Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Highfield Convict Barracks

The ruins of the old convict barracks built from 1834 and occupied from 1836. In July 1832 there were 41 convicts assigned to the Circular Head settlement in order to help establish Highfield, a number which would rise to 73 before the convict assignment system was shut down. Indentured labourers brought out from Britain and assigned convicts made up the bulk of the VDL Company’s workforce. Arrangements were made for agricultural workers sentenced in England for protest activities to be assigned as Company convicts.

Convicts were essential to the success of the company. Many of the convicts were highly skilled builders and were responsible for the construction of Highfield and its surrounding buildings, including the old convict barracks at Stanley which were used by the Van Diemens Land Co as quarters for employed men in the early days.The government had assigned convicts to settlers on a proportional basis but convicts were never assigned to the VDL Company in the numbers that were originally anticipated by the Directors and their agents. This discrepancy was to become one of the main sources of friction between Edward Curr and Governor Arthur.

It is clear that Curr valued the work of his convicts. In one of his despatches to his employers, he stated “Let it never be forgotten that we owe everything we are and have to our convict labour. Wherever skill or trustworthiness is required, it is not among the free men but amongst the convicts that we are obliged to look”  Although Company convicts had a good reputation, incidents such as the escape of six convicts in a sealing vessel in 1828 or the 1835 plan to capture Circular Head and seize the Company schooner Edward are worthy of note. The lure of higher wages elsewhere in the colony caused many of the indentured workers to abscond or nullify their contracts.

However, despite his favorable comments about his convict workforce, the company’s agent has also been accused of being particularly brutal. Curr employed a flogger, Richardson the Flagellator, and the flogging rate of the convicts under his authority was double that of the rest of the colony. Irrespective of their skills, the convicts were never paid for their labours but were forced to work under a system that was in al but name, slavery!

With the withdrawal of convicts following the closure of the convict assignment system and the introduction of the probation system in the early 1840s the company turned its attention from the use of convicts to attracting tenant farmers to the property.

Main Text & Information Source-
Interpretation signs at the Site

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Rock Cottage, Bothwell

Rock Cottage is a single storey Victorian built around 1864 for Henry Wise, a local wheelwright by local stonemason, Thomas Lewis using stone from the local quarry. It features attic rooms with dormer windows.

It became the home of Mr Charles Nichols around 1878. Mr Nichols and his family were also wheelwrights with his carpentry and blacksmithing sheds across the road from his new home. Mr Nichols  appears to have been a man with various business interests as he also conducted an undertakers business from this cottage as well.

Rock Cottage is a very distinctive looking building in the townscape of Bothwell and is very well preserved. It is currently a private residence.

Main Text & Information Source & Historical Photo - 
Interpretive Sign at the Site

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

St Luke's Church, Richmond

There are only a few older churches in Tasmania and most of those erected earlier have either been rebuilt or altered to such an extent that very little of the original building is left. For instance, old St. David's, Hobart, which was begun, as early as 1817, is now replaced by an entirely new cathedral. St. Matthew's, New Norfolk, opened for divine service in 1825, has been so altered that it would now hardly be recognized by its original builders. St. John's, Launceston, was completed in the same year, but that building was being rapidly swallowed up by the large structures that were rising around it. St. George's Church, Sorell, was commenced in 1826, but that church is now replaced by a new one. It is the same with the Longford Church, which was erected in 1829.

But St. Luke's Church, Richmond, stands practically the same today as when it was first erected. Of course, the present iron roof is modern. But the walls and tower remain the same. They are as they were when the builders removed the scaffolding from around them in 1836. The men and women of the early days would have no difficulty in recognizing the church to which they bent their steps from Sunday to Sunday. The same square, stern, massive building has watched the convicts march past in their clanking irons, has kept guard over the busy township in the days of its prosperous activity, and today stands sentinel over the quiet village that Richmond has now become.

The present parish of Richmond was originally a part of the Sorell parish or Pittwater, as it was then called. The parish then consisted of Pittwater, Richmond, Jerusalem (Colebrook), and the East Coast as far north as Bicheno. The parish was constituted in 1825, and in that year the Rev. Wm. Garrard was appointed to take charge of it. This enormous district is now divided into four parishes. Mr. Garrard visited Richmond, and conducted service in the Court-house.

A start was made with the erection of a church at Richmond. The foundation stone of the Church of St. Luke was laid in 1834 by the Lt Governor George Arthur, Governor of the colony. Designed by John Lee Archer and built by convict labour, the church was completed in 1835. James Thompson, the convict who was responsible for the original timber work inside the building, was granted his freedom as a reward for his work.

The church was erected on land given by Mr. Butcher. In consideration of this gift, there was granted to the Butcher family a right-of-way through one of the vestries to their pew at the top of the church. The stone for the church was quarried from the hill overlooking the township known at Butcher's Hill. The Government granted the use of a number of convicts in building it, but there is no record as to whether the Government also made a grant of money towards the cost of erection. The church seems to have taken some time in building, for it was not completed till 1835 after being constructed by the convict labour. Convict life was held very cheap in those days. The lash, or even death, was the punishment for offences not counted very serious today. And it is more than likely that the rising walls of the church saw the spilling of human blood.

The curses of the convicts must have been built into those walls. The earliest associations of the church reek with crime and infamy. But there is one bright spot even in the building. There is a tradition that the convict responsible for the timbering of the roof received his liberty for the splendid way in which he did his work. As previously mentioned, this was completed by James Thompson who did receive his freedom as reward. The roof, as seen from the inside, excites the admiration of everyone that sees it. To us today it looks almost unnecessarily strong.

The first occasion on which the church was publicly used was the marriage of Mr. William Chambers with Miss Mary Heyward, on the 11th of March, 1836. The church was not properly finished even then. The flooring was not all in. Boards had to be laid upon the joists to allow the wedding party to reach the top-end of the church. But the parties to be married put up with these little inconveniences in order to make sure of being the first to be married in the new church. When they brought their first baby to be christened the chaplain presented them with his own Bible that he used in the pulpit. Mr. Chambers was the sexton of the church, and his descendants still live in the township.

As soon as the church was opened there was quite a rush of marriages, as many as three taking place on the one day, and a total of twenty in the last nine months of 1836. The first chaplain of the newly-formed Richmond parish was the Rev. W. S. Aislabie. When Mr. Aislabie took charge of the newly-built church, its interior was somewhat different from what it is now. The pulpit was a three-decker, and was placed in the middle of the church, at the top end, before the Holy Table. The clerk sat in the lower part of the pulpit. Above him the minister read the prayers. For the sermon the preacher mounted higher still, and preached from the third storey.

The pews were of the box kind, high sides, straight backs, narrow seats very uncomfortable to sit on. They were of cedar-as were all the fittings of the church. The present more comfortable seats were made out of the material of the old ones. The choir sat in the gallery, which had a curtain running along the front of it. The convicts who attended service sat in the body of the church on forms placed just before the gallery. The soldiers that formed their guard sat on corresponding forms, on the opposite side of the aisle.

There was no organ, the singing being led by two musical instruments, the clarionet and the bass viol. A little later, an instrument known as a seraphine was bought and put into the church. This seraphine seems to have required a great deal of attention. For, in the church accounts, an item for 'tuning or repairing seraphine' is of frequent occurrence.

An organ was built in 1868 by Bevington & Sons, London, for Trinity School Room, Launceston The organ was later installed in St John's Anglican Church, Devonport in 1909, the gift of a parishioner where it was first used on Easter Day. It was rebuilt in 1966 by K.R. Davis & Son, at which time a new case, radiating-concave pedal board and swell box were provided. The organ was then installed at St Luke's in Richmond in 1984 by Australian Pipe Organs Pty Ltd when the Devonport church acquired a larger organ built by Fred Taylor for a church in Melbourne. More recently the casework of the organ has been painted and cornices placed on the upper side sections, with a marked improvement in its overall appearance. The builder's name in painted in gold on a board behind the keys.

It was in the year 1864, that the beautiful stained glass window was put in at the end of the church over the Holy Table. The window has three lights, illustrating the glorious company of the Apostles, the goodly fellowship of the Prophets, and the noble army of Martyrs. The window is a major feature of St. Luke's Church, and is one of the finest of its kind in the diocese.

The 75th anniversary of the construction of the church also saw the establishment of a fund to provide for the restoration of the church as it was beginning to show its The fabric of the church was badly needing repair. Cracks in the walls were visible. Plaster was falling. The woodwork was decayed. Something had to be done as soon as possible.

Obviously funds were raised and repairs and restorations were completed and have continued over time. The clock in the tower was one of six turret clocks manufactured by London clockmaker Thwaites and Reed in 1828 for consignment to the fledgling Colony for use on public buildings. Commonly referred to as the 'Richmond Town Clock', it was installed at St Luke's in 1922, having first been used in the original St David's Church at the corner of Murray and Macquarie Streets, Hobart.

The clock was not installed in the new St David's Cathedral when it was constructed in 1874 and it gathered dust for some fifty years before being given to St Luke's in 1922 by the Dean and the Cathedral Chapter. In 2004 a clock restoration project was undertaken in conjunction with a major restoration of the Church building, including the strengthening of the roof, repairs to stonework and plasterwork, and painting.

As a consequence of the restoration works, St Lukes continues to provide for the Richmond community and still is in wonderful condition. A major feature of the Richmond township and one you simply must visit if ever visiting Richmond.

Main Text & Information – 

Historic Photos – 

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Glebe House, Kempton

The convict built two storey Glebe House was a private residence built for Rev George Otter in 1839. The Rev Otter was the Anglican Minister for Green Ponds. Otter chose the site for his new home for its closeness to St Mary’s Anglican Church.

He had been the perpetual Curate of All Saints, Newmarket in London where, in January 1838, he married Mary Anne Wedge. He and his new bridge then emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land where he was appointed the new Chaplain of Green Ponds in April 1839, a post that he held until 1849.

Considered one of the finest houses in the town, Glebe House was described in 1850 as “A Capital Dwelling House, having every possible convenience, and suitable for a gentlemen’s residence or scholastic establishment containing flower garden & paddocks”

The property later passed through several hands before being purchased by the Munnings family in 1921. Walter Munnings, a farmer from Colebrook, built a weatherboard shop at the front of the block but later moved the shop across the road opposite his home. The house today remains a private residence. It was up for sale & sold as recently as 2011.  

Main Text & Information Sources – 
Interpretive Sign at the Site

Historic Photos – 
Interpretive Sign at the Site

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Robert Logan's Cottage

Here's an interesting story. Robert Logan is not a well known or significant personality in Hobart's history. In fact Logan's arrival in Van Diemen's Land was pretty much involuntary. He had been convicted of larceny and sentenced to transportation for life at Berwick-Upon-Tweed in May 1829. Logan arrived in Hobart in December 1829, and despite being suspected of stealing or being an accessory to the theft of 10 x 1 pound notes in June 1831, he was to receive his ticket of leave in February 1838. Fortunately for Robert, he had no more misdemeanours recorded against him and he went on to receive his conditional pardon in September 1841, followed by his absolute pardon in May 1844. He was then able to take his place in Hobart society as a free man.

By May 1845, land on the western side of De Witt Street in Battery Point was subdivided and made available for purchase. The newspaper adverts of the time were addressed to builders and capitalists and predicted that "the result of a purchase cannot prove to be anything other than an exceedingly profitable investment".

By this time, Robert Logan had been a free man for 12 months and he was able to acquire about an acre of land in the sale. It had a 74 metre frontage along De Witt Street and extended back all the way to Newcastle Street. Logan set about constructing himself a sandstone cottage and went on to construct eight others on his parcel of land which he rented out.

Logan ran for election as a Hobart City Council Alderman in 1862, and although he wasn't elected, it was an exceptional rise from the rank of convict to landowner and man of respectability. The full stop on Logan's rise to respectability took place in May 1921 when the Hobart Council renamed St Georges Street, which was a little side street that had been created to provide access through to Newcastle Street when De Witt Street was subdivided in 1845, to Logan Street after Robert Logan who had lived in the cottage on the corner of its junction with De Witt Street.

Apart from his street name, Logan's legacy still exists with all nine of the cottages Logan constructed still existing to this day and are in fine condition serving as private residences.

Main Text & Information Source - 
"The Story Of Battery Point - Street By Street" - Donald Howatson 2012