These cottages are believed to be the oldest remaining buildings on the site of the shipbuilding yards of Napoleon Street. It is believed that the cottages were built around 1842 by John Watson, the shipbuilder. They are constructed of painted brick, three bricks thick with lath and plaster inside. The internal walls are of timber with tongue and groove boards. The ceilings are the same and inside the roof are battens that the original shingles were attached to.
The cottages were built on a portion of the 90 acres of land originally granted to Lieutenant Governor William Sorrell Esquire, third Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land. These 90 acres were sold to William Kermode in 1824. In 1833 the block that the Mariners Cottages stand on was purchased by James Kelly, Master Mariner of Hobart Town. He leased the site to John Watson on 1839. Watson eventually purchased the site from Kelly in 1843.
The description of the sale at the time mentions "Land & Buildings"and it is believed that John Watson had already built the lower cottage. One survey from the time, documents the lower cottage as a store and it is believed that Watson used the lower cottage to store timber and other articles used for shipbuilding. There were also a blacksmith's shop and carpenter's shop nearby.
John Watson had arrived from England in 1831 and for two years, he was in charge of shipbuilding at Port Arthur. He set up his own business on this site in 1839 and he went on to build some of the most famous ships in the colony, including the "Flying Childers" which features on the crest of the Hobart City Council.
In 1856, the property was offered for sale and was ultimately purchased by Duncan McPherson. The shipyard was run by J Lucas & R.A Jeffrey and then in the 1880's by Messrs Tilly & Williams.
After the shipyard was sold, the cottages were leased to various tenants for more than a century. Some very poor additions (more than 50 years ago) rising damp and water spillage from the nearby road had all caused considerable damage to the buildings, especially to the top cottage.
In 1983, the Hobart City Council, as the owners of the buildings, leased the cottages to the National Trust of Australia (Battery Point Group) in return for a peppercorn rent with the National Trust agreeing to restore the cottages and to this point, it has spent more than $20,000 in doing so.
In addition, members of the Cruising Yacht Club of Tasmania have given hundreds of hours in labour and support of the restoration. Up until recently, the cottages were used as an antiques store and display.
Main Text & Information - Information board on site.