Launceston gained its first overland mail service from Hobart in 1816, a decade after the city was established in 1806. It is claimed that this was the first overland mail delivery service in Australia. Postal services in the form of a private house post office service were introduced at Launceston from at least the 1820s. Arundel Wright was the first postmaster, conducting business from premises on the corner of York and John Streets.
The most enduring location, prior to the current building, was within the Government Offices opposite the present location, from 1859 to 1889. The Government Architect, W.Eldridge, began work on the design of the present building in 1885. He had already designed the imposing Italianate public buildings and Supreme Court in Hobart. The initial contract to construct the building was signed with James Hills, but was replaced by a new contract with John and Thomas Gunn. A third firm, Corrie and North, was mentioned in 'The Examiner' in connection with the building in 1890. This firm was involved with alterations to the tower.
The reaction of the people of Launceston to their new post office appears to have been quite negative, with a correspondent to 'The Examiner' declaring the corner tower to have an 'absurd pepper-pot aspect...the architectural enormities of this (being) the last and grossest insult to the architectural taste of the citizens of Launceston'. Some called for the tower to be 'partially destroyed', while others felt that the building ought to have been 'more commodious' and 'less decorative'.
The telegraph office was opened in the new building on 22 December 1890 and postal services were transferred there in January 1891. The matter of the clock for the building (which had not yet been installed) resurfaced on the occasion of the centenary of the City of Launceston in 1906. A Clock and Chimes Committee was formed to arrange for the funding and installation of a clock in the tower. An amount of 1339 pounds was raised for this purpose.
The Committee also sought to redress the problem of the 'pepper-pot' tower by seeking new designs from the Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs which had taken over responsibility for the design of post offices in 1901. Two schemes were considered for the upper part of the tower, both being Italian in inspiration, and the chosen design was by Hedley Westbrook, under the supervision of J.S.Murdoch. The new tower top and the clock were complete by 1910. There were extensive alterations in 1933. The building has continued to function as the general post office for Launceston up to the present day.
The Presbyterian Church was built in 1886 for about 500 pounds on land that had been donated by James Hadden from the Grange. James’ Mother, Jane Hadden was a transported convict from Scotland and brought with her the predominant Scottish faith of Presbyterianism.
The church was used for many years by the local Presbyterian congregation until it fell into disrepair after World War 2. Thanks to a generous bequest by Mr Thomas Alan Gorringe ( a descendant of Thomas Gorringe, a doctor, lay preacher & brewer who settled in Green Ponds in 1821), the church was renovated and is now used by the local community as a hall. It is known by the locals as “The Blue Place”
The Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania, USA, opened in 1829, was the first prison using the ’separate system’. The idea had originated with Englishman John Howard but it first appeared in bricks and mortar in America and then travelled to Van Diemen’s Land via England. In this new kind of prison, solitary confinement replaced physical punishment. In isolation from others, prisoners would be forced to look inwards and repent their crimes. Thick walls and doors ensured complete separation and silence between prisoners. English reformers adopted it as the ‘model’ for Pentonville in London.
Built 1840–42 Pentonville was designed as a machine to subdue the spirit of men. The regime was based on silence, isolation, work and religious instruction. The use of soundproof materials and ventilation systems ensured absolute separation and silence. Men spent 23 hours per day in their cell; they only emerged for exercise, school and chapel. Even in the Chapel, with its separate cubicles, each man was strictly isolated from his fellows. Each cell had gas lighting, and a toilet and water tap.
As time went on, however, Chaplains and Medical Officers expressed concern at the unusually high number of cases of ‘madness’ among the prisoners. These rates were many times higher than those found at prisons run along different lines. But John Hampton, the new Comptroller of Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land, was unmoved by such concerns. He was a fervent promoter of the system, and in this he was supported by Port Arthur’s newly appointed Commandant, James Boyd, who had formerly been the Principal Warder at Pentonville.
Port Arthur’s Separate Prison was closely modelled on Pentonville and hence was known as the Model Prison. It was built in 1849–50 with three wings of cells and a fourth wing containing a chapel. Every man who came to Port Arthur had to spend a certain amount of time here when he first arrived, based on his sentence. If sentenced to Life, he might spend 12 months in solitary confinement.
Men who reoffended while at Port Arthur might also be sent there for punishment. Men who offended while in the Separate Prison could be sent to ‘the dumb cell’ or punishment cell. This cell lay behind four thick doors and was completely light and sound proof. Here men might languish for up to 30 days, although after four days they had to be taken out each day for one hour of exercise. The regime was designed to achieve the most intense social isolation and control.
A warder sat at a desk in the central hall, keeping an eye on all the cell doors and the corridors. Warders patrolled the corridors in felt slippers, using sign language to ensure that the prisoner heard no sound. Each man was kept in solitary confinement in his cell for 23 hours each day; he wore a mask when outside his cell to prevent communication. At first he was only allowed to read the Bible but later other ‘improving’ books were allowed. He took exercise alone in a small yard and was fed through a hatch in his cell door. His only human contact was with warders, and with the chaplain and the medical officer who both visited regularly.
Dozens of rules and rigid daily routines reinforced the inmate’s sense of powerlessness; they were designed to train him in the virtues of order and discipline. But even under such intense control and deprivation, a few men found ways to assert themselves. In chapel, men would insert their own words to ‘talk’ to their fellows under the cover of hymn singing. Big Mark Jeffrey trashed his cell repeatedly in protest at his treatment. Richard Pinches and George Nutt escaped. Poor young Leonard Hand went slowly insane. And William Carter hanged himself in his cell.
After the settlement closed the Separate Prison was sold and alterations began to convert it into a hotel and private residence. A fire in the 1890s halted these building works and it remained as a ruin until 2008, when an extensive program of conservation and interpretation works began. ‘A’ Wing and the Chapel have been refurbished and furnished to recreate something of their original appearance.
Evocative sounds bring these spaces alive. You can hear a ‘service’ in the Chapel every ten minutes, featuring a soundscape artwork called ‘Rewards of Silence’ by Sonia Leber and David Chesworth. ‘B’ Wing will be left as a ruin, a reminder of the building’s evolution. And ‘C’ wing will use 19th century portraits, text and other images to explore how the idea of the prison developed, and to explain what life was like here for both prisoners and staff. Outside, the perimeter walls have been reconstructed to recapture the prison’s originally closed and secretive appearance, designed to strike fear into the hearts of those inside and outside.
The Hobart Girls Industrial School opened as the Hobart Town Female Refuge in 1862. It was for girls considered to be neglected. Hobart Girls' Industrial School had nine different homes between 1862 and 1945. The first was in the old Normal School in New Town which had closed in 1852. Other sites included a house in Murray Street, the former Anglesea Barracks Hospital, Kensington House, Davey St (now the Commonwealth Law Court), and Maylands, an imposing building in New Town.
The School was brought under the auspices of the 1867 Industrial Schools Act in 1868. Under the Act, children under the age of 14, deemed to be neglected or who were under 12 and had been convicted of an offence could be sent to an industrial school by two Justices. Parents or guardians who considered their children uncontrollable could also place them in an industrial school.
The School was partially supported by donors and subscribers who elected a Ladies Committee as well as five men to be governors and members of an advisory committee. The women of the Ladies Committee oversaw every aspect of the girls' lives. They also employed staff. Other duties included dealing with repairs to the building, bedding, furnishings, food, and clothing. Each member of the Committee visited the School at least once a month.
According to the rules, the Matron had to make sure that the girls were 'properly washed and dressed', their beds 'clean and properly made', and that everywhere in the School there was 'neatness, order and obedience'. She had to say prayers and read the Bible to the girls every morning and evening. The girls were expected to be quiet in the dormitories at night. Punishment was by keeping a girl apart from the others. 'Friends of the girls' could visit once a month if they had the Committee's permission. All the girls remained at the School until they were 16, unless the government removed them or they were adopted.
After receiving 10 girls from the Queen's Orphan Asylum when it closed in 1879, the School offered a basic education taught by a school mistress. The girls also attended Church and received religious instruction from a Minister. For their last two years at the School, they were apprenticed to the Matron who taught them laundry work, needlework, cooking, and general housework. All the girls did laundry and needlework to support the School.
The Committee women believed that the School offered better training than foster care and that the Secretary of the Neglected Children's Department, FR Seager, should send more girls to it. In 1909, the Committee resolved that all girls who were wards of state should spend the last year before their apprenticeships as domestic servants in an industrial school. Seager refused, stating that the schools fell 'far short of the requirements of childhood' and that the 'motherly interest' of the foster mothers provided much better training.
In 1923, the School gave up laundry work because there were many more young girls than there used to be. According to the Annual Report, it was better to lose the income 'than that there should be any risk of growing girls being overworked'.
The move to Maylands took place in 1924 because the Committee believed that it would be better for the girls than living in town with only a 'basic yard' as a playground. After the move, the girls began attending New Town State School or, if they were under school age, the New Town Free Kindergarten.
The Committee women agreed that a girl could be shut in a room for short periods of time as punishment in 1941. They decided to make the tower room safe by putting netting around the windows. Later, they changed their minds because the tower room was 'unsuitable'.
A member of the Committee made a formal protest against the children's treatment, which she thought was too 'strict', in March 1942. When asked to explain, the Matron said that 18 of the 33 girls had intellectual disabilities. She resigned shortly afterwards. It is not clear whether this was associated with the complaint.
The Committee began appointing prefects to help the staff in the early 1940s.
During the 1940s, the School had so many difficulties obtaining and keeping trained staff that the Committee thought that it might have to close. Instead, its Trustees negotiated with the Salvation Army to take it over. Under the agreement, the Salvation Army acquired all the property and assets of the School on certain conditions, including retaining the School's Protestantism and keeping all the girls. The Committee was apparently concerned that the younger ones would be sent somewhere else.
The Trustees of the School handed it over to the Salvation Army on 31 January 1945. A Matron and two Assistant Matrons, both Salvation Army Officers, ran the Home with the help of two resident staff members, who did the housework and laundry, and three non-resident domestic workers. It had room for 36 children. Some of the girls had brothers at nearby Barrington Boys' Home, also run by the Salvation Army. Boys at Maylands were transferred to Barrington when they reached the age of six. The contact between the institutions was fairly close.
The children attended New Town Primary School or if older, a high school. Some were studying for the Schools Board Certificate. Those with an intellectual disability went to a special school. At weekends, some of the older girls did paid part time work outside the Home, usually housework or ironing. The Matron placed their wages in a trust account for them to withdraw as they pleased. They also received two shillings a week pocket money.
On Sundays, they went to the Salvation Army Citadel unless they belonged to another church. Parents were allowed to see their children every Saturday and take them out on alternate Saturdays. On the first weekend of every month, the children could stay with their parents on Saturday night and return to Maylands on the Sunday.
The children could play basket ball and battington (a type of racquet game) at the Home. One evening a month, they did handwork and received help with their knitting and sewing. Older girls could belong to the Police Girls' Club and occasionally go to the cinema. The girls were not allowed to smoke or wear makeup. Maylands was described as 'a depressing example of Victorian architecture. Inside there were lofty rooms and long draughty passages. The Home was 'neatly furnished and well maintained'. Corporal punishment was not used at Maylands, except as a 'last resort'. Girls who presented persistent challenging behaviors could be sent to Weeroona Girls Training Centre or the Magdalen Home. For minor misdemeanors, a girl might have privileges withdrawn or receive 'uncongenial' jobs to do.
Maylands was ultimately closed in 1981. Maylands Girls Unit, run by the Salvation Army, was established after the closure of the Maylands Girls Home in 1981. The Unit was specifically for the accommodation of teenage girls. It closed in 1998. To this day, Maylands is the home of the Divisional Headquarters of the Salvation Army in Tasmania. It remains a stunning piece of architecture.