Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Old Watch House, George Town

The Old Watch House site was first used as a convict barracks and gaol. The original building was erected in about 1820, of brick, with a strong stockade. It later became the watch House for the district where offenders were kept pending trial.

In time the building fell into bad disrepair, and plans were drawn up for the erection of a new Watch House ( the present building). The date on the lintel over the front door is 1843 but that date was placed there by a restoration group in 1983. The Watch House is believed to have been built later, possibly in the 1850’s.
There was no other gaol in the Tamar valley until the end of the 19th century and criminals from places such as Beaconsfield were brought to George Town by boat to await their trial dates.

The building has had many and varied uses, including a doctor’s surgery, and wooden additions were made to the original brick building. In the 1930’s it was used by the Commission that ran the municipality until an elected council was established in 1954. The Watch House remained the council chambers until they moved to the memorial Hall. The original Council Chambers, in 1907, had been based at Lefroy, which was then larger than George Town.

The building was next taken over by Gunns for use as a hardware store. Major alterations made the original building totally unrecognizable. However, in 1981 it was restored to its original plan by an enthusiastic committee and turned into a folk museum. Since then it has once again had a variety of uses.

It’s currently a museum, information centre and home to a wonderful Model Village of 19th Century George Town recreated to scale by volunteers.

Main Text & Information Source –
"Treasures of George Town" - George Town & District Historical Society 2003

Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Hospital, Port Arthur

Port Arthurs first hospital was a wooden building built in the 1830’s just below the site of the existing ruin. The existing hospital was built between 1841 and 1842. The new sandstone & brick hospital had two gabled wings which contained the wards and also housed a provisions store, a kitchen with a baking oven, a morgue and a waste collection room.

This building was the third hospital built at the settlement and the wards were capable of housing about 70 patients, the convicts and Point Puer boys being separated from the soldiers & officers. During busy periods, the convict patients were segregated by religion with Catholics in one ward and Protestants in another. Civilians and their families were generally treated in the comfort of their own homes. The first medical officer at Port Arthur arrived in 1832 and since he was also the catechist, he was responsible for the convicts’ spiritual health too.

After the closure of the settlement in 1877, the building was abandoned. It was eventually purchased by the Catholic Church for 300 pounds for conversion into a boys home but it was gutted by the 1895 bushfires. The outer walls remained strong and in good condition , so the church, claiming on their insurance, once again rebuilt the structure. But unfortunately for the Catholic Church, it was again gutted by the 1897 bushfire and left in much the same condition that it appears today.

The reconstructed brick footings at the rear of the building indicates the original extent of the rear wings. A wooden building at the rear of the hospital was the hospital laundry.
The ruin has now been stabilized and accessible with some interpretive areas having been set up within the ruins.

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

Historic Photos – 

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

All Saints Church, Swansea

A well preserved example of a typical Gothic Revival style church built in 1871. The Rev Joseph Mayson was the first rector of Swansea. He arrived in 1839 and remained the rector for 38 years. At first Rev Mayson conducted his services where ever he could but in 1841 a church was built. The church was situated opposite the Anglican cemetery in waterloo Point rd.

When the church was deemed unsafe for further use, the materials were taken as the old church was demolished and used in the building of a house in east Gordon St. A block of land located at the top of Noyes Street, on the corner with Wellington Street had been selected as far back as 1844 as the site for the Anglican Church and Sunday school. After many years of support and much financial assistance, the foundation stone laid by John Meredith of Cambria and the new church was built by Andrew Gemmell on the corner block to a design by noted colonial architect, Henry Hunter.

It was constructed of locally sourced roughly coursed fieldstone and it has dressed sandstone trimmings to buttresses and gable copings. Andrew Gemmell also built the pulpit for All Saints to a design prepared by Rev Mayson’s daughters.  All Saints Church was consecrated in 1871. It continues to serve the Swansea community over 140 years after its opening and is a very important part of the Swansea streetscape with its distinctive corner block.

Main Text & Information Source –
Australian Heritage Database
‘Swansea Heritage Walk” booklet – Glamorgan Spring Bay Historical Society 2009

Historic Photo – 

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Bellerive Hotel

This hotel was first licensed in 1859 and was originally called ”Todd’s Hotel” in honor of its first publican, Christopher James Todd. The owner of the Golden Fleece Hotel which was located nearby opposed the granting of the license on the grounds that another public house in the district was not required. However, it was accepted that the new hotel would be a great convenience to pleasure seekers and settlers from the country.

The name of the premises was changed to the “Bellerive Hotel” in 1861 when Samuel Kirkby became the publican. Sadly Kirkby took his own life the following year. On the evening in question he had been drinking ale & gin and some beer, for his supper when he became unusually excitable and bad tempered. Kirkby had often threatened to poison himself and when the police were called in the early hours of the morning, they found that he was not altogether right. A doctor was sent but nothing could be done. The jury’s verdict at the subsequent coronial inquest was that Kirkby ‘came to his death by poison, administered by his own hands, while of unsound mind and under the influence of drink’

Kirkby had arrived in the colony as a convict and the records reveal that this was not the first time he had used poison. In 1838 Kirkby had been apprenticed to a butcher in Lincoln when he murdered him with poison. Kirkby was sentenced to death but this was later commuted to transportation for life on the grounds that his master had been ill using him.

The Bellerive Hotel continued to operate and had been operating for 80 years when it was gutted by fire in 1939. The fire started in the adjacent garage and the proprietor of the ‘Clarence Hotel’ on the opposite side of the street, was awoken by the roar of the flames just after midnight. He lost no time in raising the alarm and a large number of residents assembled to try and prevent the fire from spreading. Unfortunately, the fire secured a hold in the hotel roof, which was galvanized iron with wooden rafters and shingles beneath. The heat became so intense that efforts to save the building had to be abandoned but the licensee assisted by many helpers, managed to remove most of the stock before it was lost.

The majority of the building was condemned but the front section of the ground floor was salvaged as temporary premises while plans for a new building were drawn up. The opening of the bridge over the Derwent in 1943 removed most of the passing trade and rebuilding on a new site was investigated. By 1951 there was still no progress and the authorities decided the ‘Bellerive Hotel’ should be de-licensed.
The ground floor section of the old hotel still remains and is currently being used as office space.

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

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Stephenville, Hobart

Stephenville was the former home of Alfred Stephen, Solicitor General for Tasmania (later Chief Justice of NSW), in 1825. A two storey stucco building was built in 1825 with flanking single storey wings added in the 1830's. The front portico is full length across the original building.

On 12th February 1836, a day after celebrating his birthday at “Secheron” in Battery Point, Charles Darwin was hosted by Alfred Stephen at Stephenville. Darwin was to describe Stephenville as “the house large, beautifully furnished, dinner most elegant …an excellent concert of rare Italian music”. By the time it came up for sale, Stephen had expanded it so that, with its architectural elegance, its coach house, its enclosed garden, it was compared with “present English noblemen’s houses. The house did not sell immediately.

The house was leased to government from 1840 for 5 years, being used as Queens School to early 1844. It became the official residence of the Catholic Bishop of Hobart until 1872. For a short time, as St Mary’s Seminary, it was a boarding and day school for boys. When that school was moved to the barracks, the house was sold to William Giblin who later became premier and once again it became a private home. However, as house conceived on a grand scale, it seemed doomed to community living. By 1880 it had become the Hobart Ladies College.

The property has been in school use since c1890’s by St Michaels Collegiate School. In 1892, at the invitation of Bishop Montgomery, seven Sisters came from the mother house in Kilburn, England, to Tasmania. Of these, three Sisters remained in Tasmania and at the request of Dean Dundas, opened a school for girls and boys in October 1892. Sister Hannah was the principal of the school which had an initial enrolment of 12 children, six boy and six girls. Classes were held in the Synod Hall. The son of Bishop Montgomery was Bernard Montgomery, who attended the school whilst living in Tasmania and went on to be the victorious British Army field marshal in the Second World War organizing the D-Day Invasion at Normandy and taking the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945.

In 1895 Sister Phyllis moved the School of 71 pupils, 6 of whom were boarders, to Stephenville, the elegant old home around which the school grew and the Senior campus still thrives. A gracious, educated woman of indomitable spirit and faith, Sister Phyllis built a school around Christian values and her ideas of a useful life for women. Academic achievements of present and past students were strongly encouraged and celebrated from the start. Physical activity was essential, and cultural activities, artistic pursuits and community service were important for the roles of women in society.

By the 1920s Collegiate was firmly part of Hobart’s establishment. The School’s red and white colors were seen in sports competitions; a uniform was worn, four issues of a lively School Magazine were issued annually by present and past students, the Prefect and House systems were under way and traditions firmly established. As the School expanded in the 1930s, neighboring Tremayne was purchased and replaced with extra classrooms and boarding house space. Sister Phyllis relinquished control in 1933. She, with the eight Sisters who followed, led a continually expanding, strong Anglican school for girls that inspired hundreds of young women.

In 1947 the name of the Order’s patron saint, St Michael, was added to the School’s name and it was St Michael’s Collegiate School which the Sisters handed to the first Board of Management in 1973. Collegiate is currently led by its fifth lay principal. The Sisters maintain a strong interest in the School and are particularly remembered on the annual celebrations of Founders’ and St Michael’s Days, but also around the campus in Founders’ Hall, the Emily Centre, in Stevens House, Kilburn House and the sports grounds, Ham Common.

As the School approaches its 123rd year it has grown to include three campuses, the Junior School in Anglesea Street, the Middle School housed in the redeveloped and expanded Founders’ Hall, and the Senior School in Macquarie Street.  In addition two Early Learning Centres operate at South Hobart and Kingston.  The School has sports grounds, a Performing Arts Centre, rowing sheds, gymnasium and indoor heated swimming pool.

Main Text & Information Sources – 
Australian Heritage Database
“Historic Tasmania Sketchbook” – Patsy Adam Smith & Joan Woodberry
Australian Dictionary of Biography - Sir Alfred Stephen

Historical Photo - UTAS Library