Daniel Herbert was born in Somerset in 1797. He lived in Leeds and worked as a signboard writer. Following his involvement in a hold-up, he was sentenced to death in 1827. Only hopeless unemployment and poverty could have driven such a talented man to desperate measures.
‘All I longed for was peace of death. But they wouldn’t grant me even that…’. He was transported for life to Van Diemen’s Land on the ship Asia. Following various misdemeanors, he gained a little respect as an overseer at the building of the new Customs House in Hobart (Tasmania’s Parliament House today). He was sent to Ross on the orders of architect Lee Archer to work on the new Ross Bridge with fellow convict mason James Colbeck, against the wishes of Superintendent of Convicts Josiah Spode. ‘… He spent the night out; tread wheel seven days … found in Devine’s Public House after hours; treat wheel and a month in irons … absent on the 18th … twenty five lashes’.
After construction delays of more than three years, convict stonemasons James Colebeck and Daniel Herbert were assigned as overseers. Tempted by conditional pardons offered by Lt Governor George Arthur for a speedy conclusion, the project took approximately eighteen months more to finish. The work included the carving of 186 stones that form the arches of the bridge. The carvings depict many symbols, including flora, fauna and faces of notable characters of its time. Daniel Herbert is attributed as the artist of the carved designs and sculptor of approximately eighty icons, the rest were completed by other convict bridge workers under Herbert’s instructions.
Herbert had married in 1835 and he and his wife, Mary Witherington remained in Ross, where he was prosperous as a stone mason until his death in 1868 at the age of seventy one. Mary lived on until her death in 1890 at the age of eighty five. Their handsome tomb, carved by Herbert is in the old cemetery at Ross.
Our Wool Centre Museum History Room has a detailed permanent display covering Herbert’s life and his work, including incredible replicas of many Ross Bridge carvings and a full size replica of the family’s tomb. Open 7 days.