Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Old Watch House, Bellerive

This building was constructed in 1842 as a Watch House. Designed by Alexander Cheyne in 1838, the Watch House served many of the functions of a modern day police station. It provided accommodation for police constables, as well as separate confinement for men & women and solitary cells. Sited on a slight rise in the land, it was ideally suited to overlook Kangaroo Bay and the developing village.

Following the inauguration of the Clarence Plains council in 1860, the Watch House served as council chambers until the construction of a purpose built town hall in 1929.The police moved to the building next door in 1930 after which Professor Miller moved the Social Institute library to the Watch House from the former Social Institute building. After World War 2, the building was renamed the Bellerive War Memorial Community Centre and continued as a library until the opening of the new Rosny Library in 1960.

In 1975, following the Tasman Bridge disaster, the old Watch House was used by the Social Welfare Department. Today, it’s used a as community arts centre and provides a space for community participation in the arts and also provides a home for the Bellerive Historical Society.

Main Text & Information Source –
Interpretive Signs at the Site

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Site of Luckman's Mill, Battery Point

Cromwell Street is the home of St George’s Church, Battery Point’s most well known landmark. In the early 1830’s there was an equally well known landmark on the other side of the street. James Luckman built a large windmill there late in 1834, shortly before the construction on the church was started.

In March 1836, the Hobart Town Courier reported that “Luckman’s Mill was a very handsome round building, in which the circular roof and sails balance and adjust themselves to the wind by means of a fan wheel on the opposite side. It’s situation on the crest of the hill, along with its red brick wall and white sails made it a very conspicuous landmark for vessels sailing up the river.

In July 1849, James Cowgill purchased the windmill and made a number of improvements including the erection of an adjoining steam mill in 1861 which increased production capacity and allowed for milling production to continue even on still days.

The mill fell from regular use in the 1870’s and it was ultimately purchased by the Grubb Brothers for 900 pounds in October 1883. They quickly arranged for the windmill site’s demolition and then went on to advertise for the sale of the bricks.

The Grubb Brothers then used the site to erect a pair of grand two storey Italianate townhouses, complete with arched entry porticos. These townhouses still exist today and are in wonderful condition, continuing to be used as private residences.

Main Text & Information Source – 
“The Story of Battery Point – Street by Street” – Donald Howatson 2012

Historic Photos – 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

St Luke's Church, Campbell Town

The history of St. Luke's Church is almost as old as the township itself. The township was founded by Governor Macquarie, of New South Wales, in 1821, during one of his visits, Tasmania then being a dependency of that State. The first clergyman to arrive was the Rev. William Bedford in1833, who held services in the old police offices which afterwards became the Council Chambers, the oldest building in the town in December 1833.  The last public ceremony performed by Governor Arthur was the laying of the foundation stones of the Campbell Town and Ross Churches, both of which were set in place on the same day, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon of October 20, 1836.

The first baptism took place on December 11, 1833, that of Charles George Henry Care Clarke, son of George Care and Hannah Maria Clarke, of Ellenthorpe Hall, who was born on May 25, 1832, the Rev. William Bedford, Jr., being the officiating minister. In all, there had been 2,370 baptisms in the church by 1933. The first recorded burial was that of John Paine, farmer, of  Bendemere, on June 14, 1834.

In 1835 plans for the proposed church were prepared by John Lee Archer, the civil engineer under Governor Arthur. It was soon discovered that part of the base had been laid down without foundations being laid. A new contractor was called in to complete the construction. This, however, was not the end of the problems as the whole building was found to be so poorly constructed that extensive repairs were required before it could be consecrated.As soon as this work was finished, the Church was consecrated by Bishop Nixon on June 11, 1850.

On the blackwood notice board in the porch, on the right as one enters the church, the following information appears over the list of rectors: "Erected into a Parish, 1833; foundation stone laid by Governor Arthur, 1835; re stored, and new vestry, 1920." The lectern in the Church was given by Mrs. George Wilson, and Miss Leake, of ‘Rosedale,’ gave a new pulpit during this period. In 1876 the organ and choir were moved from the west to the east end of the Church. New altar rails, new lamps and a new Communion set. Also a new bell, which weighed five hundredweight, was installed.

The bell was swung on a tripod in the grounds as the brickwork of the tower was too weak to hold it. The present vicarage was built in 1888, mainly through the generosity of Miss Sarah Leake. The following year the tower was strengthened and the bell placed in it. The handsome English pipe organ was manufactured by J. W. Walker, London, in 1862.

St. Luke's Church is an imposing bright-red brick structure, with tiled roof, and is nicely situated amid pinus insignis trees at the north-eastern end of the township, on the east side of the Hobart Launceston main road. Excepting that two bad cracks developed in the southern side of the building a few years ago (one at each end), the church is in a good state of preservation, and stands in the north-western corner of the cemetery, which contains many striking monuments, those outstanding being to the families of Leake, Foster, Jones, Towns, Palmer, Harrison, Crow, Curtis, Powell, Flanagan, Bush, and Valentine.

Interest surrounds the life of the Rev. Kenneth William Kirkland, a rector of St. Luke's, whose humble tombstone in the local cemetery discloses that he died on October 2, 1866, at the age of 27 years, two days after his only child, Susan Annie Kenneth, who died on September 30 1866, at the age of five months. In 1865, local identity Dr Valentine made church history by objecting to the ordination of Rev Kirkland. Valentine’s objection was regarding Kirkland’s refusal to give up some high church practices which Valentine disagreed with. Kirkland was eventually ordained at St David’s in Hobart. In the end, Kirkland was only Rector for 12 months.

The church remains an active part of the Anglican diocese to this day as part of the North Midlands parish.

Main Text & Information Source – 
The Mercury – 30th November 1933 - Trove.nla.gov.au
Interpretive Sign At The Site

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Point Puer Boy's Prison, Port Arthur

Many people are aware that convicts sentenced to the Australian colonies arrived in their greatest numbers between 1830 and 1834 – they may not be aware that between 10 and 20 percent of each ship’s arrivals were boys 10 to 14 years of age. On arrival, the prison processing called for convicts to be paraded in the barracks building in Hobart Town, approximately 30 miles from Port Arthur, for inspection by prospective employers. Signing on as prison labourers was overseen by a group of officials known as the Board of Assignment, and the Assignment Scheme was structurally part of colonial development.

However, very few boys were assigned under the Scheme; they were too small and underfed to cope with the tree-felling, quarrying, road-making and coal-mining which was an integral part of establishing the colony. The boys were left in the barracks to be imprisoned with the hard core of criminals who remained after the Assignment process. The prison authorities were concerned that the problems of the prison “mix” at Port Arthur could only worsen as there were no signs that the flow of young convicts from Britain was diminishing.

Discussions between Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur, the administrator of the colony, and the commandant of the prison, Captain O’Hara Booth, resulted in the proposal of a prison settlement for convict boys, “ to train them in some useful trade and to reform them so that they would be useful citizens”. The prison settlement on Point Puer, a promontory in Opossum Bay, Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia, was established to cater for boys sentenced to penal servitude by the courts of England. It operated from 1834 to 1849 as part of the prison at Port Arthur. To have established a separate prison would have “been attended with additional expense”, which the Lieutenant-Governor Arthur and the British Government could ill afford.

It predated Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight by four years and was initiated by Lt Governor Arthur at a time when children were being seen in their own terms, rather than as small adults. In December 1833, the first sixty boys were sent to Point Puer. Their task was to build their prison. Stories of the inaccessibility of Point Puer highlight the sixty-foot drop of sheer cliff on the western side and the treacherous currents that swirl around the Point into Opossum Bay. Only three boys were ever to successfully escape, and in more lurid writings later in the nineteenth century much was made of an uncounted number who suicided while (supposedly) attempting to escape.

The Commandant of Point Puer, William Champ, in 1834 described Point Puer as “a wretched, bleak barren spot without water, wood for fuel, or an inch of soil…”. Buildings were simple constructions hastily built between 1834 and 1840 to house rapidly growing numbers. Eventually a road was built around the fringe of Opossum Bay linking Point Puer with Port Arthur; halfway along the road, half a mile from the Point, a demarcation line separated the two establishments. The demarcation consisted of patrolled perimeter, soldiers’ barracks, two cells, two exercise yards, and two schoolrooms.

Construction at Point Puer, as at Port Arthur, was principally of Port Arthur handmade bricks, but, as there was no lime in the mortar, deterioration of the buildings was rapid. Today there is little trace above ground of the settlement of Point Puer. Best preserved are the underground storerooms of the main gaol building, which are virtually intact. There is little reason to believe that the boys who were transported to Point Puer were different in temperament to any similar group of boys today – the differences lay in their life conditions. Many were victims of the appalling poverty of British slums, or the worse poverty of British farm labour. The Executive Council in Hobart Town made few allowances for their circumstances, declaring that they were “very young, and as there is reason to believe, very depraved and difficult to manage, perhaps more so than grown men”.

This was a contributing factor to Lieutenant-Governor Arthur’s decision to establish Point Puer as a settlement for boys within the Port Arthur Prison. Another contributing factor was the five months’ sailing-ship voyage from England; this gave boys who had been convicted of what we consider today relatively minor crime, time to become expert criminals under the tutelage of their more violent older shipmates. An experiment in transporting only boy convicts on the barque Frances Charlotte in 1837 successfully set a daily program of education and activity that resulted in a skills gain from the journey and a more positive result to the final penal servitude than had previously been the case. Despite this success, the despatch of a boy-convict-only sailing ship occurred only once more, in 1838. Although the success of the Frances Charlotte’s shipboard program was repeated, the authorities never again saw fit to send a boys-only ship, and after 1845 the number of boys transported decreased to negligible proportions.

The misdemeanours for which many of the boys were transported seem trivial by today’s standards, but sentences of the period reflect the attitude of the day when punishment was meted out to the full weight of the law. Punishment was at the core of the regime at Point Puer, and severity was the keynote. “The code of punishment at Point Puer makes grim reading with its emphasis on repressive discipline and the infliction of physical pain.” It should not, however, be assumed that only “young innocents” were incarcerated at Point Puer. Many of the boys had been “schooled” in the inner city slums of London and were accomplished villains.

Older boys demanded the allegiance of younger boys through standover tactics that still exist today. Violence could be easily organised at Point Puer, especially when one recalls that many of the overseers were “ticket of leave” men, that is, convicts who had completed their sentences. The most serious crime in Point Puer’s history occurred on 1 July 1843 when an overseer was murdered by two of the boys at the prison. The end of the settlement at Point Puer was forged in the 1830s by a growing pride in the colony. A generation of native-born whites had occurred, and the Australian population saw that progress meant a move onwards from the days as a convict colony.

Even the convict labour provided by the Assignment Scheme was only welcome so long as it did not conflict with a growing freeman labour force. However the transportation system took a long time dying. In 1836, convicts and ex-convicts comprised 46.5 percent of the population of Van Dieman’s Land and this percentage grew to 52 percent by 1849.

But a depression in the early 1840s saw the formation of Anti-Transportation Leagues among the colonists and as early as 1835 Governor Arthur noted in his reports to the British Foreign Office that he had “long foreseen that abolition (of transportation) would become a popular question”. The British Government, however, still had the need to export its convicts and, well into the 1840s, there were attempts to continue to transport convicts under renamed and redevised schemes.

These “programs”, which were based on partially “reforming” the convicts at special prisons and then transporting them as “free emigrants”, resulted in a shipload of 51 boys arriving in Hobart Town in 1843 after 3 years at Parkhurst Prison in England. “From the beginning they were arrogant and untrustworthy as employees, and maintained that, as “free emigrants”, the authorities had no power over them. The worst were sent to Point Puer.”

In 1844, the “Pentonvillians”, as the colonists described the “free emigrant” adult convicts who had been “reformed” in Pentonville Prison, arrived to prove themselves similar in every way to the boys who had preceded them. Mounting public pressure from the colonists made it clear that cosmetic changes to the transportation system could no longer be tolerated and that abandonment of the scheme was essential to development and good order in the colony. The process of reining in the transportation system began.

Convict transportations dwindled over the years and convict settlements closed. On 1 March 1849, the last 162 boys at Point Puer were transferred to the work station at Cascades in Hobart Town and the Prison at Point Puer was closed. While some boys continued to offend as adults, others used their trades and pursued honest and successful lives.

Unfortunately, no buildings remain at the site, and only a few sketches were made before the establishment was demolished. There is however a comprehensive collection of architectural plans drawn by the Public Works Division, many by the convict artist Henry Laing in 1836-7. These are stored at the Port Arthur Resource Centre and the Tasmanian Archives Office.

Main Text & Information Sources