Sunday, 29 June 2014


It was a small piece of land the Lieutenant Governor William Denison allotted to William Leake in Sept 1851. At some stage in the next 13 years, Leake had a large square shaped house constructed on the land, the house now known as Wyvenhoe.

Wyvenhoe is very solidly constructed, largely through the use of large stone blocks and features a wide, front verandah that contain unusually decorated posts. The stonework has been painted white with the woodwork trim surrounding the verandah & windows etc painted green. Out the back of the property is a large stone barn. Very few buildings as old as this historic residence are still standing nearby, apart from directly across the road is a former church of a similar age.

William Leake lived in the house until 1864 when it appears he passed away. At this point, the trustees of Leake's estate sold the property to John Foster, the son of a Yorkshire farmer who had arrived in Hobart Town with his mother & younger brother, Henry, in 1823. John & his mother were granted land near Ross and named his property Fosterville, Well over a century and a half later, the Ross property is still there, still retaining the same name and still having the Foster family as owners. Incidentally, John had at one time owned the beautiful mansion in Hampden Rd, Battery Point which had been built in 1834 by Lieutenant Governor Sir George Arthur's nephew. It bears the same name as the Bellerive house but with a slightly different spelling - Wivenhoe

Wyvenhoe was later to be passed on to the young brother who had arrived with John Foster in 1823 after John had died in 1875. The house remained in the Foster family until it was sold in 1924 to well known local identity, Hugh Forcett Denholm, a butcher who was affectionately known as "Nut". Denholm owned the property for over thirty years until he sold the property to the parents of the current owners.

It's a beautiful looking property and has outwardly retained it's charm and reminds one of yesteryear. Another property that has managed to defy the ravages of time even though more modern buildings have been built around it in more recent years.

Main Information Source - 
“Mansions, Cottages and All Saints” – Book by Audrey Holiday & Walter Eastman

Australian Dictionary of Biography - John Foster

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Drunken Admiral

The present day Drunken Admiral building was constructed in 1825-26 on the northwest shore of Hunter Island, partly on reclaimed land. It was built for the Leith Australian Company which was initially established to encourage Scottish families to migrate to Australia. The company imported rum, gin, wine, ale, pork, herrings, hams, tea, coffee, mustard, stationery, saddlery, snuff, and hardware such as paint, whitening, tar, chalk, nails, implements, iron and cedar.

The building was considered one of the finest in the colony, built of brick with a stone fa├žade and roofing slate imported from Scotland, which was considered quite an extravagance at the time. The building included four store rooms, two offices, a sample room and a three-bedroom residence.

The company’s Hobart agent, Charles McLachlan, who lived in the residence, helped establish the Hobart stock exchange and chamber of commerce, was a director of the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land, and a member of the Legislative Council.

The building was later leased to Ordnance Corps for storage, and subsequently as a barracks for its officers and men. It was then used as a receiving depot and temporary accommodation for military pensioners enticed by the promise of a grant of land and a horse in return for undertaking a short term of military service each year. In return they were require to act as guards on the convict ships and perform 12 days of military training per year so that they could be called up at short notice. The scheme was not successful and between 1849 & 1851 saw pensioners unable or unwilling to work, cause major damage to the building by ripping out the internal woodwork for firewood. By 1851 the building, in a disgraceful state, was handed to the Immigration Association where it was used by the as a depot for new arrivals.

Advertisements of the day in Britain encouraged single women and widows of good character from 15-30 years to better their condition by emigrating. The first passengers to be housed at the depot were from the ship “Beulah” and included 12 married couples and 10 children along with 169 single women, mainly from Irish workhouses who were brought to the colony to work as domestic staff to meet the demand for servants in the now prospering colony. The Hobart Town Advertiser of September 2, 1851 reports the ship and depot were inspected by Governor Denison and his wife who were impressed by the women and their accommodation. Domestic servants were in high demand and most soon found work.

In the 1880s the building was occupied by brothers John and James Murdoch who ran it as a flourmill and warehouse and built an additional loft. In 1923 it was acquired by Henry Jones and Co and was converted it for staff facilities with separate dining rooms for men and women.

It became the Drunken Admiral Restaurant in 1978 and still operates as such to this day.

+ Signs outside the Drunken Admiral 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Old New Town Road Bridge

Here is a bit of hidden gem!!
The road that comprises Elizabeth Street, New Town Road & Main Road was part of the original north - south route from Hobart Town until the Brooker Highway was constructed in the 1950's. It had been previously known as the Great Road from Hobart Town into the interior and the High Road from Hobart Town to Launceston. Convict road gangs were used to construct much of the infrastructure along the roads including bridges, culverts etc as well as the roads themselves.

The vast majority of motorists who travel along this road every day of the week would probably be unaware that the bridge that crosses over the New Town Rivulet at the Creek Road intersection was originally built in 1840 by the convict road gangs. A beautiful stone arch construction which has survived to this day.

The roadway was widened in 1903 in order to accommodate a significant increase in traffic but the original structure was not replaced, rather the widened road was constructed over the top of the existing bridge. The original stone arch structure was retained as the basis of the bridge and continues to provide strength and durability up to the current day. It is not visible from the current roadway but a pathway that runs down beside the rivulet affords pedestrians a fine view of the small bridge under the concrete superstructure above it.

The bridge itself appears to be in excellent condition. The only downside, in my humble opinion, is that the stonework has been attacked by the bane of modern day society - graffiti. It would appear that the local council has neither the time or the desire to clean the ugly graffiti from the walls of the bridge and keep it in its original condition. Possibly a case of out of sight, out of mind. Still, its a wonderful surviving structure from the convict era and a tribute to the skill of the stonemasons and artisans among the convict population of the time.

Main Information & Text Source - "The Story of New Town" - Donald Howatson

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Watergate, Hobart

Over two hundred years ago, the most important area of the fledgling colony was the commissariat precinct and the government wharf area. The area was heavily guarded as the goods that were stored behind the walls of the commissariat store were crucial to the survival of the young colony. The main access to the complex for goods was through what became known as the Watergate.

The Watergate was so called because of its closeness to the waterfront, the Hobart Rivulet and the causeway to Hunter Island. This made it ideal for the loading and unloading of goods from ships anchored in Sullivans Cove. The buildings through the Watergate were built in the early years of European colonization. They were occupied and used by the commissariat department to store and issue supplies to the colonists of Hobart Town. The commissariat building is still the oldest surviving public building in Tasmania, having been built in 1810.

By the 1820's it had been outgrown and the bond store was constructed in 1824.
(See my post on the Commissariat Store & Bond Store
These buildings played an important role in the community as the place to receive, store & distribute goods to the colonists.

The high wall and gateway were constructed in 1826 and originally included a decorative triangular gable across the top of the gateway. However the gable was found to be unstable and was soon removed.

The ramp leading from the government jetty up to the gateway was made with cobblestones. Up this ramp, convicts were tasked with hauling the goods through the Watergate and into the stores from the small barges or lighters, that tied up at the government jetty. Parts of this cobblestone ramp can still be seen today with sections having been excavated during archaeological studies on the site.

Just to the left of the Watergate, the tops of two doorways can be clearly seen. These are the doorways that led to underground vaults built in the 1820s and which now lie beneath the courtyard behind the wall. The vaults were used to store barrels and bonded goods, which were held there until duties were paid to the government. they began to collapse soon after construction and were abandoned when the land leading up to the Watergate and the wall was reclaimed in the 1840's.

Its difficult to imagine these days just how the area originally looked with the water lapping just a few metres away from the gate as the land right around the front area of the complex has been reclaimed. There are a number of old paintings and prints of the time which give us a idea of what the area looked like.The current gateway was constructed in 1870.

The Watergate and its surrounds are a wonderfully preserved part of the commissariat precinct which is now part of the Tasmanian Museum area

Main Information & Text Source - Signs outside Watergate entrance 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

James Kelly's Burial Site

James Kelly (1791-1859), sealer, pilot and harbourmaster, was born on 24 December 1791 at Parramatta, according to the inscription on the Kelly family tomb in St David's Park, Hobart. By tradition he was the son of an English army officer, but probably of James Kelly, a Greenwich pensioner, who held the titular post of cook in the transport Queen, and Catherine Devereaux, a convict transported for life from Dublin in the same ship.

Apparently a quickwitted child, Kelly was largely self-taught and before 13 had already made several voyages out of Sydney. On 27 January 1804 he was apprenticed to Kable & Underwood to learn 'the Art of a Master Mariner'. He was employed as a sealer until 1807 when he sailed in their ship “King George” to Fiji for sandalwood. In 1809, his apprenticeship completed, he sailed in the “Governor Bligh”, commanded by John Grono and in April 1810 he sailed to India in the “Mary Anne”. On his return to New South Wales he became chief officer of Kable & Underwood's “Campbell Macquarie”, under Captain Richard Siddins, and sailed on a sealing venture to Macquarie Island. The ship was wrecked on 10 June 1812, but Kelly, one of several picked up by the “Perseverance”, reached New South Wales on 29 October and walked overland from Broken Bay to Port Jackson.

On 17 November he married the daughter of a former marine, Elizabeth Griffiths, whose sister Mary later married Sir John Jamison. Probably the first white Australian born to become a master mariner, Kelly commanded the “Brothers”, a sealer, and left Sydney on 24 December 1812 for Bass Strait, returning five months later with some 7090 skins. Next September, in command of “Mary and Sally” belonging to William Collins, he sailed again for Macquarie Island. He returned in March 1814 and was then employed by Dr Thomas Birch to sail between colonial ports as master of the schooner “Henrietta Packet”. Next year he began to build his famous Rock House on a bank of the Hobart Town Rivulet; his wife and family occupied it in 1817.

According to an account he wrote some time after 1821, Kelly set out on 12 December 1815 in a whale-boat on a voyage in which he circumnavigated Van Diemen's Land and discovered Port Davey and Macquarie Harbour; but in a letter written in April 1816 Birch claimed to have discovered Port Davey on 22 December when sailing the “Henrietta Packet”. From there, said Birch, Kelly 'proceeded along the coast and discovered Macquarie Harbour'. Kelly did not refer to his voyage when giving evidence to Commissioner John Thomas Bigge in 1820, though he said he had been to that harbour seven times and described it in considerable detail.

After a year of sailing in Tasmanian waters, in November 1817, commanding Birch's “Sophia”, Kelly sailed on a sealing venture to New Zealand and landed near the present Otago. The Maoris gave him a friendly reception, but next day attacked and three of his men were killed. He retaliated by destroying canoes and burning their village, which he said had 600 houses. The exact site of the sacking, of interest to archaeologists, has never been established.

In April 1818 with an armed detachment he was searching the east coast of Tasmania for escaped convicts; on 19 June he circumvented an attempt at Port Jackson to cut out the “Sophia”, for which he was praised by Sydney merchants and presented with a suitably inscribed piece of plate. In September he returned to Hobart having caught six whales in the river.

Next May he entered on official duties when Governor Lachlan Macquarie confirmed his appointment as pilot and harbourmaster at the Derwent. In December 1821 in the “Sophia” he assisted in transporting convicts to the newly established penal station at Macquarie Harbour and in 1825 he helped to set up the secondary penal station on Maria Island. With others in 1826 he inaugurated the Derwent Whaling Club. In 1829, because the increasing number of ships entering the port required more of his time as pilot, he gave up the position of harbourmaster, and two years later resigned as pilot.

He was then actively engaged in whaling, had an interest in several ships, was extending farming operations on Bruny Island, owned property and built steps at Battery Point and had become a well-to-do identity. He sent two of his sons to Bath Grammar School in England, contributed towards the cost of building the Theatre Royal in Campbell Street, was elected one of the Derwent and Tamar Fire, Marine and Life Assurance Co.'s first directors, and soon after became committeeman of the Anniversary Regatta inaugurated by Sir John Franklin.

In 1834 his ship “Australian” had been wrecked and the “Mary and Elizabeth” attacked by Maoris in New Zealand. In 1831 his wife had died. Then in 1841 his eldest son was killed while whaling, and his third son was drowned in the Derwent next year. Hit by the depression of the 1840s he was compelled to assign his properties to creditors, and later was glad to accept employment from the port authorities once more.

Although credited with being the 'father and founder of whaling' in Tasmania he saw others reap the benefits without himself being able to re-enter the industry. He died suddenly in Hobart on 20 April 1859. His funeral was attended by numerous merchants and others interested in the port's shipping. Seven of his ten children predeceased him. His name is remembered by Kelly's Steps in Hobart, Kelly Basin at Macquarie Harbour, Kelly Island off Forestier Peninsula and Kelly Point on Bruny Island. As previously mentioned, the Kelly family vault can be found in St Davids Park in Hobart.

Main Information & Text Source – Australian Dictionary of Biography

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Park Street Toll House

The main road through to Launceston was completed by Governor Arthur, but it was only after the introduction of the probation system, which increased the building of public works, that organized and constant maintenance of the road by convict gangs could be under taken. The Road Tax, introduced by the government to help defray the enormous costs of construction and maintenance, was bitterly resented by the population so the act was repealed in 1846. The costs for construction continued to climb so it was decided to implement a system of tolls for usage of the road system. To collect the road tolls, a system of Toll Houses or Toll Bars were erected along the routes.

There was a long list of tolls for various types of animals and vehicles and pedestrians.These included two pence for a horse, three pence for a two wheeled cart drawn by one horse, one penny for a pedestrian (but if he was going to a funeral, there was no charge) Tolls were also waived for persons wearing the Queen's uniform or for persons going to or from church. Coaches paid one penny per passenger and one penny per wheel.

The first toll gate established in New Town was built in 1848 and was originally located on New Town Road. The funds collected were used to help pay for the maintenance and gradual improvements of the main road from Hobart Town to Launceston. By the 1860's, traffic was using Park Street as an alternate north - south route the new Town in order to avoid passing through the New Town road toll bar and thus paying the tolls. In December, 1863, the government advertised that they were setting up a new toll bar in Park Street to prevent the evasion of the tolls. That Toll House building has survived to this day. Although described as a toll bar, there was no actual bar, simply just a chain across the road which was lowered by the resident gatekeeper who resided in the Toll House.

Tolls were never really a great success. The system was inefficient, hard to manage and the gatekeepers were often unreliable. To the horse riding gentry, the toll bar was often nothing more than a challenge to be taken at a jump. The revenue was never enough to keep the roads in good repair, and the volume of traffic was barely enough to justify the overall expense of keeping the houses operational. After the advent of the railways, the tolls virtually became useless and by 1880 the were finally abolished altogether.

The Park Street toll house became a private residence and then later on it was rented out for a time. It currently remains a private residence and the building still retains its original distinctive appearance. A wonderful little reminder of a bygone era although I would suggest that there would not be too many people who would be aware of the original occupation of this beautiful little house.

Main Information & Text Source - 
"The Story of New Town Street by Street" - Donald Howatson

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Rectory, Hamilton

The Rectory at Hamilton was built on land that had been first granted to Henry Browne in July 1839. Browne had sold the land for 35 pounds in 1841 to Messrs Thomas Marzetti & John Dobson. Marzetti & Dobson didn't appear to develop the land too much in the following 4 years and in 1845, they ultimately sold the land to storekeeper, James Jackson who paid 31 pounds for the block and was the first to begin development of the land when he subsequently built a house on it.

The exact date of the construction of the house has been lost through the passage of time but clues have been discovered on the site. perhaps the most interesting is a sandstone block into which had been embedded a bootscrapper. This appears to have been around from the earliest days of the building and is inscribed with the year 1847. This would appear to tie in well with the date of the acquisition by Jackson. James Jackson appears to have owned the property through until 1865 when, unable to repay 400 pounds for which he had mortgaged the house in 1859, the property was auctioned off and subsequently purchased by Reverend George Wright for 375 pounds.

Rev. Wright had been serving the people of Hamilton since 1846 after the need for Anglican Church infrastructure had become obvious early in the life of the settlements of the district In fact in 1837, the Hobart Town Gazette had reported that, in their classifications of Hamilton's free inhabitants by mode of worship, those following the Anglican faith out numbered the other faiths by a figure of about 7 to 1.

In February 1884, the land and the Rectory were transferred from the Rev. George Wright to the trustees of the Hamilton Endowment Fund for the sum of 500 pounds. Over the following 100 years or so, the situation remained the same and during this period, it was the only rectory in Tasmania used but not owned by the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania. This didn't change until July 1978 when the property was transferred to the Trustees of the Diocese of Tasmania.

The Rectory is a substantial building with superb cedar fittings and although it is in the very heart of the Hamilton township itself, it still enjoys wonderful views of the area.. Over the 150 odd years since Rev. Wright first moved into his house, a further 23 ministers have called the Rectory home. It's easy to imagine the stories that could be told from within the stone walls of the Rectory as parishioners over the years have sought good advice, comfort and ministry from the various ministers.

It may also still hold plenty of surprises for there is supposedly a closed off cellar within the building complex which, as far as can be established, has not been entered for many years. The Rectory has now become a private residence and has been maintained in wonderful condition.

Main Text & Information Source - 
From Black Snake to Bronte : Heritage buildings of the Derwent Valley in Tasmania. Drawings by Audrey Holiday, Text by John Trigg