Sunday, 30 April 2017

Old Shag Bay Fertilizer Factory Site

A while ago, I went for a wander around the trail at Shag Bay and saw the remains of some industrial business that had taken place in the area. I was able to find out that it had been a type of bonemill/fertilizer business that had suffered an industrial accident in the early part of the 20th century. Unfortunately I hadn’t had the chance to search for detailed information but recently I came across this great article by John & Maria Grist in a recent online copy of Tasmanian Geographic. Hope you will enjoy this article about a part of Hobart history that isn’t very well known.

“Recycling at Shag Bay” by John & Maria Grist

Long before the words “reduce, re-use, recycle” had ever been spoken, a small company on Hobart’s eastern shore decided to make use of waste materials, provide a useable resource, and turn a small profit as well.

Of course, in the early days Hobart, like any other city, produced much in the way of organic waste, which if left to itself would cause a nuisance, as well as constituting a significant health hazard. These materials included items such as butcher’s waste, dead animals, offal, fish scraps, and of course the ubiquitous “night soil”, which was collected from houses and taken away by hardy workmen in those pre-plumbing days. From at least 1885, the Anglo-Australian Guano Company produced bone dust out of butchers’ waste at their plant in Shag Bay, near Risdon, and sold it as a fertiliser. Shag Bay was better known as Bonemill Bay at that time. The company also produced guano and sulphate of ammonia. The proprietor of the company was Mr. Chapman. The company’s offices were located at Salamanca Place, Hobart.

The Tasmanian Fertiliser Company took over from the A. A. Guano Company around 1907. In 1909 the manager of the Bonemill was George Byworth Russell. George was the first of several members of the Russell family associated with the site. The Russell Brothers were manufacturers of fish manure. Their company joined forces with H. C. Buchanan and Co. (Hugh Campbell Buchanan) to form the Tasmanian Fertiliser Company. They started off in a similar manner to their predecessor, treating items such as butchers’ refuse, but later expanded their scope by using other raw materials. They even commenced testing a treatment process for night soil. This scheme was not universally applauded at first, the rumour had got around that a treatment plant was to be established at Lindisfarne, close to residents’ houses.

Mr. George Thomas Russell, the son of George Byworth Russell and the manager of the Risdon works in 1912, took exception to the printing of this information, and used the opportunity to explain the process the company was using, along with the fact that the plant was situated at Risdon, and not at Lindisfarne. The company seems to have done quite well in its first few years, and even shipped its product to other states. In January 1914, 5480 ft. of one-inch galvanised piping was laid across the Derwent, with a view to bringing water from Glenorchy to the Shag Bay factory to assist in the process. For the previous 30 years, water had been drawn from a well 150ft. above the high water mark.

When the scheme was completed, the caretaker at the Glenorchy waterworks stated that the meter registered 150 gallons of water in a few minutes on his side of the river; however, no water was coming out at the eastern side. The valves were inspected, and a suction pump was tried, but the problem persisted. The failure of the supply was later found to be due to leakage, and not to water pressure or to the entry of salt water into the pipes.

A legal dispute arose between John Paterson, the engineer contracted to install the pipes (who owned the Risdon Road bonemill on the opposite side of the Derwent), and the Tasmanian Fertiliser Company. Paterson held that the contract was simply for laying the pipes, whereas the Company held that the contract was for the reliable supply of water. The judge decided in favour of Paterson.

On the 28th of January 1915 at around 4.30 p.m., tragedy struck the fertiliser factory in the form of a devastating explosion. George Byworth Russell, and his son William, who was a bargeman for the company, were both killed. The noise caused consternation in Lindisfarne and the opposite side of the Derwent. The weatherboard building which was lost had been nearly 200 ft. in length. One side of the building had been blown 20 ft. away onto a nearby hill. The fire, as well as consuming what was left of the building and contents, also claimed the nearby wharves. Frederick Jordan was lucky to escape with his life, as he was within six feet of the boiler at the time it exploded. The inquiry started on Tuesday 9 Feb and the inquest concluded on 13 Feb 1915, with the verdict: “No one guilty of negligence.” The coroner, Mr. W. O. Wise, was satisfied that the company’s regimen of regular cleaning had been adequate.

In 1918, Mr. George T. Russell, son of George B. and brother of William F. Russell, who both lost their lives in the explosion, formed a new company named Co-operative Fertilisers Ltd. He applied to set up his glue and manure manufacturing works at Porter Bay, just north of Shag Bay.
The company was set up to assist fruit growers at Wattle Grove. Shares were offered in June 1918. The city council was on-side as the scheme would again assist in disposal of waste products.

Unfortunately, the plant at Porter Bay fared only a little better than its predecessor in Shag Bay. On 20 April 1919 a fire totally destroyed the works. Mr. Russell was the manager and lived very close to the works at Porter Bay. The fire started in the middle of the night and he was woken by the noise and flames. He was unable to save the factory, and only with difficulty was he able to save his own house.
The company unsurprisingly went into liquidation shortly afterwards in 1922.

This, however, was not the end for Mr. Russell. He became managing director of Shark Fisheries Ltd., which planned in 1928 to set up factories throughout Australia, commencing in N.S.W. The N.S.W. plant was in fact built, and he supplied Tasmanian fruit growers with 200 tons per annum in 1929.

However, there is no further evidence of any fertiliser works being set up in the Risdon area. The remains of the boiler and some pieces of the wharf and building footings are still in place.

Main Text, Information & Historic Photos -
Article by John & Maria Grist, published in Tasmanian Geographic Issue 46


Friday, 14 April 2017

Former Beach Tavern, Sandy Bay

The former Beach Tavern in Sandy Bay has the look of a typical early colonial era roadside inn, of which there are many scattered across Tasmania. This one, which still stands on Sandy Bay Road was first licensed as an Inn by Frederick Lipscombe in 1843.

Advertisements from the time declared that pleasure grounds and tea gardens were to be laid out on the site, all for local citizens to be able to enjoy themselves after completing their labours and toils at the end of the day.

It was recorded that the first ever game of lawn bowls to be played in Tasmania actually took place at the Beach Tavern in 1845 when Frederick Lipscombe was narrowly defeated by a Mr T Burgess.

The Beach Tavern was sold in 1863 and the new owner decided to close the tavern and the building became a private residence. The building is now classified and registered by the National Trust and has been converted into two tourist apartments but still maintains its look in a prominent area of Sandy Bay.

Main Text & Information Source – 
“The Story Of Sandy Bay – Street By Street” – Donald Howatson 2016

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Albert Hall, Launceston

The Albert Hall was designed by local architect John Duncan and built by J.T Farmils at a cost of 14,000 pounds in 1891 to house the Tasmanian Industrial Exhibition of 1891-92. The exhibition ran for four months and attracted over 260,000 people. The exhibition itself was designed to ease the social misery caused by the depression of the 1880's. The corner stone was laid by Samuel John Sutton, Esq.  Mayor of Launceston on 2April 1890 and the opening ceremony in November 1891, was preceded by a parade 10 city blocks long, led by the Mayor John Gould on a white horse.

The Albert Hall is one of Launceston's most significant heritage buildings due to its high degree of heritage value that is attributed to the Classical Victorian style of monumental public architecture. The Hall covers an area of 14,000 square feet and was recognized at the time as the world’s 11th largest building.

The Brindley Air Organ, situated in the Great Hall is Australia's largest surviving organ pre-dating 1860. Built of local timbers including blackwood and huon pine, the organ's bellows are lined with original kangaroo skin. Believed to be the only one of its type in the world when installed in the Mechanics Institute, the organ originally was hand blown by two strong men or one exceptionally strong man. In being relocated to the Albert Hall in 1892, a water-powered bellows mechanism, and a new Blackwood front, was installed by Fincham and Hobday of Launceston.

The firm comprehensively restored the instrument at a cost of £370 and provided a new case in Tasmanian blackwood, incorporating 33 non-speaking pipes, all elaborately stenciled. The hydraulic engine, made by Thomas Melvin & Sons, St. Rollox Iron Works, Glasgow Patent, with index dial at the console, was installed at this time and is connected to a set of vertical generator bellows.  The original tonal scheme appears not to have been modified by Fincham & Hobday, although a scheme for minor alterations exists in the firm’s records.

Following a period of sad neglect, when the instrument became unplayable, it was completely restored by Keith Davis of Launceston and this work was completed in 1980.  The actions and soundboards were restored, a new electric blower fitted to supplement the restored hydraulic engine, and the pipework repaired and fitted with tuning slides.  The final regulation of the pipework was carried out by George Fincham & Sons, Melbourne, with Knud Smenge responsible for the tonal finishing.

The Albert Hall has been used for exhibitions, balls, concerts, religious and political rallies, sporting events, and disaster relief during the 1929 flood. Situated on the corner of Tamar and Cimitiere Streets, the Albert Hall is owned by the Launceston City Council and currently operated by the TLA Group.

The Albert Hall is a landmark of Launceston and has strong ties to the local community and is one of the largest convention venues in the region. The Great Hall, Tamar Valley and John Duncan rooms are hired for a vast array of events, from school balls, university graduations and awards nights, to antiques fairs, concerts and major conferences. There is also an adjacent cafe overlooking City Park.

Main Text & Information Source –
Australian Heritage Database

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Entally House, Hadspen

Entally House is one of the finest historic homes in Tasmania. The house was built in 1819 by Thomas Haydock Reibey II, the eldest son of Thomas and Mary Reibey. Mary, who is pictured on Australia's $20 note, was a former convict who, at the age of 13 was convicted of horse stealing and sentenced to transportation. She later became one of Australia's wealthiest women and obtained the grant of 300 acres of land upon which Thomas was to settle and build the homestead and outbuildings.

The Entally Historic Site consists of Entally House and various outbuildings, including Australia's oldest Conservatory. The Estate encompasses grand, parklike surroundings with magnificent gardens and a vineyard, Regency furnishings, fine silverware and horse-drawn coaches and agricultural implements.

Thomas II was the first son of Thomas and Mary Reibey. He was a Master in his parents shipping business and established the family business in Launceston with their own wharf and warehouses in the early 1800’s. His father Thomas Reibey had been a junior officer in the East India Company where he had spent time in a suburb of Calcutta called Entally. His mother Mary Reibey (nee Molly Haydock) had arrived in Sydney Town in 1792. That year, at the age of 13 and disguised as a boy, Mary was convicted of horse stealing and sentenced to transportation to New South Wales for seven years.

From these humble beginnings the pair married and developed a busy farming, trading and shipping business along the Hawkesbury River moving into Sydney Town to expand. Following the death of Mary’s husband in 1811, she continued the family business becoming well established in Sydney. In 1817 Mary Reibey helped found the first Bank in Australia known then as the Bank of New South Wales and today her image appears on the current $20 note.

There is a street in Sydney behind Circular Quay named after the family and their first family home in Sydney was built on George Street this building later became the site for the first Bank of New South Wales. A memorial Plaque to Mary can be found in Argyle Street, The Rocks, giving details of her life.

Entally was with a 300 acre land grant, which came with provisions from the Government stores and convict labour. The estate grew cereal crops and raised Devon cattle. In 1828 Thomas II was a founding director of the first bank in Launceston – The Cornwall Bank. He married Richarda Allen in 1817 and four children were born to them. Thomas II died at the estate in 1842 and the property passed to his eldest son Thomas Haydock Reibey III, who had been studying at Oxford University in England prior to his father’s death.

In 1843 with assistance from the State, Thomas III had a bridge built over the South Esk River and charged a toll for its use to repay the debt. Thomas III became the first native Tasmanian ordained to Holy Orders in 1844 and appointed to Archdeacon in 1858. On a return trip to England in 1853 he received an honorary M.A form the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In 1860 the estate consisted of a chapel, conservatory, stables, stone barn, coach house, coachman’s lodge, and gatehouse and to the north of the estate a cricket ground that’s believed to be one of the first in the country; hosting games before Melbourne was settled..

In 1868 Thomas III was subject to scandal when he was accused of “diverting a lady’s affection” he resigned from the church. A court case followed shortly after, in which he sued Mr. Blomfield for libel. Scandals were common during this period so Thomas III after, a period as a recluse, stepped back into the public domain by running for a seat in parliament. He was elected to the House of Assembly in 1872 and for 30 years he served the people during this time became Colonial Secretary, Speaker of the House and eventually Premier of Tasmania from 1876 to 1877.

His love of horseracing saw him become president of three local racing clubs Carrick, Rosedale and Newham with around 90 thoroughbreds at his Entally estate. One of those horses Bagot, purchased from Calstock, Deloraine won the 1600m Yan Yean Stakes at a Melbourne Cup meet in 1882. Sold by Thomas later that year Bagot was renamed Malua winning the Melbourne cup in 1884.

Thomas III passed away in 1912 and with no heir to the estate the property passed to Thomas Reibey Arthur the son of his sister Mary. In 1947, the Tasmanian Government purchased the estate through the Scenic Preservation Board and opened the site to the public in 1950. The house today is presented as a colonial gentleman’s residence.

The National Trust leased and managed the state from 1987 until 2005, when Gunns Limited took over the lease and a 3 ha, vineyard was added. Gunns Limited maintained management of the property until January 2010 when the Estate was passed back to the Parks and Wildlife service.

The property remained under the management of the Parks and Wildlife Service until October 2015 when it was again leased to a private consortium to be managed in conjunction with the neighbouring Entally Lodge property.

Main Text & Information Sources –