Sunday, 31 July 2016

St John's Rectory, Launceston

The St John’s Church rectory lies to the south of the church building. Built in 1878, it was first occupied by Canon Brownrigg in 1879. Built under the architectural direction of Henry (Harry) Conway, reputedly to Canon Brownrigg’s design, it is typical of English Rectories of the day with the exception of a verandah. It’s an excellent example of a Victorian Gothic Revival rectory.

The servant’s bells were removed in 1980 and the servant’s stairs have now been blocked. The rectory contains some beautiful Huon pine fittings. In 2005, the upper floor was converted into a self contained flat for use of the Rector. The rooms on the ground floor are currently used for meetings and offices for the church staff.

#Thank You to Kerry who very kindly sent me a copy of the St John’s historical brochure.

Main Text & Information Source –
St John’s Church History brochure

Historic Photos – 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Captain William Bunster's Residence, Hunter Street

Captain William (Billy) Bunster was a colourful sailor/merchant who built at least two of the buildings still existent in Hunter’s Street, #31 & #33, in 1821 immediately after the Hunter Street causeway was created. #31 was built as a warehouse for Bunster’s business interests and # 33 was built as Bunster’s residence. Billy Bunster made his fortune from sealing and kangaroo skins as well as salt and general trade. He was one of a close knit group of merchants and seamen who made their fortunes from their headquarters on Hunter Street. He traded in sealskins from Macquarie Island, salt and sealskins from Kangaroo Island and general merchandise between Hobart & Sydney.

As his business expanded, he went on to acquire further properties in Hunter Street and several country properties as well. William appears to have been married twice. His first marriage was to Sarah in 1829. The marriage produced 1 child. Unfortunately Sarah passed away in 1835. William was married again in 1836 when he married Anna Williams at St Davids Church in Hobart. This marriage seems to have produced a couple more children. Unlike many other merchants of the time, he did not build his fortune on initial wealth or family connections. At a dinner given in his honour in the early 1850’s he described himself as “a plain man ….I have tried to steer an independent course. I owe nothing to the Government nor to any man.” William was to die on 19th Feb 1854 from a bout of dysentery.

Between 1869 – 1882, a number of the Hunter Street building, including #31 & #33, were purchased in a dilapidated state by George Peacock, the jam manufacturer. Peacock went on to live in Bunster’s old house at #33. When Peacock’s business fell on hard times, Peacock’s son joined forces with two employees to form a partnership which bailed out the Old Wharf business. One of these employees was the young Henry Jones of IXL fame. Like Peacock before him, Jones lived in Bunster’s old house and the other warehouses went on to form the cornerstone of his jam empire which grew far beyond the shores of Tasmania.

The building has survived to this day and has now become the Peacock & Jones Restaurant & Wine Bar. It forms a part of the Hunters Wharf & Hunters Street Historic Precinct, a wonderful part of Hobart.

Main Text & Information Source –
Interpretive Signs in Hunter Street

Monday, 25 July 2016

Fairview, Bellerive

Emigrating from Scotland in 1856 and settling in Bellerive, the O’May family came to dominate the trans-Derwent ferry service. Crossing the river was potentially dangerous and many lives had been lost through the negligence & drunkenness of the ferrymen.

In 1864, Thomas & Robert O’May started rowing passengers across the Derwent in an open boat and a few years later they were joined by their younger brother James. The O’May brothers were the first to run their service to a timetable and they developed a reputation for reliability. In 1870’s the O’Mays acquired a steam launch and as trade continued to increase they purchased progressively larger vessels.

Robert O’May lived at Fairview in Victoria Esplanade, Bellerive. Built in 1894, the grand residence commanded a fine view across the Derwent towards Hobart & Mount Wellington. The stone from which the building is constructed has a particularly rich golden color.

Robert was of strictly steady & industrial habits and took a great deal of interest in matters pertaining to the welfare of Bellerive. He was a member of the Bellerive Town Board and attended the meeting that actually named Victoria Esplanade.

Three generations of O’Mays worked in the family firm before the opening of the floating bridge in 1943 effectively superseded the work of the ferries. Fairview remains in wonderful condition and remains a private residence to this day. A truly beautiful residence.

Main Text & Information Source –
 “The Story of Bellerive – Street by Street” – Donald Howatson 2015

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Johnstone & Wilmot Building, Launceston

William Johnstone was the founder of a wholesale general merchants, wines and spirits business in 1842.
Aged 22, William Johnstone and his wife (of one day) left Somerset, England in 1841. He was described as being ambitious, energetic and a hard worker. He expanded his business from the original leased site at 47 St John Street to the large premises at the corner of St John and Cimitiere Street. This building is a very unusual warehouse and counting house complex thought to be unique in Australia and constructed in 1842.

Mr Johnstone lived at 'Beulah', 21 High Street Launceston a two story Georgian home, now on the Tasmanian Heritage Register. In notes provided to the Launceston Library in 1987, the story goes that whilst living there, a convict stole all his silverware and later invited Mr Johnstone to buy it back! The family apparently got all the silver back, piece by piece.

Johnstone was described as being 'one of the leading merchants of Launceston' and 'he was of a very retiring disposition, and declined to occupy any public office more prominent than that of Municipal auditor' (a position which he held from 1858-1874). Mr Johnstone was 'a portly, active and apparently healthy man when he left Launceston on the 22nd (May) to attend the agricultural exhibition at Westbury'. However he caught a chill and died on May 29, aged 53. In addition ' the deceased gentleman was highly esteemed and many places of business had the front windows partially closed while the shipping in port and the Town Hall had the Union Jack hoisted at half mast'.

After William Johnstone's death in 1874, his son William John Johnstone inherited the business and invited his brother-in-law, Stuart Eardley-Wilmot (son of Sir John Eardley-Wilmot, Governor of Tasmania 1843-1847) to be his partner and the business then became Johnstone & Wilmot. The company seems to have been operational in the original building until 1971.

In 1982, Launceston City Council bought the Johnstone & Wilmot building which had been included on the National Estate. The warehouse resembles English and Dutch buildings of the late 18th century and is considered architecturally unique in Australia.

The building was restored at a cost of $250,000 in 1982 and it then housed the Community History Museum until 2003. The building is currently the home to the 1842 Gallery.

Main Text & Information Sources –
Australian Heritage Database

Historic Photos – 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Visiting Magistrates House, Port Arthur

This house was built in 1847 and was considered one of the best houses at Port Arthur. It was originally constructed for the visiting magistrate at a cost of over 88 pounds and is the largest of the houses that make up Civil Officer’s Row. During the time when former commandant W.T.N Champ was “out of favour” and had become the visiting magistrate, this house was occupied by Superintendant Courtney whiles Champ remained in the Commandants residence.

By 1848 it was being used by the Deputy Superintendant but later that same year, the accommodation was reorganized and this house was allocated to the Senior Medical Officer and became his residence.

After the closure of the Port Arthur settlement, the house was sold and then leased and run as “Clougha” private hotel. It advertised gardens, orchards, boating, shooting and stated that the “Cuisine Department” is excellent and the sanitary arrangements are of the most perfect description".

The house barely escaped the 1895 bushfire and continued to welcome guests until the late 1940s, when it was obtained by the Tasmanian Government. In subsequent years it was used as office space for the various authorities managing the site.

The house has been fully restored and furnished and is available to hire for small functions and as a meeting space.

Main Text & Information Sources – 
Interpretive Sign at the Site
“Port Arthur – Convicts & Commandants” – Walter.B.Pridmore
Port Arthur Official Website - Visiting Magistrates House