Saturday, July 01, 2017

The Tench

On a morning filled with fog along the river, but sun above, we drove into Hobart for some sightseeing and a movie. Along the way, we paused for a view of the Huon river and the lifting fog bank.

In North Hobart (from which you can still see the docks in the CBD), we visited the Penitentiary Chapel. Now this sounds like an odd sort of place from the name and it was. In the second quarter of the 19th century a penitentiary was constructed here. To carry out the plan of the Lt. Governor George Arthur to rehabilitate the prisoners, a chapel was built and the convicts (as they are called) were all required to attend services. This was, of course, a Church of England and the bulk of the convicts were Irish and not interested in anything to do with a Protestant church.

This tower was built on one end of the chapel to permit entry of the free settlers so they might also attend services. But eventually, the noise, the smell, and disrespect of the convicts drove them away to build their own church on a hill that can be seen from here.

Unsurprisingly, the chapel was built with convict labour since it was free. The bricks were made by the convicts (on production quotas under threat of punishment). Some of the bricks bear the fingerprints of the men who made them as they occasionally needed to pushed the clay out of the mould when it would not simply slide out.

The mark on the brick below shows that it belonged to the empire.

One fellow had a hard time with this brick and we see the indentions for three finger as he pushed the brick out of the mould.

Although many changes have been made since the original construction in the early 1830's, the original hardware is found nearly everywhere.

One place that was quite interesting (other emotions were involved) was the gallows. It stands as it did over 100 years ago. Although the trapdoor is disabled now, our guide assured us that in less than a hour it could be made operable again. With that one caveat, this is only functioning gallows in the southern hemisphere.

Outside, on what was intended to be the front of the chapel is a marker indicating (for those uninterested in working out the Roman Numerals) that 1831 was the year the building reached the height of the date marker.

The tour was a bit over 90 minutes and very well done. We stood inside a solitary confinement cell. It was a large one because we could actually stand up in it. Some precluded even sitting up. We visited a portion of the chapel that still looks like the original chapel. Two of the three wings of the chapel were converted to courtrooms in the 1850's and in one of them is where many of those hanged were condemned.

Our first brush with the origins of the land we visit today. The two things we will always remember about this tour is the gallows and that fact that nothing was heated. We were really cold when we finished. Temperatures hover near 5-10C.