Wednesday, 30 December 2015

George Mackillop - Davey Street, Hobart

When searching for articles in Trove there are a number of references to George Mackillop, Davey Street in Hobart. When I was visiting Hobart earlier this year I spent some time walking along Davey Street to try and imagine what the area may have been like when George and his family lived in South Hobart.

The book, The story of South Hobart street by street by Donald Howatson (2012) provides some information about the streets in this area. Davey Street was named after the Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land from 1812-1816 - Thomas Davey (p19). A section of Davey Street, west of Elboden Street, was originally known as Holebrook Place but was also referred to as Upper Davey Street or Davey Street (p26). This section of South Hobart contained many impressive houses on large blocks of land. The mansion, Holebrook, was situated on four acres of land (approximately 330 Davey Street today) while a house just down the road in the location of 328 Davey Street was built on three acres of land. This house was built by Hugh Ross, possibly in 1834, and one of the features of the property was the view of the harbour and Sandy Bay (p12). The house was set back on the block and approached via a driveway for carriages through an impressive garden. Additional information about the history of this house can be found on the blog, On the Convict Trail.
Map of section of Davey Street (Google Maps)
George Mackillop (1790-1865) and his family arrived in Hobart Town from Scotland via India, possibly early 1834. Entries in Trove show that the firm, Cruttenden, Mackillop and Company, had been shipping goods to Hobart from India for some years. George appears to have decided to check out the possibilities in the new colony further south. References to Davey Street with George's name appear soon after he arrived so he appears to have established his home there soon after arrival.

As well as his main occupation as a merchant George looked for further opportunities and was involved in initial exploration and acquisition of land in Port Phillip (Victoria) from 1835. He wrote articles about the new colonies which were published in the UK. Articles in Trove show that he was actively involved in the life of Hobart Town. However towards the end of the 1830s George decided to return to Scotland and on 4 April 1837 the first advertisement appeared in the Hobart Town Courier that the Mackillop house in Davey street was on the market as the family was returning to the UK. George and his family did not return home until the early 1840s and over the years a series of advertisements appeared in the paper about the property and its contents. It is from these advertisements that we learn what the house was like.

An advertisement in the Hobart Town Courier 7 April 1837 provides the following description.:
THAT splendid family mansion, situate in the most delightful part of Davey street, and bounded by the Sandy bay rivulet, the property of George Mackillop, esq. comprising every accommodation that can possibly be required.
The first floor consists of a drawing room 29 feet by 16, dining room and parlour, a bed room, butler's pantry and sleeping room, kitchen, scullery, &c. under which are spacious cellars.
On the second story are six large bed rooms, fitted with cupboards, three dressing rooms, and store closets.
The attics comprise two servants bed rooms and a store.
The whole is fitted up in the most complete manner, with water closets, &c without regard to expense, and elegantly finished.
The out offices consist of a stable, loft and servant's sleeping room, large store, coach houses, oven, wood and fowl house, pig sties, and sundry other buildings in the yard, which is securely fenced.
The advertisement then goes on to describe the property:
The premises stand on 2 acres, 1 rood, 27 perches of excellent ground; the garden has been trenched 15 inches deep, well manured, and stocked with trees, all of which were loaded this season with the choicest fruit (the pears and apples still remain); strawberries and raspberries were in the greatest abundance  the never-failing stream at the bottom affords a constant supply of water, and the neighbourhood is truly respectable, having the residences of Thomas Learmonth, esq. on one side, and Hugh Ross, esq. on the other.
The beauty of the surrounding scenery is too well known and admired to require comment.
The title is a new grant.
Obviously this was an impressive house in a great location.

One of the key sentences in the above description was that the residence of Thomas Learmonth was on one side of the property and the residence of Hugh Ross was on the other side. Family stories mentioned the Learmonth connection with the Mackillop family and articles in Trove show that George and Thomas Learmonth had a business partnership and were involved in other activities in the community. I knew therefore that the Mackillop property was near the Learmonth property but not exactly where those properties were.

On 9 August 1839 the Hobart Town Courier and Van Diemen's Land Gazette contained the following information:
COMMISSIONER'S OFFICE
George Mackillop, 2a. 1r. 37p., suburbs of Hobart Town, originally Matthew Forster, Esq., who sold to Thomas Learmonth, who transferred to the applicant; claim renewed 4th June, 1839-Bounded on the north west by 217 links along Holebrook-place, on the south west by 12 chains and 10 links along an allotment granted to Hugh Ross to the Sandy-bay rivulet, on the south east by that rivulet, and on the north cast by 12 chains 82 links along an allotment occupied by or belonging to Thomas Learmonth to Holebrook-place aforesaid.
George's land would have bordered on Davey Street and continued down to the Sandy Bay Rivulet. Hugh Ross' property would have been in the vicinity where Davey Place now is so George's property would have bordered on the town side of the Ross property and continued in the direction of  Elboden Street.

As well as confirming the size of the block of land and providing additional information as to its location, the above paragraph from the newspaper also provides history as to previous ownership. Matthew Forster (1796-1846), a former soldier, arrived in the colony in 1831 where he became chief police magistrate. Thomas Learmonth (1783-1869), like George Mackillop, was from Stirlingshire in Scotland and was a merchant in India before arriving in Hobart Town in the early 1830s to continue his trade as a merchant there. The Australian Dictionary of Biography includes an article on the Learmonth family. Thomas had obviously had obtained land in Davey Street and later  transferred part of this land to George when George arrived in the colony.

The other clue that I had to the location of the property was in article in Trove when land that had belonged to another great (x 3) grandfather, Thomas William Birch (1767-1821) was sold in 1839. The Hobart Town Courier 2 November 1838 contained a detailed description of the land to be sold, including mentioning some of the neighbours -
... in the immediate vicinage of the mansions and residences of J. H. Moore, W. Proctor, Hugh Ross, G. M'Killop, T. Learmonth, E. Hodgson, and J. Hackett, Esquires; also, the lands of Messrs. Harris, Dunkley, and Hurst ; the Glebe and Salvator Rosa Glen.

When exploring Hobart on foot in November I took a number of photographs of the area where George's property would have been located.
Intersection of Davey Place and Davey Street
View indicating partial depth of the property
View of the River
Mountain View
A driveway in Davey Street leading to a house
Sandy Bay Rivulet
The photos above provide an indication of the area where the property was situated. The area now consists of houses on smaller blocks and flats but I was able to catch a glimpse of the view George and his family would have had of the river when I explored a side street. Mount Wellington and other mountains would have dominated the view in the other direction, especially as the land on Birch's farm was not subdivided until the late 1830s. The house would have been set back from Davey Street and, like the house on the Ross property, would have had a driveway from the street for carriages to take pasengers to the front door. Sandy Bay Rivulet would have been a much more impressive waterway in the 1830s but is now only a small stream.

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