Friday, 21 December 2012

Battery Point

Battery Point is a suburb of of Hobart. Battery Point is named after the battery of guns which were established on the point in 1818 as part of the Hobart coastal defences. The battery no longer exists.
The area is generally known as one of the city's more prestigious suburbs, with many large and extravagant homes and apartment blocks. It adjoins the waterfront Salamanca area as well as the nearby prestigious suburb of Sandy Bay.

Battery Point has a large number of historic houses dating from the first European settlement of 'Hobart Town'. Probably the most significant is Arthur Circus with its cottages, mostly originally constructed for the officers of the garrison. Arthur Circus is the only circus in Australia.
Rev. Robert Knopwood, the colony's first Chaplain, settled in the area in 1804 after Lieutenant-Governor Collins granted Knopwood 30 acres of land on the northern slope of Battery Point. He built a small house on his land and began to farm. In 1818 the new Lieutenant-Governor, Sorell, had Mulgrave Battery built on 8 acres of land which had been reserved on the point.
In the same year Governor Macquarie of NSW granted Sorell 90 acres, which comprised the southern half of Battery Point. Sorell did nothing to improve his land.

The land granted to Knopwood had been previously occupied by the Mouheneene Band of the South East tribe, and known to them as Nibberloone or Linghe. The Mouheneene were the most maritime of the indigenous people, and made frequent trips to Bruny Island. The band consisted of 70-80 people. Aboriginal women dived for crayfish at nearby Crayfish Point, Sandy Bay. Wooreddy, one of the band's number, has described the reaction of his people on seeing European boats for the first time. The colony's burial ground was immediately to the north of Knopwood's block, which was some distance from the new town of Hobart. Knopwood began to build his house, Cottage Green, on 2 January 1805. He pitched his marquee near the cottage on 22 February 1805, and moved in on 14 March. The grant to him was recorded on 1 January 1806.

Groups of Aborigines continued to visit the land and have friendly meetings with Knopwood and other members of his household. On one occasion Knopwood accompanied a group of Aboriginal women on a crayfish diving expedition to nearby Crayfish Point, Sandy Bay.
The battery built on the point was named Mulgrave Battery after the first Earl of Mulgrave, Master General of the King's Ordnance. Earth ramparts were built, and cannons from a ship installed. The battery was permanently manned by soldiers. It fired a salute on the Prince of Wales' birthday in 1818. In March 1819, the ship Young Lachlan, stolen by 13 convicts, sailed past the battery unobserved.
In 1824 Knopwood subdivided much of his block, and ten merchants and entrepreneurs bought parallel blocks stretching south from the waterline. In the same year Sorell's block passed to Robert Kermode. New Wharf was built along Salamanca Place and officially opened in 1830. It became the centre of Van Diemen's Land whaling and of overseas trade.

Knopwood continued as owner, in absentia, of the part of his estate on which Cottage Green was built. It was sold in 1829. In 1831 it was acquired by Lieutenant-Governor Arthur, and occupied by Roderic O'Connor, Land Commissioner. It was demolished in 1836, shortly after another house named Cottage Green had been built nearby. A semaphore was set up behind Mulgrave Battery in 1829.
The merchants who bought Knopwood's subdivision were aware that plans were afoot to build a new wharf there, the old Wharf along Hunter Street being exposed and inconvenient. The merchants built large mansions, such as Narryna, on their Battery Point blocks. Later they were forced to give up their water frontages. The merchants began to build warehouses on their properties. The first to be completed was Captain Haig's in 1834. New Wharf was built by convicts who were housed in two hulks moored in the Derwent. They quarried stone from Battery Point (behind Salamanca Place), reclaimed land, laid down a road, and built infrastructure which included two wings of an Ordnance Store erected in Castray Esplanade in 1834 and 1836 to the design of John Lee Archer.

Bay whaling was an important industry conducted from New Wharf. 'The Derwent Whaling Club' was founded by James Kelly, whaler and adventurer and others in 1826. The value of the whale fishery peaked in 1837 with whale oil being Hobart's second most valuable export.
In 1824 Lieutenant-Governor Sorell's 90 acre block passed to Robert Kermode. He sold 8 acres of it to the Surveyor-General, George Frankland, who built Secheron there in 1831. John Montague, the Colonial Secretary, built Stowell and lived in it from 1832 to 1839. Other central features of Battery Point were built at this time: the first pub the 'Whaler's Return' in 1834, the windmill in 1836, Kelly's Steps in 1839, and St George's Church (designed by Archer), begun in 1837.
With the development of New Wharf, Battery Point becomes the centre for ship building and maritime industries in Van Diemen's Land.

Battery Point's maritime industry grew as more land on Knopwood's old block was subdivided. 1849-1853 saw the height of shipbuilding activity. Small cottages belonging to seamen and shipwrights began to appear close to the large mansions of the merchants and ship owners. In 1854, Robert Kermode subdivided his estate, opening up the southern half of Battery Point for residential development. A larger portion of this estate was subdivided in 1874. Hampden Road became the shopping centre of the village.
Ship building in Battery Point slips had begun in a small way in the 1830's, J Williamson's yard having been set up in 1830. This tradition was built upon after 1840.

There was considerable development in the Battery Point/Salamanca area over the 44 years during which it was the maritime centre of Tasmania. The remaining stone warehouses along Salamanca Place were completed in the 1840's. In 1840 the stone Customs House was completed, and in 1853 it was converted to Tasmania's new Parliament House. Ex-Lieutenant-Governor Arthur subdivided his property (now known as Arthur's Circus) and it was sold in 1843. In 1845 the large Prince of Wales battery was added above the Mulgrave Battery as part of the new defence of Hobart. Mulgrave Battery was then dismantled. The Prince of Wales battery was used by the Hobart Town Volunteer Artillery to fire salutes and for shot and shell practice from 1858 to 1871. Those who did not heed the warnings to open their windows often had them broken by blasts. 'The Prince of Wales' and 'Shipwright Arms' were both licensed in 1843. The convict architect, James Blackburn, added a spire to St George's Church in 1847. In 1858 eleven pubs operated in Battery Point, many of which had gained a reputation for boisterousness. At the height of the Crimean War in 1854, an additional battery, the Albert Battery, was constructed behind the Prince of Wales Battery.

The St George's Parochial School was founded in 1849, and became Battery Point School in 1853. In 1869 there were 350 children enrolled in the school, which was the second largest in Hobart. 181 of the children were on the 'free list', and conditions in the school were said to be appalling.
The first Battery Point Regatta was held in 1853 but it was spoiled by the politics of Anti-Transportation. Many Tasmanians were protesting against the ongoing transportation of convicts to the island.
Princess Wharf shed is built in the 1880's. This frees up the old warehouses for other uses, and new industry moves in. Steamship companies, many of them overseas owned, forced the local companies out of business. The larger ships also tended to use the new central wharf rather than New Wharf. Wooden ships were also replaced more and more by steel vessels, and ship building went into a slow decline. New industry moved into the area, employing a different type of workforce. An example is W.D. Peacock's jam factory, which operated in 71 Salamanca Place after 1885.

Only one whaling business remained after 1890, that of Alexander Macgregor. Maritime industries continued as major employers, despite the decline in the level of activity compared with the previous period.
Further subdivisions of Battery Point, with corresponding increases in population, occurred until 1930.
Industries which were established in Battery Point included an iron smelter which operated in Castray Esplanade in the 1870's and a number of metal foundries in Salamanca Parade, the Derwent Ironworks and Engineering Company (established by R. Kennedy in 1883) being the largest. The Anglo-American Guano Company produced fertiliser from 1861; skin and hide companies, and possibly a glue factory, were other noxious trades. In the 1880's, a steam laundry, bark mill and fruit and vegetable preserving works - all set up near the waterfront - provided work for locals.
A new Battery Point School (an 'architectural masterpiece of the day') was opened in 1885; it was replaced in 1913 by the Albeura Street School and Battery Point children had to leave the suburb for their education.
The Queen Alexandra Maternity Hospital opened in 1908, and served the whole of Hobart. Stowell was converted to a private hospital in 1918.

Leisure, too, was catered for. St David's Burial Ground, which had been closed for some years, was transformed in 1921 to St Davids Park, one of Hobart's most beautiful reserves. And in 1895 Mary Roberts, an early conservationist and lover of native birds, opened her collection to the public as Beaumaris Zoo. One of the exhibits was a thylacine. In 1923, two years after Roberts died, the collection was moved to its final site on the Domain.
During the first decades of the twentieth century, with the disappearance of intercolonial tariffs and the passing of the Commonwealth Navigation Act 1912, some local industries went into decline.
Battery Point industries, already struggling, are further hit by the Depression.

A number of local companies closed in the first decades of the twentieth century. Much of the population of Battery Point rented its accommodation, and during the 1930s the suburb was regarded as rather run down. During the 1940s and 50s many young families left for new housing areas. The population of Battery Point reached its lowest level for many years in 1954.
In 1930 there were still 100 people employed in the maritime related industries, and apples were now a major export from the wharf. The jam factory continued, although it had been taken over by Henry Jones in the early 1920s.
In 1940 Battery Point was selected as a suitable target for a social experiment. Welfare programs and one of the Federal Government's Lady Gowrie Child Centres were set up there. About 70 children attended daily. The Queen Alexandra Hospital was also considerably enlarged during the 1930s and 1950s.

The maritime tradition of Battery Point lived on in the 1950s, with the Blue House (now Irish Murphy's) gaining an international reputation among seamen as a rough house and brothel.
The Cook Plan, a radical scheme of urban renewal for Hobart which was presented in 1948, involved tearing down all the old buildings of Battery Point, and replacing them with 'modern' blocks; Hobart City Council did not put the scheme into effect primarily because of the cost that would be involved. The plan was also opposed by a group of Battery Point residents who formed the Battery Point Progress Association. In spite of the suburb's seedy reputation, it's 'charm' was beginning to be recognised.

Cheap rental housing becomes available in Battery Point at the same time as the University campus at Sandy Bay extends. As working class families moved out of their rented properties, student tenants began to move in, and the suburb began to acquire a Bohemian reputation. It was also threatened with massive redevelopment, some of which was successfully prevented, some of which took place. After, redevelopment battles were both won and lost by the residents and property values increased. Wealthy tenants moved in and many buildings were renovated.
The developers and residents, who had battled each other over the past decade, came into open conflict.
Battery Point's proximity to the city and prime waterfront views, as well as low property prices, made it an attractive target for developers. As they moved in, consciousness of Battery Point's history raised a desire by many locals to retain the traditional nature of the suburb and despite protests from the Battery Point Progress Association, environmentally insensitive changes occurred, with wheat silos being erected in Salamanca Place in 1962. The suburb was transforming from industrial to residential - as indeed it had been zoned.

The impetus for resident action in opposition to change came in 1966, spurred by the release of the Hobart City Council's Area Transportation Study, which, if implemented, would have radically changed Battery Point. To fight it a group of newer residents formed the Battery Point Society, more radical than the BPPA. To solve the impasse, the Hobart City Council appointed Clarke Gazzard & Co to prepare a planning scheme for Battery Point. This was adopted by the Hobart City Council in 1967, and (with revisions) put into place in 1972. This period saw many conservation battles fought, as well as continued demolitions, such as that of the Prince of Wales Hotel, which was replaced in 1967 by a modern brick building. The BLF placed 'Green Bans' on some of the proposed developments. A new Battery Point planning scheme was put into operation in 1979, Australia's second such scheme. Meanwhile the gentrification and recycling of old buildings continued apace. Several warehouses in Salamanca Place were converted in to the Salamanca Arts Centre in the mid-1970s, and many other buildings have since been converted into galleries, restaurants, cafes and tourist attractions. Salamanca Market has flourished since 1976 and is now one of Hobart's most visited tourist attractions, renowned worldwide.