Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Boa Vista Mansion Gatehouse

A small classical building of simple charm, this building was constructed as the entrance lodge to Boa Vista Mansion.
Boa Vista was built for Dr James Scott, the colonial surgeon, in 1828.  Boa Vista's grounds extended to some 20 acres, comprising the land now bounded by Argyle, Stoke, Park and Lewis Streets.  The 'Magnificent Mansion and Pleasure Grounds' were offered for sale in July 1834 and the property's description included reference to the 'Fancy Entrance Lodge, comprising five apartments.'  Boa Vista wasn't sold and remained in Scott's ownership until his death in 1837. Boa Vista briefly became the venue for Thomas Braim's Proprietary School in 1839, but it closed after only two years.

John Walker, the owner of a brewery on the Hobart Rivulet, purchased Boa Vista for ₤1,900 in 1840. Walker subsequently rented out the property and it was occupied for several years in the late 1840s by Bishop Francis Russell Nixon, the first Bishop of Tasmania.
Boa Vista was purchased by John Hampton, the comptroller-general of convicts, in 1851.  Hampton created a new street (now known as Boa Vista Road) and subdivided the northern portion of the estate in 1854.  Hampton gained a degree of infamy in the colony when he refused to give evidence to a Select Committee of the Legislative Council that was enquiring into the operation of the Convict Department and whether Hampton was exploiting his position for personal profit.

Samuel Moses, acquired Boa Vista in 1855 and lived there for a number of years before leaving for Britain in 1862.  Boa Vista was subsequently rented out to various tenants including John Lord, a politician and sportsman, and Samuel Smith Travers, who introduced Royal Tennis into Australia and built the tennis courts in Davey Street.  When Boa Vista's lease was advertised in March 1868, the newspaper notice included reference to the 'Lodge at entrance, comprising four rooms and store room.'
Boa Vista and about 14 acres of land was purchased from the Moses' estate by John Cole Kemsley for ₤4,250 in February 1902.  Kemsley began subdividing portions of the estate and a newspaper article in September 1903 reported that he had effected 'much needed improvements' and that the 'splendid old house' had been 'put in first-class order'.  The Boa Vista Lodge was advertised for rent for 10 shillings in May 1904.

The King's Grammar School was established at Boa Vista in 1904 but only lasted for a few years.  In 1906, Samuel Clemes purchased Boa Vista and relocated his Leslie House School onto the premises.  Clemes had been the schoolmaster of the Friends' School but resigned in June 1900 after misunderstandings with the management committee.  The Leslie House School was renamed Clemes College in 1922 and amalgamated with the Friends' School in 1946.
By 1959 the Boa Vista mansion was starting to show its age, with the western wing 'partially demolished and shored up with timber.'  The building was completely demolished in around 1970, leaving the entrance lodge as the only physical remnant of the property's long history. The gatehouse building  now forms part of the entryway to the Friends Junior School complex in North Hobart.

Information source: Australian Heritage Database

Friday, 26 July 2013

Redlands Estate

Redlands was established in 1819 when the land was granted to George Frederick Read, the son of King George IV of England. George Frederick was not formally recognized by the crown because his mother was married to the King when he was still the Prince Regent. During their marriage, they amassed a huge debt due to a lavish lifestyle. The Prince’s father, George III, forced Prince George to divorce his wife and marry a Duchess whose large dowry helped cover the prince’s debts.

Young George Frederick was given the surname of his wet nurse, “Read” and was sent off to the merchant navy in the early 1800’s. He became very successful and eventually settled in Australia around 1815 and began acquiring properties across Tasmania including what became Redlands.

The oldest building on the site is the Bakery which was constructed in 1822 and is considered to be the oldest continuously used bake oven in Australia. Like all the other buildings at Redlands, the bricks were made on site and its likely the roof shingles were made from split timber removed to make way for the developing farmland. The bakehouse has been restored and is used to bake old style loaves of bread that can be purchased on site.

Many convicts lived and worked at Redlands from 1819 until the end of transportation in the 1850’s. Redland predates Port Arthur by around 12 years and in the early days of Van Diemens Land, convicts were assigned to land owners to help create buildings and farmland. Convict labour was used at Redlands to develop bushland into fertile farmland, make bricks for the buildings (over 500,000 convict bricks were fired in a kiln that was located near the weir on the nearby Plenty River

The convicts also hand dug over 5kms of canals throughout Redlands, which was the first farm in Tasmania to be fully irrigated using gravity. Some of the canals were lined with Huon Pine. Some of the canals can still be seen in the main yard of the estate.

The convicts were housed in tenement buildings which were constructed as two story rooms by convict made bricks. Once the convicts left the site, the tenement building was used to house seasonal hop pickers. According to reports, the convicts were also housed in a cellar at the end of the tenement building. This cellar was converted in the early 1900’s to house a wood heater used to dry tobacco when Redlands grew tobacco for a short time.

There was also a separate set of hop pickers huts which accommodated one to two people. These were situated on the other side of the main yard and were surrounded by towering poplar trees which formed a kind of “poplar cathedral” around the huts. This area really retains a mystical feel when you enter the area.

Built in 1867 is the Oast House which was one of three built at Redlands. This construction marked the start of Redlands 100 years as one of the country’s largest hop farms. At its peak Redlands grew hops on 50 acres and had over 250 workers and their families living and working on the site. The surviving Oast house was constructed with convict bricks and was one of three originally on the site. The others unfortunately fell into disrepair and were pulled down in the 70’s & 80s, coinciding with the downturn in the hops industry.

From the late 1860’s to the 1970’s, Redlands Estate was a large and productive hop farm and had its own cobblestone village which included a bakery, general store, butcher and belltower to service the workers and their families who lived on the farm during hop picking season. The general store was stocked with goods and merchandise for the workers to purchase and was serviced by businesses from New Norfolk. Permanent employees and hop pickers received meat supplies twice a week from cattle killed on the property. The bell in the belltower was rung to start and finish the work day and also in the case of emergencies.

Redlands House, the main manor house of the estate is a beautifully conserved family home and shows all the grandeur of the 1840s. It is in magnificent condition and is still used as a family home to this day. 

Amongst the beautiful English style gardens that surround the house, is an area that was known as the “Secret Garden”! This part of the garden was out of bounds to the hop pickers and was reserved for the family and managers of the estate. There was only one way to enter the “Secret Garden” and that was through a door in the manager’s office which opened directly into the garden. With over 400 people working on site during the heights of hops season, the need for privacy was understandable. The secret garden features a huge Magnolia Grandiflora which is one of the oldest magnolias in Tasmania. The gardens were not always private as in the early days the area contained a public bath. The exact site of the bath has yet to be located but is thought to be behind the tennis court towards the back of the tenement buildings.

An interesting sideline to the history of the Redlands occurred on a winters evening in August 1845 when the manor house was held up at gunpoint by the notorious bushranger, William Westwood aka Jacky Jacky! The lessee of Redlands at the time, Mr Harrison, was ill in bed upstairs while his wife and son in law were downstairs. Through the front door of the house, the armed bushranger burst in. Within half an hour, Jacky Jacky and his collegues had rounded up the convicts and workers and all the prisoners were tied up on the kitchen floor. More information regarding the hold up can be found on information signs at the front door of the house.

Redlands Estate is literally steeped in early colonial history and is a wonderfully preserved example of a colonial estate with manor house and out buildings. These days Redlands grows wheat and barley and is the home of the recently established Redlands Distillery. The Redlands Distillery is one of two “paddock to bottle” single malt whiskey distilleries in the world. There are great plans for the redevelopment of Redlands, including the refurbishing of the tenement buildings to provide colonial style accommodation. 

The ongoing works around Redlands are finding new things of historical significance regularly. Recently, during routine gravel maintenance of the yard, a sandstone road, most likely built by convicts between the 1820’s and 1840’s using sandstone from a quarry near the railway bridge on the nearby Derwent River, was discovered in front of the Oast house. Fantastic!!

I spent a good half day wandering the grounds and taking in the colonial atmosphere. A wonderful place to visit with plenty more to see than what has been mentioned in the text.

Website: Redlands Estate

Text & Information sourced from Redlands Estate website and information boards around the Redlands buildings.

Highly Recommended!!

Sunday, 21 July 2013


Geeveston is a small village located 62 km south west of Hobart on the Huon Highway, making it Australia's most southerly administrative centre. The economy of Geeveston is basically driven by apple growing and timber. In season, the fields beside the road are thick with apple trees sagging under the weight of their fruit and it is commonplace to be caught behind a timber truck hauling huge logs from the nearby forests to the local mills and pulping operation.

Although the area was explored as early as 1804, only months after the establishment of the colony at Hobart Town, it was deemed unsuitable for development. It wasn't until Lady Jane Franklin established the community at Franklin that any serious attempt to settle the Huon Valley occurred. Life in the early Franklin settlement was extremely hard and many of the early settlers were forced to move away. The town takes its name from William Geeves, an English settler who was given a land grant by Lady Jane Franklin in the area then known as Lightwood Bottom (after a type of timber prevalent in the area). William and his family, which included his son, John, had migrated to Australia in 1842. The town's name was changed to Geeves Town in 1861 and this eventually became Geeveston in the late 1880’s.

Geeveston styles itself as “Tasmania’s Forest Town”. Timber getters moved into the area in the 1820’s and the town grew from humble beginnings in the early days as timber-getters moved along the waterways in search of high quality timber. They discovered Huon Pine which proved perfect for ship building due to its resistance to rot.

Geeveston broke new ground in terms of machinery and ideas. The first steam driven timber mill, the Speedwell Mill, was built in 1874 and was owned and established by John Geeves. It was capable of cutting 40,000 feet of timber per week.

Around the same time, he built “Cambridge House” across the road from his sawmill which provided the timber to build the house. The building went on to become the social hub of the growing settlement. Cambridge House has been lovingly restored and exudes the warmth, charm and comfort of the twenty first century in its current guise as a bed & breakfast. Cambridge House is bordered by the Kermandie River where platypus can be seen playing in the river.

When the timber cutters took down the forests, the cleared areas were planted with potatoes, fruit trees, wheat, hops, corn & oats. Early settlers discovered that apples grow wherever gum trees flourish. By the late 1890’s, there were over 500 orchards in the district.

The construction of the Speedwell timber mill in 1874, and its subsequent sale to the Huon Timber Company in 1902 provided Geeveston with an industrial base, the Timber Workers Union ensuring that workers were well organised. Following a violent strike in 1921/22, the Company closed its Geeveston mill in 1925 and Geeveston suffered population loss, but the start of banking (1926) and arrival of electricity (1928) assisted slow but steady progress, based on apples and timber.
A pulp mill was opened in the town in 1962, and was Geeveston's largest employer until the plant closed in 1982, devastating the area economically. The opening of a branch of the Bendigo Bank, and a major tourist attraction in the district, the Tahune Airwalk (2001), brought new optimism.

The Forest & Heritage Centre, a tourist centre which details the history of the timber industry in the area, is also located in Geeveston.

It is not surprising that the town's largest symbol (it is impossible to miss as you drive through town on the Huon Highway) is the huge trunk of a Swamp Gum (eucalyptus regnans) logged in Arve Valley on 10 December 1971. A sign on the side of the trunk proudly declares that the length is 15.8 m, the girth 6.7 m, it weighs 57 tonnes and its volume 56.7 cubic metres. It was established as a tribute to the timber workers of yesteryear as the “Big Log – Big Job” memorial in School Rd. A special circular saw had to be custom made to enable the tree to be felled and ultimately dragged out of the forest.

Further along the road is the The Geeveston Community Church (1880s) which is the most prominent building on the highway. It is notable for its tiny steeple which seems out of proportion to the rest of the building.

It is worth visiting the town centre for the sheer unusualness of the main street which actually seems to get narrower from one end to the other. Geeveston is a reminder that the notion of a major centre (and Geeveston is the administrative centre of the Esperance Municipality - the southern most council in the country) in Tasmania is not the same as that on the mainland.
Originally cast as a Congregationalist settlement, Geeveston was a temperance town and to this day, no hotels have been established with the town borders. However, where there’s a will, there’s a way. In the early days, the locals would beat a path to the nearby Kermandie Hotel at Port Huon to quench their thirsts!

Wherever you stand in Geeveston, you have striking views of the mountains all around the town. The locals have enjoyed these beautiful surroundings since European settlement began.
A beautiful town to visit and from here you can access the Hartz Mountains National Park and the Tahune Airwalk

Information gathered mainly from information boards located around Geeveston 

About the Forest & Heritage Centre - Forest & Heritage Centre

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Copping Colonial & Convict Collection

The Copping Colonial & Convict Collection is a collection of colonial & convict memorabilia at Copping, southeast Tasmania. The Exhibition features a diverse range of colonial & convict-era relics and antiques. On display you will find everything from leg irons to steam irons—mouse traps to man traps. There is also an original cell door from the Port Arthur penal settlement, which was in use between 1833 and 1877, as well as thousands of other items relating to the convict era and the history of settlement in southern Tasmania.

You can browse through the array of authentic artifacts and gain an insight in the Tasman Peninsula’s convict history. The collection also includes childhood treasures and one of only three cars manufactured in Australia in the 19th century. There are over 10,000 items on display with items dating back to the 1800s and depicting everyday living of early settlers through to modern living of today. Some items are antique, some just nostalgic… but all are interesting and unique.

Copping is an hour and fifteen minutes southeast of Hobart, and an hour’s drive north of Port Arthur The Copping Colonial Convict Exhibition is on the Tasman Highway, en route to Port Arthur. Housed in a big shed, the museum is open during regular business hours, seven days a week.  After spending time checking out the memorabilia, you can sit down to a nice coffee & snacks at the Vines & Designs café attached to the museum. Vines & Designs is a café, art gallery & gift shop.

All in all, it’s a very interesting place to check out the large range of memorabilia….and all for a gold coin donation.

Copping Colonial & Convict Exhibition
2217 Arthur Hwy
Copping, Tas