Sunday, 23 February 2014

Westella Mansion

Built for Henry Hopkins, merchant and philanthropist (Hobarts first woolbuyer and exporter) credited with the foundation of Congregationalism in Tasmania. An outstanding example of large colonial residence in the style of a Grecian Villa that is probably the finest remaining Georgian townhouse in Australia.

The building owes its importance also to its original owner, Henry Hopkins, pioneering figure in the development of Hobart's commercial and religious functions. Henry Hopkins (1787-1870), merchant and philanthropist, was born on 16 August 1787 at Deptford, England. He was brought up in a pious Nonconformist middle class home and had a sound business training, spending '16 years in the wool trade in England'. He married his cousin Sarah Rout and sailed with her from Deptford in the Heroine. Among the passengers were Robert Mather and his wife and family, and George and Martha Clarke.

Hopkins arrived in Hobart Town in 1822 with a shipment of boots when they were in short supply. Mather and Hopkins became partners, and as retailers and buyers of produce opened a small shop in Elizabeth Street. As Hobart's first wool buyer, Hopkins was credited with the entire export of the colony in 1822: twelve bales of wool bought at 4d. a pound, and sold in London at 7d. The partnership with Mather was short-lived. Hopkins moved to his own shop and cottage, 'two rooms and a skilling', at the corner of Elizabeth and Bathurst Streets. His main stock was ironmongery, but he was keenly interested in developing the wool trade.

On 28 December 1825 he applied for a land grant, offering as qualifications his long experience in the wool trade and a capital of £2000. The application failed because he would not accept the required residence conditions, but as a townsman and trader he rapidly prospered. He made a huge profit and invested the earnings in local wool for export to England. He had begun life in Hobart Town sharing a two-room house with an Earth floor with his wife.

However after ten years of exporting wool, in 1835 he was wealthy enough to build "Westella House", then the biggest in Hobart Town, and still standing today. It had 48 rooms and the dining room could seat 60 guests. The great square stone house which still stands in Elizabeth Street, a landmark from which, in the absence of a Town Hall, were proclaimed the governor's orders on King William's death, Queen Victoria's accession, the birth of Edward Prince of Wales, and later the cessation of transportation. Hopkins also acquired other properties and in 1839 he put up for sale ten houses in Hobart, a farm and numerous town allotments. In 1837 he had visited the Port Phillip District to buy land and wool.

He bought Wormbete, near Winchelsea, and stocked it with merinos from Van Diemen's Land. Later he made it over to his second son, John Rout, and acquired another Victorian property at Lake Murdeduke, for his third son, Arthur. The whole family went to England in 1839 and were away for three years, returning in the Jane Frances in December 1842. Although Hopkins was still buying wool in 1847, he appears to have given up active trading, for in 1845 Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Eardley-Wilmot noted that 'Mr. Hopkins is a gentleman retired from all business, residing in Hobart Town and living on a large independent fortune'.

About this time he was engaged in enlarging the house on his farming estate, Summerhome, formerly Robert Giblin's New Town Academy for boys. Here for his remaining years Hopkins spent his summer months, returning to Westella for the winter. His wife Sarah died on 17 November 1849, aged 56. Hopkins died on 27 September 1870, after a peaceful and happy old age and a very short illness.

The property is still in magnificent condition and is currently used as corporate office space.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014


This is a building that anyone driving down Macquarie Street in Hobart will have seen and probably wondered why the side of the building is one giant billboard. This two storey building is known as Loretto and is believed to have been built in the early 1840’s for an early settler. For over half a century, its now fading advertisement for McCann’s has probably been Hobart’s best known advertising although it is now well and truly out of date.

Very little is known of the early years of the property. However, there is a very old faded notice painted onto the side wall of the building that indicate that the building was at one time a “Boarding Establishment”.

Records from the beginning of the 20th century indicate that in 1904, Loretto was run in that capacity by a Mrs B. Gossner. By 1906, the property appears to be owned and operated by Mrs H Stump.  It seems that members of the Stump family owned and operated the property as a boarding house until at least 1948. A Tasmanian Hotel & Boarding House Directory, which was published on an annual basis, showed that from 1924 the property could accommodate six tenants at 4 shillings per day or 25 shillings per week. For the whole decade through to 1934, these rates remained unchanged while the proprietor remained a Miss Stump.

The Post office guide from the time showed that a Mrs M Stump lived in the premises from 1927 until 1944, then a Miss Florence Stump lived there until 1948. No reference, however, was made in that publication regarding the house being a boarding house after 1934.

In more recent years the property has been converted into professional suites and offices and although the renovations for the suites has swept away much of the early Victorian flavour from the interior, it still retains reminders of its original character. The two front rooms still retain their immaculate cast iron fireplaces and the entrance hall retains elaborate decorative cornices and an archway that leads up the balustraded staircase to the second level which has four floors and a store room.

The rooms in Loretto are fairly small and originally numbered 12 rooms. Recent additions have increased the number and out buildings have been added. Also included is the above ground basement area.

Loretto is a very interesting, yet simple building, especially more well known for the advertising on its western wall than its older history as a settlers home and then as a boarding house.

Main Information source:
“Mansions, Cottages and All Saints” – Book by Audrey Holiday & Walter Eastman

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

St John's Church, Franklin

St Johns Church has important associations with the early social and religious history of the Huon community. Early worship in the Franklin district was conducted in a small timber church, dedicated to St Mary, erected c1840, on land given by Lady Franklin. On 13 June 1855, Archdeacon Davies wrote to Bishop Nixon, emphasizing the urgent need for a new church in the growing township. Nixon sought assistance from the government, under the provision of the Church Act, 1837. The government had already committed its budgeted funds, however, and the request for government assistance appears to have lapsed.

Following the ordination and appointment of the Reverend Thomas Stanfield, sufficient funds were raised publicly, and the foundation stone of the new building was laid on 9 February 1863 by Archdeacon Davies. Henry Hunter was appointed architect, and his original design included a nave, chancel, tower and spire. Only the nave and the base of the tower were completed initially. The contractor was John Rait, and the cost, 600 pounds.

The old church which stood adjacent to the new building was subsequently demolished. The change in dedication from St Mary to St John is not explained, though the new name may have been chosen to reflect the associations of Sir John and Lady Franklin with the earlier history of the community, in much the same manner as the name of St Davids (Hobart) pays homage to David Collins.

The partly completed church was dedicated and licensed by Archdeacon Davies on 17 May 1864. In late 1895 it was decided to proceed with construction of the chancel and vestry. The timber additions were completed the following year, and on 7 November 1896 the completed building was consecrated by the fourth Bishop of Tasmania, the Right Reverend Henry Hutchinson Montgomery. Restoration of the nave was also undertaken at this time. Further work was undertaken in 1923 and in 1956.

Above the entry porch is a small square belfry, capped by an octagonal spire with a broad square base. The flooring of the church is tongue and grooved hardwood, and internal walls are plastered. Among internal fittings and features of note are an octagonal font, several marble memorial plaques and the semi-hexagonal pulpit which has heavily varnished pine panels set within a Blackwood frame, with turned corner posts and a heavily moulded cornice.

The pipe organ was built by John Gray of London c1826 and was originally installed in St Johns Church, Launceston (in 1826). It was the second pipe organ brought to Van Diemens Land for church use (the first being that of St Davids - now located at St Matthews, Rokeby - also a Gray instrument). The organ was rebuilt c1850 and has been relocated several times. The organ was installed at Franklin in 1965. The original front remains at St Johns, Launceston, and the pipework is now accommodated within a case of contemporary design.

St Johns has a commanding and picturesque setting, on a hillside above the town of Franklin overlooking the Huon River to the east. It is surrounded by an extensive churchyard which contains many early graves and monuments. St John’s still holds regular services as part of the Huon Anglican Parish.

Information Source: Australian Heritage Database

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Macquarie Manor

Designed by renowned colonial architect Henry Hunter and built by Hobart builder James Gregory in 1875, Macquarie Manor was originally home to the surgeon Dr Richard Stonehewer Bright. In 1870, Dr Bright commissioned Hobart’s pre-eminent architect — Henry Hunter, to design and oversee the construction of a residence fit for a gentleman.

Dr Bright was Hobart’s senior medical practitioner, he was also senior surgeon at the Royal Hobart Hospital and operated his rooms from what is now Macquarie Manor. Dr Richard Stonehewer Bright used to conduct his surgery in what is now the kitchen at Macquarie Manor.

Named after former Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the Hotel was the centre of Hobart’s high society in the latter part of the 19th century, then more recently as the administration and social headquarters of the Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania (RACT).

In 1996, the Hotel was carefully restored to preserve its Victorian and Edwardian heritage, and is classified by the National Trust of Australia (Tasmania).

Official Website:

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Old Schoolhouse, Hamilton

The Old Schoolhouse in Hamilton is undoubtedly one of the prettiest buildings in the whole Derwent Valley. The building is of great design and is crowned with a fully functional belltower which has called many generations of young Hamilton children to the start of the school day.

Records of schooling in Hamilton seems to begin in 1834 when G.F.Huston, a surgeon, offered to open a school in the local district. By December 1834, the Colonial Secretary was advised that checks had been completed on Huston's competency, character and qualifications and that it was recommended that he be engaged to run the school. In 1836, he was operating the school with a class of 13 boys & 8 girls By 1849 there was a Church of England school established in the region and it was soon joined in 1850 by a new private school.

By 1855, the schools were being managed by the Central Board of Education and the local Hamilton residents decided that a purpose built school building was required in the town. So keen in fact were they that the residents began a fund raising program to pay for the project. By 1856, the existing Old Schoolhouse building was constructed following a design by architects Davidson & Spong. It was designed to accommodate eighty children in two rooms as classrooms on the ground floor with the second storey of the building being used as the private residence for the Headmaster. The final cost to build was 750 pounds.

The Central Board of Education's 1860 annual report was highly complimentary of the new school stating that " the Schoolhouse is a new and excellent building and the tuition in it is thoroughly satisfactory. It is, in most respects, especially in terms of arrangement & discipline, a model institution."

The school continued to be utilized through into the 20th century. In 1935, a new weatherboard school (now the district Library) was built to the side of the schoolhouse building and the old building began its inevitable decline. By the end of the 1960's it had deteriorated to such an extent that the Education Dept proposed demolishing the building and using the space to create a new playground area for the newer school. For its survival, the building can thank the Hamilton Council and a group of concerned locals. In 1972 a new school site was provided and money was raised to secure the future of the old building.

It was subsequently purchased from the government and work was begun towards its current, excellent state of restoration. In 1985, the owners of the building completed their restoration and developed the building as a bed & breakfast accommodation site.

This beautiful building still stands in its original position, a shining beacon to the efforts of those local people who saw the value of the old property and its place in Hamilton's history. It continues to operate as a B & B business and is still one of the most beautiful buildings in the streetscape of Hamilton.