Wednesday, 30 March 2016

City Park, Launceston

City Park occupies 6ha (15 acres) near the Tamar river. Included within the park is Albert Hall (constructed in 1891, and significant in its own right), the park's gatehouse, the 1933 John Hart conservatory, and other smaller features including the bandstand, the 1861 fountain and the Jubilee fountain, iron gates and cast iron palisade fencing, and the South African war memorial. The City Park land was originally held as a number of separate titles. A cottage erected on one of these became the residence of Lt. Col. Paterson, military commander of northern Tasmania, in 1808. Paterson exercised authority over New South Wales when Governor Bligh was overthrown in 1808, so the cottage became the centre of government for a brief period.

Extensive government gardens were established around Paterson's cottage, incorporating utilitarian gardens and orchards. From 1825, the cottage served as the northern residence of the Governor. The last Governor to use the cottage was Sir John Franklin. Sir John and Lady Franklin encouraged the formation of the Launceston horticultural society and the cottage was the venue of the society's first exhibition in 1838. Later in 1851, the cottage (known as Franklin Lodge) was the venue for the formation of a northern branch of the Royal Society. Vestiges of this period consist of an old pear tree, a line of existing steps from Brisbane Street and possibly the archaeological remains of the cottage. By 1841 The Horticultural Society was offered a 21 year lease on land to the west of the government cottage to establish a botanic garden. This area was used for exhibitions, plant propagation and experimentation, and plant distribution. The garden was opened to the public once a week and served as Launceston's civic square.

The Sebastopol cannon was given to the citizens of Launceston in recognition of their work in the Crimean War relief fund. The style of the gardens at the time appears to have been Gardenesque and included an 1841 rustic pavillion, a Grecian style lodge. Animal enclosures for kangaroos and emus were introduced in this period. Apart from the Franklins, who were patrons of the society, William Henty, later to be Colonial Secretary, was secretary of the society. The society's president, Robert Campbell Gunn, is significant as an early Australian plant collector and botanist.

Council management began in 1863 and a deed was signed for the area in 1865. Major development of the park occurred between 1877-79 during Launceston's boom period. The layout of the park was altered for the international exhibition held in Launceston in 1891-2, with removal of flower beds and the creation of new paths to blend with exhibition facilities. The 1891 path layout survives, and the site of the annexes built for the exhibiton are now marked by a chess board. Features remaining from this era include Albert Hall, the gatekeeper's cottage and a small building on Tamar Street.

The monkey island marks the location of the former zoo and reflects the continuous use of this area for the display of animals. The layout of the former era was retained and notable features of the park installed, including in 1897, the Jubilee fountain, originally located outside the city gates and moved in 1908 to its present location, the high Victorian filigree cast iron gates, installed to mark the coronation of Edward VII, the cast iron palisade fence on the boundaries of Cimitiere and Tamar Streets, erected between 1903 and 1914, the Boer War memorial erected in 1904, the rock-edged shrubbery on Brisbane Street planted out between 1906-1908, the removal of the rotunda and erection of another bandstand, the Dutch garden created in 1921 on the site of the independent school, the John Hart conservatory of 1935, replacing the 1863 conservatory, and the pioneers' garden.

Under council management the parks were used for public recreation, band recitals, outdoor moving picture shows and horticultural displays. The park area was expanded in 1964 with the addition of a former house site. The area is enclosed with a rusticated stone pergola, and in 1978 a Senses Garden was introduced and the 1861 fountain located to this setting. The garden style demonstrates the trend towards more natural looking low maintenance gardens. This era is also noteworthy for an increased emphasis on children's recreation with the development of the children's playground.
A beautiful park with a great history and an important part of the Launceston community.

Main Text & information Source –
Australian Heritage Database

Historic Photo –

Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Hobart Tide House

This octagonal tide gauge house, located in Castray Esplanade in Battery Point and designed by Robert Huckson, was opened in December 1889, and still contains a working tide gauge where the height of tides is still measured. Twice a day, a metal float sinks into a saltwater-filled pit cut through a rock beneath the tiny building. Twice a day, the float rises with the tide.

Behind the tide-house on the right hand side of the door, one step has a square cut in it, to act as a base for a surveyor’s staff. It's the measured positioning point for the surveyor's staff. Measured at exactly 12.43 feet above sea level, the socket was the base datum point for all levels surveyed in Tasmania. This is a horizontal plane of known height to which the elevation of all other measured points are referenced.

I don't profess to really understand how this all works but the building is an interesting little building and certainly has some historical significance in the development of Hobart especially and Tasmania in general.

Main Text & Information Sources –

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Guard Tower, Port Arthur

In 1835, Commandant Booth put a high priority on the construction of a strong wall and tower for the further security of the military barracks. Point Puer boys were quickly put to work to cut and shape the stone. By 1836, the Tower, with its flanking walls and turrets was completed. Captain Laplace visiting in 1839 described it as “A sort of tower in the mediaeval style from the top of which a soldier on duty can observe all that was going on in the surrounding area and look to the security of the homes of the principal officials of the establishment”

Its crowning glory was a flagpole. The Union Jack was flown on Sundays, when a ship was entering or leaving the harbor and whenever a person of consequence was visiting Port Arthur. Its position also gave a clear view of any vessel anchored in Mason Cove and the commissary store that stood on the foreshore in front of it. During its active lifetime, it has had various uses over the years including as a guardroom, firearms and ammunition store and prisoner holding cell.

The Guard Tower contained a storeroom for guns and ammunition, a guard room and a watch tower. Three cells were provided for soldiers, civilian offenders and female convict servants. They were locked up for minor crimes like drunkenness, or waited here to be sent to Hobart for trial for more serious offences like assault. The soldiers of Port Arthur were responsible for security and for pursuing and capturing escaped convicts. A small number of soldiers were accompanied by their wives who washed, sewed and provided basic nursing care for the men in their husband’s company. Children of the soldiers and lower ranking settlement officials and free staff were educated together at the adjoining Free School.

Although the Guard Tower was sold after the closure of the settlement, it was not demolished with the rest of the military complex. It served as a private museum during the 1890’s and escaped the ravages of the bushfire due to its lead roof. This building, now in ruins, was the third military complex built at the colony. The first, a timber building, was replaced in 1841 by a brick structure which, in turn, was replaced by this two storey barracks complex which was completed in 1847. The most prominent remnant of a building within the complex is the Guard Tower.

Main Text & Information Sources – 
Interpretive Signs at the Site
“Port Arthur – Convicts & Commandants” – Walter B Pridmore

Historic Photo – 

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Hobart Baptist Church

The history of Baptist work in Hobart goes back a long way. On 14 June 1835 in a small dwelling in Elizabeth Street in Hobart Town, the first Baptist church in the Australian colonies was formed. A chapel on Harrington Street opened a few years later, on Sunday, 21 March 1841.  The church was both a Strict and Particular (Calvinist) Baptist church where the Lord’s Table was closed to those who had not been baptised as believers. In time the work petered out. A number of the congregation came part of the new “open” church on Elizabeth Street, the Hobart Baptist Tabernacle, the Hobart Baptist Church of today. Some who transferred to the ‘Tab” became key leaders in the church for many years. The chapel building was used from time to time by the “Tab” as it was now theirs to use and it was eventually sold with the money used to construct a new church in Moonah

In the late 1860s the religious devotion and commitment of Perth graziers, William Gibson Senior and his wife Mary Ann, to the London Baptist preacher, the Rev. Charles Spurgeon, became the catalyst for the resurgence of Baptist belief and life in Tasmania. They became the prime financial benefactors to a Baptist new beginning in Tasmania, including the work in Hobart.  Their staggering wealth gained from their highly sought after world famous Scone Merino stock paid for the passages of the Baptist pastors from Spurgeon’s College who had accepted the offer to minister in the colony.

In 1869 the first Spurgeon man arrived. A decade later the man who would be Hobart Baptist Church’s pioneer pastor, Irish born preacher, the Rev. Robert McCullough, arrived, and after a number of years in Longford, he commenced in Hobart, in 1883, supported by the Gibson’s financial commitment. His preaching was a clear, straight-forward atonement theology. By now the Gibsons had built tabernacles at Deloraine and Longford with others to follow at Launceston, Sheffield, Promised Land, Latrobe and Devonport.  In Hobart, to begin with, both the Gibsons and their son gave £450 ($180,000 today) towards a schoolroom after they had purchased the land in Elizabeth Street for £950 ($400,000). The schoolroom was completed in 1885 and stands behind and adjoining the stately tabernacle.

For Gibson Senior, once the schoolroom was completed, it was now time to erect of a large church in the capital. Plans of the Stockport Baptist Church, Manchester, England, were obtained and submitted to architect George Fagg to ascertain if they could be adapted to the site.  It was one the newer class of Baptist Church building in England and Gibson’s approval of the plans included a cheque for £1000 ($400,000). The letter accompanying the cheque read in part, “The money would not build a palace, but it would build something better than a barn!” His son also forwarded his cheque for £1000 ($400,000). This was in keeping an earlier promise by William Junior to match pound for pound the giving of his father. In all, the Gibsons gave £3,500 ($1,400,000) towards the work in Hobart.

The contract to erect the edifice was awarded to the contractors, Stabb Brothers.  The foundation stone was laid on 5 October 1887, in the presence of about 300 people. A bottle was placed underneath the stone containing a copy of the “Day Star”, “The Mercury” and “Tasmanian News”, and a parchment scroll.  The Tabernacle was opened for worship on 20 January 1889 with Rev. McCullough still the pastor of the church.  McCullough was followed by the Rev. Morrison Cumming from Bury St. Edmunds in England but he remained only six months. He was followed by Scotsman, the Rev. James Blaikie. The church had now grown to a membership of 167. The finances were in a sound and healthy condition, the Sunday school was well attended and the Christian Endeavour Society had a membership of 100. The church’s third branch church was at Constitution Hill.

Rev. F.W. Boreham was the next Pastor in 1906 and he was one of the most outstanding preachers the church has ever seen.  He put the church on the map as it were, not only in Tasmania but in Australia. Although he came to a church with deep divisions, his preaching captivated the congregation and the church saw itself in a new light. It was the wording and the creativity of his messages, rather than his theology, that made the difference. During his time the membership nearly doubled, from 180 to 320. He had been plucked from relative obscurity in a small town in New Zealand. He made Hobart Baptist church and Hobart Baptist church made him!

After a decade the Rev. E. Herbert Hobday was inducted into the pastorate and he sought to inspire members and adherents to strive to bring all society, as well as the individual, into conformity with the teachings of Jesus. The Rev. Donavan F. Mitchell, B.A., was welcomed in 1923. He was the first non-Spurgeon College man and his ministry lasted only four years.  He was followed in 1930, by the Rev. Harold Hackworthy, who was the church’s first Australian-born pastor. His work among the young men of the church was particularly successful. In 1941 Australia was at war and the Rev. Edward Roberts Thomson was in his first year at the church. With preaching being his primary gift, again the church heard powerful and thoroughly evangelical addresses. Roberts Thomson was also strongly ecumenical and long discussions took place with the Church of Christ in Hobart with the idea of forming a single church, but this did not eventuate.

By the 1950s the church was in a more prosperous stage of its life and gradually the dreams of improving and beautifying the buildings came to fruition. These included the sound-proofing of the entrance, the re-arranging the layout of the seating and aisles, and carpeting of aisles.  In 1960, the pipe organ was replaced with some of the original pipes reconditioned and included to make a total of 1,728 pipes.  Built at a cost of approximately £15,000 (including new choir seating and certain necessary structural alterations), it was formally dedicated to the glory of God on Sunday 13 November 1960.

In 1951, the church was near the peak of its influence in Hobart. It again had a dynamic Pastor in its midst, this time in the Rev Merlyn Holly, BA, son of a coal miner from Wales, U.K. Holly as a child had experienced first-hand the social unrest in his home country. Australia too was seeing the continued change in its social values. While the first couple of years at Hobart were disappointing to Holly, the church remembers him as the one who left a record unequalled in the history of the church.  He was followed by the Rev. Ron Rogers in 1963 and he left in early 1965 to become Principal of Morling College, Sydney. The church continues today.

Main Text & Information Source – 

Historic Photos – 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

George Town Female Factory

The original George Town Female Factory was set up in a shed in the town Lumber Yard near the wharf in 1821. At the site, cloth was made from the coarse wool of the colony together with leather and shoes of excellent quality. The Superintendent in charge of this site was Chief Constable Mark Wilson. In 1825, the looms used to produce the cloth were moved to Maria Island and the Female Factory was moved to a two storey former parsonage in Cimitiere Street, George Town.

This building had been originally built as a residence for the first chaplain in the north of Van Diemen's Land, Rev John Youl. The Rev Youl was appointed chaplain for Port Dalrymple in 1815 but did not arrive in Launceston until 1819. he remained there until 1821 when Governor Macquarie ordered the reluctant parson to move on to George Town and take up residence in the fine two storey residence that had been provided for him. Youl hated his time in a town filled with convicts and without the society of free settlers. He was glad to return to Launceston in 1825.

When Youl finally made his move back to Launceston, his house was converted to become the new residence for the George Town Female Factory. Robert & Sophia Graves were the Superintendent & Matron from 1825 until October 1829 when Samuel & Mary Ann Sherlock replaced them. By December 1832, there were 37 female convicts and 5 children in residence.

However, the building soon became dilapidated with broken windows and doors hanging off their hinges. Other problems beset the Female Factory including shortages of raw materials, machinery and food, unreliable supervision and increasingly, problems with overcrowding. There were also concerns for the moral safety of the women, especially when travelling between Launceston & George Town. The issues at the Factory was such that the female prisoners tended to regard a spell at George Town as something of a rest.

In November 1834, a new female factory in Launceston was opened and the women were all removed to there and the George Town Factory was closed for good. By the mid 1830's the house had been refurbished and was used as the Magistrates residence and Police office. In 1873 the house was sold to private owners who stripped the building of its fittings for use in other homes. By this stage, the house was forlorn & derelict and it managed to survive until the winter of 1889 when part of it collapsed during a gale and the rest was ultimately demolished.

Archaeological investigations of the original site, which is now a vacant lot, revealed the trenches from where the buildings foundations had been removed for use in other houses. Other such items as glass & china fragments, nails, clay pipes, buttons and thimbles were also found. This Female Factory, whilst only active for a short period of time, still forms an important part of the story of female convicts in the colony and hopefully further archaeological investigations will turn up many more exciting things and tell more stories of this unique part of our convict history.

Main Text & Information Source - 
Interpretive Signs in at the Old George Town Watch House
"Treasures of George Town" - George Town & District Historical Society 2003
Model version of the George Town Female Factory (Both the early lumber yard and the two storey former parsonage) are part of the wonderful Model Village of 19th Century George Town recreated to scale by volunteers and can be viewed at the George Town Watch House