Sunday, 10 January 2016

Wapping - Hobart

 In February 1924 a series of articles appeared in The Commemtator column in the newspaper, Critic, recounting memories of Wapping (the area near the docks including lower Campbell Street) and the surrounding area in the 1800s. Much of this area had been cleared or was about to be cleared.

The Commentator.
 In the space of 62 years, a long gap to bridge over Collins Street has soon more changes than any street in the city. All that portion of it extending from Campbell Street to Park Street, has been swept away. Houses, creek, bridges, schools, etc, have all been cleaned away. The houses on the northern side of the rivulet were almost on a level with the bed of the stream which bisected Wapping and were only protected from the flood waters by a stone wall about four feet high. When floods caused the drains of those dwellings to back up, the dwellers were flooded out. The southern boundary was more elevated than its neighbours, but whenever the flood waters reached the outlet pipes of the drains, the inhabitants of this section were given notice to clear out until the flood waters had subsided. Communication between north and south Wapping was affected by means of a footbridge that spanned the creek, and had its northern outlet in the classic locality of Sun Street. The Young Queen Inn faced the northern entrance of the bridge. The architecture of   the inn was severely practical. It was purely square, and so were the rooms, which were by no means capacious. In flood time the Young Queen did a big business. Tho denizens of Wapping decided that if it was neccesary to get wet outside, it was good to get wet inside, therefore the landlord looked upon floods and extra local visitations as God sends. Occasionally the pub was washed out, and after it had been cleaned up, the glasses   were set up again and barrels and barrels of beer disappeared in next to no time. Two or three of the early landlords made much money in the Young Queen, and one of them threw his savings into a shipping industry, donned a top hat and a frock coat, and became the possessor of a satisfactory bank balance. In later years the hotel was added to, and for some years it was a great house for railway employees. On the Park Street end of Wapping, just where tho creek wound towards Macquarie Street, was the   felmongery yards of Mr. Joseph Facy, which employed a number of hands who worked hard, lived hard, and drank hard. On the creek bend there was another footbridge, which gave access to a narrow lane, which led into Park Street. S0 much for the physique of Wapping, now for its morale. This was very poor. It was distinctly impossible to get any decent morality in such surroundings. Some of the inhabitants raised themselves from tho dirty levels, although they made a precarious and generally miserable existence. The evils of intemperance were most pronounced in Wapping, and a fairly large stream of vice ran through the whole locality, and it was only when the apostles of social improvement got to work that any change was shown. Well-to-do citizens, unless they were out in search of larks and general enjoyment in the underworld visited Wapping after dark. Midnight revellers always admitted that they got their full money's worth in Lower Collins Street, and many of them left it sadder but wiser men for,their experience. A complete nest of public houses surrounded Wapping. To the north there was the Sir John Falstaff and Bristol Arms. On the east there was the Sir George Arthur, the City of London Arms, and the Seven Stars. On the southward The Highlander, and on the Park Street boundary The Hammer in Hand. With this number of drinking shops to choose from, it was not at all difficult for a Wapping resident to gratify his tastes for strong beverages. 

Some of the pubs one has mentioned were really hot shops. The Scarlet Woman stalked abroad and many of the Commandments were broken. The City of London achieved such a red hot reputation that it was christened the "House of Blazes," and its neighbour the Seven Stars was nothing more than a common pothouse. It is really marvellous the amount of liquor consumed by what General Booth termed the Submerged Tenth. One well remembers attending a wedding party in Wapping over half a century ago The bride was a fine, hefty damsel, born and bred in the district. The bridegroom was a fisherman. The party of guests to which one attached   were all of the seafaring class, real, right down, good hearted fellows, generally speaking, out for a lark or anything that turned up in the gay and festive way, Everyone seemed to have a rare good time of it, but when the liquor consumed began to assert its effects, ructions took place. Tho bridegroom took umbrage to one of the guests paying too much attention to his better half, and without asking for any explanation promptly floored him. This was the signal for a genuine set too. Everyone seemed to see red, and the place fairly rocked with the disturbance. About three o'clock In the morning the police put in an appearance, locked the bridegroom and four or five of his acquaintances up, and scattered the wedding party. Another sensation that occurred in Wapping, about the same period, was the laying out of a young woman who was supposed to be in a Cataleptic trance. The girl was certified as dead, by one doc, tor, and the undertaker was given instructions to prepare for the mortuary arrangements. Another medico appeared on the scene and said the girl was not dead but in a state of Catalepsy. This lead to crowds of people viewing the poor creature who, as it afterwards turned out, was dead. The newspapers of the day got some good copy from the occurrence, and a vast volume of scientific and unscientific theories were let loose. Wapping was, however, satisfied it had had a sensation, and sensations paid if they were only handled properly. There were 18 houses on the south side of Wapping, a public house and a Ragged School, and on the north side there were 22 dwellings . Some of those places were more like bush shacks than anything else, and sometimes two or three families herded together where the house was of larger dimensions.  

All these things that one has written about are purely memories. The diversion of the Hobart Rivulet to an outfall in the Domain signed the death warrant of Wapping. The Corporation took hold of things, acquired the properties of each side of the creek, and then razed the whole of the buildings to the ground. The creek has been arched in to form two culverts, which shoots the water into the tunnel under the Domain. All the pubs one has mentioned, with the exception of the Sir John Falstaff, have been closed. The Young Queen was blotted out of existence by civic enterprise, but the Sir John Falstaff was rebuilt and turned into a modern hotel. The Hammer in Hand, a square, two storey, gaunt looking building, still faces Park Street, and underneath its front garden meanders the sluggish waters of the Park Street rivulet. At the time of writing, the extension of Collins Street, in a rough way, has been laid through Wapping, but this year will see it properly completed to meet the wants of vehicular and foot traffic. 

After leaving Wapping, and crossing Campbell Street, one came to the Town Clerk's office, which was planted right in the centre of the old Market building, which went right through from Collins to Macquarie Street. The Town Clerk, at this time, was a Mr. John K. Winterbottom, a portly gentleman; with a decent personality.  

The hustings for the general elections were erected outside the Town Clerk's office, and on one occasion so intense was the public spirit that they were set fire to and burnt to cinders. There was plenty of money on election days, and the pubs did a roaring business whilst canvassing time was on. When the Town Hall, in Macquarie Street, was ready for occupation in 1866, the headquarters of the Corporation was removed, and the office in the Market building used as a residence by the Clerk of the Markets. In the middle of the sixties a Municipal freshwater baths were constructed in the Market building, at the rear of the offices, but they were not appreciated by tho general public, owing principally to their want of cleanliness, which caused the water at times to reach the thickness consistent with pea soup. Then the press got to work, and so broke up the peace of mind of the city fathers that they closed the baths. For very many years the baths were used as a receptacle for potatoes and bulky forms of product. The Market building, which was erected in Sir William Denison's time, was demolished, lock, stock, and barrel to make room for the City Hall, which now adorns its site. The only memento of the old building that one knows of is the stone fountain which plays in the recreation ground at the rear of the Town Hall.
Critic 16 February 1924

The Commentator
Continuing one's description of Collins Street, one may state that where the Market Place stood, and Wapping were always flooded when the rivulet ran a banker, and, even under the new conditions, a flood will make havoc in this particular locality unless a diversion storm channel, as suggested by the City Engineer some time since, is cut along Argyle Street. As far back as 1826, wlen the diversion of the rivulet through Wapping was undertaken, the old engineers saw the necessity of placing a cut in the rlvulet to ease the   storm waters. This cut was midway between Collins Street and Campbell Street, and according to the old records, the size was five feet deep and three foot across, and a flood hatch was constructed. This cut was covered with logs four feet long, but gaps were left open to afford a constant  supply of fresh water to the Market   Place, to which the cut which discharged itself into the old Fisherman's Dock acted as a drain. At the time of the diversion of the rivulet its waters ran over a swamp, where the Market Place and Wapplng stood, and until this water was turned, Lower Macquarie Street was impassable. The construction of the Campbell Street bridge was commenced in 1826, under the supervision of Mr. David Lamb, who was then Colonial Architect. Lamb, to keep the flood waters under control, erectcd the stone walls above the bridge in Collins Street four to five feet high. The race disappeared when tho Market building was eroded, andits existence was forgotten until a heavily laden bullock team, whilst pacing along Colins Street, found it out by crashing through the rotten logs that covered it According to one of the early writers, the space which now embraces the Collins, Campbell, and Macquarie Street square was covered with thick growth, amongst which towered some of the largest gum trees that were to be found in the settlement. This, however, is ancient history, and is merely written to show the difference that existed between "what was" and what now is.

The flood of 1863 was a caution, and a block was caused at the Campbell Street bridge owing to a fallen tree becoming wedged in the waterway under the structure. Wapping was practically under water for two or three days, and all of the cellars of the shops in Liverpool and Elizabeth Streets were flooded up to the street levels. Considerable damage was caused to the personal effects of the poorer class of people who lived in Wapping, and Barracouta Row, a parallelogram of tenements which faced lower Macquarie Street, west of the rivulet. This spot was condemned by the Municipal authorities many years ago, and is now a portion of the Hobart Tramway station. Subscriptions were raised to aid the flood sufferers, and the business people of the city contributed handsomely towards the fund.       

Crossing Dunn Street from the Market one came to a small house and shop tenanted by one Samuel Millard. Next to this was the Primitive Methodist Chapel, a long, low building. This Chapel was fitted with the old box pews, which were prominent features of the early churches. The services in   this chapel were of the revival order, very earnest, and now and then fiery. In the nineties a top was placed on the chapel and used as a Sunday School. Between 12 and 13 years ago the chapel was sold, and for a time was used as an engineering establishment. After this it was disposed of to the Labor Daily Newspaper Company, and for some years has been used as a printing establishment. Owen's Yard consisted of seven tenements, a shed, and a stable. There was not much class in Owen's Yard, and the residents had migratory habits, which were now and then disconcerting to the landlord. The owner of this property was a Mr. William Kearney, and the land was a portion of a grant to Mrs. Kear ney a lady who, tradition says, defied the Governor of the day, and at the same time acquired considerable money by keeping cows, and dairying. This block ran half-way back to Macquarie Street. The next grant to Mrs. Kear ney was that held by the late John James, who attained considerable emin ence as a city brewer. There were three small houses on James' location and a stable, run by a person named George Harris. Crossing Argyle Street there was a small house in which resided a Mr. Williams. Then came the coach and carriage factory and private house of Mr. James Mcpherson. This was originally the business establishment of Mr. Alex Fraser, coach builder, who made his name famous for the excellence of the stage coaches which he turned out. In after years these premises were better known to a large section of city "has beens" as Crouch's Auction Mart, at the present day it is cut up into business establishments and chambers for profesional men.

After leaving Mcpherson's one came to a cottage, and the large stone building which was for some years the auction mart of Messrs. Brent and Westbrook. Previous to this it was a dancing hall called the Polytechnic. There was nothing particularly classy about the patrons of the Polytechnic. When they entered its door they an nounced that they were out for a good night's enjoyment, and it was not their fault if they did not get it. The dam sels were buxom, healthy, good look ing lasses who did not worry themselves about social conventialities. When the gentlemen required partners they simply seized hold of the girl they liked and there the matter ended. The Polytechnic did not last long, and when the receipts fell off the proprietory that controlled it closed its doors. For many years the late Thomas Westbrook pursued his auctioneering business in the building. Then the property passed into the hands of his brother, the late S. W. Westbrook, who subsequently   became the owner of the "Tasmanian News" an evening paper which was, started by the late H. H. Gill, in 1883. The Westbrook proprietary, in 1911, became financially distressed, and both the paper and the building were sold. The purchaser of   the premises, Mr. M. W. Simmons, pulled them down and erected a more modern building which is now used as law chambers and for other purposes.
Critic 22 February 1924

The Commentator.
Whilst dealing with the ancient history of Wapping, in last week's column, one omitted to mention the junctioning of the Park Street Creek with the Hobart Rivulet in the Wapping Bend. In the early days when the diversion of the Hobart Rivulet was taken in hand, there was a large ravine extending from Liverpool Street along the foot of the Domain in Park Street to the Slaughter House Reserve which stood where Messrs. Roberts and Company's large wool and skin stores stand facing Macquarie Street. Within a few feet of what, for many years, was called the Town boundary stood a bridge which crossed the Park Street stream which meandered in a Serpentine course to its outfall near the Slaughter Yards. As settlement progressed this stream became a nuisance to the residents in its immediate vicinity, and in times of flood the creek choked and its waters caused a decent sized swamp in the neighbourhood of what is now known as Sun and Sackville Streets. 

This undesirable state of things was put a stop to, in the year 1831, by the enterprise of Captain William Wilson, a brother of the late Sir James Wilson, who had obtained an early location of land in Campbell Street, between the Theatre Royal and Liverpool Street. This land ran back as far as Park Street. On this grant Captain Wilson built the two-story stone house which is now part of Mr. Heathorn's property, and being a man with plenty of the wherewithal in his pocket he effected various improvements on the property which benefited both his neighbours, himself, and the general public. The scandalous condition of the lower portion of Wapping and the Park Street Rivulet so got on Captain Wilson's nerves that he made an offer to the Government to cut, at his own expense, a new drain down Park - Street, and effect other necessary work for a small plot of land at the rear of his property. In the records of the Lands and Surveys office there are some documents which set out the nature of the work and tho conditions under which it would be performed. The first letter to the Government from Captain Wilson is dated July 2. 1831, and reads as follows: "In reference to the verbal communication I had with you (the letter is addressed to Mr. G. Frankland, then Surveyor- General), relative to the ravine which runs at the bottom of my property in Campbell Street and empties itself into the lower part of the Town Rivulet, I beg to state that in consequence of its present course several houses situate in the low ground at the side of the Rivulet are completely inundated during the floods, and my garden fence and grounds have washed away. To remedy this evil I beg to propose, should it meet with His Excellency's approbation, to cut the ravine in a straight line from the bridge at the lower end of Liverpool Street to the point at the Slaughter House which you marked, and I am prepared to undertake the   excavation at my own expense, providing His Excellency will allow me to have the vacant ground inside the proposed new line on the side of the creek up towards the bridge." 

To this letter the Surveyor-General sent the following reply to Captain Wilson: Sir,—"I have laid before the Lieutenant-Governor your letters respecting tho ground adjoining the ditch in the Domain, and I am directed to notify to you and the other parties concerned that His Excellency will grant you the land between your respective allotments and the new line fixed by me, provided you will each immediately form the new canal in a workmanlike manner, uniform and sufficiently large scale. Mr Harper, having applied for the piece of land opposite his property before your application before was made, His Excellency considers it but just to give him the same benefit as the other proprietors."   

The adjoining proprietors who were affected by Captain Wilson's offer were Messrs. Harper, Bradshaw, and Guest. Guest was one of the little pioneer band who obtained a grant of land in the Queen's Domain, near Macquarie Point, and who afterwards built a public house called the Seven Stars, which still stands near the entrance to Wapping- Surveyor Henry Wilkinson then made a plan of the properties and the direction of the "new cut." This showed the whole of Liverpool, Park, Campbell, and Collins Street block, which was then cut up into 13 allotments, Captain Wilson's was the largest allotment, then came Mr. Guest's, the Harper's.The remainder were only small locations. Altering the irregular line of the ditch to a straight one meant a lot of filling in. 

Matters in connection with the work remained in abeyance for a time, when on August 9, 1831, Captain Wilson again wrote the Surveyor-General as follows: "I beg to call your attention to my letter of July 2 relative to the ravine which runs at the back of my property in Campbell Street, and having examined the ground particularly since I had a verbal communication with you on the subject, I am of the opinion that the expense that would be incurred in making the drain complete would be more than the value of the ground were the Government only to allow me to have such portion, it would run in a line with my boundaries. I would here remark that the ground nearest the creek would be the most valuable and would be sufficient for a moderate allotment, and as I have fulfilled the Government regulations by erecting a two-storey house on my town allotment in Campbell Street I am induced to hope His Excellency will allow me to have the vacant space between Jillett's allotment and the point you marked out by the side of the Slaughter House. The small piece of ground from the upper part of my fence to the Bridge at the upper end of Liverpool Street-would be trifling, that I would in preference it be given to the parties whoso property it joins, but in the event of their not taking it on the offer which I have made, I am ready to complete the excavation throughout, which I am sure will tend much to the better appearance of the Domain and be a means of conveying the stagnated water away, which is so very injurious during the summer months.
 Critic 29 February 1924

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