Hobart: Historic Sites

Hobart's Convict Era

By the end of the 18th century, British prisons were seriously overcrowded. The government s solution was to lock convicts in hulks - old ships anchored in river estuaries. When the hulks were full the government decided to get rid of the convicts to the new colony of New South Wales (Australia), where they could be used as cheap labour to build the new colony.

Van Diemen's Land (the early name for Tasmania) was soon seen as a suitable place to send convicts and many convict stations and settlements were established there, particularly in the south in and around Hobart. This settlement, of which port arthur was the most famous, quickly earned a reputation for being the most feared, as not only was the treatment convicts harsh, they were isolated from the rest of the world. Male convicts, often in chains, tunnelled new coal mines, cut timber in the thick forests, quarried stone, built roads, made bricks, built ships.

Southern Tasmania has more relics of the convict era than any other location in the world, and the most distant from Hobart are around an hour's drive away from the city. The penal settlement at Port Arthur is the most famous, but there are many others scattered through the countryside.

Steam Carousel

Originally constructed in Norfolk, England in 1882, The Gallopers (Steam Carousel) spent its early life crisscrossing Northern England on a travelling amusement circuit. It is believed to be the second oldest steam-powered carousel in existence. Hobart's Carousel was lovingly restored for the Tasmanian children and families over 5 years in Kingston, just out of Hobart. After touring tasmania's best and biggest shows and events it has entertained hundreds of thousands of tourists and local tasmanians alike. From the Taste of Tasmania, to the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race, and every year on Constitution Dock for 10 years over christmas/new years the ride is a shining beacon of history that Tasmania has loved and appreciated since its rebirth. It now resides in the Tasmanian Royal Botanical Gardens but is looking for a new home.

Hobart's Lost Railways

A passenger rail service between Hobart and Launceston ran between 1876 and 1978. During that time Hobart also had a suburban railway system. In its day, the Tasmanian Government Railways was a major employer, offering a huge range of jobs: train crew, tradesmen, engineers, apprentices, fettlers, signalmen, clerks, braided stationmasters and ubiquitous 'lad porters'. Apart from goods of every description, the railways carried passengers to factories, schools, the Royal Show and on excursions.

Defending Hobart

The Hobart coastal defences are a network of now defunct coastal batteries, some of which are inter-linked with tunnels, that were designed and built by British colonial authorities in the nineteenth century to protect the city of Hobart, Tasmania, from attack by enemy warships.

During the nineteenth century, the port of Hobart Town was a vital re-supply stop for international shipping and trade, and therefore a major freight hub for the British Empire. As such, it was considered vital that the colony be protected. In all, between 1804 and 1942 there were 12 permanent defensive positions constructed in the Hobart region.

Hobart's Birthplace

The European settlement of Tasmania had a false start, and it happened at Risdon Cove in suburban Hobart in 1803 on the eastern bank of the River Derwent. Lieutenant John Bowen was sent to establish a settlement in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) with 48 free settlers. The Lady Nelson anchored at Risdon in September 1803; it was followed five days later by the whaler Albion with Lt. Bowen on board.

Roseneath House

Early in the 19th century a grand inn stood on the corner of Harbinger Lane and Austin s Ferry Road. In its heyday it was a favorite resort for holidaying folk  from Hobart Town and it was renowned for its magnificent gardens professed to be unsurpassed in Van Diemen s Land. In 1815 James Austin and his cousin John Earle built their first ferryboat and cattle punt but it is 1816 that is recognized as the year this, the first trans Derwent ferry service, began. It was not until 1818, however, that the ferry between Austin's and Old Beach was officially licensed and became part of the Hobart / Launceston road. An inn had now been built to accommodate travelers overnight, not far from Austin's Cottage - it was later to become known as the Roseneath Inn.

Claremont: Hobart's Garden Suburb

The suburb of Claremont owes its origins to the Cladbury chocolate factory at the locality. After World War I, British confectionery manufacturer Cadbury merged with J S Fry and then Pascall to become Cadbury-Fry and Pascall. The new company, ready for expansion internationally, decided to build a factory in Australia since Cadbury's first overseas order had come from Australia back in 1881 and Australia has developed into an important market for the company. Claremont was the chosen for the factory site because it is close to the city of Hobart, has a good source of inexpensive hydro-electricity and, importantly, a plentiful supply of high-quality fresh milk. In addition to its factory, Cadbury's built a garden suburb to house its workers.

Hobart's Lost Island

Hobart's Hunter Street is not only the site where Hobart had its beginnings, but the location of a tiny rocky island which once stood out from the main shore of Sullivans Cove, and was given the name Hunter's Island.

Founded on convict labour, it was here that the first successful attempt to establish a permanent European colony in Van Diemen's Land was made. From these early beginnings, the Hunter Street site evolved into Tasmania's principal trading port in the mid-nineteenth century. The growth of the port was fundamental to the growth of the city of Hobart and it was here where large-scale commercial and industrial development took place, coexisting with residential life. So what happened to Hunter's Island?

Old Government Farm

In March 1804, Governor Collins announced in his general orders that a Government Farm was to be established at what he called Farm Bay  but what is now called Cornelian Bay. The Cornelian Bay site became the Government Farm, to be manned by convicts with overseers and tasked with supplying fresh vegetables and other produce for the first residents of Hobart Town. By 1805, Collins was able to report that a good crop of wheat was expected at the farm. The farm was manned by 30 convicts who had the particular agricultural skills to make the most of the new farm area and as such the farm was to become the central agricultural enterprise in the colony for a number of years. There was a larger area under cultivation than at any of the settler s farms at the time.

Sydney to Hobart Ferry Service

Over the years, two attempts have been made to operate a car and passenger ferry service between Sydney and Tasmania, but with limited success. The first was with the Empress of Australia, which was custom built at Sydney's Cockatoo Island Dockyards in 1962 for Australian National Line, to provide a ferry serice between Sydney (the terminal was at Morts Bay, Balmain) and Hobart via Devonport and Burnie.

Hobart's Floating Bridge

The original bridge which spanned the Derwent River where the Tasman Bridge now stands between 1943 and 1964 is unique in that it was one of if not the only permanent floating road bridge ever built in Australia. The first plans for bridging the Derwent River close to Hobart date back to 1832 but a hurdle to overcome would always be the width of the river here. A solution birthed back then and used in the original Hobart Bridge many years later came from Captain Jacobs who proposed a floating timber structure consisting of short spans linked by barges anchored across the river.