Norfolk Island has a coulourful history tainted with an unimagineable legacy of cruelty and bloodshed. The Historic Kingston (Norfolk's Capital) Precinct at the southern extremity of Norfolk is the most significant historic site on the Island. Kingston is where the frist convict settlement landed and the construction of buildings and roads began.
Leave Burnt Pine via Ferny Lane (sometimes called Peter's Highway) and follow it around the airport until you come to Country Road. Turn left, follow it for a hundred metres and go straight ahead down Beefsteak Road. A stone's throw along on your right, you'll see Longridge House, well worth a visit, either for a meal or devonshire tea, or to re-live life as it was in bygone Norfolk days. Return to Country Road, turn right and in about a minute you'll come to Watermill Dam on your right. Pop in and say hello to the ducks (and the feral chooks) then continue on down Jemima Robinson Avenue, lined with exactly 100 pines, commemorating the 100 years lived by that lady. When you come to the massive walls of the Commissariat Store, turn right. We'll be returning to this corner but, for now, follow Pier Street to the jetty and let your mind drift back to 1856 when 194 Pitcairners set eyes on their new home.
You're now in the heart of old Kingston Town. Be prepared to spend at least half a day in the vicinity. (You'll need more if you're planning to take in the four engrossing museums as well on the same day. You can get lunch at the Royal Engineers' Office near the jetty).
Soon you will imagine you hear the voices of the convict miners as they labour to build these beautifully-proportioned buildings from limestone they have quarried from Point Hunter or Nepean Island. But Norfolk weaves such a serene spell that you will find yourself soaking up its grim past without a jolting sense of shock, not quite believing that such a Paradise could ever have been such a Hell.
As you stroll around Kingston, you will be part of a 19th century village, scarcely changed from the days when the forced blacksmiths, masons, bakers, shingle-splitters, cloth and cord makers, tailors and bullockies plied their trades.
The walls of the infamous pentagonal prison and its equally repugnant hospital still stand, as do those of the ghastly Crankmill (now roof-less), under whose floor, it is rumoured, are buried hundreds of artifacts awaiting disinterment. The Pier Store and Royal Engineers Office, now museums, beckon. Close by can still be seen one of the main sawpits where the 'top dog' would lift the saw upwards and the 'underdog' would pull it down.
Where the prison walls end at Slaughter Bay, you'll see the plaque commemorating the tragic end of the flagship of the First Fleet and, nearby, the Sirius Museum. Take in the Salt Mill and continue around Emily Bay out to the tip of Point Hunter (named after the captain of the Sirius) and gaze back on one of the prettiest bays on this planet.
Drive back to the Commissariat's Store corner and walk around it and the Old and New Military Barracks whose massive walls and corner towers were built to withstand any convict uprising. There is the whole of Quality Row to explore, including the lovingly refurbished No. 10.
In the supremely beautiful beach-side cemetery, you will have to shake yourself to realise that these tombstones whose engraved words invoke the ghosts of penal days are not part of some mirage. Here is the headstone of Thomas Salsbry Wright who died in manacles at the age of 105 - could this really be true? It is. He was sentenced, at the age of 99, for forgery, despite his claim that he "had as much right as any man to run a bank".
Just past the cemetery, you will come to Bloody Bridge. Be sure to get out of your car and contemplate the legend:
This bridge was built by convict labour in the time of Major Anderson, the merciless, one-eyed Scot they called 'Potato Joe', for his act of substituting potatoes for bread in the convict's rations. It's a very handsome little bridge - the engineers who designed it had an eye for timeless grace, a refinement doubtless lost on the poor devils who built it. Their every step was impeded by irons, mostly weighing fifteen pounds and some as much as twenty two pounds. Dysentery constantly gnawed at their vitals. Already half-crazed by their suffering, they were goaded ceaselessly by their overseer in the hope of inducing a glance of protest. This offense, called 'dumb insolence', earned immediate retribution - the cat o' nine tails.
Suddenly, one of them exploded and drove a pick through the brain of his tormentor. Knowing that every one of them would be punished horribly if the bleeding corpse were to be discovered, the gang walled it up in the bridge. When the relieving overseer turned up at midday, he asked where his predecessor was. "Oh!", was the reply, "he went for a swim down there in the bay. We think he must have drowned".
Unfortunately for them, through the still-wet mortar between the bluestones, something began to ooze ....... it was the blood of the entombed overseer!
Continue on up Driver Christian Road to Collins Head Road which will take you back to Burnt Pine.