West Hobart Brick Works

Crisp & Gunn Brickworks 1914According to “The West Hobart Story” by Joan Goodrick, . . . .

“THE BRICK WORKS: In November, 1968, two tall chimney stacks at the top of Arthur Street crashed to the ground. These ancient landmarks were situated at the brick kilns and were a familiar sight to the residents of that area. The brick works closed down in 1965.

The late Samuel Hutton came to Hobart from Launceston to manage them for Crisp and Gunn Pty Ltd in 1905. Before that they had been conducted by the late George Cheverton. After Samuel’s appointment as manager, his brother William joined him as a burner, and lived at the top end of Arthur Street.

Morris Hutton, son of the late William, told a great deal about the early days of the brick works and his family connections there. His father and Uncle Sam started at the J. & T. Gunn’s Brick Works in Launceston as schoolboys, aged 12 years. They worked for their father in the early 1890’s. The workmen carried green bricks, 40 to a barrow, but the boys only carried 30 bricks to a barrow. The first brick works was just above where the Reservoir is now, but later it was moved further along the road. They only had one kiln at that period. Then Crisp and Gunn, who were timber merchants in Hobart took it over. Crisp was a Hobartian and Gunn was from Launceston.

Loading the bricks in the early days was a very hazardous task for the carters. The road was purposely rutted to act as a temporary brake as the horses and box-cart drays zig- zagged down the steep hill. The carts used to stop at the top of the hill and had brakes on the wheels. On one occasion a horse bolted, and went full-gallop down as far as Andrew Street and was killed.

The horses would often stumble and fall down, and would then struggle to get up again. To prevent this its head would have to be held down to the ground, and if driver couldn’t manage to hold it he would have to call for help. The children who used to play on the road and lie down in the ruts for fun would come running, and the strongest boy would usually be only too willing to hold the horse’s head down while the driver unloaded the bricks from the cart. The carters were eager for the work and had to jostle for a place among the many carts and horses assembled at the loading station. It was a dangerous job and there were many accidents.

Morris was one of the lads who helped to hold the horse’s head down and clearly remembered an the commotion and bad working conditions of the 1920’s. After his close association with the brick works, he has quite a store of knowledge about how the kilns were operated. It was of too technical a nature to be properly understood, but sufficient to say that a 2-storey Hoffman Kiln was the type that was used for the burning of bricks at the brick works. According to Morris there was no clay available there, and sandstone from the reefs at Knocklofty was fired after treatment. Being of the belief that bricks were made from clay I queried this, but Morris assured me that it was a fact.

The frog ponds above the brick works held a great fascination for all the boys and girls of the district, and jars of tadpoles were a common sight as the children trudged home holding them carefully with the expectation of watching them change into frogs.

The Duck Pond was blasted away long ago, and a lot of memories with it.

All the boys who lived in the vicinity had their first swimming lessons there, although it was supposed to be out of bounds to the public.

The Duck Pond’s official name was “Crane Pond” because it had an old wooden crane on it.

Morris had a number of miscellaneous facts which he also passed on, concerning some of the people who used to live in West Hobart. At one time there were three Knights residing in this suburb, two of which were previous Lord Mayors. Sir John Soundy, who lived at 92 Newdegate Street, was first elected Lord Mayor in 1924, then again in 1929-32, before he was knighted. Another long stint, lasted from 1938-46.

Two years later Sir Richard Harris, residing at 23 Browne Street, was elected Lord Mayor from 1948-50, then a further term which lasted from 1952-54.

The third Knight was Sir Robert Cosgrove, one time Premier of Tasmania, who lived at 11 Watkins Avenue, West Hobart.
Another well-known personality was Mr George Limb, headmaster and choirmaster, who lived at 61 Arthur Street.
Max Walker, the renowned cricketer and writer was born and bred in West Hobart. His parents once kept the store on the corner of Pine and Hill Streets.

The Reservoir which stands out at the top of Arthur Street was built about 1950, the year Morris estimated it to be. Another Reservoir is out of sight further up in the bush above Arthur Street.

Gordon Hutton, a brother of Morris, had a little anecdote about the Reverend J. A. Cloudsdale, the minister of St Michael’s Church, who used to graze a cow in a paddock in front of the Church. Near the footpath were two telegraph poles with a bell on top, and on the lower part was a notice board in Gothic print attached to the pole.
Needless to say the local likely lads used to climb up the pole and ring the bell, as well as adding to the notice board in chalk -

HOLY MILK FOR SALE
FOURPENCE A QUART.

Mr Gordon Chatterton of 29 Hill Street built his house on the last vacant block in his street in 1934. He could look back seventy five years. The Chattertons kept the grocery store on the corner of Hill Street and Lansdowne Crescent, which was known as the Boundary Store. When the first double- decker trams started coming round the “Y” and then in to Hill Street, they couldn’t go any further than the Boundary Store because they were unable to get around the corner. Later the trams went further on to Warwick Street.

In the early 1930’s there was a little Milliner’s shop next door to Mr Chatterton, which eventually became the Post Office but which no longer exists. The old stone house on the corner of Patrick Street belongs to Mr Chatterton, and was built about 1870. He spoke of other members of his family, and told me that Joe Chatterton lived in a little cottage in Hill Street, now known as the’ ‘Old Watch House’ ” and brought up a family of seven children there. A blacksmith’s shop was at the back of the house. He remembered when the corner where the service station now exists was a paddock with a horse run there. A hawthorn hedge grew along the Hill Street side, and down the Patrick Street side there was an elderberry hedge. The house next to the. service station is more than 160 years old, and members of the Chatterton family once lived there. He recalled the time the Reservoir burst its walls, which was about 1936, and the water ran down into town. The large boulder in Molle Street, with a narrow strip of road on one side, was also recollected.”

Front cover of Joan Goodrick's book "The West Hobart Story"The West Hobart Story was written by local author Joan Goodrick and was launched at the Marquis of Hastings Hotel

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