Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Hobartville Wall

In the 1830s Commercial Road was referred to as 'the old road to New Town'.  It would have formed part of the oldest road in Van Diemen's Land - the original route linking Hobart Town with New Town Bay where the first land grants to free settlers were established in February 1804.  The gradient at the northern end of Commercial Road is rather steep, and the main route was realigned to follow today's Elizabeth Street.

The building which now accommodates the Friends' School was previously known as Hobartville.  It was constructed in the early 1830s for William Wilson Esq.  Wilson was a merchant, shipowner and whaler.  Wilson was married to Grace, the second daughter of David Lord, a wealthy property owner.  Wilson died around 1837 and Grace died in August 1844. Hobartville was subsequently acquired by James Lord, Grace's brother.  James was a landowner and politician, and was interested in horseracing and hunting with hounds.

Hobartville became a regular starting point for hunts which then ranged over Mount Stuart and Knocklofty at a time when the area was still largely undeveloped.  James died at Hobartville in May 1881 and his widow, Mary, died there in December 1884. The Hobartville estate was then subdivided for residential development and most of it was sold-off in November 1885, although Hobartville and the surrounding 5 acres were retained until it was purchased for the Friends' School in September 1888.

Correspondence amongst the Friends who managed the school mentioned the property 'which was notable for the six hundred feet of brick wall on its western boundary'. The wall is very high and is topped with broken glass embedded in mortar and would have surely discouraged even the most committed burglar.  The bricks are bonded together, rather appropriately, in English Garden Wall pattern with three rows of stretchers followed by one row of headers.

The wall appears to date back to the early 1830s when Hobartville was built.  At that time there was a Government brickfield located nearby at the site of today's North Hobart Football Oval and presumably the bricks were manufactured by the convicts working there. The wall is only one of two such walls remaining in Hobart.

The Friends' School undertook an extensive building development program in the 1920s. The works included the construction of a new Science and Art Block and the now iconic two-storey portico.  The gateway with 'The Friends' School' embossed across the top appears to date from this period.

Main Text & Information – Australian Heritage Database