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Newsletter 39 December 2021

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A Bad State of Things

Richard Watson, Friend and Tour Guide, contributed the following revelation penned by “One Who Knows”.


The New Town Charitable Institution was established in 1874 to care for the aged poor in the former Orphan School buildings. Many residents were former convicts. It separated male and female residents: the male residents were in the two wings of the Orphan School buildings at the end of St John’s Avenue, and the women were in the Infant Orphan School buildings at the top of the site (now Southern Cross Care, Rosary Gardens). The New Town Charitable Institution was also known as the New Town Infirmary and Consumptive Home (1912-1934), the New Town Rest Home (1934-1937), and finally St John’s Park Hospital (closed 1994).


‘For the cause that lacks assistance,
For the wrong that needs resistance’.

DEAR CLIPPER—Knowing your dislike of humbugging and your unwillingness at all times to present the truth to the public on all matters of public interest, I venture to bring under your notice the management or rather mismanagement of one of our institutions for the relief of the destitute and afflicted, viz., the New Town Charitable Institution.
Some short time ago the Revd. Mr. Symonds inserted in the Mercury his impressions of this place, representing everything coleur de rose; but Mr. Symonds was conducted over the institution by the officers in charge. He did not go amongst the inmates nor endeavour to illicit from them their impressions of the treatment meted out to them. For the most trivial offences the old men are locked up in cells for 24 or 48 hours on bread and water and their tobacco stopped. They are sent out to work in the cold weather on a pint of gruel and tea and about 3oz. bread. For dinner they have a similar allowance of bread, about an ounce of meat and a pint of very weak soup with, perhaps, a couple of potatoes. Tea: About 6oz. of bread and a pint of tea. This is the diurnal ration and one hardly calculated,
I think you will admit, to nourish the worn out systems of afflicted old people suffering with almost every variety of disease complicated with the natural fulness of old age. For the bulk of the inmates it cannot be justly called a home in any sense of the word. The one thing is discipline. This of course where numbers are concerned is very necessary, but if discipline is administered on prison lines—call things by their right names—The New Town Slaughter House would be a more appropriate title than the present one.
There are a few billeted men in clover and the rest nowhere. They are worked like gangs of prisoners with bullying ad libitum till they either fall down or are absolutely too weak to work any longer. They are then taken to a sick ward, no alteration made in the diet, and when physically annihilated are trotted out to the Cornelian Bay cemetery and thrown into a hole by the dozen, and this in the name of Charity. The only parallel that occurs to me is the treatment of the Armenians by the Turks.—Yours truly, ONE WHO KNOWS.

Reference: Clipper (Hobart) 25 May 1895 p.3.

My First Visit

To prepare for my first visit to St John’s Park precinct at New Town, I familiarised myself with the Friends of the Orphan Schools website and poked my nose into Trove for contemporary accounts of the institutions once located there.

On 31 October, five intrepid tourists expertly led by Jane Hodgman braved a bleak spring day to be introduced to the site and its history. As I drove up St John’s Avenue I was impressed with the glorious avenue of oaks and was eager to learn more about the Church looming ahead with the North and South Wings spread like welcoming arms. There was much more to discover I found.

As the oaks were not planted until 1897, residents, staff and visitors from 1833 would not have passed through the avenue as it is today. An 1872 photograph of the gate houses, avenue and the Church and Orphan Schools buildings can be seen on the Friends website as well as a comprehensive history, photographs, Children’s Register and stories.

Jane met us in the Old Sunday School which serves as the Friends meeting place and before setting out on the walking tour, I took the opportunity to read the informative posters and display boards.

I learned that after the closure of the Orphan Schools in 1879, part of the buildings operated as a home for destitute men and women, many of whom were former convicts whose circumstances led them to seek charity. While they worked, they were classed as inmates and were not free to leave. Punishment was harsh, food was scanty and it was freezing cold.

As the website is very informative and most readers will be familiar with the precinct and its history, I will show some positive aspects of the operation of the New Town Charitable Institution discovered by searching Trove. A search function for individual residents is available on the Friends’ database.

Following on from Richard Watson’s article about life in the 50+ year old convict-built buildings for the poor and vulnerable, I found that reform was underway. In 1895 however people continued to abscond.

A report in the Tasmanian News Monday 29 January 1894 p.2. shows that entertainment was sometimes provided:

The City Band under Mr T.W. Hopkins, on Saturday evening last attended the New Town Charitable Institution and gave the inmates a treat in the shape of musical entertainment. Vocal and instrumental music was discoursed, recitations given and a highly enjoyable time was spent. Mr Richardson on behalf of the inmates thanked Mr Hopkins and the members of the band for their kindness in thinking of them and giving them such an excellent entertainment, and the old people gave them three hearty cheers on their leaving.

Articles such as the one below shows how the then model of care was being questioned. The Tasmanian News (Hobart) Saturday 21 July 1894 p.2. gives an example.


The tendency of scientific charity is to break up large establishments and to substitute the cottage or boarding-out system. In the training of children the latter has worked admirably, and it is submitted that it is desirable to maintain he home instinct in old age. The officers of our invalid Depot exhibit care for those over whom they are placed in charge, but the barrack system is entirely against the success their efforts so deservedly merit. There are form of disease and helplessness for which the Infirmary, as distinguished from the General Hospital, would be necessary. These, however, are the exceptions and not the rule of large institutions. Under the home system the aged poor could be placed in the village or town in which life has been spent. The cost would not be greater, if so great, as under the present system. Firm and humane treatment could be secured, and many persons now seeking aid enabled to help themselves without detracting from the gracious ministry due to decent age from another point of view, when will the Colony consider the general question of thrift in its relation to charity? The lavish liberality of the state has been little better hitherto than an education in thriftlessness. When will the work be done as stimulus to industry and self-respect?

It would be nearly one hundred years later that the elderly and people with disability could live with support in community settings.

Funding and cost saving has always been an issue. A correspondent in The Launceston Examiner Friday 7 September 1894 p. 3. wrote:


SIR,-Allow me to point out a way by means of your valuable paper whereby a considerable saving could be effected in the expenditure at New Town Charitable Institution without bringing the Launceston inmates down to New Town. The chief officers are-Superintendent (whose duties are mainly supervising), assistant, and clerk. Under the present state of finances could not the two former offices be merged into one? The superintending of workhouses in the old country is worked on a much humbler basis than here, where we are professing such retrenchment and economy.-Yours, etc.,

Hobart, Sept. 5. CONSISTENT.

Unfortunately, residents in the late nineteenth century were still experiencing privations sufficient to abscond. The Tasmanian News (Hobart) Friday 22 March 1895 p. 2. reported:

The New Town Charitable Institution has had an exodus of those inmates who prefer the scent of the hopfields and the freedom of country life to the soup and discipline of the Depot. The authorities are, however, keeping the absentees places warm for them, as they expect them back again before the end of autumn.

The sarcastic attitude of the “authorities” is unjustifiable viewed with 21st century moral principles.

The following day the Launceston Examiner Saturday 23 March 1895 p.6. advised that:

A large exodus of inmates from the Invalid Depot has recently taken place to the hopfields.

As a new Friend I have a lot to learn.
Margaret Dalkin

The Queen’s Orphan Schools and
the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations.


Prince Consorts have a limited role in public life.

Prince Albert himself, the father of nine children, must have been a very frustrated man unable to partake in important decisions; while he might tender advice, Queen Victoria relied heavily on her Ministers.

His frustration worked itself out when, with the input of Henry Cole, an English civil servant, inventor and member of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (now known as The Royal Society of Arts), the idea was born for the Great Exhibition.

Many designs were submitted and eventually Joseph Paxton’s ideas were chosen. Paxton had designed the Conservatory at Chatsworth, built originally to house the Giant Waterlily known as Victoria Regia.

By mid-1850, the Hobart Town newspapers were publicising the event: the Hobarton Guardian, or, The True Friend of Tasmania, for example, wrote on 12 June 1850:

National Exhibition

WE call the attention of the Colonists, a second time, to the desirableness of instituting immediate preparations for the Exhibition of the Arts and Manufactures of all nations, to be held in the Great Metropolis. [2]

Then, a few weeks later, the Colonial Times advised:

THE INDUSTRIAL EXHIBITION—A meeting was held last Thursday, composed chiefly of the members of the Royal Society, at the Museum, to take into consideration the best means available for the furtherance of the object of the Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations, for May, 1851. A committee was appointed, consisting of Sir William Denison, Mr. Bicheno, Mr. Milligan, Dr. Officer, and Mr. Hugh Hull, with power to add to their number, to conduct the necessary arrangements. Sir W. Denison was of opinion that the large ball-room at Government-house would be the best and most commodious receptacle for the articles intended for the exhibition. [3]

Denison also advocated the presentation of many articles as likely to benefit the colony. These included wool, oil, and timber. As well, it was proposed:

that one half of the expense of freight should be paid out of the Treasury, the other half to be raised by public subscription. This appeared to meet with the general approval.

As far as the public was concerned, it would save the trouble of collection. [4]

The Royal Society Committee determined that the following items should be exhibited:

Raw Produce.


Furs—Opossum-skin, kangaroo, wallaby, platypus, cat, devil, tiger.
Wool—Long, fine.
Oil—Sperm, black, seal, mutton bird.
Whalebone. Tallow. Dried Fish. Silk from Norfolk Island. Head matter. Whales teeth. Swans’ down. Honey. Wax. Lard. Cuttle-fish Bone. Horns. Feathers. Beetle wings.


Grain—Wheat, oats, barley, Norfolk Island maize, rye.
Hops, coffee from Norfolk Island. Bark, wattle. Sassafras bark.
Gum—Wattle, kino, grass-tree.
Resin, white, from Oyster Bay Pine. Carraway seed. Coriander seed.
Timber for house and ship-building, &c. viz.—Blue gum. stringy bark, black-wood (light-wood), Huon pine, myrtle.
Timber for Ornamental purposes: viz.—musk, dog wood, Huon pine, cherry, she-oak, honeysuckle, maple from Norfolk Island.
Gun stocks, (native cherry). Knees for ships and boats. Manna.


Ores—Copper, lead, iron, manganese.
Topaz, Beryl. Cornelian. Agate. Rock crystal. Opal wood. Limestone. Coal, Turkey stone. Iron pyrites. Filtering stone, Norfolk Island. Grindstones. Sulphate of magnesia. Ditto alum. Common salt.



Fur—spun and made into gloves.
Wool—spun into yarn, and made into stockings, blankets, cloth, &c.
Soap, candles, cheese, butter.
Leather—ox hide, kip, horse hide, calf, sheep, hog-skin, kangaroo, wallaby, opossum, dog.
Boots and shoes. Parchment. Salted meats, bacon and hams. Glue. Lamp-black. Blacking. Shell chains made by Aborigines.
Skins of animals tanned with fur on. such as seal, Wallaby, opossum, native cat, tiger, devil, wombat, platypus.
Rugs—opossum, wallaby, &c.
Dried skins of penguin and emu. Hoofs cleaned and polished. Saddlery and harness. Trunks, Portmanteaus, leather cases. Brushes. Combs—horn and tortoise shell.


Preserved and dried fruits.
Cayenne pepper, Norfolk Island.
Arrowroot, ditto.
Tobacco, ditto.
Flax. Furniture and turnery.
Frames of ornamental woods.
Coffee, Norfolk Island.
Native baskets.
Cidar [sic].
Essential oil from blue gum, and sassafras.
Pearl barley.
Extract of bark.
Cricket bats.
Straw hats and bonnets.
Rope mats, &c.
Linens or canvass fabrics.


Marble from Maria Island and Westbury.
Fire Bricks.
Gold leaf.
Dripstones, Norfolk Island. [5]

In November 1850, The Courier encouraged those who had not visited the local Exhibition to do so:

TASMANIAN CONTRIBUTION TO THE EXHIBITION OF 1851.—The local exhibition at the Ballroom, Government House, closes next week, and we would advise all those who have not seen it to make a visit in time. Among the most remarkable works of art which are exhibited are a model of Bridgewater Bridge, the Queen's Orphan Schools, [ author’s emphasis] and some very elegant furniture. There are also some handsome specimens of the ornamental woods of this colony and Norfolk Island. Specimens of pottery, saddlery, combs, glue, neats’ foot oil, wool, wheat, cheese, hops, aboriginal necklaces, lace gloves and hosiery made in the colony; mineral specimens; variegated pattern opossum and kangaroo skin rugs; samples of rope made from flax grown here, dried plants, gum kino, manna, Norfolk Island maize, tobacco, dripstones, South Sea whalebone &c. The list of contributions will shortly be published. The exhibition may be treated as one of worldwide importance to the colony; and while we will unite in approval of this contribution to it, it is evident that the project should meet with every encouragement. It is open to all—from the humblest artisan of the community and all should visit it. [6]

In January 1851, The Courier published a list of Tasmanian contributions to the Great Exhibition:


PRINTED lists of the contributions to the Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations, to be held in London, 1851, will be forwarded to England by the Australasia. The numbers of the articles, name, and description, whence and by whom forwarded, by whom produced or manufactured, to whom consigned, and how to be disposed of, are noted and the remarks are found very interesting. The first section (the ores) have been principally contributed by Mr. Milligan, the Secretary of the Royal Society, and Sir William Denison. A specimen of plumbago has been sent home by Mr Abraham Walker, of Creekton, Norfolk Plains; and galena and iron ore by Mr. R. De Little, of the Tamar River. Of chemical products and substances used in manufactures—A sample of Douglas River coal has been forwarded by the Company.

A box containing two sorts of salt by Mr. R Strachan, of Bonnington. A box of soap by Mr. Cleburne. A specimen of alum from near Bridgewater by Mr. Bicheno; and sulphate of magnesia (Epsom Salts) by Lieut. Smith, R.N. Stones, &c., for building and for personal decoration, &c.—In this section Mr. Milligan has forwarded specimens of grey and porphyritic granite from various parts of the colony. Mr. Strutt, a piece of partially dressed Maria Island marble. Mr. John Abbott, a specimen of iron sand; rock crystal beryl and topaz by the aborigines. A specimen of carnelian was forwarded by Mr. George Kemp. Agricultural Produce—Mr. James Dixon, of Skelton Castle, Isis, forwarded a box of dried apples; and Mr. William Murray, of Liverpool-street, Hobart Town, a box of starch—the box made of figured Huon pine. Many specimens and varieties of wheat and oats have been forwarded by Sir William Denison from Tasman’s Peninsula; by Mr. G. Marshall, of Noble Farm, Pittwater; Messrs. MacNaughten, Lipscombe, John Walker, and Brown and Co., of Hobart Town. Mr. John Walker also furnished specimens of pearl barley and fine flour. Mr. A.M. Milligan, of Launceston, and Mr. Brock, of Macquarie street, Hobart Town, of biscuit. Prepared groats have been sent by Mr. Harpur, of Launceston, and Tasmanian hops by Mr. C.T. Smith. Specimens of the Mylitta Australis (native bread of Tasmania) were sent by Mr. Dunn and Mr. T.Y. Lowes—the latter was obtained 17 years ago at Glenorchy. Coffee and arrowroot, grown at Norfolk Island, was contributed by the Lieutenant-Governor.

We have not space at present to do more than advert to the specimens of tanning substances, gums, spices, and miscellaneous articles of the next section; Mr. Milligan and Sir Wm. Denison forwarded the most of them. Timbers, fibrous substances and cordage, &c—Flax dressed in 1850 was sent by Mr. Dixon, of Skelton Castle; and Mr. F. Lipscombe at Sandy Bay. Specimens of blue gum, stringybark, black or lightwood, sassafras, myrtle, muskwood, cedar, celery topped pine, and rosewood timber, by Sir William Denison. Of timbers—Mr. Fowler, of Maria Island; Mr. Whitesides, of Liverpool-street; Mr. Quinn, of Argyle-street; Mr. M’Naughton; Captain Madden, R.E.; Mr. Milligan; Mr. Brownrigg; Mr. R.V. Hood; of Liverpool-street; Archdeacon Marriott; Mr. Hugh Hull; the Rev. Mr. Freeman; and Mr. John Watson are contributors.
The plank of blue gum forwarded by the latter is 146 feet in length, 30 inches broad, and 6 inches in depth. We cannot pass without extracting the following description—‘It stood at Long Bay in D’Entrecasteaux Channel, and, so far as girth is concerned, was rather an inconsiderable tree amid the giant forest trees around. It measured at four feet from the ground about 23 feet round; at 187 feet from the ground the first limb was given off, and there the tree girthed nearly 7 feet. The total length of the tree to the extreme top of the branches was 275 feet. Upon the tree being broken down, it proved perfectly sound, and the timber turns out to be close, hard, and tough in the grain. Had more time been allowed, a plank one-half longer might easily have been obtained; as it is, the tree from which this plank has been taken was selected, felled, and raised upon enormous bearers, and the plank then sawn from one side of it, dragged to the water’s edge, and conveyed to Hobart Town—all within the last five weeks. Experience has now fully established the character and qualities of the timber of the blue gum of V. D. Land is scarcely, if at all, inferior to the best oak of England for ship-building purposes; and it is a fact which ought to be widely made known, that sawn timber for keels, planks, and stringers of ships can be produced two or three times the length of those yielded by the oak, and at a price, even at the great distance we are from England, with which the oak cannot compete’—

Mr. W. Rout forwarded a sample of Crocker’s cheese of 1849, and Mr. C.T. Smith one of Mr. Storey’s on the South Esk. Honey of' Tasmania was also furnished by Mrs. Fenton and Mr. W. Rout; preserved meats by Mr. W. Adcock, and a ham by Mr. F. Lipscombe. The ham was cured by Mr. Marshall of Pittwater. Neats’ foot oil was forwarded by Mr. Hart, of Argyle street, oil of the mutton bird by Messrs. W. Gunn and A.M. Milligan. Shark’s oil by Mr. T.Y. Lowes; bees wax by Mr. Milligan and Mr. Rout. Glue was forwarded by Mr. Button of Launceston; swansdown skins by Mr. James Barnard. Mr. Gunn also forwarded feathers of the mutton bird; Mr. Watchorn a cask of tallow.
The following are the contributors of wool—Mr. Philip Oakden of Launceston, Mr. C.T. Smith of Hobart Town, Mr. P.T. Smith of Ross Reserve; and Mr. I.G. Reeves of Hobart Town, and R.Q. Kermode of Mona Vale. Mr. Tibbs of Goulburn street contributed a quantity of pottery; Messrs. Brown and Co. sperm and black oil, and Mr. S. Moses of whalebone. The jaw of a sperm whale, with 48 teeth (complete), brought in by the Marianne is also gone. Parchment was contributed by Mr. Button.

We have no space to enumerate all the contributors of manufactured articles, Two sorts of thread lace, made by a girl eleven years of age at New Norfolk was contributed by Mrs. W.S. Sharland. The model of Bridgewater Bridge, constructed by Mr. W. Armstrong under the direction of Mr W.P. Kay, is consigned to the Secretary of State for the Colonies; as well as a coloured sectional drawing of the bridge and causeway by Mr. Thompson, jun., of Liverpool-street. Samples of leather were sent by Mr. Reeves. Mould candles from Mr. W. Murray. Mrs. Burgess, of Davey street, forwarded two beautiful specimens of worsted work—one representing a branch from a blue gum tree in flower, with four birds of Tasmania perched on the twigs, the other representing a group of Indigenous flowers of this colony.
Whips, saddles &c. were contributed by Mr. Wiseman, of Elizabeth-street; a roll of Tweed and hank of yarn from the Cascades, by Sir W. Denison, a number of knitted socks, shawls, &c. were sent from the Queen’s Orphan School, [author’s emphasis] gloves made of opossum fur trim from Mrs. McKenzie, of Blue Hills, Bothwell; Mrs. Stieglitz, of Killymoon; and Mrs. E Tooth; a stockman’s pair of ankle boots were forwarded from Mr. C. Ward, of Collins street, several books bound by Mr. Rolwegan are also forwarded in the Derwent. A pair of dress boots were sent from Mr. Sly, of Liverpool-street, and a pair of Wellington boots by Mr. C.R. Flegg; thirteen necklaces, worn by the aborigines of Tasmania, were sent by Mr. Milligan. The principal exhibitors of furniture were Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Pearson of Elizabeth-street; Mr. Brown, of Launceston, and Mr. Lumsden, of Brisbane-street, Hobart Town; a churn was sent by Mr. T.D. Jennings; linen made from flax contributed by Mr. Rout. [7]

The Great Exhibition was held in the Crystal Palace, a cast-iron and plate-glass structure in Hyde Park, London from the 1st of May to the 15th October 1851.

More than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world gathered in its huge exhibition space to display examples of technology developed in the Industrial Revolution. Designed by Joseph Paxton, the Great Exhibition building was three times larger than the size of St Paul’s Cathedral, with the greatest area of glass ever seen in a building, astonishing visitors with its clear walls and ceilings that did not require interior lights. [8]


Queen Victoria Opening the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace, Hyde Park, London 1851 [9] .

As an aside, the architects of the Crystal Palace had allowed for ½ inch gaps between the floor boards (before the days of high heels) and had intended to have machines to clean the floor, however they discovered that the ladies crinoline dresses did the job for them and the machines were not needed.

The Courier in November 1851 commented:

The Queen’s Orphan School exhibits knitted gloves, socks, stockings, shawls, &c., which show that not only the education of the pupils, but the important element of industrial training is well attended to. [10]

Did the Queen and the Royal party see the contribution from the Orphan School? Probably the items went unnoticed, but one can only imagine the pride of those children whose handiwork was selected.

[1] The Cornwall Chronicle, (Launceston) 1 April 1848 p.4.

[2] Hobarton Guardian, or, The True Friend of Tasmania 12 June 1850 p.2.

[3] Colonial Times (Hobart) 20 August 1850 p.2.

[4] Colonial Times (Hobart) 20 August 1850 p.2.

[5] Britannia and Trades Advocate ( Hobart) 29 August 1850 p.4. The list was published over the name of Joseph Milligan, Secretary.

[6] The Courier (Hobart) 23 November 1850 p.2.

[7] The Courier (Hobart) 15 January 1851 p.2.

[8] . Accessed 1 November 2021.

[9] Colour lithograph by Louis Haghe (1806-1885) . Accessed 11 November 2021.

[10] The Courier (Hobart) 8 November 1851 page 2.

Fox's Feast

Fox's Feast 2022 will be held on Sunday 27th February. Watch the website in the New Year for full details.

Fox's Feast was an annual picnic from 1863-1879 for the Orphan School children paid for from the legacy of John Fox, an ex-convict who had been in an orphanage in England. His legacy also rewarded the best boy and girl each year with 10 pounds and a silver medal, known as the Fox's Medal. Each year the Friends of the Orphan Schools remember this highlight of the children's year by holding our own Fox’s Feast. All members and friends are very welcome.  

Committee Communiqué

At the Committee Meetings held in October and November a number of reports were presented, and upcoming initiatives canvassed and discussed. Apart from routine Agenda items, the following is a snapshot of the current work of the Committee.

· Interpretive signage is under consideration.

· The Friends are developing some laminated bookmarks and prints of samplers may be displayed.

· A tour for the Fellowship of First Fleeters Derwent Chapter was conducted on October 23rd. and an advertised tour on Sunday 31st with 5 people.

· A gathering to commemorate the 195th Anniversary of the establishment of the Orphan Schools is under consideration for May 2023.

2022 deadlines for Newsletter articles

1 February
1 May
1 August
1 November

Christmas wreath

Season’s Greetings from the Friends of the Orphan Schools Committee

Editors: Dianne Snowden and Margaret Dalkin

Technical Assistance Andrew Cocker

Contact Us

Friends of The Orphan Schools
PO Box 4659
Bathurst Street PO