Sunday, 14 December 2014

Beaumaris

Beaumaris was built for Henry Llewellyn Roberts and his wife, Mary, in 1878-79.  It was situated on a two acre block of land on the eastern side of Sandy Bay Road (then known as Montpelier Road) and extended back to Newcastle Street. Henry was the founder of today’s Roberts Limited.  The company started in 1865 as an agricultural auctioneering firm.  It still operates in the farming industry but is now better known for being Tasmania’s largest real estate agency.

Henry’s wife, Mary, was interested in the welfare of animals and developed a private collection of exotic birds and native animals in the grounds of their Battery Point home.  It became known as Beaumaris Zoo but was not open to the public except during special fundraising events for local charities.  Mary is recognised as the first zookeeper to draw attention to indigenous Tasmanian fauna.  Her collection included thylacines (Tasmanian tigers) and she was the first person to breed Tasmanian devils in captivity.

When Mary died in November 1921, her daughter gave the collection of birds and animals to the Hobart City Council.  They relocated the zoo to a site on the Domain, near Government House, but it continued to be known as Beaumaris Zoo.  The last known thylacine died there in 1936 but the event attracted little attention at the time.  High running costs and falling attendances led to the zoo’s closure the following year.
Henry and Mary’s son, William Arthur Roberts lived at Beaumaris until his untimely death in April 1932.

The Roberts family offered Beaumaris for sale at auction in May 1938.  Adverts described that ‘the house is substantially built of brick and cement with slate roof, and consists of 12 main rooms, kitchen, scullery and all modern conveniences …  The garden is tastefully laid out with trees, flowers, shrubs, vegetables, etc.’  The auctioneers called attention to its unrivalled position and noted ‘the property could be easily subdivided and the house is eminently suitable for a Guest House, Private Hospital, or for conversion into flats.’

Beaumaris didn’t sell at auction but was purchased by the Defence Department in February 1939.  The Anglesea Barracks were overcrowded at the time and the proximity of Beaumaris made it the perfect overflow.  The fine old home was ‘only slightly modified’ to become the headquarters and regimental office of the 12th Mixed Brigade Signals.

The Defence Department continued to own the property until the 1990s.  The grounds of Beaumaris have since been developed with modern apartments and townhouses. In my opinion, the real shame is that Beaumaris is heavily obscured from the road by the modern apartments. But at least it is still intact and being occupied as a private residence.

Main Text & Information Source - Australian Heritage Database
Australian Dictionary of Biography - Mary Grant Roberts

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