Old Hobart Town

Chart of Van Dieman's Land, by Joseph Cross, London, 1826 (National Library of Australia T 359)
Chart of Van Dieman’s Land, by Joseph Cross, London, 1826 (National Library of Australia T 359)

David Collins (1756–1810), founder of Hobart, was well equipped as a colonial administrator when he arrived in the Derwent in February 1804, having spent almost nine years in New South Wales as judge-advocate and secretary to the colony.

Late in 1802, as a result of his persistent lobbying of Lord Hobart and Sir Joseph Banks, Collins was appointed lieutenant-governor of a new British penal colony to be established in Bass Strait. After an unsuccessful attempt to settle at Port Phillip, Victoria, with 300 convicts, he began moving his party to the Derwent, intending to join John Bowen’s camp at Risdon Cove.

On arrival Collins made three significant decisions: he selected Sullivan’s Cove as the site for his settlement; he had John Bowen’s troublesome party at Risdon recalled to Sydney; and he persuaded Governor King not to use the Derwent as a dumping place for hardened recidivist convicts. However, a policy he adopted at the outset – to avoid hostility with the Aboriginal people by having as little contact with them as possible – was to prove impractical and ineffective.

So was Hobart founded in 1804, when Lt-Governor Collins moved the main southern settlement from Risdon to Sullivan’s Cove. Collins named the new settlement in honour of the then Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, Robert Hobart, 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire, the Lord Hobart. It was originally referred to as ‘Hobart Town’, which was often shortened to ‘Hobarton’, but by 1842 it had grown large enough to officially be recognised as a city, and from 1 January 1881 the ‘Town’ was formally dropped from its name, leaving the modern name of simply ‘Hobart’. From the foundation of the settlement, Hobart has remained the administrative centre of Tasmania, and from the time that Tasmania was granted responsible self-government in 1856 it has been the capital city of Tasmania.

Collins named the Cove which was the initial landing site, Sullivans Cove after John Sullivan, Permanent Under Secretary to the Colonies. Collins travelled to the shore via what was then a rocky island named Hunter Island. The connection to the shore was developed and is now known as Hunter Street. The island now has a building directly above it. The cove area itself is now known as Macquarie Wharf and serves as the main port for the city. Many of the original buildings along the esplanade are still standing.

Collins arrived at the Cove on the Lady Nelson. The Lady Nelson was commissioned in 1799 to survey the coast of Australia. At the time large parts of the Australian coast were unknown and only part of the continent had been claimed by Britain. The Lady Nelson left Portsmouth on 18 March 1800 and arrived at Sydney on 16 December 1800 after having been the first vessel to reach the east coast of Australia via Bass Strait. Prior to that date all vessels had to sail around the southern tip of Tasmania to reach their destination. For the next few years the Lady Nelson was kept busy sailing as a tender under the British flag. After her arrival at Port Jackson in December 1800 she sailed again in 1801 and 1802 under the command of John Murray to explore Port Phillip Bay. In 1802, she sailed to Risdon Cove in the River Derwent under the command of Lt. John Bowen, who established the first settlement in Van Diemen’s Land. Later in 1803 she sailed to Sorrento in Port Phillip Bay and then to the River Derwent under the command of Lt. Col. Collins.

You can see a full size replica of the Lady Nelson in the picturesque waterfront of Hobart. The replica was launched from Ray Kemp’s ramp at Margate Tasmania in 1988, 200 years after the First Fleet landed at Botany Bay. The replica sails on the harbour each weekend and is also available for private charters. Passengers are offered the opportunity to enjoy a tall ship sailing experience – help set sails, take a turn at the helm or just enjoy the feel of a traditional sailing ship at sea. Next time! Beary sailors 🙂

Replica of Lady Nelson
Replica of Lady Nelson

If you want to know more about the history of this ship, it has a website!
http://www.ladynelson.org.au

The Cove was an excellent site for a settlement, with a good port, good fresh water, and the shelter of Mount Wellington. From that date Hobart has been the capital and administrative centre of first southern Tasmania, then from 1812 all Tasmania. This meant parliament and government departments, major educational establishments and the headquarters of churches and many businesses and groups were established in Hobart.

Although Collins had left England well supplied, Hobart Town made little material progress during his six-year administration. A change of government in Britain – which deprived him of Hobart’s protection – and its preoccupation with the war against Napoleon, caused him to be neglected. None of the first 23 despatches he sent to England was answered, and his attempt to promote the whaling industry met with no response. No further shipments of convicts arrived, and the settlement often faced starvation. Collins was forced to obtain food from the government stores at Sydney, and to purchase supplies from visiting traders. A scheme he organised to kill kangaroos for meat antagonised the Aboriginal people.

Collins’ situation was exacerbated in 1807 when the government ordered him to receive some 400 settlers (almost equal to the population of Hobart Town) from Norfolk Island, and provide them with houses, farms and convict labourers. At the same time he was admonished for his expenditure of public money, told to stop writing to England, and to apply to Sydney for all his needs.

Collins faced a further difficulty when Governor Bligh arrived in Hobart Town in March 1809 and began to undermine Collins’ authority. Hostility between the two ended only with Bligh’s departure in December. By this time Collins was ill and disheartened. He died of a heart attack three months later.

Although Collins scandalised some by his open liaisons with convict women, he was generally popular and regarded as lenient, tolerant and personally honest. Collins was also a thoughtful, well-read man, who understood the power of the written word. He left behind little in the way of public buildings but he made an important cultural bequest in the form of Tasmania’s first printing press and its first newspaper, the fortnightly Derwent Star and Van Diemen’s Land Intelligencer. Collins has given his name to Collinsvale in Tasmania, Collins Street in Melbourne CBD, and Collins Street in Hobart CBD.

Lack of food and equipment dogged Hobart’s first years, but gradually a town developed. The port grew, home to sealers and whalers – whaling began in the Derwent in 1804. By 1811, when Governor Macquarie ordered a town plan, Hobart, though still small, boasted hotels and shops, a church, hospital, quarry and newspaper, and some substantial houses. Local industries were established, such as milling, brewing, tanning and shipbuilding. The 1820s saw development, with more efficient administrators and some energetic free settlers and ex-convicts.

German publisher and patron of the Arts, Friedrick Justin Bertuch, published a ‘Picture Book for Children’ in 1821 which included a hand-coloured copper plate print of Hobart Town.

Bertuch’s Hobart Town – hand-coloured copper-plate from ‘Picture Book for Children’ published in 1821.
Bertuch’s Hobart Town – hand-coloured copper-plate from ‘Picture Book for Children’ published in 1821.

This is his description of the scene depicted.

Hobart Town Van Diemen’s Land

Our picture shows the capital of the colony established on the great island of Van Diemen’s Land, situated south-west of New Holland. Although founded in 1804, by 1821 Hobart boasted more than 400 houses and 2.700 inhabitants.

The town features a government building, a church, some barracks and a secure prison-because the population is largely made up of criminals.

There is a hospital, and the town is defended by a battery. On Mount Nelson there is a signal telegraph station. The river Derwent on which this is built is navigable by the largest merchant vessels.

The European colony so close to the South Pole already has everything it needs to conduct a thriving trade. With a mild and healthy climate, the land produces an abundance of everything needed for a happy existence.

This will certainly be one of the most flourishing colonies that England has established.

Merchants developed trade, with Hobart a major port for the developing wool trade; shops grew; and fine Georgian sandstone buildings were erected, such as a Presbyterian church (1824), Salamanca Place warehouses (1830s), the Theatre Royal (1837) and private homes like Narryna (1828) and Westella (1835). Settlement extended to outlying areas such as Sandy Bay, South Hobart, West Hobart and New Town. As the seat of government, Hobart also gained official buildings such as the Treasury. Recreations developed: cricket, an annual regatta, and yachting on the Derwent. The busy port and the preponderance of convicts in the population meant that Hobart was still ‘wild and unruly’ with a high crime rate. By the 1840s, it ‘began to take on the guise of a town’, and it was declared a city in 1842.

Old Hobart Town is a unique multi award-winning model village depicting life in Hobart as it was in the 1820’s. Individually handcrafted with passion by Andrew and John Quick over a three year period, the authentic model village has been reconstructed from original plans and it gives a unique glimpse into the tough life of Australia’s convict past.

Old Hobart Town, Historical Model Village, Richmond
Old Hobart Town, Historical Model Village, Richmond

http://www.oldhobarttown.com

Designed and built from actual historical plans, the model village is an accurate representation of Hobart would have looked in the early 1800’s. It shows how the early town differs considerably from the modern city we know now, yet recognisable features and buildings can still be seen.

Old Hobart Town
Old Hobart Town Map

Old Hobart Town buildings have been constructed to a scale of 1:16. They are covered in cements and plasters into which are moulded stones, bricks and shingles. Plans for many of the buildings came from the Tasmanian archives, the Lands Department of the day, the Tasmania section of the library and the Tasmanian museum all assisted with information. The miniature trees are Tasmanian myrtles, a large rain forest tree. They have been trained and clipped using bonsai techniques. The people have been individually created in clay, fired and painted. The display opened in 1991.

Old Hobart Town

Hobart Town was first settled by a small group of 300 people, mostly convicts and soldiers. There were many problems, the convicts were, as Collins described them, “a collection of old, worn out useless men or children equally as useless”. Little wonder that when Collins died in 1810, Hobart Town had hardly grown. Buildings were already crumbling because of bad workmanship. Not until Gov Sorell arrived in 1817 did Hobart Town began to change from a rough settlement to a town.

Old Hobart Town

Isabelle! Careful not to step on anyone… everyone is so tiny! They’ve already been fired, it would be really bad luck if they were crushed as well!

Old Hobart Town

Government House, Then
Government House, Then
Government House, Today
Government House, Today
Hobart Rivulet
Hobart Rivulet
Hobart Rivulet
Hobart Rivulet

The Hobart Rivulet flows from Mount Wellington, through Hobart’s city centre and into the River Derwent. For centuries it was a permanent source of drinking water; first for the Mouheneener band of the South-East people and then, after 1804, the first European settlers – for whom its clean water was an important reason for settling at this site. However it became polluted very rapidly, and typhoid epidemics during the 1880s and 1890s prompted local government to improve the quality of the Rivulet. Floods are frequent on the Rivulet and some, such as that in 1960, have severely damaged the city centre. The Rivulet was also a significant source of energy for early industries and so its history reflects the development of the city.

Elizabeth Street, Then
Elizabeth Street, Then
Elizabeth Street Mall, Today
Elizabeth Street Mall, Today
Macquarie Street
Macquarie Street
Murray Street
Murray Street
St David's Church
St David’s Church
St David's Cathedral Today, View from Murray St
St David’s Cathedral Today, View from Murray St

Lt Gov David Collins died 24 March 1810 and was buried at St David’s burial ground (now St David’s Park). St David’s Church constructed of wood was erected over David Collins’ grave as a temporary place for public worship. Within a few months it was blown down in a storm. In February 1813 Lt Gov Thomas Davey gained approval from Governor Lachlan Macquarie of New South Wales of plans for erection of the second St David’s Church. With other projects taking precedence, the foundation stone was finally laid in February 1817 on the corner of Murray and Macquarie Streets. The Church was a long time in building and St David’s Church was consecrated on 9 January 1823. When Hobart was declared a city in 1842, the existing St David’s Church became St David’s Cathedral.

The current St David’s Cathedral was built between 1868 and 1936 and is in the Gothic Revival style. The building sits on the corner of Macquarie and Murray Streets and forms one quadrant of what is considered to be the finest Georgian streetscape in Australia.

Sullivans Cove
Sullivans Cove

From the time of its foundation as a port in the early 1800s, Sullivans Cove has witnessed extensive land reclamation. Land has been extended by up to 250m seaward in the southern and western parts of the cove. Much of this occurred over the course of the nineteenth century. The northern part of Sullivans Cove, encompassing the railyards and port facilities on Macquarie Point, has seen the greatest reclamation. Here land has been extended up to 600m from the original 1800s shoreline. Much of this reclamation took place between 1900 and the 1970s, resulting in horizontal stratification of port infrastructure, with older buildings now situated inland behind modern wharves and terminals, limiting vistas across the cove. Beneath the current port facilities are former land forms and cultural material which have been buried during the various phases of land reclamation undertaken over almost 150 years.

Today, the waterfront of Sullivans Cove has largely become a tourist destination with a high concentration of cafes, restaurants, hotel and apartment accommodation, speciality shops, art galleries and is the location of the popular Salamanca market. While many modern buildings impose on the waterfront vistas of Sullivans Cove, a number of nineteenth century and early 20th century warehouses and port-related buildings have survived relatively intact, especially along Hunter Street and Salamanca Place. Most of these buildings have been adapted for tourism purposes and have become an important tourist drawcard for Hobart and Tasmania.

Let’s go to the full size Sullivans Cove! There are cakes there!

Old Hobart Town

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