Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Hobartville Wall

In the 1830s Commercial Road was referred to as 'the old road to New Town'.  It would have formed part of the oldest road in Van Diemen's Land - the original route linking Hobart Town with New Town Bay where the first land grants to free settlers were established in February 1804.  The gradient at the northern end of Commercial Road is rather steep, and the main route was realigned to follow today's Elizabeth Street.

The building which now accommodates the Friends' School was previously known as Hobartville.  It was constructed in the early 1830s for William Wilson Esq.  Wilson was a merchant, shipowner and whaler.  Wilson was married to Grace, the second daughter of David Lord, a wealthy property owner.  Wilson died around 1837 and Grace died in August 1844. Hobartville was subsequently acquired by James Lord, Grace's brother.  James was a landowner and politician, and was interested in horseracing and hunting with hounds.

Hobartville became a regular starting point for hunts which then ranged over Mount Stuart and Knocklofty at a time when the area was still largely undeveloped.  James died at Hobartville in May 1881 and his widow, Mary, died there in December 1884. The Hobartville estate was then subdivided for residential development and most of it was sold-off in November 1885, although Hobartville and the surrounding 5 acres were retained until it was purchased for the Friends' School in September 1888.

Correspondence amongst the Friends who managed the school mentioned the property 'which was notable for the six hundred feet of brick wall on its western boundary'. The wall is very high and is topped with broken glass embedded in mortar and would have surely discouraged even the most committed burglar.  The bricks are bonded together, rather appropriately, in English Garden Wall pattern with three rows of stretchers followed by one row of headers.

The wall appears to date back to the early 1830s when Hobartville was built.  At that time there was a Government brickfield located nearby at the site of today's North Hobart Football Oval and presumably the bricks were manufactured by the convicts working there. The wall is only one of two such walls remaining in Hobart.

The Friends' School undertook an extensive building development program in the 1920s. The works included the construction of a new Science and Art Block and the now iconic two-storey portico.  The gateway with 'The Friends' School' embossed across the top appears to date from this period.

Main Text & Information – Australian Heritage Database

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

St Matthews Church, New Norfolk

If the Bush Inn is reputed to be the oldest continuously licensed hotel in Australia it is probably fitting that Tasmania's oldest church also exists in New Norfolk. The Anglican Church of St Matthew in Bathurst Street opposite the delightful Arthur Square was built in 1823 and is said to be the oldest church in Tasmania, given that the original St David’s in Hobart was replaced and St John’s in Launceston is four months less venerable.

It was begun in 1823 and opened for services in 1825. The church was built as a response to the rapid expansion of population in the district. By 1822 there were 600 people living in the area. The early Church, which was erected in 1823 by David Lambe was used as a schoolhouse and chapel mainly by the Norfolk Islanders who formed a large part of the congregation.  When Robert Knopwood retired as Government Chaplain in Hobart in 1825 he went to live at New Norfolk and it was the inhabitants of New Norfolk who requested that he be appointed to St. Matthews. He was duly appointed but for some reason had restrictions applied to his duties, he wasn’t allowed to baptize children or perform marriage ceremonies. It was left to The Reverend Hugh Robinson who was appointed to administer the parish in 1826, to perform these duties.

The church was consecrated in 1828 by Archdeacon Scott from Sydney. It has been the subject of numerous alterations. In 1833 extensive additions made it a much more impressive building. A tower was added in 1870 and in 1894, after a period of energetic fund raising, the chancel was added and the windows, roof and transepts were altered. It is clearly not the same church which was built on the site in 1823. All that is left of the original church are the walls and flagged floor of the nave and part of the western transept.

St Matthews originally had a peal of 8 bells said to have been on loan from Port Arthur. However, the bells were not very melodious and the bell tower was not very well constructed so in 1900 it was dismantled. At the same time the entrance was relocated, the sanctuary and side chapel were added and the roof realigned to become the building that survives today.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the church is the excellent historical stained glass windows. There are also some original furnishings including the pulpit, the prayer table & the small alter in the chancel. Perhaps one of the most well known marriages in early colonial times was performed at St. Matthew’s and that was between Norah Cobben (ex convict) and Jorgen Jorgenson, convict, naval officer, police superintendent and explorer and self styled King of Iceland.

Today St. Matthew’s with its beautiful stained glass windows would be one of the most well known churches in the Derwent Valley.

Main Text & Information Sources
Information signs around St Matthews & the surrounding area

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Sir John Franklin's Lost Ship Discovered

One of the greatest mysteries of the Victorian era of exploration has been solved this week, with the remains of former Tasmanian Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated 1845 voyage to the Northwest Passage discovered on the ocean floor off Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently announced sonar had captured images of one of the vessels, following a government-sponsored hunt that began in 2008. The discovery of the wreck was confirmed on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, using a remotely operated underwater vehicle recently acquired by Parks Canada. Details of where exactly the ship was found have not yet been released.

Sonar Image - Parks Canada

In 1845, celebrated former Tasmanian lieutenant Governor Sir John Franklin vanished during a voyage on the edge of the Arctic Circle north of Canada. Sir John Franklin led the two ships and 129 men in 1845 to chart the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic. The expedition's disappearance shortly after became one of the great mysteries of the age of Victorian exploration. Franklin, who served as a reformist leader of island colony from 1836 until his removal in 1843, led an expedition of two ships and 129 men to the Arctic two years later but the explorers vanished soon after.

Sonar Image - Parks Canada

Franklin was searching for a way through the Northwest Passage, hoping to find a northern sea link between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The loss of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror prompted one of largest searches in history, running from 1848 to 1859. The mystery has gripped people for generations, in part because no one knows for sure exactly what happened to the crew. Experts believe the ships were lost when they became locked in the ice near King William Island and that the crews abandoned them in a hopeless bid to reach safety.

Sir John Franklin's wife spearheaded an attempt to find him, launching five ships in search of her husband and even leaving cans of food on the ice in the desperate hope he would find them. Stories gleaned from the local indigenous people, the Inuits, suggest the expedition became locked in ice and perished. In desperation, it was claimed the stranded party resorted to cannibalism. However, Lady Jane Franklin refused to accept her husband met such a horrid fate and continued raising money to fund searches many years after he was last heard from and long after most authorities had given up hope of his survival. Despite a great number of search expeditions over the following decade, no sign had ever found of the HMS Erebus or the HMS Terror.

Three bodies discovered over a century later in the 1980s were found to have a high lead content and to this day, many people believe the 129 crew members were poisoned by leaking lead in their poorly soldered tin cans. More recent research suggests the canned food supplied to Franklin was not acidic enough for that to happen and the lead was more likely to have come from the internal pipe system on the ships.

The search resulted in the discovery of the Northwest Passage, which runs from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Arctic Archipelago. The discovery of Franklin's vessels is considered one of the most sought-after prizes in marine archaeology. A team of Canadian divers and archaeologists has been trying to find the ships since 2008.

Sir John and Lady Jane were in Van Diemen’s Land between 1836 and 1843 and left an enormous legacy, establishing a museum, university and helping develop the island’s reputation beyond that of a penal colony. Their contribution to Tasmanian society is significant and positive. Franklin’s legacy is still visible in Tasmania today, with both a river and village named after him and his wife, his statue a prominent feature of Hobart’s Franklin Square, while University of Tasmania residential college Jane Franklin Hall was named after his widow.

Main Text written by Duncan Abey - “The Mercury” newspaper, September 11 2014
Extra text from BBC World news - Fabled Arctic Ship Found
Extra text from “The Mercury” September 11 2014 - Ice Thaws on Franklin Find

Sir John Franklin Biographies & Historic Photos
Wikipedia - Sir John Franklin
Australian Dictionary of Biography - Sir John Franklin

Alison Alexander’s Book – The Ambition of Jane Franklin - Jane Franklin

Video from CBC's "The National" Youtube Channel

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Gatesheath Cottage

Thomas Hodgson Bromfield was a prominent member of a family of well known schoolmasters in Hobart Town in the early to mid 1800's. By 1845, he was proprietor of a school based in Roxburgh House in Elizabeth Street. he continued in this role for some time until in August 1863, he purchased the corner block of what was known as the "Limekilns Reserve" subdivision at the top end of Murray street. According to the Government gazette, the area was named after the Government Limekilns that has operated in the area since 1816.

On his newly acquired Murray Street lot, Bromfield built his new school building and called it the "Tasmanian Academy". For many years after this, his school enjoyed a very sound reputation. Gatesheath has one particularly extraordinary feature inside. There is a single large room on the right hand side of the short hallway. It is broad, extending the full width of the house and takes up nearly half of the available ground floor area. There is a very good reason for this feature. The extra large room was the original classroom.

Many years later, when Bromfield's grandson. Mr F.C.L. Alcock, owned Gatesheath, it was also known as "The Dairy" because he worked as a milk vendor and customers would often come around to pick up their milk from the house.

Gatesheath is an excellent example of a basic simple design. Steep stairs inside lead up to 4 well lit rooms that are not visible from the Murray street approach. The house apparently remained in the Alcock family until 1989 when it was sold as part of a deceased estate. The house now remains in private ownership.

It is a beautiful looking cottage and sits in a very prominent position at the intersection roundabout of Murray Street & Burnett Street.

Main Information & Text Sources -
“Mansions, Cottages and All Saints” – Book by Audrey Holiday & Walter Eastman