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

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Anglesea Barracks

The site of Anglesea Barracks, selected by Governor Lachlan Macquarie on 2 December 1811, is important as the oldest continuously occupied barracks site in Australia and for its association with the evolution of Tasmania's and Australia's military forces.

The Anglesea Barracks site was selected by Governor Lachlan Macquarie on 2 December 1811, with regulations concerning building and town planning put in place. Prior to Macquarie's arrival the planning of Hobart had been almost ad hoc. Macquarie identified the site for new barracks, now the oldest military barracks in Australia, naming it Barracks Hill. The distance from the town centre was designed to reinforce the segregation of troops and populace. An ex-Officer in the 'Black Watch', Macquarie had been sent to New South Wales in late 1809 to replace Governor Bligh and the Rum Corps.

By 1810 new Barracks were started by Macquarie in Sydney, in what is now Wynyard Square. In Hobart, Macquarie ordered a single storey barracks to accommodate 150 soldiers with quarters for a captain and three officers and a small hospital and kitchen. This was not only for strategic defense purposes but also for the segregation of the troops from the convicts and other settlers. Fraternization between soldiers and convicts was understandable as many shared a common class background and also fought together in military campaigns throughout the empire. With the establishment of the barracks, contact with the convict population was to be restricted and the feared threat of moral contamination and behaviour was minimized.

A plan of works was to be sent from Sydney. Due to shortages of materials, and the poor performance of Major Geils, the first buildings were erected from 1814 under the new Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land, Thomas Davey. Davey laid the foundation stone of the Officers Barracks, later the Field Officers Quarters, in May 1814. Occupied in 1815 the works, including the first Soldiers Barracks, made good progress until 1818 when they were extended to meet demand. The Military Hospital, begun in 1818, may have been designed by Macquarie's aide-de-camp, Lieutenant John Watts.

The Hobart Military Barracks were a dominating landmark as convict numbers rose in the period to 1824. Water was diverted to the Barracks from the Hobart Rivulet in 1826. Independent of New South Wales in 1824, Governor George Arthur demanded an increase in the military establishment during his office 1824-1836. From 1827-1830 the capacity of the barracks doubled with duplicate barracks, now Sergeants Mess, in 1828 and new housing and mess facilities for officers.

In 1826 a new Mess room, the Officers Mess and Captain's Quarters and a new Soldier's Barracks were designed by Colonial Architect David Lambe. Architect John Lee Archer designed the proposed Subalterns Quarters in 1828, completing the suite of buildings defining the Barracks Square. Early buildings were repaired and by 1835 all buildings were in good condition. A new Canteen, designed 1831-1834 by Archer, was finished in 1835, a brick Guard House, designed in 1838 and completed in 1840, and the Fives Court in 1835-40 completed this construction phase.

In 1841 the Military-Barrack Allotment comprised a central Barracks Square flanked on opposite sides by Subaltern's and Officers Quarters and on the southern side by the Soldiers Barracks, with the Hospital at the south west corner of the site. Two kitchen blocks serviced the Soldiers Barracks, the Officers Quarters supplied with private kitchens, privies, stores and harness rooms and gardens at the rear. The Canteen building was at the head of Barracks Road. A section at the south west corner, granted for use as an Infants School, continued in use. In 1838 title of the Barracks was to be transferred from the Crown to the officers of the Ordnance. Conveyancing took nine years, with little in the way of new works.

In late 1847 the incumbent Royal Engineer, James Conway Victor, began to design new buildings. By 1850, a Military Prison and a new two storey (Soldier's) Barracks Block for 150 men and a Magazine (demolished) had been completed under the new Board of Ordnance. The Military Prison, designed 1846-47 on two levels, for twelve prisoners, was placed between the Hospital and the adjacent Officers Quarters, for security and prominence, close to the Parade Ground and entrance roadway. According to Morrison (2001) military prisons were established in the United Kingdom from 1844 and across the Empire. The purpose was to provide a regular system of military imprisonment tailored to the perceived special needs of the soldier prisoner and to help relieve pressure on civil prisons.

By 1846 there were 942 additional foot soldiers in Hobart outside the Barracks, making a total of 2091 soldiers in the colony, and the potential for discipline problems. By 1848 the barracks accommodated some 250 men and 30 sergeants and 16. A stone memorial column was erected in 1850 at the north east corner of the site in memory of the Officers and Privates of the 99th Regiment who had died in New Zealand 1845-46 during the Maori Wars. In the early 1850s the 99th Regiment school was established in the Drill Hall at the end of the Barracks nearest to the Canteen.

Transportation of convicts to Tasmania was abolished in 1853, and by 1854 British soldier numbers had dropped to below 400. The 99th was the last regiment with headquarters in Tasmania. In 1855-56 it was replaced by the 12th which remained until 1866. In 1860 Colonel R D Broughton, Royal Engineer and Commandant in Tasmania, laid out the avenue of lime trees known as Linden Avenue. The 18th was the last British regiment, leaving in 1870. Tasmania was now, like other Australian colonies, responsible for its own defence.

From 1870-1901 the barracks underwent a period of civilian occupation during which tenders for the leasehold on buildings were called in 1872. Twelve-month leases were initially available but in 1873, 3-5 year leases were available over Lots 1-13. During this period education, social welfare and recreational functions were accommodated. In 1880 title to the Barracks was transferred to the Tasmanian Government with a covenant that they be used for public purposes.

Over the next 5 years public reserves were laid out on blocks facing Hampden Road, Davey, Molle and Albuera Streets. From 1881-1905 a Girl's Training School Reformatory was situated in the Military Gaol. Other uses included the Royal Hobart Bowling Club from 1892 at the end of Linden Avenue. In 1874 American Scientist Professor Harkness used a site near the 1850 memorial column to observe the Transit of Venus.

Despite the report on Tasmanian defenses in 1877 and the new Volunteer Defense Act 1878, few buildings at the Barracks remained in military use during the period 1860-1901. These included the original Soldiers Barracks, the Drill Hall and the Captains Quarters, used by the Commanding Officer. The Boer War 1899-1902 was instrumental in revitalizing defense activity at the Barracks, but it was not until federation in 1901 that the Barracks were re-occupied under the Commonwealth government.

From 1909 a works program ensued under the Defense Acts 1903/1909, with the introduction of universal training based on the Swiss model which provided for the compulsory training of Junior and Senior cadets from the age of 12-18 and then for adult training. New structures were erected, the original Soldiers Barracks was demolished to create the Artillery Parade Ground and the adjacent two-storey Soldiers Barracks completed. In 1907 the Fives Court Building was converted into the School for Carpentry and in 1908 Sergeants Married Quarters, Gun Shed and Harness Rooms erected. In 1909 a new AAMC Depot was completed in addition to a remount stable.

In 1910 the Military Prison was extended to accommodate an Engineers Drill Room. In 1912 a Wagon Shed was attached in place of the exercise yard and a Stables Block erected. By 1913 the old Hospital had become the Commanders House. A new brick drill hall, Derwent Hall, and a Small Arms Ammunition Magazine were completed 1910-1913. With the completion of these works little was required during the First World War 1914-1918. In 1918 a new Military Repatriation Hospital was completed on Hampden Road, replaced in 1964 by the present brick hospital and nurses home.

In 1912 a site for the Albuera State School had been divided off in the south -east corner, leveled and retaining walls completed by 1913. During the 1914-18 war the site was further leveled to accommodate a parade ground for the school's cadet troops.

After the 1914-18 war there was little activity until the 1930s; the Barracks was used primarily as a Citizen's Militia Force base. In 1934 plans were produced for a restructuring of the 1828 Soldiers Barracks as drill hall, messes and offices for the Artillery, which was to be relocated from lower Macquarie Street, Hobart.
Tasmania, the Sixth Military District, continued to be directed from Melbourne during the Second World War 1939-45. Utilitarian timber and corrugated iron structures were added during this period, including a new Officers Mess. Three air raid shelters were constructed and tunnel excavated to the Administration building from Albuera Street.

At the end of the war accommodation was to be brought up to standard, resulting in the loss of some early structures, including the 1814 Officers Quarters. Temporary structures erected during the war were also removed. In 1950 the old brick magazine was converted into a married quarters. Accommodation for other ranks was provided 1956-57 in new buildings on Albuera Street and a large masonry canteen, McGee Soldiers Club, added next to the first canteen.

In the 1970s the Fives Court was reconverted into a Sport Hall and the arch of the 'Bath Inn' erected near the 1850 memorial column, to the pioneers of Van Diemen's land. Pre 1870 gravestones of British Troops were mounted on a memorial wall at this time. In 1977 a section of the site on Davey Street was set aside for a Repatriation centre, excavated and levelled. In 1980 the former Military Gaol was designated a museum.

In 1989 the Albuera Street School site and buildings were purchased by the Commonwealth and occupied as Army Reserve Headquarters. This period of expansion was reflected in the construction of a Defense Recruiting building at the Barracks Road entrance in 1993.

The Anglesea Barracks is still a working military establishment and there is no access to any buildings other than the museum. The Australian Government Department of Defense has been restoring Anglesea Barracks to conserve this significant part of our nation’s cultural & military history.

Main Information Sources:
Anglesea Barracks self guided tour booklet & Australian Heritage Database

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Ross Bridge

The original bridge at Ross had been crudely constructed in 1822 of uncemented stone piers with a road surface of logs and clay. Although it soon began to show marked signs of wear it was not until 1829 that the governor instructed that it be repaired by the Royal Staff Corps. Previously, in 1828, Nicholas Turton, the Inspector of Roads, visited the bridge after the two central piers had collapsed. Although the governor decreed that the bridge be repaired in 1829, it was not until 1836 that the present Ross bridge was opened to pedestrian and wheeled traffic. The intervening seven years were marred by corruption, inefficiency, and mismanagement.

The Royal Staff Corps arrived in Ross at the beginning of winter to repair a bridge subject to flooding in the winter months. Their commandant, Lieutenant Vache was interested in neither the bridge nor his convict ' labour. When he was recalled the following August it was as if he had never come. The rebuilding had progressed only as far as the stockpiling of cut logs and the building of an unspecified number of unconnected piers. In August 1829 Vache was recalled and the six prisoners who had come with him were placed under the supervision of Alexander Jackson, the Commissariat Clerk at Ross. Still no progress was made and although Roderick O'Connor, Inspector of Roads, was appalled at the lack of work done when he visited Ross in 1830, he could do nothing to relieve the situation as he could spare no mechanics from other construction and road work.

With the final collapse of the old bridge in March 1831, the situation became more urgent. A contractor who had been repairing the barracks at Bothwell, a Mr. Foord, was called in to superintend the bridge work. At the time of Foord’s arrival the bridge was to be rebuilt with timber. Soon afterwards however, O’Connor decided that a brick bridge would be more durable. Foord, taking advantage of the situation, erected brick kilns. Stone was also being cut from local quarries for the construction of the bridge piers. Curiously the piles of brick and stone did not seem to be increasing yet an increasing number of brick & stone buildings sprang up in the village. The official superintendant, George E Cock, the successor to Jackson as commissariat clerk, turned a blind eye to the obvious black market traffic in government supplies. However, it all soon caught up with Foord and in September 1832, he was sacked from his position.

While all this was going on, work was further being impeded by a dispute over the choice of the site for the new bridge. It was not until June 1832 that this was settled. John Lee Archer, the Government's Civil Engineer, was forced to agree that although Roderick O'Connor's site was further from the quarries it was more suitable for the type of structure they were planning. The new bridge was finally constructed approximately 100 yards downstream from the site of the old bridge.

In March 1833 it seemed that progress was finally being made. O’Connor recommended a convict, James Colbeck as superintendant of construction. Archer had, however, already hired a free settler, Shadrech Purton, as overseer. Cock remained acting superintendent. In April 1833 Archer visited the site with a revision of his original design. There were now to be three arches instead of five.

In November of that same year, 1833, a superintendent was finally appointed who had some qualifications for the job. This was Charles Atkinson, a young English architect recently arrived in the colony. He was appointed by Governor Arthur himself. Events of 1834-5 proved, however, that without a master mason the architect was nothing. In December 1834, Colbeck, who had been in Ross since 1831, was sent, along with others, to Hobart Town for discipline. By March 1835, however, the work on the bridge in the absence of Colbeck had virtually ceased. In May 1835, Archer requested that Colbeck and another convict, Daniel Herbert, who was overseer of the building of the new Customs House in Hobart, be sent to Ross. In the same month, Archer and Josiah Spode, Principal Superintendant of Convicts requested emancipation for both Colbeck & Herbert on completion of the bridge. This was later granted by the Governor.

From this time onwards work continued systematically and consistently. The architect, Charles Atkinson, was dismissed in 1835 though he stayed in Ross to continue work on St. John's Church of England. He was replaced by William Turner in June, at the same time that Herbert and Colbeck arrived. Atkinson’s dismissal seemed to have no effect at all on the progress of construction. As the new superintendant, Turner made no secret of the fact that he had no knowledge of construction and placed the supervision of the project entirely in the hands of Colbeck & Herbert.

One year later, on 14 July 1836, the bridge was completed and was declared open by Governor Arthur on 21 October 1836. At the same time the remains of the old bridge disappeared for ever; it was blown up. It had taken Herbert and Colbeck only thirteen months to do the bulk of the construction work on a project that had been started seven• years previously. Even more amazingly it had taken only fifty-eight weeks - from 29 May 1835 to 14 July 1836 - to carve the 186 arch stones.

The feature which sets this bridge apart from its contemporaries is the series of carvings on the arches. There are 186 carvings in all, 31 over the top of each arch. Many are not directly representational but give impressions of rural activity with stylised wool bales and wheat sheaves. On the keystones, and elsewhere on the bridge face, are depictions of human and animal figures. The people include Daniel Herbert's wife, Mary; a self-portrait of Herbert himself; Jorgen Jorgensen, a Danish adventurer and his wife Norah Cobbett; Lt.Governor George Arthur caricatured in his top hat; the sixteenth century protestant, John Calvin; John Headlam, the hated schoolmaster, identified by his mortar board; William Kermode, a grazier prominent in local affairs; and a Tasmanian aborigine.

The bridge has become the most famous of the bridges on and around the Midland Highway  and carries the road into Ross across the Macquarie River. It is generally accepted as the most beautiful masonry bridge in Australia and matches its beauty with a sense of strength and permanence.

Main Text & Information Source
Studies in Historical Archaeology #3 – Ross Bridge, Tasmania – Maureen Byrne 1976

Wednesday, 15 January 2014


There’s something very interesting about this elegant private hotel, built as a private dwelling nearly a century and a half ago. To step off Davey St and see the graveled, circular driveway sweeping up to one of Hobart’s most imposing portico entrances, is to view early 19th century architectural perfection. That majestic, Huon Pine Georgian style portico was just made for this building.

The interest  lies in the fact that it wasn’t. It originally was part of Dr W.Giblins residence at 142 Macquarie Street and was saved when that building was demolished in the 1950’s. But the charm of Islington is founded on more than Dr. Giblin’s porch. It is one of the few examples or Regency style architecture in Hobart and was built in 1845 for Mrs. Sarah Hodgson – a woman who achieved much (mainly through marrying wisely) despite the fact that both of her parents had been transported separately as convicts.

Sarah, whose father, George Guest, was the first man to introduce sheep into Van Diemen’s Land, first married a prosperous surgeon, merchant and ship owner, Thomas Birch in September 1808. One of Birch’s men, Captain James Kelly, discovered Macquarie Harbor on Tasmania’s west coast and named Sarah Island in honour of his employer’s wife.

After 13 years of marriage, her husband died, leaving her a relatively young and wealthy widow and some time later, she married his secretary, Edmund Hodgson. Although she built one of the finest houses in the colony, it appears that Sarah Hodgson never lived at Islington. The first tenant was E.J Manly, a senior government official who was both a foundation and committee member of the Tasmania Club, a trustee of St. David’s Church and the man entrusted by Governor Arthur to manage his property in the colony after he left.

When Sarah Hodgson died in 1868, her husband, Edmund, became the owner of Islington and 14 years later, he sold the property to the Misses Parsons. It would once again become the property of spinster sisters when in 1895, it was bought by the Misses Harvey – sisters of David Hastie Harvey who successfully managed Tattersalls for George Adams. The sisters named Islington after their home suburb in London.

Stepping into the front hall of Islington confirms the initial impression of dignified colonial grandeur and yet the feeling of the place essentially being a home is always present. The hallway is broad and long and the first few metres are paved in starkly contrasting black & white tiles. The next thing you notice is the extensive use of cedar in the doors and doorways. Wall and ceiling colours here, and in adjoining rooms are warm and the whole property is kept in a pristine condition.

From every room in the house, you can look onto a rural scene – despite the fact that Islington is only minutes away from the city centre. Within the grounds are numerous trees, including an enormous willow and in the distance – but always maintaining its majestic presence – stands Mount Wellington. A truly wonderful & beautiful property.

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

Islington Hotel website: