It’s often hard to visualise in your mind exactly how much times have changed. Sure, cameras have been around since the 1800’s, however these were scarce and only owned by the wealthy. The smartphone selfie was a long way off!
Text resources such as books and newspapers provide many details and make for an interesting read. But sometimes it’s useful to see it in full colour and detail.
That’s where Richmond’s Old Hobart Town Model Village really excels. The model village is an accurate miniture replica of Hobart during its initial growth phase in the 1820’s. There are informative signs and pamphlets for those who wish to find out more about the buildings and people.
Founders Andrew and John Quick spent 3 years and thousands of hours to develop the village and open it in 1991. It’s the only miniature model village in Tasmania and only one of a handful in Australia. There are over 60 buildings, each constructed to 1:16 scale with many unique details. These include individual roofing tiles – there are fifty thousand roof tiles on total. Each building also has real wooden doors and glass windows. Matt paints were used to provide the right colours and shades.
Careful research was conducted to ensure these buildings provide an accurate depiction of early Hobart. Historical plans were analysed, plans were drawn out and buildings sketched.
Surrounding the buildings are gravel paths, moss and bonsai trees which are constantly pruned to maintain suitable height.
This replica of the colonial era wouldn’t be complete without people. Many find the people to be the most fascinating and educational part of the display. These include convicts working on the chain gang, and the guards supervising their work. All members of the community are represented, including a variety of professions and mothers raising their family.
While accuracy has been paramount, the creators have left room for a laugh or two. It’s their way of rewarding those with careful eyes and keeping the attention of young children. Look out for a woman hitting a snake, a man hitting a wallaby, a boy falling from a tree and of course the Tasmanian Tiger. Other interesting sights include a cart crash and guards sneaking a swig of whisky.
These models are constructed in a three stage process. This involves hand sculpting out of clay, firing the sculpture in a kiln, then painting and creating suitable props which may include a tool, barrel or fishing rod.
The main street featured in the Old Hobart is Macquarie Street with Murray Street, Elizabeth Street, Argyle Street and Campbell Streets running parallel. You’ll notice that Davey Street, one of the main streets in Hobart today, isn’t present. This was built later on, on reclaimed land over the water in Sullivans Cove.
The Commissariat Store & Bond Store
One of the buildings you’ll see in the model village is the Commissariat Store. This double-storey brick building, situated on the water side of Macquarie Street, is the oldest surviving public building in Tasmania (it’s now part of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery complex). It was used to safe-keep food and supplies, with many landowners holding contracts with the Commissariat to hold their surplus items. It’s port side location was used for receiving imported goods and distributing goods such as locally-grown wheat.
The Commissariat had a pivotal role in the community, gathering statistical information on the community and assisting those in need.
Next to the Commissariat was the Bond Store, which was constructed between 1824 and 1826. This four-storey building was constructed to provide additional storage facilities for import and exported items, such as grain, tobacco and spirits.
This area was vital for the survival of the new settlement. It was protected by guards and a large wall, which became known as ‘The Watergate”.
St David’s Church
The original St David’s Church (before it came St David’s Cathedral) is another key part of Hobart history which has been replicated in the model village. This is a tall anglican church on the corner of Murray and Macquarie Streets. Construction begun with the laying of the foundation stone on 1817 in memory of the late Lt. Gov David Collins, a key figure in the settlement of Hobart who passed away in 1810. After 6 long years construction of the sandstone church was completed in 1823.
The original church as you will see in the village, had a tall steeple which was declared unsafe in 1835. It was quickly replaced with a “pepper pot” style tower. In 1862, additional neighbouring land was granted to the church and in 1868 construction of the new and larger St David’s Cathedral commenced
Van Diemen’s Land Prisoners’ Barracks Penitentiary
Also known as “The Tench”, the Prisoners’ Barracks Penitentiary, was the second gaol built in Hobart. It was constructed in the early 1830’s, when convict transportation was at it’s peak, and saw approximately 50,000 convicts. Those who were better behaved would work outside the prison walls during the day, constructing buildings and infrastructure in the growing town. Many of these convicts are on display throughout the model village in chain gangs.
Convicts who were known to have misbehaved would work on the treadmill grinding wheat or would be thrown in one of the 36 solitary confinement cells. These cells were underneath the chapel floor and had barely any light or ventilation. The doorway on the smallest cell was only 70cm high! In 1847 the cells were deemed inhumane and there use ceased.
The Old Hobart Town Model Village is open everyday (except Christmas Day) from 9:00 to 5:00. It’s wheelchair friendly, and umbrellas are provided when the weather gets a little wet. There is a visitor centre, gift shop and toilets. No bookings are required, simply arrive and walk through at your own pace.