Friday, 27 September 2013

St John's Church, New Town

St John's Anglican Church dates from the mid-1830s and is the oldest church in the New Town area. By the late 1820s, New Town had become a semi-rural retreat for some of Van Diemen's Land's wealthiest public servants and businessmen.  These gentlemen lobbied Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur for a church to be built in the area, and when the Colonial Administration started making arrangements for a large new orphan school to be built in New Town, the facility was designed to include a church that was 'sufficiently large to afford accommodation for the neighboring inhabitants' as well as the children from the orphan schools.

A Committee to solicit and receive donations from the public towards the cost of the larger church was formed in June 1830 and ultimately collected over ₤800 of subscriptions. The original subscription list shows Arthur's personal contribution of 25 guineas.

The Church and Orphan Schools with their spectacular symmetrical front elevation were designed by the colonial engineer and architect, John Lee Archer.  Built in 1834-5, the church is the focal element for the St Johns precinct being linked visually to the watchouses by St Johns Avenue with its fine planting, and joined to the orphan's school by colonnades.

The foundation stone for the Church was laid by Lieutenant-Governor Arthur in January 1834 'amidst great pomp and ceremony'.  The convict-built Church was opened for service in December 1835 but was not formally consecrated until May 1838 because of delays in arranging a visit from Bishop Broughton, the first Bishop of Australia.

In its early days, the congregation consisted of the 'Gentry', who rented boxes and pews in the centre of the church. Government House had a private box close to a large open fireplace. The church was heated by four large fireplaces. Each box and pew was lit by candles, as was the whole church. 'Lighting lamps' were introduced in the 1850s and burned whale oil. There were also 'free' seats were under the South Gallery, three steps higher than the rest of the floor. These were occupied by the family servants and other members of the community.

The North Gallery (near the Bell Tower) seated the children from the Orphan Schools. The South Gallery was for the convicts, who sat on narrow backless benches securely fastened to the floor. The division in the centre that separated male and female convicts can still be seen. There also remains one of the two Warders' or Guards' seats, placed strategically by the stairway, and a half-door which was securely bolted. There were three locked doors to be negotiated before they could leave.

The present Pulpit is all that remains of the huge original, which was one of the famed triple-tiered constructions of the time. Plans show it occupied the opposite end of the church facing the altar. The clock was made in London in 1828. The tower is built of stone, the church of hand-made brick. The rafters were hewn on Mt Wellington and hauled down by convict teams. The paneling is cedar.

The 1896 William Hill organ is one of the finest organs in Tasmania and St John's Church is noted for its magnificent acoustics. In June 1897, trees were planted along St Johns Avenue to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

A church history noted that about 1900-1905, 'such shame was felt at its early history, that irreparable damage was done in altering and stripping the church of any and everything connected with its convict past'.
The Church is still used for regular worship.

St John's Official Website:

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Prospect House

This property is an unusual two storey Georgian style house with French doors to both levels suggesting a missing verandah. The location of the entrance door at one end of the main facade is also unusual. The house sits on a fine corner site with commanding views of the Derwent River.

John Blackwell was granted 300 acres of land on the northern side of the New Town Rivulet in July 1821. Thomas Haskell purchased 20 acres at the eastern corner of the grant from Blackwell for ₤35 in July 1828. Prospect House was built around 1834 and had a series of short-term owners before William Rout, an ironmonger, purchased it for ₤850 in May 1843. Rout also bought adjoining land so that the property extended to over 100 acres. Rout did not live at Prospect House but rented it out.

A notice in the Hobart Town Daily Mercury in March 1858 advertising the lease of Prospect House described a 'commodious and pleasantly situated mansion … suitable for the residence of a respectable family, with coach-house, stables, and all necessary out-offices… The house commands a fine view of the Derwent and the surrounding country.'

Prospect House remained in Rout family ownership until September 1909, when it was sold on 14 acres. Subsequent owners included: Thomas Widdicombe, a storekeeper (1910-1926); Archibald Eiszele, a contractor (1926-1935); and Marmion Beamish, a dairyman (1935-1946).  Frank Morley, a dairyman, purchased the property in September 1946 and in the mid-1950s created Sinclair Avenue and subdivided the area for residential development.

Fortunately the original house has survived and is in good condition and is currently a private residence.

Information Source: Australian Heritage Database.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Batchelor's Grave, Taroona

History has recorded very little about James Batchelor. Just about all that's known about him is that he occupies the oldest marked colonial grave in Tasmania. We only know him as a strapping young seaman who died on his ship during the journey from Calcutta. In some places he is recorded as second officer on the Venus, in other accounts as first officer. Whatever his rank and whatever the cause of his death, one thing is clear. In a peaceful location, just above the high water mark of the beach at modern day Taroona, James was buried according to the custom of sailors of the times, wrapped in his hammock or in sailcloth.

A fine ship of 350 tonnes, equipped with two guns and a crew of 50, the Venus was built in India and made two voyages between 1808 and 1810 to bring wheat and other various products to the hungry colony of New South Wales. On the 28th of January 1810 Batchelor died on the approach to the then six-year-old settlement of Hobart Town, Van Diemen's Land.

Rather than bury him at sea, the captain of the schooner Venus, Eber Bunker, dropped anchor in the Derwent and buried his second officer above the high tide mark at Taroona.
Following the burial service, the Venus called at Adventure Bay on Bruny Island, where Captain Bunker found a bottle with French words on it…probably left by explorer Bruny D’Entrecastreaux.
While he wasn't the first European to die in the young colony, no one else's grave from before that time has survived - not with their name still on it anyway.

Two centuries of salt winds, marauding cattle, bushfires, thoughtless fisherman and well meaning restoration has taken its toll on the freestone tablet inscribed with the barest details of a man's life and death. The white-painted stone has also been touched up so many times that names had been altered and even whole words lost. A description of the grave from the 1880's states that Batchelor was 21 when he died. That line of inscription's now gone.

As signs at the site say “ The grave marker has been lost beneath the undergrowth, rediscovered again, broken into pieces and restored. Its inscription has been overpainted many times and inevitably, some of its accuracy has been lost. This version is as close to original as we can manage, given the passage of time”. The one point that the historical records agree is that James Batchelor was buried at the site on the 28th January 1810.

The site is now a protected historical site and is listed on the Tasmanian Heritage Register & the Australian Heritage Database.

Main Information Source: Information signs posted at the site.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Mr Watson's Cottages

An intact example of the simplest form of row housing in Australia, these cottages are said to have been built for workers from the nearby shipyards in Battery Point.
Shipbuilding was the first important manufacturing industry established in Van Diemen’s Land – the colony’s blue gum timber was well-suited for boat-building and there was strong demand for trading and whaling vessels.  A number of slipyards were established at Battery Point, with some at the bottom of today’s Finlay Street, and the remainder along the foreshore on the eastern side of Napoleon Street.

John Watson was a master shipbuilder who arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in 1833 and spent several years supervising and training convicts at the government shipyards at Port Arthur.  In 1839, Watson leased a site on the eastern side of Napoleon Street and began building ships there.  Watson is acknowledged as the father of Hobart’s shipbuilding industry and his apprentices included Alexander McGregor, John Gibson McGregor, John Lucas and James Mackey who went on to run successful shipyards on their own account.  Watson never owned the cottages that now bear his name.

The amount of shipbuilding activity in the vicinity of Napoleon Street steadily increased during the 1840s with more slipyards established, more vessels launched and larger numbers of workers employed.  Shipbuilding is thirsty work and the Shipwrights Arms Hotel which still operates at the top end of today’s Trumpeter Street was first licensed in May 1846.  The shipyard workers needed places to stay, as well as places to drink, and there was high demand for rental accommodation in the neighbourhood.

James Poynter, a successful Hobart merchant, had purchased a strip of land sloping down to the River Derwent from the eastern side of Napoleon Street.  He had plans and specifications drawn up for a row of four brick cottages along the Napoleon Street frontage.  Each of the cottages contained four rooms and there was a cart entry down one side and along the rear.  Poynter invited builders to tender for erecting the ‘Four adjoining Cottages’ in the Colonial Times in December 1856.
The brick-built cottages were auctioned in May 1858.  Notices in The Courier stated they were ‘desirably situated for the residence of parties whose avocations call them daily to the Wharfs or its neighbourhood, and also as an investment, the certainty of always having occupants at a fair rental enables the purchaser to make a pretty safe calculation.’  They were purchased by Robert Burnett Burgess who lived nearby in Trumpeter Street.

In 1872 the four cottages were purchased for ₤360 by John Downie, a shipwright, who lived in one of them and rented out the other three. In 1919 the cottages were purchased for ₤900 by Thomas Vernon Nicholas, a local butcher with a shop in Hampden Road.  The notice in The Mercury advertising the sale had declared that they ‘all let readily, and realise very good rentals.’ In 1922 the cottages were purchased for ₤1,350 by Arthur Robert Reid, the curator of the Hobart zoological gardens (Beaumaris Zoo), who rented them all out.
The ‘Investment Cottages’ were offered for sale in The Mercury in November 1951 and it was noted that each of the four cottages had a laundry, bathroom and toilet at the rear.  The advert continued that ‘The situation is very good, overlooking the harbour, and adjacent to transport.  We recommend this property as a good investment proposition.’

Today, despite its long history as rental properties, the terrace is in excellent condition.  Its front fa├žade, complete with white picket fence, is effectively unaltered from the time when it was first built.

Information Source: Australian Heritage Database

Thursday, 12 September 2013


The first mention of the Huon area of Tasmania, or Van Diemen's Land, was made in 1788 when Captain Cook landed at Adventure Bay on Bruny Island. Eleven years later, Lieutenant Bligh in the Bounty visited Adventure Bay and planted some apple trees - the beginning of an industry. In 1793 Bruni D'Entrecasteaux visited the area and named Kermandie, Esperance Bay and Recherche Bay after his two ships, D'Entrecasteaux Channel and Port du Cygne (place of swans). In 1802 Commodore Baudin visited Port Cygnet and named the Fleurieu River (later Anges Rivulet). One of his party, Peron, wrote of meeting a beautiful young aboriginal girl - Oura Oura - and her family.

The first settler was William Nichols who sailed around the coast from Browns River (Kingston) where he had a property. He liked the area and in 1834 brought his wife and children to settle along the river valley through which a stream later named Nicholls Rivulet, flowed on toward the bay. Until recent years the remains of the old Nichols house could be seen. It was claimed that Nichols could build his own vessel, rig it and sail it anywhere in the world.

In 1835 the Cowen family came and settled nearby. They were followed by the Bleeze, Poole and Pursell families. In 1838 Matthew Fitzpatrick came from Ireland with his wife and sisters and settled at Petcheys Bay, where he eventually planted an orchard. In 1840 the town at Port Cygnet was divided into building blocks and in 1841 land allotments were for sale at Garden Island Creek. In 1841 William Nichols' daughter married Richard Wilson. Their son, John, was born the following year and became the founder of the boat building firm of John Wilson and Sons. He built vessels in various parts of the bay and for some years located his yards at Martins Point. The gradual silting up of the bay made it necessary to shift his yards to Robleys Point on the opposite side of the bay. Some members of the family still build boats today.

By 1843 there was a thriving community at Port Cygnet. In 1845 Probation Stations for convicts were established at Port Cygnet, Lymington and Nicholls Rivulet and Huon Island. The clearing of land and building of huts continued. There were 333 convicts stationed in the district and a hospital was being built at Lymington where the staff were based. Of the convicts there were blacksmiths, boat crews, brick makers, charcoal and lime burners, carpenters, coopers, carters, gangs for clearing and cultivating, erecting barracks, splitting timber, sawing, fencing timber cutting, rolling logs and hard labour! There were also servants for officers and others and storekeepers. In 1848 the number of convicts began to decline - probably by pardon and ticket of leave.

By 1853 many new settlers were attracted to Port Cygnet, the Probation Stations were gone, streets were named, and in 1862, the town of Lovett was proclaimed. The name of Port Cygnet was retained for the bay. There is confusion as to whether the town was named for the Surveyor General or for one of the early settlers. In 1853 the Hobart Town Advertiser reported of the increasing importance of Port Cygnet. The first District Constable appointed was Edward Chancellor. In 1854, an order was made saying that only free men could be employed in the Police Force. Convicts on Ticket of Leave had been enlisted previously.

Quite a few of the settlers had boats - sailing ketches were used first for transport and these then gave way to steam. Captain Gourlay brought a paddle steamer, the "Culloden" from England in 1853. In 1854 a load of miners arrived on the  "Culloden" when gold was discovered on Mt. Mary. Captain Gourlay also had the S.S. Cobra, 46 tons, and obtained a packet licence. This enabled liquor to be served on board. In 1871 it was reported that ketches etc. had lifted 15,120 tons of produce (£43,000) and timber (£12,500), and by 1875, 37 vessels were handling £77,000 of freight per annum. Thomas Nichols, son of William, traded between Hobart and Lovett in "Lady Palmerstone" There were no lights or beacons then and often direction was found by gun shots. In later years still, Reginald Thomas Nichols traded on the river and gave personalized service to all.

At first the only communication, except by water was by bush road to Kingston and then by coach to Hobart Town. The rough track had been made by William Nichols earlier. By now in 1862, roads were being built in the district. By 1872 a money order Post Office was operating and by 1878, the building of a court house was underway. Coal was discovered at Gardners Bay and Mr. Fitzpatrick and Mr. Richard Hill (his father-in-law) had much to do with the development of the mine. In 1882 a Post Office Savings Bank was introduced. Women could bank but had to have the permission of their husbands to draw money out! Military pensioners settled in the district around 1887, many in Slab Road, and by then there was a Post Office, Money Order Office, Electric Telegraph and a Savings Bank.

A new school was erected in 1886 (now the Play Centre). Attendance at school was sometimes low. Once when asked by an Inspector why a certain family, who lived nearby, missed so much school, the teacher replied, "The mother complains of the state of the road in winter". "But I observe that it is no better in the summer", said the inspector. "The father says there are too many snakes about", said the teacher.
The brick State school was erected in 1925 and in 1937 became the first Area school in Southern Tasmania. Children were brought in by bus from all the small schools and enrolment increased to 370 pupils. Subjects ranged from the basic subjects to sewing, cooking, woodwork, blacksmithing, tinsmithing, care of fowls, growing of vegetables aid fruit, apple i.e. picking and pruning etc.

As many as 32 vessels a month passed through the area. There were jetties at Crooked Tree, Deep Bay, Coal Jetty, Herlihys Bay, Petcheys Bay, Wattle Grove, Lymington, Glaziers Bay, and Randalls Bay - these apart from Port Cygnet. All produce had to be carted by dray to these points. In 1895, Mr. Devereaux, owner of the Huon hotel built a hall on the site where the Health Centre is now. This filled a gap in the social life of the town and gatherings there were a plenty. In 1898 the top recreation ground was made.
By this time fruit exports were increasing and shipments to London had already begun. Interstate supplies were increasing also. The fruit season saw most of the towns population working in or about the orchards, while the millers provided the case materials.

Mr. Fitzpatrick imported the first motor car at the turn of the century and later became the first Warden when the Council took office in 1908. Due, probably to confusion caused by the names of "Port Cygnet" and the town of "Lovett", it was decided in 1915 to change the name "Lovett" to "Cygnet". Cygnet became the first district to buy bulk power from the Hydro in 1924. The Court house was completed in 1912 and the Town Hall in 1913. In 1927 a deep water pier at Lymington was suggested - this came about in 1936. In 1932 a second storey was added to the Court house and the buildings of the Town hall and Court house became one. Before the Town Hall and Devereaux's hall were built, the hotels were the meeting places for social and business gatherings.

Today Cygnet is something of a local mecca for artists and creative types in the region, and the local area also has a farming population and there are many second homes (largely owned by Hobart residents). About a mile south of the town centre is a safe anchorage for pleasure craft with easy road access to Cygnet. Cygnet is also the site of the popular annual Cygnet Folk Festival which has developed a reputation as one of the premier cultural events in Tasmania

Main Text & Information Source:

Cygnet Folk Festival:

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Keen's Curry Sign

Here's something a little bit different!!

South Hobart is famous for its Keen's Curry sign. The Keens Curry sign has been visible on the foothills of Mt Wellington for over 100 years.
When 22-year-old carpenter, Joseph Keen, sailed to Australia from Britain in 1841 with his bride, Johanna, he would never have dreamt that his curry-powder creation would still be tantalizing taste buds 150 years later. Following Johanna's death in Sydney in 1843, Joseph left for Van Diemen's Land where he soon married Annie (Nancy) Burrows and became a father of 16 – to nine daughters and seven sons. Joseph and Annie settled at Browns River, Kingston, south of Hobart, where they established a bakery, small manufacturing outlet and a general store. Joseph Keen created the iconic curry powder in the 1860's and sold it from his small store in Kingston as well as producing and selling his own sauces and other condiments.

Within a decade, Joseph's curry powder was known throughout the colony and his produce was winning awards. He received a medal for his spice mix at the 1866 Inter-Colonial Exhibition in Melbourne and an honorable mention for his spicy sauce at the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition. In 1905, after both Joseph and Annie had passed away, the couple's sixth daughter Louisa and her husband Horace Watson took over the family’s curry-powder business.

Horace purchased land in the foothills of Mount Wellington overlooking Hobart, and soon after, transformed it into a large advertising sign, and using heavy stones painted white, he formed the words 'Keen's Curry' in letters 15 metres high. Public uproar resulted, but Horace won the right to use the land as an advertising sign. In a university prank in 1926, the letters briefly read 'Hell's Curse', and students altered it again in 1962 to promote a theatre production. In 1994 the landmark read 'No Cable Car' as a protest against a proposed development. However the sign has been restored after every change.

It’s not quite as glamorous as the world famous Hollywood sign but its great that the sign is still there and visible all these years later. Although not strictly from the colonial era, the sign is certainly of historical significance and is listed on the Tasmanian Heritage Register.

And also it’s very cool!!!! 

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

James Austin's Cottage

A small and simple cottage, built by James Austin in 1809 is located a couple of hundred metres from the Austins Ferry Yacht Club.
Austin was a convict who had been transported to Port Phillip in HMS Calcutta in 1803 and then transported to Van Diemen's Land in 1804. His crime was the theft of beehives valued at thirty shillings and he built Austins's cottage on his release from local stone. He named the cottage and farm after Baltonsborough the village of his birth in Somerset, England. In 1816 James Austin and his cousin James Earl established the first trans Derwent ferry service which remained the main transport route from Hobart Town to Launceston until completion of the Bridgewater causeway in 1838.

James Austin in partnership with his cousin John Earle established the original ferry service from Austin's Ferry to Old Beach - a crossing of less than 3/4 mile. Both men arrived in the Colony of Van Diemens Land in 1804 having been transported from England for stealing beehives. They were released in early 1809. James was granted land on the West of the Derwent where his cottage still stands today. It was from here that the cousins offered fellow colonists transport across the river. Initially, travellers were rowed across on demand after being offered refreshments at Austin's farm. Eventually, the service became more regulated with two crossings a day. Earle built a hut on the Old Beach side of the river in 1811.

In 1815 Austin and Earle built their first ferryboat and cattle punt but it is 1816 that is recognised as the year this, the first trans Derwent ferry service, began. It was not until 1818, however, that the ferry between Austin's and Old Beach was officially licensed and became part of the Hobart / Launceston road. An inn had now been built to accommodate travellers overnight, not far from Austin's Cottage - it was later to become known as Roseneath Inn. In 1820 Austin and Earle announced the completion of their new launch - a flat bottomed, flat decked punt - that was capable of transporting 30 head of cattle, 200 sheep, or 2 carts and 16 oxen. This "floating bridge" was towed across the river by one of the smaller boats. By 1821 Earle had built an inn at the Old Beach side of the ferry - now known as Compton Ferry. The demands for the service continued to grow and an even larger ferry was commissioned by Austin. This vessel could carry 5 loaded carts and their teams of ox, 100 head of cattle 300 sheep or "a proportional quantity of other produce."

In 1826 John Earle retired due to ill health and the ferry service continued to prosper under a new partnership - that between Austin and C. Goodridge. Austin had built two horse boats and two small boats.
During this same year the Land Commissioners in their report on the survey of the road from Hobart to Launceston complained of the delays involved in crossing the river. They were of the opinion that the ferry owners did very well out of their business and could therefore afford to offer a far better service at a lesser expense to the user. They recommended a bridge be built from Black Snake - this bridge, however, did not eventuate and the ferry service continued to be a very profitable business for at least the next ten years.

Goodridge took over the lease from Austin of both the Roseneath Ferry and the Compton Ferry in 1828. He had at his disposal three large punts capable of transporting 600 sheep or 200 head of cattle or 10 loaded carts with their teams at any one time. He also had 3 horse boats and 2 passenger boats.
In mid 1829, home sick for England, Goodridge left the colony and the lease of the ferries was taken over by Solomon and Josiah Austin - James Austin's nephews. With the death of their uncle in 1831 ownership of the ferries became theirs. The Bridgewater Causeway was opened in 1836. The ferry service soon proved to be a far less lucrative business.

Little is known about the ferry during these years. The Roseneath Ferry with boats was advertised for lease in 1848. This was the year the bridge linked both sides of the Bridgewater Causeway and it is thought that there would have been little demand for the large punts. The Compton Ferry had been purchased by Alex Ainslie in 1840 and, as a result of a disagreement with him, the Austins had destroyed both jetties on their side of the river.

James Austin's original cottage has been preserved and restored as a tourist attraction by the City Of Glenorchy where it provides crafts and historical information.