Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Hamilton Gaol & Warders Cottage

The Hamilton Gaol was built in the 1830s, at a time when the town’s population of 789 people comprised more than 50 per cent convicts. It was an economically built gaol, made entirely from timber, with 27 cells all facing into a central courtyard. The warder’s cottage (which still stands today as the town’s museum) was built in 1835 and was used by the Gaolers for accommodation (the gaol was behind the cottage) and, in 1845, a sandstone wall was built to surround the wooden gaol. The gaol originally contained two large lockups, cells, staff quarters and a coachhouse.

The entry arch was adjacent to the warder’s cottage. The gaol burned down in the early 1900s, leaving only the stone wall, which was eventually knocked down around the middle of last century when the property was acquired by the Central Highlands Council to be used as their council works depot. The demolished sandstone was simply bulldozed into the nearby Clyde River.

The only remaining traces of the old gaol were the warder’s cottage and the small attached section of wall incorporating the archway. About 1990, the council was preparing to knock down the archway when it was rescued by a local family with a historical connection to the site. John Madden was the police superintendent at Hamilton in the 1860s, with a reputation of being an “active and fearless officer” before he was tragically killed by an overturning horse cart in 1869.

His descendants still live in Hamilton and it was his great-great-grandson Mike and wife Judy who came to the arch’s rescue. Judy had already spent a great deal of time restoring historic cottages in Hamilton to save them from ruin, and when she and her husband heard about the archway’s intended fate, they chose to give it a new life as a tribute to Madden, whose residence was once part of the gaol complex. With the help of a stonemason they had the archway carefully removed from the original gaol site and reassembled brick-by-brick at the park on the main road.

Main Text & Information Source plus Arch photo & Historic photo – 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

St John's Watch Houses

In 1841, well-known convict architect James Blackburn designed the two sandstone watch houses at the entrance to St John's Avenue. Both had an entrance porch. Blackburn's original plan for No.1 had two main rooms, one for men and one for women, and three smaller rooms (cells?). No.2 had three main rooms for constables.

Blackburn's watch houses may not have been the first on the site. Charles Bruce's etching in 1831 depicts two watchhouses in a similar location but there is no evidence that they were built. In the early 1840s, it was reported that

“A Watch house is very much required at New Town on the main road - where the population is thick - and I should feel obliged by His Excellency The Governor authorizing a sum not exceeding 200 pounds to be paid for this service and arrangements with the Director General of Public Works be made to put up the building - The Head Master of the Queen's Orphan School is very anxious to have a Watch house and residence as lodges at the entrance to the Orphan School property heading to the Church.”

The watch houses have had a variety of uses and are also known as gate houses. At one stage, No.1 St John's Avenue was used for the Hobart District Nursing Service and now hosts the Mental Health Carers of Tasmania. No.2 now houses the offices of Hobart Hackerspace Inc.

The watch houses are an essential part of the St Johns precinct, these buildings although not to the original John Lee Archer design, are fine examples of Blackburn's ability. The relationship of the buildings to St Johns Church is very powerful and reinforced by the avenue planting. An example of bold and imaginative planning in colonial times.

Main Text & Information Source – 

Historic Photos – 
Tasmania Police Historical Group Facebook Page

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Tunbridge Convict Bridge

Tunbridge is the site of Australia's oldest single span wooden bridge. Spanning the Blackman River, the bridge was built by convicts in 1848 and is a rare example of a sandstone bridge with wooden decking. This bridge crosses the Blackman River at the northern end of Tunbridge. This bridge is an important symbol of the north/south boundary of Tasmania, the Blackman River being the traditional boundary between the northern and southern regions of Tasmania.

It is an impressive structure with a timber deck on top of three intermediate piers of picked stone with four spans. Each stone pier is topped with a short tower with corbelled top. Timber balustrades link the towers on either side of the bridge. It is said to be the oldest timber-decked bridge in Australia.

The bridge was used as a secret meeting place for a fascinating group of political exiles known as the 'Young Irelanders'. To avoid being seen, they arranged with the local inn to deliver their food where they gathered under the bridge. The bridge is still in use for local traffic and is a major component of the townscape of Tunbridge.

Main Text & Information Sources – 
Australian Heritage Database

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Scots Church, Sorell

Built by the Presbyterian church after representations were made to Governor Franklin in the 1830’s.The church was planned after the appointment of Rev Thomas Dugall to Sorell in 1839 when services at the time were being held in the Sorell courthouse. The foundation stone was laid in 1840 and the building completed in 1842 to a design by James Blackburn, with gabled roof, a central tall square tower, semi-circular arch-topped entrance and buttresses. Windows are tall and multi-paned, with arched tops, and simple, engaged columns at the sides. The northern facade has a fine, central recessed window, and flanking columns in relief.

Located in Arthur Street is described in the National Estate Register as "A sandstone Romanesque Revival church. The total cost for the finished church was 1415 pounds which came from public donations and via government contribution with the bell for the new church being donated by local land holder, George Marshall. An unusual stone church which is a fine example of Blackburn's work."

Difficulties in securing the services of a minister resulted in the church being unused for many years and the building ultimately fell into disrepair. Ministerial shortages continued to plague the church through to the 1920’s. It was restored in 1960-1961 by a group of volunteer workers with assistance from the National Trust and the government, successfully bring the church back to a safe standard to allow the church to receive heritage classification by the National Trust.

The church site has been surrounded by the construction of retirement units that were first constructed in 1968 and have been added to over the following years.

The Scots Church building has been considered to be the finest of the 3 National Estate Register listed churches in Sorell with its unusual design and is regarded as one of the earliest Romanesque churches in Australia.

Main Text & Information Source – 
Sorell Heritage Study, Site Inventory Vol 5 – Sorell City Council