Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Fort Pierson

With the outbreak of World War II, the Department of Defence acquired land near South Arm close to the mouth of the Derwent River on the eastern shore, from a Mr. Courtland Calvert and his sister in September, 1939. At first, the land was used purely as a training ground, with mock battles that were disruptive to locals being fought day and night. But as war preparations evolved, the Commonwealth decided that the port of Hobart would require some degree of defence to protect the state’s vital zinc industry that was crucial to the war effort.

Major Mark Pritchard was the first commanding officer of the new defences that became known as Fort Direction. By the end of 1939, construction of two fortified six-inch (152 mm) Mk VII gun emplacements, and a small four room weatherboard control building had been completed. There was also soon a flagpole and set of naval signals.

Throughout the war, there was a 24-hour watch every single day, and the site was usually manned by at least 15 Royal Australian Navy personnel. A record of every ship entering the Derwent River between 1940 and 1945 was kept. Between 1941 and 1944, both guns were regularly used for training exercises. Although never used in hostile action against enemy vessels, the guns were fired in anger once. A liberty ship entering the mouth of the Derwent River failed to obey instructions issued from the Naval Command on the hill above the fort, and one shell was accurately fired across her bow, which immediately resulted in the liberty ship hoving to.

On the opposite western shore of the Derwent River at Point Pierson, near the hamlet of Tinderbox, just off the Channel Highway, south east of Hobart near Kingston & Blackmans Bay,  another emplacement was constructed with one four-inch (102 mm) gun and became known as Fort Pierson. Several huts to house men were constructed at this location as well as an observation building and a complicated underground tunnel and command structure. Local residents recall barbed wire still surrounding the site well after the war and the site’s de-commissioning. Nearby Goat Bluff was also the location of further underground tunnel systems. This fort was to protect the sea approaches to the Derwent River and Hobart itself.

The only enemy action to ever affect Hobart happened on 1 August 1942, when a submarine-launched Japanese spy plane flew from the submarine’s mooring in Great Oyster Bay south along the east coast of Tasmania, before flying northward along the Derwent River surveying Hobart and then returning to its mother submarine. Although both emplacements detected the flight, the plane was at too high an altitude to fire upon, and no aircraft were available to intercept it. After this event, two anti-aircraft guns were positioned on nearby hills, but the Japanese never returned to Tasmania again during the war.

Although the site is not from the colonial period, it forms another unique piece of the history of the Hobart Coastal Defence system that began in the earliest years of the new settlement and includes Kangaroo Point and Alexandra Batteries. Fort Pierson, although only constructed and utilized during the 2nd World War, still has historical significance in the history of Hobart and sections of the fort, such as the observation building and the concrete reinforced gun emplacement, situated on the cliff face, are able to be visited and viewed.

Sunday, 24 February 2013


Tunbridge is a town in the midlands of Tasmania that was originally a coaching stop on the Hobart to Launceston road, now known as the Midlands Highway. It was named after one of its three original coaching inns, the Tunbridge Wells, which in turn was named after Tunbridge Wells in Kent, England.
In its coaching heyday it had three coaching inns, the Tunbridge Wells Inn, the Victoria Inn and the York Inn.. Each inn was associated with a different coaching company. The Tunbridge Wells serviced J. E. Cox Coaches, the Victoria Inn serviced Samuel Page Coaches and the York Inn serviced Alfred Burbury Coaches. Tunbridge Post Office opened on 17 March 1856

Originally known as Tunbridge Wells (after the famous English spa town), Tunbridge is located 92 km from Launceston and 107 km from Hobart. It has been by-passed by the main Midland Highway and consequently has a quiet charm well removed from the urgency of the highway. The town came into existence in 1809 and quickly developed into an important coaching stop between Hobart and Launceston. The area grew rapidly in the 1810s as convicts worked on the road from the north to the south of the island. In recent times the town has been by-passed which has meant that it has been able to maintain much of its historic charm.

Tunbridge Manor is a fantastic piece of Tasmanian history in the centre of town and dominates the townscape. Built in the 1840, as a staging post for the early transport days, where the premises offered accommodation, meals, beverages and stabling for horses.

Up until the late 60's when the highway by-passed the town, it was a magnet for the hungry traveller. For the latter years it has been a private residence. Overall the property is still in good condition. Built over 3 stories, the building has up to 8/10 bedrooms, various bathrooms, large living space, attic rooms, and cellars. Outside there are stables, garages, various sheds, all located on 10 acres bordering the Blackman River.

Built in 1848, the Tunbridge Convict Bridge was constructed by convicts and is the oldest single span bridge in Australia. It spans the Blackman's Riverat the northern end of the town. It is particularly important as it is a rare example of a sandstone bridge with timber decking. 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 food where they gathered under the bridge. The Young Irelanders roamed far and wide across Tasmania, where Irish sympathisers gave them food and shelter as well as hiding them from the authorities.

Built in 1825, the Tunbridge Wells Inn is a significant example of a single-storey Old Colonial Georgian inn and farmhouse with its long medium-pitched broken-back roof, half-hipped gables, enclosed eaves, flagged veranda and extensive use of local rough-hewn and rubble stone.

The Inn boasts four large bedrooms, two large living areas, two kitchens a dining area, two bathrooms, a large converted loft, sun room and central corridor. The building’s design allows for one large residence or two separate residences both with separate bedrooms, a living area, kitchen and bathroom. The building has five fire places, three in bedrooms, and one in both the main living area and kitchen. There are four doors accessing the house from the front veranda and two from the rear.

The building was strategically erected by Thomas (a former convict) and Ann Flemming, along the original Main Road from Launceston to Hobart. The establishment operated as an Inn until the 1840’s and as a farmhouse after this time. Within the centre of the building, adjoining the main living room, structural... remains of a temporary holding cell for either prisoner’s en route or valuable goods can be seen. Cobble stone remnants of the former Main Road between Hobart and Launceston can be found along the front of the main building today.
The Tunbridge Wells Inn is recognised by the State for its heritage value and was included on the Tasmania Heritage Council Register on 22 September 1999. The building and grounds are recognised by the Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995 as an important demonstration of the evolution of Tasmanian history and is also considered a significant representative in demonstrating the characteristics of a colonial Inn design.

Other buildings of importance include the Colonial Homestead was built in 1820, the The Victoria Inn (outside is a sandstone roller used to roll the roads by the convicts), the Coaching Stables (1843), The Blind Chapel (now the Masonic Hall and reputedly 'blind' - no windows - on one side so the parishioners didn't have to look at the local pub, and Bowerman's General Store (a handsome two-storey Georgian building with a five bay facade and slim columns)

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Campbell Town

Campbell Town has a rich and interesting history. It was established as one of four garrison towns between Hobart and Launceston and has thirty-five buildings listed on the National Estate. Campbell Town Post Office opened on 1 June 1832. Today, Campbell Town acts as the only major rest area on the Midland Highway, with toilets, a park, a large car park and a range of food outlets. Campbell Town is also the retail centre for much of the southern part of the Municipality.

James Meehan was dispatched from Sydney in 1807 to survey a road between Launceston and Hobart.  After much conjecture, construction of the Midlands Highway began in 1821, overseen by Major T. Bell, and continued for some thirty years.
The town was named by Governor Macquarie after his wife, Elizabeth Campbell, as was the river passing through the town, the Elizabeth River.  There was already some European settlement in the area. Native grasslands, the legacy of Aboriginal management of the land by fire, had attracted settlers seeking grazing for stock. Conflict between Aboriginal people and settlers ensued. Additional impetus for growth came from the town's situation on the main route between Hobart and Launceston.

The labour of convict road gangs stationed in the area is now most evident in the Red Bridge (1836–38). Governor Arthur approved the idea of building a new bridge in 1836. Lieutenant-Governor Arthur laid the foundation stone on 21 October 1836 and construction began the following year under the guidance of Captain Frederick Forth of the 21st Royal North British Fusiliers. Convict labour was to be used, paid by a vote of money from the Legislative Council set at six pence per day for each man. At its peak, there were 220 men working on its construction.

The three arch Red Bridge at the southern end of the town was built between 1836 and 1838. The bridge and causeway, were built as a part of the original main road, it was to be a part of Bell's line of Road, but this road never got past Oatlands. Construction was commenced in 1836 and completed in 1838. It consists of drystone abutments and timber top, although the top has been replaced, the stone abutments are original, making this a rare example of early Australian stone work. Its amazing engineering, originally designed for horse drawn transport, now carries more than two million vehicles annually and the bridge has required little maintenance since it was first constructed.

The Fox Hunters Return (1840), a two-storey rubble stone building, is a colonial Georgian coaching inn, which retains all its original outbuildings and continues to function as an inn for travellers along the highway. Built by convicts around 1833, with the main building constructed under the direction of stonemason Hugh Keane, Foxhunters Return is described by the National Trust as "the finest and most substantial hotel building of the late colonial period in Australia." During the construction of the Red Bridge, convicts were reputed to be housed overnight in the extensive cellars beneath Foxhunters Return, which is situated on the banks of the Elizabeth River and adjacent to the Red Bridge. These cellars featuring sandstone and convict-made red brick arches and freestone walls are now home to The Book Cellar.

The first areas built for the new Foxhunters Return were the stable and coach house building, 2 storey Inn and separate single storey kitchen in c1833. Then the 2 storey north wing in c1837 and the main house structure in c1840.  Due to the arrival of a coach service on the Midlands Highway, travelling the new route across the Red Bridge, Foxhunters Return became a focal point for all travelers. A coach layover and change of horses guaranteed William Broad a steady flow of customers for his flourishing inn. Business continued to grow, by 1840 the construction was complete with Foxhunters Return being much as it is now, a coaching inn providing food and drink for weary travelers with several rooms for accommodation. The work on the Midland Highway continued and by 1849 it was in good condition, with a packed blue metal surface.

Foxhunters Return is a substantial building comprising four levels. The cellar area, used to house convicts engaged in the construction of the Red Bridge from 1836 to 1838, forms the basis of the significant foundations that have allowed Foxhunters Return to stand for the past 170 years. Consisting of large hand hewn sandstone blocks cut and carted from nearby Ross, red bricks hand made from the clay pit of Campbell Town and blue-stone quarried from the local area, the cellars remain much as they were in that early period of colonization.

In King Street is St Michael’s Church (1857) with the initials of the Bishop of Tasmania, Bishop Wilson, engraved into the south east wall.  Everard James Blackburn, transported in 1833 for forging a cheque for 600 pounds on the Bank of England in the name of his employers, was both an architect and civil engineer. At the time of his conviction he was working for the Commissioners of Sewers in London.

James Blackburn designed St Marks Church at Pontville, the Newtown Congregational Church, Holy Trinity in Hobart, The Grange in Campbell Town and many other buildings. Alexander Cheyne, the Director of Roads and Bridges, employed him. It is thought, but cannot be proven, that James Blackburn designed and was overseer for the Red Bridge. He resided in Campbell Town by 1843 and the following year was appointed to assist in surveying the Midlands Irrigation Scheme. In 1847 he constructed the Mill House south of the Red Bridge, which he used as his home until 1849. He moved to Melbourne to become known as the Father of Melbourne's water supply as he was responsible for the design of this system. A suburb of Melbourne is named in his honour.

Campbell Town has a world-class reputation as a major sheep farming centre. Saxon Merino sheep were introduced into the area in about 1823 and by the 1830s, had established Campbell Town as the centre of the Van Diemen’s Land fine wool industry. The first sheep show was held in 1839 and the Campbell Town Show is the longest running agricultural show in the British Commonwealth. Land grants in the area were generally large, favouring affluent free settlers.

A consciousness of social division still persists among many in the community. Farming proved successful and the area has long been prominent in the wool industry. The fortunes of the district have largely been tied to those of the rural sector. Sawmilling is no longer the thriving part of the local economy it once was. The town prospered as a coaching stop, but decline followed from 1876, when a railway linked north and south.

The Campbell Town Railway Station is reputedly the site of Australia’s first telephone conversation which was recorded by Alfred Biggs.  The telephone is made of Huon Pine and is now on display at the Heritage Highway Museum.

Campbell Town is notable for Harold Gatty, one of six children, born in Campbell Town in 1903, Harold wished to see more of the world and joined the merchant navy to follow his love of navigation. Harold started a small school in Los Angeles, here he lectured on navigation. One of his students was Mrs Charles Lindburgh. Harold also devised new instruments for aerial navigation. Wiley Post, a stunt parachutist, wished to fly around the world in a Lockheed Vega aeroplane named 'Winne Mae'. Wiley chose Harold Gatty as his pilot and succeeded in this flight in eight days, fifteen hours and fifteen minutes, an amazing feat in that era. For his achievement, Harold Gatty was awarded by a special act of congress the Distinguished Flying Cross and was the first Australian ever given a hero's welcome in New York.

Recently the town has benefited from being one of the few towns not bypassed by the restructuring of the Midlands Highway. One of the interesting areas in Campbell Town is the Convict Brick Trail. Running along High Street is the town’s historic walk, the Convict Brick Trail, dedicated to the convicts transported from 1788 onwards. The trail consists of bricks that are dedicated to individual convicts. Each brick details a convict’s name, their crimes and transportation dates.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Ross Female Factory

Ross Female Factory Site, built in the early 1840's as a probation station for male convicts working on the road gangs , incarcerated female convicts from 1848 to 1855. It was one of four female factories established in Tasmania. The name, "Female Factory" was abbreviated from the British institutional title "Manufactory", and referred to the prisons' role as a Work House. Today, the Ross Female Factory is a protected Historic Site, managed by the Parks & Wildlife Service and the Tasmanian Wool Centre of Ross. Open to the public, the only remaining building still standing, the Overseer's Cottage,  contains a display on the history of this unique convict site, including a model of the Female Factory in 1851. Although little architecture remains above the ground, Ross Factory is the most archaeologically intact female convict site in Australia.

As the ‘interior’ became more settled and the towns along the main road from Hobart to Launceston grew in size, the number of convicts assigned and hired to masters in these areas increased markedly.  It was often the more recalcitrant prisoners who were assigned to service in the ‘interior’, those who were continually found drunk and disorderly in Hobart and Launceston or those who were continually absent without leave or absconded.  It was believed that there were less distractions for these convicts in the country areas and so they were less likely to misbehave.  However, misbehave they did and the authorities recognized the need for a place of punishment and hiring for female convicts in the interior.  The chain gang station at Ross was chosen as the site for the last female factory to be built in Van Diemen’s Land.  Being on the road from Hobart Town to Launceston, the factory could also act as a stopover place for prisoners being moved between the 2 largest towns.

The establishment was designed to be multi-purpose—it would act not only as a female factory, but also as a probation station, hiring depot, lying-in hospital, nursery and overnight station.  It opened in March 1848.  Ross Female Factory had some advantages over the other factories.  It was built in the dry climate of the midlands and, being in the country, the air was fresher.  Thus, there was not the problem of dampness causing illness as occurred at Cascades Female Factory in particular.  Also, because the factory was built when the female convict population was at its peak, it did not experience the problems of overcrowding that the other 4 factories did.  This also meant that the nursery was not overcrowded.  Another benefit to the prisoners was that the Superintendent was also a medical doctor—Dr William John Irvine. As a result of these advantages, the infant mortality rate at Ross Female Factory was low, especially compared to the rates at the Cascades and Launceston factories.  However, the rations were still meager and hunger drove some prisoners to dishonorable acts.  In January 1852, Caroline Rankin, who had given birth to an illegitimate daughter at the factory 9 months previously, was charged with ‘appropriating the children’s food’.  In August 1850, Eleanor Onions, had been charged with ‘having meal bread and potatoes improperly in her possession’.

When the prisoners arrived at Ross Female Factory, usually by foot with a guard or by coach without a guard, they were made to take a bath and issued with prison clothing.  The clothing consisted of:  a jacket, a pair of stockings, a pair of shoes, a cap, a shift, a handkerchief, a petticoat and an apron.  These items were made from wool, calico or flannel.  The women were then assigned to the appropriate ward—crime class, probation pass holders or nursery. The probation system, which replaced the 'inequalities' of assigning convicts to private settlers in 1841, was designed to promote the passage of men and women from convict to reputable citizen. Their lives were ordered by authority, work and surveillance, Religion and classification into classes were the keys to this passage.

For almost a decade and a half the unwieldy and often reformed probation system was in operation at Ross. Despite numerous changes, the station retained a basic form which graphically illustrates the rather simple ritual of transformation through which probationers passed. The station reached its ultimate form in the early 1850s, when it housed female convicts. The functional and symbolic patterns of the gaol are as self-evident today as they would have been to the women incarcerated here. After moving within the high stone walls of the entrance, a woman convict left everyday society. In the first stage of her transformation, she would physically turn to the left, into the crime class wards and yard, where she would serve the initial six months of her sentence. The 'Dead House', a mortuary, was in this range of rooms. At the rear of the factory, elevated on a platform above the surrounding yard, was the chapel. All the probationers were released from their cells and wards to attend services in this building. The 'solitary apartments', solitary confinement cells, marking the results of bad behavior, were below the chapel, emphasizing their position in relation to God and authority. In the middle of the compound stood the large nurseries and crime class work rooms. In the nurseries were the new-born children of the convict women. The birth of a child within the factory ushered the mother back to crime class for six more months. Nearing the end of her transformation, the women reached the pass holders wards, just to the right of the entrance. The hospital was also located here. At this end of the process of transformation, the factory opens to include service buildings and access to the surrounding countryside. Quarters for staff (the present cottage) were on high ground in the north-west corner, outside and above the female factory and the confining symmetry of the main buildings. In a position to guard this process constables were resident across the street from the main gate.

Indications of resistance by the women to their confinement are common: they directly attacked staff, formed illicit lesbian relationships and possessed and distributed contraband. Early in 1854 Elizabeth Clark was confined at the Ross Factory for a term of one year. (Her offence was 'actual intercourse' in a public street.) Her sentence was later extended by two months for 'smoking' and having 'a pot of tea'; convicts were not permitted to possess either item. A crime class prisoner with tobacco or tea would need to procure these items from others in the gaol. There were several distinct areas within the factory where illegal transactions could take place. Communal areas, and in particular the divisions between yards, offered such places. The material remains of these activities, in the form of worn paths and small artifacts, still exist below the surface.

The activities of staff at the factory were also constricted by the rules drawn-up to order the lives of women convicts. They too sought ways to circumvent their constraints. Mr. and Mrs. Imrie performed the duties of Asst. Superintendent and Asst. Matron at Ross for three years. During their employment, both were accused of misconduct and were frequently in conflict with Superintendent Irvine and his replacement, Superintendent Hall. Accusations against the Imries included misappropriating articles from the stores and receiving kickbacks from local suppliers. They were eventually sacked. Many members of staff were dismissed or removed from office under suspicion, including Irvine, Hall, Asst. Superintendent O'Brien (before he even began work), Constable Taylor, and Constable Davies (whose wife was a 'Prisoner of the Crown'). In 1851 the gatekeeper, Constable Macdonald, was dismissed for allowing the town surveyor within the factory without prior authorization. Questions surround many aspects of the female convict system: questions concerning connivance between staff and convicts, forms of contraband and currency within the factory, the numerous pregnancies of inmates and the presence of unauthorized male visitors.

The factory closed in January 1855 and the Police Department took over the site, though the Roman Catholic Church used the Chapel for services.  Some mounds in a sheep paddock and the Superintendent’s cottage are all that is left of the factory today, though recent archaeological digs at the site have been unearthing the plan of the site.  The most recent dig revealed the foundations of the nursery ward.