Number Two

The cause of this bitter and revengeful feeling against the Rev. W. Bedford was to be traced farther back than to the part he took in the late commission. In a few words it may be given, for the subject is a delicate one, and narrated in detail would present a dark picture of the state of society at that time. When Mr Bedford arrived in the colony in 1823, he, was then in the prime of life, entered upon the duties of his chaplaincy with all the zeal and ardour that new position and new responsibilities aroused and inspired. However, in the course of his visitations he soon came into contact with, and was very much shocked at the revelation of the gross immorality that then prevailed. Thinking that to expose it would be sufficient to effect its removal, he waited on the Governor, Colonel Sorell, with a long list of names of the offending parties, including not a few who were in the pay of the Government. The worthy chaplain was good humouredly snubbed. On the arrival of Colonel Arthur in 1824, Mr Bedford waited on him, and found in that great reformer of abuses and rigid disciplinarian, a ready listener; the result being that a large number of women were disevered from their unholy associations and sent to the Factory, vowing vengeance on the man who had been the means of their incarceration.

The children of the female convicts, who, from a certain age (I think from seven years old and under) who were allowed to accompany their mother in the transport ships, as well as the waifs born in the colony, were confined with their parents. It became evident that the cramped situation of the Factory was very unfavourable for all purposes of proper government and discipline. The Home Government was sending out more female convicts, until the place became so straitened by the rapid influx, that on the arrival of the female prison ship 'Borneo' in November 1828, temporary accommodation had to be provided for the human cargo in a stockade in the 'Paddock' ( now Government Domain) which for many years afterwards was utilised as a powder magazine.

If the Factory was crowded, then the Gaol must have been more so, for it is recorded that in the year 1826 as many as 200 prisoners were confined therein awaiting trial, a large proportion of that number for capital offences! How they could be crammed into the limited area is a matter for surprise, and yet it seems to have been the normal condition previous to and succeeding this date. The gaol delivery a few months before— viz, December, 1825—had relieved the establishment for a short time; no less than 71 being called up for sentence in one day, 18 of whom were to suffer death. But the Absconders' List, published monthly, showed that more than a hundred runaways were at large, and as apprehensions were daily being made, the relief to the establishment was but of short duration. The gaol at Launceston was in the same crowded condition, insomuch that the prisoners could not all lie down at one time, but had to take turns in lying down and standing up. Picture it, think of it—and the price of soap six shillings per pound! (No printer's error: shillings is right.)

The necessity for the erection of an Orphan School for the reception and education of the worse than orphaned children who were confined with their mothers in the Factory, and thereby, exposed to all the demoralising influences of their surroundings, occupied and pressed heavily on the mind of the Governor, and was being agitated in the public press. The delay in altering this state of things by the erection of buildings of greater dimensions more fitted for disciplinary purposes was, no doubt, occasioned by the uncertainty which then existed as to where the site of the capital of the colony and seat of government should be located. Brighton had at first been fixed upon, and great expense was incurred in laying the plan of a large town in that district. Streets were pegged out, the positions of public buildings, Gaol, House of Correction, Orphan School, as well as the churches, were surveyed and mapped. A few small houses were erected, and than the locality was abandoned for what was considered a better site at Elizabeth Town, New Norfolk. Here also a large amount of money, as well as several months' labour was rendered abortive. Neither Brighton nor Elizabeth Town was destined to be the seat of government, which was at last definitely and finally determined should be located at Hobart Town (1826).

Presumably acting on representations made by the Governor to the Home authorities, the former received from the latter in 1826, instructions to commence the erection of buildings suitable for the purposes he had in view. The Factory (I have retained the appellation then in common use, although a meaningless one, inasmuch as no employment of any kind was given to, or enforced on its inmates.) The Factory, then, was to be superseded by an extensive pile of stone buildings at a distance of about a mile and a half from the town up the Hobart Town rivulet. The work was commenced at once. The Gaol was to be substituted for a building on a large scale to be erected at the rear of the (then) Supreme Court, on the site now occupied by the Post Office and a portion of Franklin Square. It was intended to front on to Macquarie street, and the rear to overlook the Cove. The hill on which the gaol was to be erected formed at that time a plateau which extended eastward by a gentle slope, and ended in a rather abrupt descent into the Cove, whose tiny wavelets rippled upon the pebbly beach at its base. In my memory the spot is associated with two events—the proclamation of King William IV in 1830, and its temporary occupation two or three years later by the blacks brought in by Robinson prior to their shipment to Flinder's Island. About 40 years ago—perhaps more—a gang of prisoners working in chains was employed in cutting down the hill to the slope of Murray street, and throwing it into the shallow waters of the Cove to form the present wharves. The state of the times is indicated by the cool announcement 'that the gallows was to be erected at the rear of the gaol in view of the shipping in the Cove.' Why was the 'gallows' mentioned if it were not considered an essential and permanent adjunct to the establishment—which was very near the fact—instead of a temporary erection to meet an extraordinary and terrible necessity! while the fact that to the seamen in the Cove was to be accorded the privilege of sharing, with the demoralised crowds on land, the pleasurable excitement of witnessing the mental and physical agonies of their follow men, shows how familiarity with the most awful scenes of suffering tends to blunt the appreciation of their horrors. Fortunately for Hobart Town the whole scheme collapsed; for when the women were removed to their new quarters in 1829 the Factory area was thrown into the gaol, and the accommodation was found ample enough for more than a quarter of a century thereafter. 'Bisdee's Hotel,' as the place was facetiously styled, was neither to be sold nor let. (Mr Bisdee was gaolor at the time, but about the year 1833 or 1834 he was succeeded by Mr Capon, the chief district constable.)

The King's Orphan School was established and opened at Hobart Town in the early part of 1828—March, I think. The erection of the new buildings at New Town was set in operation, and they were completed in or about the year 1830 or 1831—I am not certain of the date. The church, which formed an adjunct to the schools, was a later addition. My memory does not serve me as to the locality occupied by the school from the period of its establishment in 1828 to its removal to the new premises at New Town. (On the accession of the present monarch the establishment was designated the Queen's Orphan School, and it was so called until it was disbanded a few years ago.)

'The Female House of Correction'—a more significant appellation than that of 'Factory'—was completed in the latter part of the year 1828, but was not occupied until the beginning of the following year. A particular description of the place is unnecessary. It still stands; the original, however, did not cover more than half the area of the present pile. Entering by the large double gate—the only opening in its four high stone walls—the visitor would find himself in a labyrinth of stone dividing walls reaching to the level of those outside, and enclosing workrooms, dormitories, nursery, hospital, offices, store rooms, officers' quarters, yards for the first, second and third class prisoners, in short, every part well planned and adapted to the object for which it was intended. As this edifice drew near completion (1828), the Governor decided to re-model the whole system. The services of the aged and effete superintendent, Mr Drabble, were dispensed with. A superintendent (Mr Esh Lovell), and assistant- superintendent (Mr Jesse Pullen), were appointed to the sole charge of the establishment, having under their control subordinate convict officials in the persons of clerks, constables, messengers, and matrons, all serving for an 'indulgence.' (To be continued) 1