Settlers began arriving in the area within a year or two of the colonisation of Hobart in 1803, but the town itself was not founded until the arrival of settlers transferred from the dissolved colony on Norfolk Island in 1807-8. The settlers were given 4 acres of land for every acre they had owned on Norfolk Island.
It was proclaimed a town in 1811. The road from Hobart arrived in 1818. The first continually licensed hotel in Australia, the Bush Mill – opened in 1825, the same year as Tasmania’s oldest existing Anglican Church, St. Matthew’s. (St. Paul’s Methodist Church was consecrated in 1836 – now a Uniting Church, it lays claim to be the oldest of this denomination in the country.)
What became the Royal Derwent Hospital opened in the town in 1827, originally to cater for convicts. Known after its main building, Willow Court, it became an asylum for the mentally ill until it finally closed in 2001. It is now, bit by bit, being developed into eateries and accommodation for the tourist trade.
The first bridge over the Derwent was a toll-bridge built at New Norfolk during 1840-41. The first pile was ceremoniously driven by Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Franklin on May 15, 1840, watched by a crowd that included 150 Hobartians who had travelled up river by steam ferry for the occasion. The toll has long gone; indeed so has the bridge – the current bridge is the fourth - but the toll-house still stands on the north bank.
The first trunk telephone line call in Australia was made from Hobart to the Bush Inn in 1888, the year after the railway arrived in town.
The population in 2014 (c7600)was about the same as it was about 40 years previously but it is not so much a matter of stagnation as replacement. The closure of the Royal Derwent Hospital and the end of the Hydro-electric era upstream has been balanced by the increase in agricultural investment in the Derwent Valley and the huge surge in tourism over recent years.