Sunday, 26 January 2014

Saracen's Head Inn

Right from the beginning, the settlement at Sullivans Cove spread out from the original area as more and more settlers came to Hobart Town and ultimately received land grants and set up farms etc. The earliest north bound traffic out of Hobart Town was to the township at Richmond. From early times, the Richmond region became one of the major wheat growing areas in the colony and it was also on the main road to the east coast. With all this new traffic heading in that direction, a “half way house” was needed to help service the travelers. And as it happens, the building is still there today in its original location and in wonderful condition.

It was built in the late 1820’s – about 1828 – making it just a little younger than the township of Richmond which was laid out by Lt Governor Sorell in 1824. The coaching Inn was named “The Saracen’s Head Inn” and today it is one of the oldest surviving convict built residences in or near Hobart. It is believed to be the 12th oldest continually inhabited home, and it retains most of its original features.

The Inn is built of stones and is pure Georgian in design. The Inn was built by convicts from the recently constructed Richmond Gaol and befitting an inn where cold and weary travelers would be looking for a bed and food and undoubtedly a libation or two, the Saracen’s Head Inn had fireplaces of enormous proportions, big enough to walk into.

The inn retains its original flagstone entrance, the spacious farm style kitchen still has a timber lined, cathedral ceiling and the wear and tear on the original flagstone step into it speaks volumes about its welcoming warmth.

French doors lead from it into a rather unique, high walled courtyard of stone lined with convict bricks. Perfect for the seclusion and privacy of the guests. Outside the wall are some fruit trees (the remnants of an orchard?) that are of great age. Some of them were grown from seeds brought by ship from England in the mid 19th century.

Upstairs, the bedrooms have retained their character and charm and a concealed entrance to a smaller staircase leads to the servants quarters in the attic.

For many a poor soul travelling from Richmond Gaol  through to Hobart Town for execution for capital offences, the Saracen’s Head Inn was the last non institutional accommodation that they would enjoy prior to meeting their unfortunate end.

It is reported that the Inn has two resident ghosts! One is reputed to be a young lady from a coaching party who was murdered in the flagstoned kitchen and is said to be heard dancing up the stairs and the second is reputed to be a stonemason who was never paid for his work and so came back to haunt the Saracen’s Head Inn.

The Inn is not easy to see from the East Derwent Hwy because it is hidden behind an old row of enormous pine trees. Both the pines and the building are more than 160 years old and have both been classified by the National Trust. For many of those 160 years, the Inn was occupied by the one family, The Shone family. According to information, their hop fields surrounded the property, they had their own kiln and dances were held there each year to celebrate the end of the season. The whole establishment has been cherished and looked after by the few owners it has had and the present owners have maintained that tradition.

The property has recently been put up for sale as a bed & breakfast business opportunity so it is hoped that the site will once again provide rest and relaxation for weary travelers.
A beautifully preserved building and surrounds that is probably one of the finest examples of an early colonial Coaching Inn to be found around Tasmania.

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