. and his son William. Robert was originally a block printer employed at a print works in Clitheroe who, as a side line, started making and selling fishing tackle. He eventually went into this occupation full time and opened a shop in Parson Lane, Clitheroe. His interest further developed into breeding salmon stocks alongside other enthusiasts during the early 1850’s including Oughterard IN Ireland, a Stormontfield in Scotland and a Overton in England’

Apparently, Robert Sr married twice and fathered seven children in all. It is believed he died on 26th Oct. 1884. One son, William born in Clitheroe in 1833, clearly shared his father’s passion for breeding salmon and this coincided with the growing interest of colonists keen to have a better supply of edible fish and to replicate the thrill of angling fostered in the ‘old country’. Van Diemen's Land was no exception to this trend. For reasons yet to be discovered young Wm. Ramsbottom was appointed Superintendent of salmon propagation at a location somewhere near Hobart, Tasmania - the Colony’s principle town - in 1864. Numerous attempts at transporting salmon, and eventually trout, were trialled. Success eventually came by the collection of salmon ova, collected in the Ribble and/or Hodder Rivers, packed in ice and followed by the greatest care in the preparation and protection of their spawning grounds. All supervised directly by William. This dedication may well have been the cause of his untimely death from consumption in 1868.

We know that William married Elizabeth Catlow at the Independent Church here in Clitheroe in Sept 1857 when Elizabeth was 24 years old. William migrated to Van Diemen’s Land in, or around, the year of his marriage.
After William died, aged only 35, Elizabeth returned to Clitheroe with three of her five children. One apparently died at the time of her departure and one possibly remained in Tasmania. On her return to Clitheroe it is believed that Elizabeth purchased a row of stone cottages ‘near a cotton factory’, renting them out and working in the factory to survive. One son, Henry James, is thought to have married Adah Francis Mary Birkett at Clitheroe Wesleyan Chapel 27th Dec. 1888.

This is, broadly, what we know or understand to date about William Ramsbottom of Clitheroe and Van Diemen’s Land. We are appealing for additional information on William’s life and that of his family - including his father Robert Snr. and any of his descendants. Of particular interest to the author and the Clitheroe Society are any records of William’s life, including archival correspondence, journals, images etc. and any records of the various experiments and trial shipments which eventually led to success in 1864.

Any and all information which can flesh out this fascination story linking Clitheroe and the River Ribble with Van Diemen’s Land, at the hight of Colonial British history, will be gratefully received. This will then be forwarded to the author to assist his research into the life of Wm. Ramsbottom, here in Clitheroe and ‘‘down under’ in Tasmania. Information should be forwarded to Steve Burke Chairman, Clitheroe Civic Society via All contributors to this research can be assured of acknowledgement in any final publication.


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27 October 2020

In the light of the information and guidance from Clitheroe Town Council this year’s wreath laying, on behalf of the Society, will be undertaken by the Society’s Officers and Shirley Penman. This will take place at 1.00pm on Monday 9th November. Two additional attendees, already nominated, will make up the party of six representing the Society in accordance with the current Government Guidelines. Regrettably, these guidelines do not permit more to attend.

19 June 2020

Honorary Life member Tony Goodbody sadly died in hospital on Sunday 14th June.

27 April 2020

An addition to the Spring newsletter

7 April 2020

From Ribble Valley to Van Diemen's Land

The story of salmon and trout in the southern ocean.

28 March 2020

One of an occasional series of Newsletters to Members to keep you informed on the Society’s activities.

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