Two of its main claims to fame are the artist, John Glover-perhaps the greatest of the Australian Colonial artists-and his celebrated painting of Hobart from the grounds of Stanwell Hall. It is part of the Dixson Galleries collection, State Library of NSW; in Sydney and on the back in Glover’s hand is:
“Hobart Town, taken from the garden where I lived-The Geraniums, Roses etc will give some idea how magnificent the Garden may be had here…….. John Glover 1832”
Geraniums still grow here-as well as a profusion of other plants and shrubs-but, although the house still adorns the top of the Melville Street rise, it has been added to and altered in the 162 years since it was immortalised by the great painter.
You don’t see much of the two-storeyed house from the street because of the impressive stands of trees surrounding it. There are tall Norfolk Pines, spruce trees and even an old, but very big, fig to maintain the privacy of those who live where Glover once dwelt for just under a year before taking up land in the northern part of the State.
Three of his sons came to Van Diemens Land to take up land in 1829, and father arrived two years later, on April Fools’ day, with wife, Sarah, and the eldest son, John Junior. Just six days later, they moved into Stanwell Hall.
The following year-the year of the painting-he was granted land at Mills Plains on the northern slope of Ben Lomond and, on 12th March, 1832, this “most agreeable old man” (he was 65), as diarist G.T.W.B. Boyes described him, set off with his family for the northern part of the State.
Francis Smither Edgar was a very religious man but this did not stop him from feeling insecure. He was involved in the very earliest movement to establish a Baptist Church in Hobart but, when he bought Stanwell Hall, in 1846, he fitted the windows with iron bars.
In 1850, he let his home, advertising in the “Temperance Banner”
..”Stanwell Hall, most delightfully situated, commanding a full view of the Town and Harbour… The house consists of ten rooms, and has lately undergone a thorough repair, and is fit for a genteel family. There is a large Garden, a Well of Water, and a Stone Cistern to hold the rain-water; also a Coach-house and Stable”
He returned the following year, but he had no deep attachment to the place.
The Edgar iron bars have gone but some other substantial additions have been made-the verandah has been considerably enlarged and closed in. Small dormer windows have been added to attic rooms. The french-windows in the 1832 painting are still there, but time has reduced the magnificent view-unless you climb to a miniature widow’s walk on the roof. It is worth the effort, in the opinion of present owners, Rob and Merrin MacKay.