No. 1.10 - The Residence of the Tasmanian Governor

Otago Witness, Issue 1903, 11 May 1888, Page 28

Among the numerous public buildings of which the "tight little island" can boast very few stand out more conspicuous than the viceregal residence called Government House. This magnificent structure, which is of the early English style of architecture, is situated in the Queen's Domain, a large area of open land to the north-east of the city and within a few minutes' walk of it. On the road to Government House the Queen's Battery and regatta ground are passed, and also the cricket ground. The Domain is a most romantic spot on the shores of the majestic Derwent, the main line railway to Launceston gliding quietly along at the foot of the enclosure. The building commands an extensive view of Kangaroo Point, Sandy Bay, and other delightful picnic grounds on the River Derwent. Old Mount Wellington overlooks the lawns and grounds surrounding Government House, which in the past was so tastefully laid out. Sir John Franklin, in July 1841, laid the foundations of a new vice-regal residence. The residence in those days consisted of a weatherboard building situated in Macquarie street, if Warrior mistakes not, for I was present in Hobart when it was pulled down (the year Mormon won the Hobart Town Champion Race, 1861). The building was not proceeded with, for the early records state that Sir Eardley Wilmot, then Governor of Van Diemen's Land, had, in 1843, to suspend all further operations for want of funds. In December 1853 the plan of the present building was adopted by Sir William Denison, and the works rapidly progressed under his government, directed by the Public Works department of the colony, and were finally completed and taken possession of by Sir Henry Young in 1858. The beautiful coloured freestone used throughout the entire building was quarried almost on the very site itself. I was kindly furnished with the following particulars of the Tasmanian Government House. The basement contains a large corridor running longtitudinally throughout its centre, on either side of which are housekeepers' and servants' rooms. The ground floor consists of three large entrance halls, 28ft x 18ft, communicating with which are the rooms of the aide-camp, 20ft x 14ft, with cloak and reception rooms; Governor's office, 20ft x 24ft library, breakfast, drawing, and dining rooms, 38ft x 24ft; a corridor runs through the centre of the house and leads to the ballroom, which is 100 ft by 30ft, and communicates with a ladies' boudoir, and a conservatory, 32ft by 16ft, with an ante-room at each end. When the building was handed over to Sir Henry Young, the entire cost, including orderlies' quarters, out-offices, farm buildings, laying out ground, furniture, &c., according to a return laid before Parliament, amounted to £67,872. His Excellency Colonel Gore Brown, K.C.B. succeeded Sir Henry Young, and was followed by Sir Robert Du Cane, and Sir Thomas Weld, one of the early Premiers of New Zealand.


Fifteen years hence Hobart natives will celebrate their centennial, for it was in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and three that Governor King named Hobart Town, after the then Secretary of State for the Colonies Lord Hobart. Since then the capital of Tasmania has made but little headway in comparison with the chief cities of the Australian colonies, and New Zealand. When you take away their beautiful harbour, delightful scenery, and their buildings, you rob the 25,000 inhabitants of Hobart of all they possess. Launceston, the principal town in the north of Tasmania, is a long way in advance of the capital in most business matters, owing no doubt to its being situated in close proximity to Victoria and its numerous gold and tin mines. The Mount Bischoff tin lode in itself has brought a mine of wealth to the citizens of Launceston, for in this town are erected the municipal smelting works of the island. Hobart, like the Eternal City of Rome, on small scale, is built on seven hills at the foot of Mount Wellington, something like 5000 ft above the level of the sea. To gain the top I found, to my sorrow, a matter of considerable difficulty, and one that is not often attempted by tourists. This very month 20 years ago to night the remains of King Billy (the last of the male aboriginals of Tasmania) were stolen from St. David's Cemetery. "Warrior" ascended the mount. Tourists often turn on the gas metre in describing the ascent. Three parts of these visitors do not go beyond the ploughed field, most of them remaining at the springs. When in Hobart an aristocratic jackass had the impudence to tell me he walked to the top of the mount on a dark night. This is an impossibility for the sharpest explorer that ever lived. I informed him politely that I was a bit of a liar myself. "Tom Pepper's" cousin didn't continue his discourse any further. After leaving the Bluff the U.S.S. Company's steamers, as a rule, sight Bruny Island, and straight ahead the old Iron Pot (Derwent Lighthouse), to the right of which is Lady Franklin (better known as Betsy) Island. Coming up to the wharf the lonely residence of the Hon. A. McGregor is passed. In front of it is a beautiful esplanade. What was 30 years ago a wilderness in this locality is now dotted with houses. The whole of Battery Point, St. George's Hill, and Sandy Bay have been built upon. At the foot of Mount Nelson, where Warrior in his infancy picked wild flowers, rest at peace the remains of many of the old pioneers of Tasmania. Opposite, where the intercolonial steamers deposit their passengers, one comes across "Harry Parkes' Centennial Deadhouse," so to speak. I refer to the dismal building known as Parliament House. As we casually pass through Murray, Macquarie, Collins, Elizabeth, Liverpool, Davey, Brisbane, and Harrington streets many buildings of exquisite design are noted, prominent among them the Town Hall and Public Library, St. David's Church of England Cathedral, St. Mary's Cathedral, Congregational Memorial Church, Walch and Sons' buildings, banks and insurance companies' offices, Freemasons' Hall, Post Office, Supreme Court, Preservation Convent, and numerous private residences of wealthy and retired merchants. Mr Amott (the acting mayor) having telephoned to the Superintendent of Police at "Warrior's" request, I was escorted into the precincts of -


- by Mr S. Rheuben, inspector of stock, and afterwards introduced to Mr H. G. Quodling, governor of the gaol. Those people in this world who have read carefully the "Newgate Calendar," "His Natural Life," and the "Experiences of Martin Cash" (a Van Dieman's Land bushranger), look upon the gaols of Tasmania as a hideous sight. Not at all. They will bear comparison with the best prison reformatories in the United Kingdom. Prison discipline is a question which in all countries has afforded an ample field for debate, and, moreover, as Mr Quodling remarked, is a subject upon which there exists a very wide difference of opinion but however great may be the conflict of ideas, all are united in the one feeling — that Criminals, while they should be treated as such, should also have the opportunity afforded to them of improving their fallen condition by reformatory means, should they choose to avail themselves of them. I hadn't been "imprisoned" more than 10 minutes when I wag satisfied that Mr Quodling's course of treatment was the correct thing. There is none of that barbarous punishment such, for example, as prisoners wearing canvas masks covering the whole of the head and face, only leaving two small eyelets; nor does one find in Hobart Gaol men receiving their meals like wild tigers such as in some of the colonies — through a small trap in the door. The old Hobart Town gaol was situated at the corner of Macquarie and Murray streets, on the site now more pleasantly occupied by tbe Savings Bank, Freemasons' Hall, &c. Well might "Warrior" remember this spot, for when only eight years old he had to listen to the prayers of the Revs. Messrs Hall and Bond at the execution of five criminals. Thanks to the progress of civilisation, such scenes have long past been blotted out from the "tight little island," and I hope the day is not far distant when the fiendish curse of New Caledonia will likewise be swept from the earth. The time has arrived when Australasia should not only protest against the importation of Chinamen, but a thousand times more so against that of French convicts, the most villainous and bloodthirsty brutes on the face of God's earth. The modern portion of Hobart Gaol was built in 1850, and was used for youthful offenders until transportation to Tasmania ceased in 1853, from which year it became a prison for colonial offenders, debtors, &c. In 1875, that "black hole," or "dark hollow," known to old hands as the Port Arthur Penal Settlement, was abolished, and with it ended the 265th chapter of "His Natural Life," the first paragraph of which reads thus :-— "The usual clanking and hammering was prevalent upon the stone jetty of Port Arthur when the schooner bearing the returned convict, Rufus Dawes, ran alongside. On the heights above the esplanade rose the grim front of the soldiers' barracks ; beneath the soldiers' barracks was the long range of prison buildings, with their workshops and tanpits to the left lay the commandant's house, authoritative by reason of its embrasured terrace and guardian sentry while the jetty, that faced the purple length of the island of the dead, swarmed with party-coloured figures clanking about their enforced business under the muskets of their gaolers." When this "hell upon earth" received its quietus from an intelligent Government all the prisoners, with the exception of lunatics, were incarcerated in the Hobart Gaol. Years ago the "old hands" worshipped two good men, who passed in their checks nearly two score years ago — the Church of England and Roman Catholic Chaplains, the Revs. Bedford and Terry. These two gentlemen were regular old friends. Whenever you met one you would be sure to meet the other, for they generally paraded the town arm in arm. Sir William Denison was the Governor in 1850, and Mr Francis Burgess police magistrate.

(to be concluded next week)