Saturday, 10 August 2013

Pitt Farm

Pitt Farm is a brick Colonial Georgian farmhouse built about 1810 which still survives intact in the Hobart suburb of New Town. The building occupies an historic site adjacent to a river and rich alluvial flats. Richard Pitt (1765-1826) emigrated to Australia as a free settler with Lieutenant-Governor David Collins' expedition which arrived at the Derwent in February 1804. The authorities considered it desirable to separate the free settlers from the convicts and so they were granted land 4 kilometres north of Hobart Town on the fertile land adjoining the New Town Rivulet.

Pitt was formally granted 100 acres on the northern side of the rivulet by the Governor of New South Wales, Philip Gidley King, on 18 December 1805 where he subsequently constructed this brick colonial Georgian farmhouse circa 1810. Although a relatively modest home, Pitt Farm was built in a style that emulated the grander houses of the period with two storeys, a wide verandah, 10 main rooms and a cellar (which is where Mr Pitt’s convict servant, McShane, is believed to have resided during his tenure at Pitt Farm.

Pitt was one of the few early settlers to have any prior knowledge of farming and was the most successful. There is some uncertainty regarding the precise year in which Pitt Farm was built but it was probably around 1810. Following Pitt's death in 1826, the property passed to his son, Francis, who rented it out to various tenants.

In 1885 the 100 acres were being leased to Dr Harry Benjafield, owner of the nearby Albert Park property and its homestead, Dorset House. Benjafield developed orchards in the area and is a major figure in the history of Tasmania's fruit industry. John Forster (1841-1908) rented Pitt Farm and its 100 acres from at least as early as 1899, and in 1906 he purchased Pitt Farm and the 5 acres between today's Albert Road and the rivulet for 750 pounds. Forster’s daughter, Edith, married James Ernest Phythian in 1910 and he became the owner. By 1930, Phythian was renting out half of the property (2.5 acres) to Chinese market gardeners.

During the 1960s and 70s the property was subdivided and a number of industrial buildings were constructed along the Albert Road frontage. In the 1980s Pitt Farm was occupied by Frank Phythian who had lived there since his birth in 1911 and had raised four children there.

Pitt Farm was nearly destroyed by fire in April 2007. The structure of the house and rear roof were largely unaffected, and the building was salvageable. The fire and subsequent restoration have revealed many previously hidden features of the house. The current owners have gone to great pains to ensure that Pitt Farm is sympathetically restored.

Pitt Farm is classified as amongst the oldest farmhouses in Australia. The buildings are now surrounded on two sides by industrial development which effectively blocks views of the property from the main road which is extremely unfortunate. Truly a hidden gem!!!!

Pitt Farm has been part of Heritage Tasmania’s “Open Doors” program where featured historic houses and properties are opened to HT members and the public to take tours through these privately owned homes. A fantastic initiative!!!

Photos, Text & Information: Australian Heritage Database & Heritage Tasmania