Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Red Feather Inn, Hadspen

The Red Feather Inn is a heritage listed building in Hadspen's main street. It was built as a coaching inn and in the 21st century has been used for a restaurant and accommodation. The building's frontage is a substantial sandstone single-storey building. Land falls away sharply from the street and the building's rear has two-storeys.

Rising affluence in the 1840s had enabled growth of the coach transport industry. When built the Red Feather Inn was the first horse-change point on the road from Launceston, 8 miles (13 km) away, to Deloraine, and it was one of the colony's earliest coaching inns. It was built, starting in 1842, for local police magistrate Charles Arthur. It was built by John Sprunt, also builder of Macquarie House in Launceston's civic square, using convict hewn sandstone blocks and convict labour.

The inn was first licensed in 1844 and was at first successful. In only a few decades its fortunes declined when a rail line was built from Launceston, reaching nearby Carrick in 1869.  The economy of rail transport took goods and passengers away, forcing wagons from the road. This reduced the demand for coaching inns, and led to a general decline in traffic through and business in the town.

As of 2004 it was run as a restaurant and, after a 2008 refurbishment, has been used for accommodation and a cooking school.

Main Text & Information Source – 

Sunday, 24 April 2016

St James Church, Jericho

Four years before the settlement of Oatlands began, the first recorded religious service was held at Jericho, on the 23 February 1823. It was conducted by the Reverend Samuel Marsden from N.S.W. in the home of Mr. Thomas Gregson, “Northumbria”, Jericho. The movement for the erection of a church at Jericho began in 1827. Up until this time, the district was being supplied by William Pike, a catechist, who lived at “Park Farm”, Jericho.

The original church was designed by John Lee Archer and was consecrated by Bishop William Grant Broughton on Tuesday 10 May 1838. Fifty years later, cracks appeared in the building, and it was decided to erect another building on the same site. The new church, St James’ Church, Jericho was designed by Henry Hunter and built by Walter Fish at a cost of 839 pounds and consecrated by Bishop Sandford on the 29th April 1888

As a dominant township element, St. James’ is of great significance to Jericho. Architectural fittings and furnishings bear dedications to prominent early members of the district, including Thomas Gregson who was Premier of Tasmania in 1857, and whose property “Northumbria” borders the church. St. James’ is listed on the Tasmanian Heritage Register for its community values and its ability to represent a modest sandstone Victorian Gothic Church. Walter Fish was responsible for the stonework and the woodwork was carried out by Charles Ellen, both of Oatlands.

The stained-glass windows were added over time and are some of the best examples of Australia’s glass artists, including John Lamb Lyons (Sydney), George Dancey, William Kerr-Morgan, Brooks Robinson (renowned for the strength of his workmanship) and perhaps the most important window which was the last window that William Montgomery crafted. The beautiful window at the rear of the church, “Crucifixion” was executed by Augustus Fischer of Melbourne. His windows are rare and his work was renowned for his treatment of flowers. The wall treatment and stenciling are rare and beautiful.

It is also thought that St. James Church was the first church in the southern hemisphere to have conducted an Ecumenical Service. The churchyard includes an Avenue of Honour, a row of pine trees dedicated to local men (and one woman) who served in W.W.1.

St. James’ is a family church of the Bisdees, a prominent pastoral family of the district. They took an active part in the welfare of the church and its people. John Hutton Bisdee was the first Australian-born Victoria Cross recipient, and is buried in the cemetery. Bisdee was awarded the V.C. in 1900 for bravery in the Transvaal War, following which he returned to Tasmania to the family farm, and later served in W.W.1. He passed away on his property in 1930. The two Bisdee family plots are a dominant feature of the cemetery when approaching the doors of St. James’.

After years of uncertainty over its future (its roof was damaged by a windstorm in 2002 but the Anglican Church was only prepared to pay for temporary repairs). Despite appeals, it was closed and deconsecrated in early 2008. Subsequently, however, Bishop John Harrower allowed the local community to take it over on a peppercorn rental leasehold, the community to look after and maintain it and the grounds. A local volunteer committee has been established an excellent museum of local history and a memorial to those local men who served for their Empire.

For the botanist, the cemetery is one of only two sites in Tasmania where the rare plant Leptorhynchos Elongatus or Lanky Buttons can be found. This bright yellow daisy was recorded by the botanist J. D. Hooker in the 19th century as “not uncommon”.

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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Jordan River Bridge, Pontville

This bridge is old for an Australian bridge, and although the deck is new, the massive nature of the piers, together with their fine detailing means that the bridge has retained much of its original character. It is on the old Hobart to Launceston road and there was originally a bridge across the Jordan River at Pontville dating from the 1830’s. In 1835, John Lee Archer reported that it had become necessary to strengthen it. He recommended the construction of a new pier under the central span of 60 feet.

By the 1840’s a new bridge had been erected close to the military post which had been established near the river. On October 22, 1847, W.P.Kay reported that owing to defective masonry, four piers must be rebuilt from the foundations. On September 25, 1848, Kay informed the Colonial Secretary that the Pontville New Bridge would be open to public traffic on Wednesday morning, 27th September when the work would be completed except one wing wall at the north end. The whole would be finished at the end of the month.

A drawing of this bridge dated April 1848 on which the plan elevation and section are set out to scale shows two long stone abutments curving outwards as the road approaches and four stone piers nearly six feet wide with cut waters carried up to the level of the platform. This is twenty feet above river bed and is composed of logs laid longitudinally with planks laid across them supporting a layer of earth. The five open spans vary in length from twenty feet to twenty five feet and the width of the roadway is twenty five feet. Balustrade piers in stone are carried above the cut waters supporting the ends of wooden fences and a recess is formed on the road side of each pier.

A modern concrete deck was laid on the substructure of this bridge in 1945 and while the motorist is now conscious of only the roadway and pipe railings in concrete posts, history buffs should take the time to go down the side of the bridge to the river bank to view the magnificent stone piers that date back to the 1840’s. They appear to remain in wonderful condition to this day, easily surviving the stresses of modern day cars & heavy traffic. The bridge is a tribute to the skill of the stonemasons & bridge builders of the 1840’s.

Main Text & Information Source –
Australian Heritage Database
“Early Tasmanian Bridges” – R.Smith 1969

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Bothwell Literary Society Building

The Bothwell Literary Society established the first community-based library in a regional Tasmanian town. This came by way of a resolution at the Society's meeting of 7 July 1834. Initial acquisitions were obtained either by way of donation, in lieu of subscription fees or by purchase from unnamed London booksellers. An initial and sizeable donation was made by Capt. Patrick Wood of Dennistoun, Bothwell, who was in Scotland when the library was mooted. He purchased 130 volumes, some secondhand, in Edinburgh and donated them to the collection.

The Society was founded by the Rev. James Garrett, and first met in June 1834 as a debating society.  The first topic for debate was 'Whether is knowledge conducive to human happiness'.  Subsequently a library was formed and lectures were held during the winter months. Members of the Society included Phineas Moss, the police clerk; Dr Edward Swarbreck Hall; and Hugh Munro Hull.  These three members are all significant in Tasmanian history.

The building occupied in 1837 by the Bothwell Literary Society which, under the patronage of Sir John Franklin, established the first public library in Tasmania In 1852 Irish political exile, John Mitchell, wrote, 'Bothwell has a very tolerable public library, such library as no village of similar population in Ireland had'. The Society established one of the earliest rural libraries in the Australian colonies and remained active for over a century.

The building known as the Literary Society building in Alexander Street is now used as municipal offices by the Central Highlands Council.  The building was opened as a school in 1856, but it appears to be an older building.  It was re-furbished in the early 1980s.  Many of the original fittings were sold off or taken to the tip, undocumented.  Before 1856 the Literary Society library seems to have been moved around to whatever house had room to store the books.  In the 1856 school building a special room was set aside for the library

By the 1840s, the Library had begun to make considerably more local purchases. The Library's 1856 catalogue lists 553 titles, many of which were multi-volume publications. At the end of the nineteenth century, the collection was outdated; 1892 saw the last major acquisition, with the donation of 81 books by the MLC for Derwent, Walter Gellibrand.

By the century's end interest had waned, lectures ceased, and the books were out-dated.  In 1892 the MLC for Derwent, Walter Gellibrand, donated eighty-one books – the society's last major acquisition. The books were sent to the State Library of Tasmania for some years but were returned (with some extracted) and have been housed in various places in Bothwell over the years. Many of the library's original records are held in the Archives Office of Tasmania.  Part of the original collection remains in Bothwell, but as a museum piece, rather than a working library.

Today, the Bothwell Literary Society Library is housed by the Bothwell Historical Society. Its library is owned by the local municipal authority and is housed in the former Headmaster’s House. When Bothwell Council took over the Society's premises as its Council Chamber in 1985, the library was transferred to the control of Bothwell Historical Society.

Main Text & Information Sources – 
Australian Dictionary of Biography – 

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Old Anglican Rectory, Sorell

This was the first rectory for the adjacent St George’s Anglican Church and was constructed by Chapman & Huddlestone in 1826 for the princely sum of 908 pounds. The building is rectangular in form with a stone struck rendered finish, cedar doors & panelling and a corrugated iron roof. Sorell’s first rector, Rev Garrard, lived there until 1832. The rectory was an important social and community centre was well as the residence for the Anglican minister. It was used for annual church fetes and other activities.

The verandah was added around 1900 and is a simple structure with timber decorative elements and a small gable over the entry. The verandah returns along one side of the building with French doors opening onto the verandah from the main rooms. Other extensions were made by Oliver Haywood in the late 1950’s to accommodate his large family. The building retains much of the same look as it did when constructed and retains its general setting in spacious grounds with trees and gardens. Several small shed of unknown date survive in the rear yard. The building was last sold in 2001 and has been faithfully restored by the new owners who have done a wonderful job.

This is a very fine colonial home that has survived with sympathetic additions made over a number of stages of development. It’s significant for its association with the Anglican church, for its social role in the early development of the town and for its fine streetscape qualities as part of a historic group of buildings. The rectory is now a beautiful private residence yet retains the feel of its colonial past.

Main Text & Information Source –
“Sorell Heritage Study – Site Inventory Vol 5” – Sorell Municipal Council 1996

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Tamar Valley Semaphore System

It’s easy to take today’s communication technology for granted. A quick call on a mobile phone is all that is required to say you’ll be late for a meeting or to send a photo to friends oversees by the internet.

By comparison the Tamar Valley semaphore system of 1835 – 1858 relied on a very simple technology. The network consisted of three semaphore masts, located at Mt George, Mt Direction & Windmill Hill. Each mast was 18 metres high and had a pair of arms 5 metres long which were controlled by chains. Coded messages were sent between the semaphore stations were sent using numbers. Positions of the arms represented different numbers. Flagpoles for flying flags connected the signal stations with port offices in George Town and Launceston.

Launceston in the 1820’s was a bustling commercial & agricultural centre. Business people and merchants needed a way to quickly and accurately communicate between the town and the river entrance to provide news of shipping arrivals and their progress.

The distance from the mouth of the Tamar River to Launceston and the difficulties of navigating the river in certain tides and winds, meant that sailing ships could be delayed for days. This caused major problems for merchants and resulted in the development of the signal system to alert them of the arrival or delay of ships in the river.

In 1822, Peter Mulgrave, who had been responsible for inventing a semaphore telegraph system in England, had arrived in Launceston. With Mulgrave’s knowledge and strong public opinion the first signal station relay was completed in October 1835 enabling messages to be sent between the port offices in George Town & Launceston.

The port office in George Town would display the message to be transmitted in code flags. These would be observed by the Mt George station and relayed by semaphore to Mt Direction and from there on to Windmill Hill. The message was then converted back to flags for relay to the Launceston Post Office. The system was expanded in 1852 with the addition of a semaphore mast at Low Head which transmitted directly to Mt George.

The semaphore telegraph system was superseded with the advent of the electric telegraph in March 1858. However, reconstruction of the semaphore system was commenced in 1984. The Low Head mast was re-erected in October 1988 on land leased from the Low head Company. The Mt George mast was re-erected in December 1988 with the Mt Direction & Windmill Hill masts being completed in September 2000.
These photographs were taken at the Mt George Semaphore Relay Station site.

Main Text & Information Sources –
Interpretive Signs at the Site.
"Treasures of George Town" - George Town & District Historical Society 2003