The Reverend Robert Knopwood: Carouser and Whale Watcher

Tales from the Australian Wooden Boat Festival ‘€“ Part 1

Wandering down the slope of Montpelier St towards Salamanca, with the sounds of happy festival-goers drifting up the hill, our attention is diverted by a building site. People in hi-vis, a temporary fence and a digger. But on closer inspection, something’€™s amiss: there’€™s a laser level on a tripod, people squatting over carefully-measured trenches. This is no building site. In that unexpected way that Hobart seems to deliver its history, this dusty void is an archaeological dig.

We introduce ourselves to the nearest person, equipped with a hard hat and a smile. Sarah Wilcox-Standring is doing communications for the dig, which is being carried out by a firm called Austral, on behalf of a developer called Sultan Parking. And here’€™s the tale Sarah told us:

This unassuming gravel carpark, which has been here as long as anyone can remember, has never been developed as a modern city building site. It was once a slum, a few factories and an army barracks, and long before that, it was the site of one of the first permanent European settlements in Hobart (and therefore in Australia) original viagra online kaufen.

A preacher named the Reverend Robert Knopwood arrived in Hobart in 1804 aboard the Oceana, and lived here on Battery Hill above the harbour during the first few years of the nineteenth century. It’€™s likely he built his house here around 1805-10, and the site is distinctive for having been quite a distance out from the rest of the settlement. Although maps from that time are contradictory as to the exact coordinates of Knopwood’€™s land, real estate saved the day: when he eventually sold his land and it was subdivided, the precise distances from the surrounding streets were marked on the transfers. The handful of permanent dwellings from that era were generally wattle and daub, so they’€™ve left no traces for historians. But successive governors of the colony encouraged landowners to build more lasting structures, and Knopwood is believed to have left a substantial dwelling. The likely position of Knopwood’€™s house was further indicated by the remains of Alexander Orr’€™s later cottage, which dates from about 1840.

In its day, Knopwood’€™s little hacienda would’€™ve had glorious views over the Derwent. Down an alleyway between a few modern structures, there’€™s a small rock escarpment, on which it’€™s said that the Reverend used to stand and watch whales disporting in the waters below. Knopwood’€™s other recreation involved the inn across Montpelier St: known back then as the Lady Nelson Inn, it’€™s more recently been known as Knopwood’€™s Retreat, for the Reverend was partial to a rum or two. He sounds like something Nick Cave might’€™ve dreamed up: a preacher who loved to drink and fornicate, cast out to the ends of the earth, having lost a fortune back in England and about to lose another one in the colonies. He was known to be a vengeful Magistrate, perhaps acting out his own brand of penance on the unfortunate souls who came before him. He also kept diaries for thirty years, yielding a wealth of information for contemporary historians. He wrote of the rituals and routines of his daily life: growing his peaches, having them stolen, harvesting asparagus. Knopwood’€™s pigeon house had the first tiled roof in the entire colony. Not that this helped the pigeons ‘€“ they died by the dozen because the water supply was so bad. The Hobart River, coming down from Mt Wellington, was everybody’€™s were back then. Only Governor Arthur enjoyed fresh water ‘€“ he had his own private pipeline diverting him a pristine supply.

The archaeologists have been digging for three weeks, and might have twelve to sixteen weeks to go, depending on what they find.

We leave them chipping and scraping, intrigued by our first accidental find of the day. And we haven’€™t even hit the festival site yet.

Check out Part 2 of “Tales from the Australian Wooden Boat Festival”

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