Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Mariners Cottages

These cottages are believed to be the oldest remaining buildings on the site of the shipbuilding yards of Napoleon Street. It is believed that the cottages were built around 1842 by John Watson, the shipbuilder. They are constructed of painted brick, three bricks thick with lath and plaster inside. The internal walls are of timber with tongue and groove boards. The ceilings are the same and inside the roof are battens that the original shingles were attached to.

The cottages were built on a portion of the 90 acres of land originally granted to Lieutenant Governor William Sorrell Esquire, third Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land. These 90 acres were sold to William Kermode in 1824. In 1833 the block that the Mariners Cottages stand on was purchased by James Kelly, Master Mariner of Hobart Town. He leased the site to John Watson on 1839. Watson eventually purchased the site from Kelly in 1843.

The description of the sale at the time mentions "Land & Buildings"and it is believed that John Watson had already built the lower cottage. One survey from the time, documents the lower cottage as a store and it is believed that Watson used the lower cottage to store timber and other articles used for shipbuilding. There were also a blacksmith's shop and carpenter's shop nearby.

John Watson had arrived from England in 1831 and for two years, he was in charge of shipbuilding at Port Arthur. He set up his own business on this site in 1839 and he went on to build some of the most famous ships in the colony, including the "Flying Childers" which features on the crest of the Hobart City Council.
In 1856, the property was offered for sale and was ultimately purchased by Duncan McPherson. The shipyard was run by J Lucas & R.A Jeffrey and then in the 1880's by Messrs Tilly & Williams.

After the shipyard was sold, the cottages were leased to various tenants for more than a century. Some very poor additions (more than 50 years ago) rising damp and water spillage from the nearby road had all caused considerable damage to the buildings, especially to the top cottage.

In 1983, the Hobart City Council, as the owners of the buildings, leased the cottages to the National Trust of Australia (Battery Point Group) in return for a peppercorn rent with the National Trust agreeing to restore the cottages and to this point, it has spent more than $20,000 in doing so.

In addition, members of the Cruising Yacht Club of Tasmania have given hundreds of hours in labour and support of the restoration. Up until recently, the cottages were used as an antiques store and display.

Main Text & Information - Information board on site.

Sunday, 25 May 2014


'Hildern' was built in the late 1840s for David Heckscher, a watchmaker and jeweller.  Heckscher got into financial difficulties and had to sell the property to repay his debts.
John James (c1794-1863), a wine and spirit merchant, bought 'Hildern' in 1850 and over the next forty years it was rented out to various tenants. William Gilchrist Watt (c1840-1914) bought the property in 1893.  Watt lived at 'Hildern' until his death at which time the property passed to his wife, Catherine.

Catherine paid for the construction of St James the Apostle Church which is located a few hundred metres away on the corner of Elizabeth Street and Rupert Avenue.  The Church was dedicated in the memory of William Gilchrist Watt by the Bishop of Tasmania in 1918.

Catherine died in 1919 and bequeathed Hildern to the Church of England in Tasmania as the Rectory for St James'.  Hildern remained the Rectory for St James' for over sixty years until the 1980s when the Church could no longer afford to maintain it.  The Tasmanian Government had to pass legislation - the Church of England (Rectory of St James the Apostle) Act 1980 - to allow the Church to sell the property.

It would appear that the building and its accompanying stone barn are still in private hands to this day and appears to be undergoing restoration and conservation of the buildings and grounds.

Main Information & Text Source – Australian Heritage Database

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Hobart Savings Bank

The absence of a monetary constitution when Australia was settled in 1788 created the conditions for a century of free banking. Banking companies proliferated in this unregulated environment and Van Diemen's Land was unexceptional. Fifteen banks operated in the first fifty years of Van Diemen's Land's existence, out of an Australian total of 51. They were generally of a limited size and operated on a small scale.

Consequently many failed, while others merged with larger banking companies, particularly those with branch banking structures. Banks were set up either as regular commercial institutions, such as the Bank of Van Diemen's Land (1823), or in a philanthropical vein to encourage the lower classes to save their money. Sometimes these aims were combined. When the Derwent Bank was established in 1829, attached to it was the Convict Savings Bank, an attempt to encourage convicts to improve their miserable status.

The major banks of this type, both aiming at all the'lower classes', were the Launceston (1835) and Hobart (1845) Savings Banks. The Hobart Savings Bank was established by a group of Hobart entrepreneurs headed by George Washington Walker. This bank was originally located at Walkers shop No.65 Liverpool Street and opened for business on the 1st of March 1845.

The function of the bank in the words of the draper Quaker Walker was as follows, "The encouragement of frugality, prudence and industry in the community, and more particularly to enable working classes to improve their circumstances , by means easily within their reach. It offers to all who choose to avail themselves of its advantages a safe mode of investing their savings, affording them not only security but interest for their money, and the liberty of withdrawing either the whole or any part whenever needed" By the end of the first year of trading 601 accounts were in operation.

In 1853 Walker sold his drapery business and the bank needed to find new accommodation "within the ordinary haunts of business and tolerably central." The bank continued to be housed in Walkers new premises located in Collins Street opposite the Hobart Town Courier. In 1857 the government made a decision to vacate the Hobart Gaol located on the corner of Murray and Macquarie Streets. In July of 1859 a new building on this site became the head office of the Hobart Savings bank. In the following years the bank opened numerous branches in the towns and suburbs of Tasmania.

The Hobart Savings Bank building is a very fine example of a Regency office building and part of a group of related buildings forming an historic precinct. It maintains an excellent intact interior. 'The Actuary or General Manager of the Hobart Savings Bank lived upstairs until the early years of this century'

The Tasmanian banking institutions that ultimately survived well into the twentieth century were two trustee savings banks, namely the Launceston and Hobart Savings Banks, plus the Agricultural Bank of Tasmania (1840) which specialized in rural finance. Attempts to merge the two trustee savings banks into a single state Bank of Tasmania in the mid-1980s failed on parochial grounds, although the Tasmania Bank was created through the merger of the Launceston Bank for Savings and the Perpetual Executors Building Society.

The Hobart Savings Bank continued its separate existence until Tasmania Bank entered a crisis phase in 1989 as a result of poor lending strategies. The Trust Bank of Tasmania rose from the ashes of the Tasmania Bank initiated by a significant injection of state government funds and the inclusion of the Hobart Savings Bank. The new Trust Bank retained the trustee structure of its predecessors. However, the Trust Bank could not sustain a competitive position in the Australian capital market, given its smallness, and so its assets were purchased by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in 1998.

The original building on Murray St still retains its original exterior and grandeur and I believe it may well be currently utilized as office space of some description. A beautiful and classic looking building.

Main Text & Information –
“A Companion to Tasmanian History – Banking & Finance” webpage

Update 23rd May 2014
Thank you to blog visitor Julia, who let us know that the property is now a private residence. Julia also very kindly shared a video link which takes us on a short journey through the inside of the residence. Really fantastic!!! Thank You, Julia

Video Link -

Sunday, 18 May 2014

The May Queen

The May Queen is Australia's oldest sail trading vessel still afloat and is only one of four wooden vessels of her era still afloat around the world.
Built in 1867 on the banks of the Huon River at Franklin, this beautiful ketch carried timber and supplies around south east Tasmania for over 100 years. Locally known as "barges", ketches like these were the workhorses of the fruit and timber trade. They plied their trade between Hobart and the isolated settlements of the Peninsula, East Coast, Huon River and the Channel.

The May Queen carried timber from the Huon for Henry Chesterman. Huge uncut logs were brought from the forest to a small bush sawmill then the roughcut timber was brought to Hobart. In her spare time, the May Queen raced with great success at local regattas. She won the first Royal Hobart Regatta trading ketch race in 1868 and was still in the field on the final occasion the race was run in 1954.

With the introduction of the river steamers in the mid 19th century and the development of road transport, the days of the barges were numbered. Some ended their days "wood hookin'' bringing firewood to town under sails patched with chaff bags. With the advent of the depression of the 1920s/1930s, some bargemen took to fishing or sold their boats for use as pleasure craft. Others continued working. The May Queen was fitted with an auxiliary petrol engine in 1924 and continued to ply her trade and became the last barge still working on the river before ultimately being retired in 1960.

At the end of her working life, the May Queen was given to the Tasmanian Government to be preserved as a reminder of the state's maritime history. She is now in the hands of a voluntary organization set up to handle her conservation and preservation.

The May Queen is currently moored on public display at Constitution Dock near the Tasmanian Maritime Museum.

Main Information & Text - Information boards at the site of the May Queen
May Queen Website - 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Holy Trinity Church, Hobart

Holy Trinity Church is located in Warwick Street, Hobart and was heritage-listed on the Australian Register of the National Estate in 1978. It is also listed on the Australian Heritage Places Inventory and the Tasmanian Heritage Register. The church is regarded as a building of national heritage significance, with a bell tower regarded as being of international heritage significance.

Holy Trinity Church was designed as a place of Christian worship for the Church of England by convict architect James Blackburn, an Englishman who was transported to Van Diemen's Land in 1833 for forgery. The church is in the Gothic Revival style with cathedral-like proportions along a north-south axis and is regarded as perhaps his greatest work. It is convict built on a fine hilltop (Potter's Hill). The foundation stone was laid in 1841 by Tasmanian Lieut-Governor Sir John Franklin.

The first rector, Rev Phillip Palmer, was a Christian evangelist seeking to bring the citizens of old Hobart Town and surrounding areas to the gospels. The Diocesan arms are shown above the entry door on the western side. Holy Trinity never became the cathedral it was designed to be, however, despite the hopes of Archdeacon Hutchins who was the main champion for building the church but died before it was completed in 1848.

Built on solid rock, the church is structurally sound, stable and safe to use. No serious cracks are evident in the foundations. The interior is in excellent condition including the floors, walls, roof, glass windows, lighting, heating and furnishings. Weighing more than two and a half tonnes, the bells are rung regularly and the bell ringers report there is no movement of the building, further proof of the building's structural integrity.

Much of the sandstone exterior of Holy Trinity Church however, is in poor condition and worsening with time. Weathering is especially evident in the corners where more than 160 years of wind force have caused damage by erosion. Weathering of trimmings and many sandstone blocks to a depth of 5-10mm has also occurred on those surfaces which do not dry out quickly after becoming wet. The type of clay in much of the sandstone makes it prone to expansion and contraction in cycles of wet and dry, resulting in cracking and flaking . Prolonged moisture retention within the sandstone also allows penetration of salt into the shallow subsurface, thereby causing the surface to crust and degrade. The original source of the salt is probably sea spray carried by the wind from the River Derwent a few kms away.

The high roof, generous floor plan, excellent acoustics and ample natural lighting due to numerous stained glass windows, create an open and welcoming space. The church was originally designed for a capacity of around 500 people although on very special occasions, such as celebrating the end of World War 2, it is claimed the congregation amounted to 800!

The original windows above the altar were of traditional design. Following the end of World War 1, in which 101 parishioners gave their lives, new windows were installed as a commemoration in 1922. In the lower section of the left-side window, Diggers (Australian soldiers) are shown in sand-bagged trenches, with artillery shells exploding in the near distance.

Holy Trinity Church is fortunate in having an organ of rich musical tones. The present organ incorporates the original organ of 1850, enlarged and improved in 1900, and remodelled in 1935. Electric action was installed in 1968. Also in 1968, the console was moved to its present position on the south side of the Chancel. At that time there was sufficient finance to complete only two of the organ's three manuals. A modest renovation was recently completed. The original organ was the first large organ of its type to be installed in Australia. It has been subsequently rebuilt and modified in various ways. Its musical quality is quite reasonable but limited - because although a 3rd keyboard has been added to the console, extraordinarily, it has never been connected to the pipes.

The bell tower is regarded by many as the Gothic masterpiece of architect James Blackburn and houses the oldest bells made for an Australian church. Cast as a set of eight in bronze at the Whitechapel Bellfoundry in London, they were first rung on Regatta Day, 1847 and have been rung regularly ever since.  The church features a massive four-level square entry tower topped with spirelets. Walls and tower corners are strengthened by tall, slender, shallow buttresses, three levels high around the tower. Parapet walls to aisle sections have pilasters also topped with spirelets.

Holy Trinity Church has a long and interesting history. The freestone from which the Church is built was obtained from the Domain quarry near Government House and was donated by the colonial government. Funds for the building of the Church were subscribed by the people of Hobart Town and other parts of Van Dieman's Land, and by donors in England including the Dowager Queen Adelaide. The Church was completed in 1847, services commenced in 1848 and it was consecrated on 27th December 1849.

Holy Trinity Church has a commanding view over the city of Hobart and is a magnificent piece of colonial architecture and construction. From Trinity Hill, the bells of the Church have rung out to mark many great occasions, both sad and joyful, in the life of the city and State.
Over the years, a considerable amount of restoration work has been done to the interior and exterior of Holy Trinity Church. Refacing the exterior of the Church is a continuous, vital and costly process. Work has recently been completed to restore the window sills and improve window security. Some items of furniture in the chancel of the Church are memorials and fine examples of the craftsman's art. They include the Rector's stall which is made of blackwood, handsomely carved with a threefold arrangement of Glastonbury thorns and berries.

The Church is classified "A" by the National Trust (to be preserved at all costs) and is listed on the Register of the National Estate. The church was sold by the Anglican Diocese in 2007 and is currently the home of the Greek Orthadox Church of Australia and has recently undergone internal restoration work.

Main Information Sources: Various Web pages from Internet.