Thursday, 28 March 2013

Domain House (High School Of Hobart Town)

Domain House is a grand neo-Gothic sandstone landmark built in 1848-49. It represents an important part of early colonial education as it originally began its life as the High School Of Hobart Town.
The High School was founded in 1848 by a group of leading Presbyterians and Free Churchmen, including Rev. John Lillie, Minister of St Andrews Church, Hobart. A grant of land on the Queens Domain was received from the crown and a building design was requested. The design by A. Dawson was begun in 1848 by Messrs. Cleghorn and Anderson, Builders, costing approx $3600. 

The school officially opened in 1850 and 56 boys were enrolled to commence the first term of classes. By 1851 there were already 81 pupils registered and attending classes. By 1859, boarders were being accepted and a junior school had been commenced. Dr Lillie was the first official Rector. In 1857, Rev. R.D.P. Harris was appointed Rector and remained in the position until 1885, leasing the school from the shareholders from 1862. 

The objective of the High School, as originally described, was the ‘instruction of youth in the higher branches of learning, as taught in superior classical and mathematical schools in England’, the ultimate objective being ‘to confer on Australian youth the inestimable advantages offered in European universities’. In 1885, the rights to the operation of the school were handed over to Christ College and the building was sold to the newly established University of Tasmania in 1892. It remained in the hands of the University until the main university campus was moved to its current location in Sandy Bay in 1962.

Subsequently the site became home to the Tasmanian School of Art for a period of 8 years from 1963 until 1971 when the School of Art moved to Mt Nelson and TAFE Tasmania took over the use of the building. Domain House was re-acquired, along with a number of other buildings in the precinct, by the University of Tasmania in 2011 after remaining basically vacant and unused for a large number of years and is now undergoing conservation and restoration work and will find new life as part of the University of Tasmania again into the 21st century. 

It certainly is a magnificent building that boasts an extensive history of colonial education from some of the earliest days of the colony through to the current day. It’s great to see the building being conserved and being actively utilized and available for people to visit and enjoy and not being left to rot and collapse, or have it demolished as some any of our precious historic buildings have been across the country over the years.