Sunday, 22 November 2015

St John's Watch Houses

In 1841, well-known convict architect James Blackburn designed the two sandstone watch houses at the entrance to St John's Avenue. Both had an entrance porch. Blackburn's original plan for No.1 had two main rooms, one for men and one for women, and three smaller rooms (cells?). No.2 had three main rooms for constables.

Blackburn's watch houses may not have been the first on the site. Charles Bruce's etching in 1831 depicts two watchhouses in a similar location but there is no evidence that they were built. In the early 1840s, it was reported that

“A Watch house is very much required at New Town on the main road - where the population is thick - and I should feel obliged by His Excellency The Governor authorizing a sum not exceeding 200 pounds to be paid for this service and arrangements with the Director General of Public Works be made to put up the building - The Head Master of the Queen's Orphan School is very anxious to have a Watch house and residence as lodges at the entrance to the Orphan School property heading to the Church.”

The watch houses have had a variety of uses and are also known as gate houses. At one stage, No.1 St John's Avenue was used for the Hobart District Nursing Service and now hosts the Mental Health Carers of Tasmania. No.2 now houses the offices of Hobart Hackerspace Inc.

The watch houses are an essential part of the St Johns precinct, these buildings although not to the original John Lee Archer design, are fine examples of Blackburn's ability. The relationship of the buildings to St Johns Church is very powerful and reinforced by the avenue planting. An example of bold and imaginative planning in colonial times.

Main Text & Information Source – 

Historic Photos – 
Tasmania Police Historical Group Facebook Page

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Tunbridge Convict Bridge

Tunbridge is the site of Australia's oldest single span wooden bridge. Spanning the Blackman River, the bridge was built by convicts in 1848 and is a rare example of a sandstone bridge with wooden decking. This bridge crosses the Blackman River at the northern end of Tunbridge. This bridge is an important symbol of the north/south boundary of Tasmania, the Blackman River being the traditional boundary between the northern and southern regions of Tasmania.

It is an impressive structure with a timber deck on top of three intermediate piers of picked stone with four spans. Each stone pier is topped with a short tower with corbelled top. Timber balustrades link the towers on either side of the bridge. It is said to be the oldest timber-decked bridge in Australia.

The bridge was used as a secret meeting place for a fascinating group of political exiles known as the 'Young Irelanders'. To avoid being seen, they arranged with the local inn to deliver their food where they gathered under the bridge. The bridge is still in use for local traffic and is a major component of the townscape of Tunbridge.

Main Text & Information Sources – 
Australian Heritage Database

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Scots Church, Sorell

Built by the Presbyterian church after representations were made to Governor Franklin in the 1830’s.The church was planned after the appointment of Rev Thomas Dugall to Sorell in 1839 when services at the time were being held in the Sorell courthouse. The foundation stone was laid in 1840 and the building completed in 1842 to a design by James Blackburn, with gabled roof, a central tall square tower, semi-circular arch-topped entrance and buttresses. Windows are tall and multi-paned, with arched tops, and simple, engaged columns at the sides. The northern facade has a fine, central recessed window, and flanking columns in relief.

Located in Arthur Street is described in the National Estate Register as "A sandstone Romanesque Revival church. The total cost for the finished church was 1415 pounds which came from public donations and via government contribution with the bell for the new church being donated by local land holder, George Marshall. An unusual stone church which is a fine example of Blackburn's work."

Difficulties in securing the services of a minister resulted in the church being unused for many years and the building ultimately fell into disrepair. Ministerial shortages continued to plague the church through to the 1920’s. It was restored in 1960-1961 by a group of volunteer workers with assistance from the National Trust and the government, successfully bring the church back to a safe standard to allow the church to receive heritage classification by the National Trust.

The church site has been surrounded by the construction of retirement units that were first constructed in 1968 and have been added to over the following years.

The Scots Church building has been considered to be the finest of the 3 National Estate Register listed churches in Sorell with its unusual design and is regarded as one of the earliest Romanesque churches in Australia.

Main Text & Information Source – 
Sorell Heritage Study, Site Inventory Vol 5 – Sorell City Council

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Old Post Office, Bothwell

An unusual and highly memorable Victorian timber building constructed in 1888 as the Commercial Bank of Tasmania and residence. The richly detailed facades of the bank, and the numerous other quality details throughout, are a fine testament to the capacities of the responsible Victorian carpenters and their craft. It served as the bank until 1895 when it became a pharmacy before being surrendered to the government for postal purposes in 1898.

It served in that capacity throughout the 20th century and beyond until in 2007 the post office was moved and the building became a shop.

The town’s last remaining hitching rail (where you can tie up your horse after riding into town) is still in the front of the building. The property is now a private residence.

Main Text & Information Sources – 
Interpretive Sign at the Site
Australian Heritage Database