Alfred Kennerley was born in Islington, London and landed in Hobart in 1831, en route to Sydney. He was a man of considerable means and bought up considerable land in New South Wales. With ample means he applied in December 1831 for land at Rooty Hill and in 1832 was assigned some male convict labour. By 1837 he had bought the Retreat, a large farm at Bringelly, and 4000 acres (1619 ha) on the Cudgegong River in County Wellington and property in Parramatta. In 1834 at the age of 24, he married the woman whose family name is perpetuated in the name of the house that they eventually built for themselves in Hobart.
She was Jane Rouse, whose father incidentally gave his name to the district of Rouse Hill, outside Sydney. The Kennerleys twice returned to England before finally deciding to settle in Tasmania where they arrived in 1857. Alfred Kennerley rose to the heights of public life in Hobart, twice becoming Mayor of Hobart, in 1862 & 1871 and in 1875 becoming premier of Tasmania.
Kennerley built Rouseville in 1869 between his two terms as mayor and while he was a member of the Legislative Council. It is a large, stone house of some 28 or 29 rooms, surrounded by a high stone wall. In front of the house is a magnificent and deep fountain, featuring white and green herons supporting a metal dish. Steps lead to a stone portico flanked by a stone column with a carved capitol of intricate delicacy and then on to the front door.
Over this, and seen in all its brilliance from the hall inside, is a typical late Victorian fanlight in stained and painted glass of red, green, gold and blue. These colours are repeated in a massive, six paned window on the landing of the stairs that climb to the first floor. At every point, except in the servant’s quarters, there is the generous use of space.
The rooms are large with deep bay windows, high ceilings and elaborate cornices. Baltic pine is used extensively and artistically carved marble for the grand fireplace surrounds. Inside and out, Rouseville is the epitome of Victorian charm, from the little box hedgesand sundial in the gardens to the beautiful wrought iron widow’s walks over the portico and front windows.
In 1869 Alfred Kennerley opened the Hobart Boys' Home and Industrial School, and on April 7 the Home accepted its first admission. 'Kennerley' commenced as a large institution caring for boys who had been dislocated from their families, providing them with a trade and with life skills while under care. In 1969 the old West Hobart institution was sold and 4 large 6-bedroom cottages were purpose built to house boys and girls in need of long-term care.
The inclusion of girls at this stage meant that brothers and sisters could be kept together, this brought about a change of name to Kennerley Children’s Home. Kennerley became church warden of All Saints parish in 1876 and donated a new Sunday school building and many subscriptions towards improving the edifice.
His wife died on 4 May 1877 and soon afterwards Kennerley had a paralytic stroke. He recovered but was unable to continue his public activities. He died at his home in Hobart, on 15 November 1897 in his 88th year. His estate included many shares in the Union Bank, government securities and much landed property in New South Wales and Tasmania. He left generous legacies to relations and friends in England, his church, his servants and many benevolent societies. He also left Rouseville and an adjoining house to the parish in his will. The parish received rental income from both properties until May 1912 when they were sold. The total proceeds were invested and remain a source of income although much diminished to this day.
Rouseville was bought by the Chapman family and lived in by two unmarried sisters until the 1970’s. Harvey Wallace- Williams became the fourth owner in 1974. He performed major refurbishment works but altered nothing except to modernize bathrooms and the kitchen. He also built a closed in swimming pool in the grounds, an act with did not sit well with the National Trust. Both the house and the grounds are under the auspices of the National Trust.
The present owner, only the fifth to be in possession of Rouseville in considerably more than a century, has owned the property since 1985. He has made the observation the property has suffered very little in its long life, partly because none of the previous owners had children.
A truly magnificent property and a fitting representative of a bygone age.
Main Text & Information source:
“Mansions, Cottages and All Saints” – Book by Audrey Holiday & Walter Eastman
Australian Dictionary Of Biography – Alfred Kennerley -