Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Warragul House

The first known building on the site was constructed in the 1850's by Joseph Miller. Miller was the owner of a large orchard on the site that was said to be stocked with over 850 of the best apple trees among over 900 fruit trees. Miller appears to have been quite the business man and he also generated income through his ownership of brickfields and by making bricks.

By the late 1870's Samuel Page had purchased Warragul House and its 5 acre estate. Page had gained his wealth by operating the horse drawn coach service that ran between Hobart & Launceston in the days before the construction of the railway. Warragul House ultimately became the home of Page's daughter, Emma, and her husband, James Laughton.

It appears that Warragul House may have remained a private residence into the middle of the twentieth century when in 1945 there was a proposal to build a first class hotel on the site which would feature accommodation for 54 guests and a large dining room to hold up to 100 guests. The proposal had the support of the incumbent Director of the Tasmanian Tourist Bureau who believed the proposal would help rectify a perceived shortage of accommodation at the time for mainland tourists wishing to visit.

However, local residents objected to the proposed development saying there were already more than enough pubs in the area to accommodate the tourists and as a consequence of the objections, the hotel development was never built.

By 1950, land from the Warragul House estate was subdivided to create more housing development and advertised for sale. Warragul House itself, still standing after all this time, was ultimately purchased by the Tasmanian Government in 1954 and is now used by the Department of Health & Human Services for its Oral Health Services headquarters.

Main Text & Information Source - 
"The Story Of New Town - Street By Street" - Donald Howatson 2011

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Del Sarte's Rooms (Concert Hall)

Among the music-loving public of Tasmania, and more especially that of Hobart Town, no name was more familiar in years gone by than that of Camille Del Sarte. Camille Del Sarte was a native of Paris, but he arrived in this colony from the island of Java around 1855. Soon after his arrival here he purchased what now forms the residence of the Venerable Archdeacon Davies, and for some years he resided there.

He had not been long in Hobart Town before his name as a practical and theoretical teacher of music became a household word in Tasmania and so rapid was his early success that in 1856 he had built for the purposes of his profession and at his own cost a substantial new venue in Harrington Street for the presentation of dramatic and musical events which was originally known as Del Sarte's Rooms. It featured a lantern type roof structure which was designed to provide natural light into the large hall below.

The rooms were the scene of the debut performance by Madame Amy Sherwin who was known as the “Tasmanian Nightingale”. Madame Sherwin was a Tasmanian soprano who went on to garner international acclaim throughout her career.

The enterprise was not, however, the success its enterprising proprietor had anticipated and eventually he was forced to part with the property. Del Sarte went on to hold the position of bandmaster in the Artillery Corps, and within two years he was entrusted with the conductorship of the Hobart Town City Band. Around  the year 1869 he left Hobart Town and took up residence in Sydney, and for a time he had an excellent practice.

He remained in Sydney about seven years, and only returned to Hobart Town around 1875. His long absence from the Tasmanian colony, however, had almost completely broken the connection which he had formerly made and although his reputation as a master in his profession was as great as ever, he was not able to regain the high position which he had occupied before he left the colony.

By around 1871, the building had been taken over by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows who inaugurated the building as a lodge and the building was subsequently known as Odd Fellows Hall. The building was later to become the headquarters of the Royal Yacht Club and in its current guise, serves as offices for a lawyers firm.

Main Text & Information Source – 
Australian Dictionary Of Biography – Amy Sherwin
Amy Sherwin Photograph - Wikipedia (Amy Sherwin)

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Industrial Water Supply, Port Arthur

Throughout its operational life, Port Arthur struggled to reach an economically sustainable level of operation. In an ideal world the product of convict labour would provide the raw and manufactured materials necessary for the ongoing maintenance of the station and its occupants. In some regards Port Arthur managed this, with its flourishing timber industry fuelling building works throughout the Peninsula.

The meat, flour and vegetables necessary for rations would also be sourced from the farms of Port Arthur and the other Peninsula stations. All outstations and probation stations had tracts of land under the plough and hoe, Saltwater River and Safety Cove Farm being some of the biggest agricultural stations opened on the Peninsula. A sheep station and slaughtering establishment in the 1840s greatly furthered output.
Yet, despite these clear aims, the main weight of rations during the 1830s and especially the 1840s, had to be shipped down from Hobart. The 1841 introduction of Probation saw the authorities face almost insurmountable problems rationing the convict population, as the population rose from close to 1500, to over 3500 by 1844. A convict population of this size required over 2.5 ton of flour a day to fulfil the bread ration alone.

The Port Arthur water-powered flour mill and granary had first been suggested in 1839, with the authorities facing the imminent introduction of probation. The suggestions of the colonial Commissariat, who governed the convict ration supply, and Port Arthur's Commandant, saw the project started in 1842 - just as the Peninsula population began to rapidly increase.

An engineer, Alexander Clark, was brought in to oversee the mill and granary construction, as well as engineer the supply of water to the wheel. It was hoped that a mill and granary sited on the peninsula would supply the wants of the Convict Department, as well as produce surplus for export. Under Clark’s direction, convict work gangs built a dam for a reservoir upstream on Settlement Creek. From here, the water ran down a stone lined millrace to a second reservoir. From this second reservoir, the engineering involved was ambitious and complex. Water had to be directed underground, down a slope, under a group of buildings and across a street to the mill.

The whole undertaking was completed by 1845 but getting the water to the 30ft (10m) water wheel was a much more complicated undertaking than anybody had envisaged. The mill and granary building itself was completed in just a year, housing not only a storehouse, wheel and machinery, but also a treadmill capable of taking up to 56 convicts at once.

However, the mill was to be a grand failure. The infrastructure bringing the water to the wheel proved to be too complicated, losing water to seepage and evaporation. The supply of water itself was completely inadequate to feed the wheel. Rainfall had proven to be more unreliable than had been initially thought and as a result, the reservoirs rarely held enough water to even turn the mill’s waterwheel, let alone supply water for other uses. A treadmill operated by up to 48 of the most troublesome convicts had to provide additional power to the mill. At full capacity, the mill could grind 300kg of flour per hour but this impressive output was rarely achieved.

In the end, the mill only operated in intermittent bursts, quickly using up any store of water accumulated in the dam. By 1848, the authorities regarded the flour mill a failure and it was closed in the early 1850’s. Only a decade after it was first built, the mill was gutted and, between 1854 and 1857, converted into the Penitentiary, which in turn became Port Arthur's most enduring landmark. However, the water system came in useful and water was conveyed into such places within the penitentiary as might be needed. Laundries, bathrooms, privies, kitchens as well as heating systems relied for many years on this water supply.

Main Text & Information Sources – The Industrial Prison
Interpretative Signs around the Site at Port Arthur

Sunday, 15 February 2015

St Paul's Uniting Church, New Norfolk

Like many Methodist church buildings, St Paul's at New Norfolk is a pretty unassuming structure. This chapel, however, holds a pre-eminent place in Tasmanian Methodist Church history as it is the oldest in the state.

It was built on land donated by a local benefactor, Sir Robert Officer of Hallgreen. The foundation stone was laid on the 8th December, 1836 and followed by the official opening and dedication on the 2nd November 1837, by the Reverend Joseph Orton. St Paul's was originally part of the Hobart circuit until 1838 when the Reverend John Manton was appointed as first resident minister of the new district circuit.

The interior of St Paul's is very plain but none the less of a very charming design. The furnishing are made of cedar and each pew has its own door. The Mission Pew, which was reserved for the minister's family, is up the front under the eyes of the pulpit. The church gallery was installed in 1865 at a cost of 128 pounds and the magnificent stained glass windows replaced the plainer original ones in 1956.

Before the chapel was built, Methodism in New Norfolk had an interesting history. As early as 1821, local preachers such as Benjamin Nokes & Samuel Dowsett were holding irregular services around the town. Later in that year, the Reverend William Norton arrived in Tasmania and began visiting the outlying settlements. The normally staid Methodists used a bit of colonial commonsense and practicality for, on wet days, they would retire to the tap room of Mrs Bridger's Bush Inn and hold their services there. Generally, however, they would worship outdoors and by 1834, services were regularly being conducted under a gum tree where the New Norfolk State Primary School stands. The tree was cut down in in 1972 but it used to have a plaque attached with the following inscription - "Under this tree, first regular Methodist service in New Norfolk was held in 1834"

Methodism as such, ended in the New Norfolk & Glenora area on 19th June 1977 and following the inauguration of the Uniting Church in Australia on 22nd June, 1977, New Norfolk's first Uniting Church service was held four days later and continues to this day.

Main Text & Information Sources - 
"From Black Snake To Bronte" - Book by Audrey Holiday & John Trigg