Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Captain William Bunster's Residence, Hunter Street

Captain William (Billy) Bunster was a colourful sailor/merchant who built at least two of the buildings still existent in Hunter’s Street, #31 & #33, in 1821 immediately after the Hunter Street causeway was created. #31 was built as a warehouse for Bunster’s business interests and # 33 was built as Bunster’s residence. Billy Bunster made his fortune from sealing and kangaroo skins as well as salt and general trade. He was one of a close knit group of merchants and seamen who made their fortunes from their headquarters on Hunter Street. He traded in sealskins from Macquarie Island, salt and sealskins from Kangaroo Island and general merchandise between Hobart & Sydney.

As his business expanded, he went on to acquire further properties in Hunter Street and several country properties as well. William appears to have been married twice. His first marriage was to Sarah in 1829. The marriage produced 1 child. Unfortunately Sarah passed away in 1835. William was married again in 1836 when he married Anna Williams at St Davids Church in Hobart. This marriage seems to have produced a couple more children. Unlike many other merchants of the time, he did not build his fortune on initial wealth or family connections. At a dinner given in his honour in the early 1850’s he described himself as “a plain man ….I have tried to steer an independent course. I owe nothing to the Government nor to any man.” William was to die on 19th Feb 1854 from a bout of dysentery.

Between 1869 – 1882, a number of the Hunter Street building, including #31 & #33, were purchased in a dilapidated state by George Peacock, the jam manufacturer. Peacock went on to live in Bunster’s old house at #33. When Peacock’s business fell on hard times, Peacock’s son joined forces with two employees to form a partnership which bailed out the Old Wharf business. One of these employees was the young Henry Jones of IXL fame. Like Peacock before him, Jones lived in Bunster’s old house and the other warehouses went on to form the cornerstone of his jam empire which grew far beyond the shores of Tasmania.

The building has survived to this day and has now become the Peacock & Jones Restaurant & Wine Bar. It forms a part of the Hunters Wharf & Hunters Street Historic Precinct, a wonderful part of Hobart.

Main Text & Information Source –
Interpretive Signs in Hunter Street


  1. One can't help but think of Billy Bunter. Henry Jones and IXL is well known to Victorians of a certain age. We even have a shopping centre off a premier shopping street, The Jam Factory, where IXL used to make jam.

  2. As far as I know, William Bunster was never known as Billy. His first relationship was with my relative, Lucy Goodwin, who had five daughters to him, three of whom lived to adulthood. William was living with Lucy between 1815 and 1823 in VDL, during which period he built the warehouses, and they were never, to my knowledge, living there. They lived in a house in the block bounded by Collins and Campbell Street until 1823, when they left for England with their three surviving daughters. (I have ample documentation confirming this if you'd like it.) William went back and forth between VDL and England several times during the 1820s, leaving Lucy and their girls in London. After a visit during which one of his daughter's was born, one died, and Lucy died, he returned and stayed in VDL for the next ten years or so, marrying twice, and adding four sons to his family. He remained in VDL until 1839, when he left with his sons and second wife, to collect Lucy's three surviving daughters, returning to VDL in 1842. (They'd stayed in England after their mother's death with William's widowed sister and mother until they dad all received a good education there.) During that period this building became a hotel, and, not surprisingly, a cousin-in-law of Lucy Goodwin leased it from William. He was then living in his new Campbell Street house, built c. 1829, which was later named Hollydene House. He died there in the 1860s, leaving three married daughters all living elsewhere, four unmarried sons living in Tas., and a widow.

  3. William Bunster was extremely well-connected - he was certainly not a "plain" man - one sister, Eliza, married Ellis Bent, and came to NSW with Governor Macquarie as Attorney General. His two brothers became extremely wealthy merchants and landholders in Chile after very successful naval careers in the British Navy, and his mother is supposed to have descended from English royalty. His father was a successful ship's captain before him.

    1. Thank you for all the info about William and his family. Its extremely interesting and clarifies a few bits of the original information I sourced. Muchly appreciated.