Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Captain William Bunster's Residence, Hunter Street

Captain William (Billy) Bunster was a colourful sailor/merchant who built at least two of the buildings still existent in Hunter’s Street, #31 & #33, in 1821 immediately after the Hunter Street causeway was created. #31 was built as a warehouse for Bunster’s business interests and # 33 was built as Bunster’s residence. Billy Bunster made his fortune from sealing and kangaroo skins as well as salt and general trade. He was one of a close knit group of merchants and seamen who made their fortunes from their headquarters on Hunter Street. He traded in sealskins from Macquarie Island, salt and sealskins from Kangaroo Island and general merchandise between Hobart & Sydney.

As his business expanded, he went on to acquire further properties in Hunter Street and several country properties as well. William appears to have been married twice. His first marriage was to Sarah in 1829. The marriage produced 1 child. Unfortunately Sarah passed away in 1835. William was married again in 1836 when he married Anna Williams at St Davids Church in Hobart. This marriage seems to have produced a couple more children. Unlike many other merchants of the time, he did not build his fortune on initial wealth or family connections. At a dinner given in his honour in the early 1850’s he described himself as “a plain man ….I have tried to steer an independent course. I owe nothing to the Government nor to any man.” William was to die on 19th Feb 1854 from a bout of dysentery.

Between 1869 – 1882, a number of the Hunter Street building, including #31 & #33, were purchased in a dilapidated state by George Peacock, the jam manufacturer. Peacock went on to live in Bunster’s old house at #33. When Peacock’s business fell on hard times, Peacock’s son joined forces with two employees to form a partnership which bailed out the Old Wharf business. One of these employees was the young Henry Jones of IXL fame. Like Peacock before him, Jones lived in Bunster’s old house and the other warehouses went on to form the cornerstone of his jam empire which grew far beyond the shores of Tasmania.

The building has survived to this day and has now become the Peacock & Jones Restaurant & Wine Bar. It forms a part of the Hunters Wharf & Hunters Street Historic Precinct, a wonderful part of Hobart.

Main Text & Information Source –
Interpretive Signs in Hunter Street