Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Hobart Ordnance Store

One of the earliest tangible traces of ‘Ordnance’ in Australia was the existence of an Ordnance store located on the Derwent River in Hobart Town which was constructed in 1806. The Mulgrave Battery was later constructed in 1818 was linked with an underground passage with that Ordnance store which enabled ammunition to be fed directly to the battery site. The need for a permanent Ordnance store was recognized and authorized in 1832, but a more suitable site away from the Mulgrave Battery was needed.

In 1833, John Lee Archer, one of Australia's most renowned early colonial architects, was commissioned to design new buildings to house the Ordnance stores on Castray Esplanade.  The Ordnance stores would house all government supplies, both military and convict. With the completion of a new Government wharf in 1834 an adjacent site was chosen for the Ordnance facility and the foundations for the new Ordnance building was marked out. Tenders were let in 1836 and hundreds of convicts (housed in hulks moored at New Wharf) quarried the cliffs behind Salamanca, cut the stone and built the Ordnance stores on Castray Esplanade with work being completed in 1838 at a total cost of three and a half thousand pounds.

The completed building was comprised of three stories and was constructed in fine sandstone. The Ordnance Department and the Army occupied this sandstone facility for some 120 years before passing over the property to the Post Master General’s Department in 1956. The sale of the property by the Department of the Army occurred following transfer of the Tasmanian Ordnance Depot to the new and expanded facilities at Dowsing Point. The transfer price for the property realized a mere fourteen thousand eight hundred pounds being for the stores building, the property site and the married quarter cottage.

The Ordnance buildings have now been classified under the Battery Point Planning Scheme as a special purpose building of historical interest and natural beauty.  Today, the storehouses have been converted into a collection of restaurants, cafes, art galleries and studios, specialty shops and residences.

Text & Information sourced from Australian Heritage Database & Salamanca Wharf Hotel website


  1. Do you know anything about a convict establishment (possibly female housing) on Collins Street in hobart in the 1850s?

    1. Hi There.
      Havent seen anything specific regarding that so far but would be interested in finding out more. I will follow this up. Thanks for the heads up. :)

  2. I wonder why the building had to be three storeys high. Possibly because the gorgeous sandstone was plentiful and the convict labour was free, so the local government thought "why not?"

    The building was completed in 1838, so it would be interesting to know at that stage if people believed convict transport would be continuing for a long time to Hobart. When did it actually end?

    1. Also maybe because the building was designed for multiple use with both convict & military supplies being stored on the premises. Convict transport to Van Diemens Land ceased in 1854 although there were still plenty of convicts around Tasmania who still had to complete lengthy sentences.