Sunday, 28 June 2015

Denison Hotel

The Denison Hotel was first licensed in 1847 was named after William Denison who served as Governor of Van Diemen’s Land between 1847 and 1855. This building is a very elegant two storey premises containing 10 rooms and twin cellars which had been originally arranged with considerable care for the overall convenience of the proposed business. At the time, Macquarie Street was one on Hobart’s busiest roads and the location and convenience of the hotel were all designed to deliver the most profitable result for the owners as possible.

The Denison Hotel was originally owned by Joseph Taylor and the property extended down to the Hobart Rivulet. Taylor also built six small cottages which became known as “Taylor’s Rents” along the western side of Denison Lane next door to the hotel. The cottages were in high demand as they provided low cost rental accommodation. Unfortunately the cottages were not well maintained and by the early 1900’s, they had been demolished.

The Denison Hotel found itself in the public spotlight in 1900 when advertising on the exterior wall of the hotel was thought by some of the Hobart public to be threatening common decency. The buildings western wall had been painted with a mural which was designed to capture the attention of people travelling down Macquarie Street…..and capture their attention it certainly did!!

Apparently the painting depicted the interior of a bedroom with all the furniture depicted and a number of women in various stages of undress, taking off their footwear etc.  A letter sent to the newspaper stated that it was nothing less than a public scandal and called for something to be done to prevent such a disgrace to the city. I’m not sure what ultimately happened to the mural but can only imagine that its removal was eventually ordered. I wonder if the mural still exists under the layers of paint on the existing building.

An interesting part of owning a pub in those days was that the publicans had to apply to have their licenses renewed every year. The process was normally a formality but in 1918, the Hobart Licensing Court decided to write to 32 license holders advising them that they were required to attend the court sessions in person and present evidence as to the suitableness of their premises to have their license renewed and the necessity for a public house to be operating in their locality.

The Denison Hotel was one of those pubs identified for review. The court heard evidence from the police that the pub was well kept but they didn’t believe that it served any suitable purpose at all. Following two weeks of hearings, the court delivered its decision and announced the closure of 13 pubs, including the Denison Hotel. The decision of the Licensing Court was ultimately appealed to the Supreme Court but the original decision was upheld and the Denison Hotel was forced to finally close its doors.

This has probably been a blessing in disguise as the fa├žade of the building may well have been altered if the place remained as a pub. This beautiful building has stood the test of time and remains in fantastic condition and currently operates as the office for a medical services business.

Main Text & Information Source – 
“The Story of Central Hobart – Street By Street” – Donald Howatson 2015

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Commanding Officer's Quarters, Oatlands

This building demonstrates the government’s commitment to substantial & permanent housing for the military. The oldest part of the building was constructed by soldiers of the Royal Staff Corps in 1828 and was initially occupied by Lt. Michael Vicary and his wife Eliza in December 1828. Originally commenced as 2 large rooms (parlour & bedroom), which remain as part of the present home and a separate kitchen & pantry.

By 1836 the site included convict built sandstone servants quarters and stables. All external & internal walls of the house are half a metre thick sandstone. Described at the time as being “furnished in a superior style, the house possessed one of the finest cedar mantelpieces in Tasmania. The stables were located behind the house, with a plot of land set aside for the officer’s garden.

One of the best known officers to serve in Oatlands was Major Sholto Douglas who was sent to Oatlands in 1830. Douglas was appointed by Governor Arthur due to the great alarm in the district caused by hostilities between the local Aborigines and settlers. Douglas commanded the troops during the operations known as the Black Line, designed to drive the aboriginal population away from the settled districts and onto the Tasman Peninsula. Other commandants included 1829 – Lt Erskine, 63rd Regiment, 1835 – Capt. Mackay, 21st Fusiliers, 1836 – Capt Peddie, 1839 – Lt. Dickson, 51st Regiment, 1842 – Lt. Crookshank, 1842 – Lt. Doveton & 1843 – Capt. Bush.

Following the departure in 1851 of the last commandant, the building used as a school until the probation station was converted into a school in 1854. The house passed into private hands in 1863 to a Mr John Newby.  Another owner was a Mr Turner whose brother is listed as a WW1 casualty on the cenotaph. By 1948 the house had become a home & shoe business for the Mancey family. The house remains as a private residence to this day and appears in wonderful condition.

Main Text & Information Sources
Interpretive plaque at the site
Southern Midlands Council “Military Precinct” interpretive brochure

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Schouten House, Swansea

The story of Schouten House begins perhaps in 1834, 10 years prior to its construction, with the arrival in Hobart of members of the Champion family, along with a young blacksmith named Samuel Wellard.
William Champion, patriarch of the family, brother to Theresa and father to Esther, had landed in Hobart some ten years prior as a convict, and was in the process of establishing himself as a businessman. A former bellringer in his hometown of Dursley in England, he is credited with much of the effort to obtain and install the bells in Hobart's Holy Trinity Church, and trained the colony's youths in the art of bellringing. He was licensee of The Jolly Hatter in Hobart in 1838.

At what point he relocated to the just established township of Waterloo Point (now Swansea) we are yet to discover, but certainly by 1842 he was purchasing the land on which Schouten House now sits, to construct a replacement for the Traveller's Rest Inn at Waterloo Point in which he previously had an interest. His son in law, Frederick William Lewis (husband of Esther), was licensee of both inns, having previously enjoyed a somewhat chequered tenure as licensee of The Clarendon in Murray Street, Hobart and the Coach and Horses, Elizabeth Street, Hobart.

At this time, back in Hobart, Samuel Wellard was well known as a blacksmith in the Glenorchy area, supporting his young family, having married Theresa Champion sometime after their arrival in Hobart. We like to imagine their love blossoming on the voyage from England, but perhaps the families had a connection back in Gloucester. Innkeeping becoming something of the family trade, in 1845 Samuel was successful in becoming the licensee of the Traveller's Rest in Glenorchy (it was a popular name in the day).

It was probably just as well that Samuel cut his teeth as a licensee back in Hobart, as during 1848, Frederick unfruitfully accused an influential local, Robert Makepeace, of stealing a plank of wood worth 2 shillings, and within 6 months had had his license refused. There appears to be no mention of an interim licensee for Swansea Inn, but a little over a year later, in 1850, Samuel transferred his license of the Traveller's Rest in Glenorchy to relocate to Swansea and take over the Champion built inn with Theresa and their young family. Frederick and Esther returned to Hobart, where Frederick was successful in obtaining the license for the City of Norwich hotel on Argyle Street. Sadly, within a short time in 1851, Frederick decided to try his luck in the Victorian goldfields, and died in a cave in. Perhaps craving the stability that Frederick had never offered, Esther quickly remarried.

At the same 1850 hearing in which Samuel Wellard relinquished his license in Glenorchy to relocate to Swansea, a brewer by the name of Thomas Large did the same. It would seem that plans were made in Hobart for Samuel and Theresa to look after the inn here, whilst Thomas established a brewery in the newly constructed rear wing. The Wellards took up residence quickly and happily, whilst it took a little longer for Thomas and his wife, 6 children and the equipment necessary to equip a brewery to make the voyage through Storm Bay and up the East Coast in a no doubt typically windy November.

It is a prominent tale in local history that they did not arrive. The Resolution, the boat on which they had made the voyage, took up anchorage in the bay but for some reason did not fully disembark on arrival. During the night, a storm rose which dragged the ship across the bay some distance, where it could be seen being battered by the waves from the long jetty. With most of the crew on shore, and high winds and seas, retrieval was impossible, and whilst no adult lives were lost, all six of the Large children perished in the arms of those who sought to save them. Thomas and his wife buried their young family in a shared grave in the local cemetery and returned to Hobart. They endured, rebuilt their lives, and soon had another daughter, several descendants of whom have visited the town that holds an important place in their family history.

Though the Large family link to the house is only tenuous, and they never arrived or even saw the house as a family, their story is often cited as part of the history of Schouten House, with embellishments over time.
It is not clear whether Samuel continued work on the brewery or whether any significant brewing was done here. The owners have an original beer bottle from the time, and love to imagine the smell of mash and hops in what is now our personal part of the home. There is a gorgeous swing panel door which connects the brewery wing to the main house, and it's easy to imagine casks being passed through to the bustle of the inn. It's nice to speculate that the Thomas Large's planning saw fruition, and certainly Samuel was competent, energetic and well respected enough to grow his business.

In any case, Samuel and Theresa were pillars of the local community, actively involved in local government, church groups and social activities, until Theresa's death following the birth of their 14th child in 1855. She was 35 years old. The Inn was closed and Samuel returned with his young family to Glenorchy within a few short months, where he died in 1859 aged 47. The expectation of life was certainly different in 19th century Tasmania, although the determination and 'sticktoitness' of the new settlers seems correspondingly immense.

An Electoral Roll from 1856 shows a Patrick Cusick living at the residence of William Champion on Wellington Street, but there follows a period where the house was apparently used for a variety of short term ventures, including a school and as a private residence for local doctors, Henry Lovatt (until his death in 1885) and Arthur Naylor (until the early 1890s). It was during this time that it was renamed 'Schouten House' in reference to the prominent landmarks across the bay. It was purchased as a private home in the early 1890s by the lively local spinster, Sarah Mitchell, who owned it until her death in 1938, letting it to a couple named Target after the turn of the century, and living in it herself in her later years.

Sarah's nephew stayed at Schouten House in 2006, and shared tales of his larger than life aunt. She was apparently a passionate (if not necessarily gifted) artist who avidly recorded her travels and meaningful events in her life, mounting on an oil cloth a selection of paintings ready to unroll as she regaled others with her tales. She was the first person in the area to own a camera (imagine if she'd lived to own a slide projector!) and the first woman to fly from Tasmania to the mainland. Without a doubt, she was a proud home owner, gun toting rat hater and fascinating woman.

It seems the house languished, largely unused and falling into disrepair, until St Dominic's College in Hobart purchased it during the 1960s as a residence for visiting priests and a holiday residence for students. It persisted in some state of disrepair, much to the delight and imaginations of the students who spent time here. Many have returned with their own families to stay since and enjoyed both the memories, and the significant improvements, in the house since then.

Throughout the 1990's the property was home to a thriving seafood restaurant and at the same time renovations were undertaken to establish the Bed and Breakfast business. A commercial kitchen was added and the brewery wing fully renovated into a separate residence. Schouten House remains in beautiful condition.

Main Text & Information Source – 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Playhouse Theatre, Hobart

These premises were constructed by the Congregational Church in 1864 and were known at the time as the Union Chapel. The design was in the Romanesque style and the original design included the construction of a tower as part of the finished building but this ultimately was not proceeded with due to financial restraints.

By 1899 the Helping Hands Mission had acquired the property. This organization’s mission was to reach down to the lower sections of society and to lift them up. They provided the poor of Hobart with food, clothing and even job opportunities as well as the opportunity to include some religious instruction.

The Hobart Repertory Society took over the building in 1938 and following refurbishment of the building, it became the Playhouse Theatre and is still going strong providing quality productions and performances to this day.

Main Text & Information Source – 
“The Story of Central Hobart – Street By Street” – Donald Howatson 2015