In the late Victorian and early Edwardian period, roughly ten years either side of the turn of the 20th century, there was a substantial social change in the way Tasmanians related to their environment and their leisure time. There was a significant upsurge in interest in a wide variety of sports and weekend activities which had first begun in the 1870’s. This was partly due to the increased mobility of the population provided by the advent of cheap bicycles and the introduction of a tram service in the Hobart area.
In Hobart it became quite noticeable that many more people were beginning to go on picnics and Sunday afternoon jaunts to such places as Cornellian Bay, The Waterworks and various other mountain glens and sea side beauty spots. By around 1900, almost every tram, train & ferry destination had its recreational attractions.
At the cascades terminus of the electric tramline that had been installed in 1893, the Sunday trippers could visit the Cascade Tea Gardens in South Hobart. An imposing weatherboard tearoom was constructed alongside Macquarie Street, roughly halfway along the present parkland area. Rows of nursery and display flowers sloped away down to the rivulet, where a number of fern dells and bush huts lined the rivulet banks. Small cascades tumbled into still ponds populated by ducks and other domestic waterbirds. A bridge crossed the rivulet leading to gently rising pathways climbing the steep hillside so that the visitors could look back across the park like gardens.
Specific information regarding the original owners of the Tea Gardens has been very difficult to come by. There had been some suggestion that a gentleman named John Syme and later on his widow may have been operating a garden hospitality premises in the area in the mid to late 1890’s. However, there is no concrete evidence that links the Symes with the Cascade Tea Gardens.
By 1899, Theo. S Lipscombe was operating the Cascade Tea Gardens. By 1901 the gardens were owned by Victor Sayers and his wife. The Sayers were prominent throughout Hobart with their family plant nurseries and florist shops businesses which ran throughout the first half of the 20th century. The Sayers continued to operate the Cascades Tea Gardens until just after World War 2.
The tea gardens were still being listed in the Post office directory in 1948. The gardens went into serious decline during the 1950’s and by the end of that decade it was difficult to imagine the gardens had been a popular recreational destination. The 1967 bushfire devastated the area, destroying much of the Tea Gardens complex.
There appears to only be a few lingering traces of the structures that comprised the Tea Gardens including the pathways winding up the hillside. It is still a beautiful area to visit, now known as the Cascades Gardens. Would love to hear any stories about the Tea Gardens if anyone has something they'd like to share. Please leave a post if you have some stories to share.
Main Text & Information Source –
“The Hobart Rivulet Historical Study” – City Of Hobart 1988