West Hobart Brick Works

Crisp & Gunn Brickworks 1914

According 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 –


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

On July 7 1923 there was a lengthy article published in the Mercury about how the Brickworks operated.     


Crisp and Gunn Company’s Enterprise- Process from Quarry to Kiln

Operations at Knocklofty Works

Last week “The Mercury” afforded an insight into the modern means adopted by Messrs. Crisp and Gunn Co-operative Ltd at their fully equipped and efficient factory in Melville Street, Hobart, to provide the essentials for the erection and internal fitting of all classes of buildings constructed of timber. As was then remarked the company is as competent to supply stones for foundations and bricks for walls as it is to find any roofing material and a visit to its quarries and brickworks at Knocklofty leaves no doubt in that respect. The precipitous quarry face with its many beetling ridges, discloses the source of much of the more solid building material which enters into the construction of such a large number of the imposing homes of prominent Hobartians, as well as into that of far more humble abodes throughout the city and suburbs. Building material from Knocklofty, indeed, finds its way much further afield, and the contracts secured in Hobart and environs by the company are but a portion of those the carrying-out of which keeps a staff of just on 180 persons regularly employed throughout the year. Stored in the hill-side with a geological history of unknown duration, is the finest material for the making of bricks one could wish to have at hand, forming a reserve apparently as unfailing as the widow’s barrel of meal and cruse of oil.


The apple orchard established by the Catos of Mount Stuart can be seen in the background.



In every sense of the word the Knocklofty quarries and brickworks are a hive of industry, although the working “population” is but a tithe of that which occupies the offices and wood-working factory at headquarters. At both centres the class of work done is the same, in the sense that it is the highest, but there the similarity ends. The industry at Knocklofty calls for infinitely more massive machinery than that utilised in the deft construction of the wooden portions of houses, and the substantially made yet pleasing interior appearances which go so far towards creating “home, sweet home”. Instead of the unmistakably regular buzz and burr of saws and other things fast eating into wood, the brick-making machinery gives forth the deepest basso mechanical sound a sonorous lion-like rumbling. In place of gentle fashioning with sharp edges it crushes, grinds, moulds, and presses. The noise in the Melville street factory renders conversation inaudible. At Knocklofty the machinery, exerting sheer strength, roars and clatters to such a degree that shouting to attract the attention of anyone close at hand is useless. Sign language or a shrill whistle which pierces the deafening din are the only alternatives. But although the installation, when in operation, is not gentle to the nerves it makes at an astonishing rate bricks which need not fear comparison with any made anywhere with surprisingly few “duds” for rejection.

 The Anderson crushers


Clay suitable for the manufacture of bricks abounds nearly everywhere, but there is a great difference in the nature and quality of that found in various localities. Clay is the name given to   certain substances, which are mixtures of silica and alumina, with lime, potash, magnesia, and iron oxides. Loams are sandy clays with iron admixture, and marls are earths containing a considerable proportion of lime. As the colour of the brick after burning is determined by the proportion of hydrated oxide of iron and other ingredients in the material   from which it is made, and also to some degree by the extent of the burning, the great variety in the colour of the finished brick will be understood. Given certain mineral admixtures in the clay, a moderate red heat results in red bricks, and with more intense heat blue bricks may leave the kiln. Shades of cream colour, or buff, may be obtained in accordance with the constituents of the clay and manipulation of kiln heat, such manipulation consisting in the control of the supply of air to the kilns, or by carrying the heating process to a different stage. At the Knocklofty works the products are of an attractive red colour. The machinery is adapted to the making of bricks of peculiar shape, the special sill brick made by the company having been patented throughout Australia. Some 30 or 40 kinds of bricks are obtainable at the works, where, among other things, by means of the art, can be demonstrated a way in which to ensure dry inner walls for houses.



The quarry face from which the raw material is blasted rises to a great height, and huge portions of the surface rock are dislodged by the explosion of charges of gunpowder, as much as 400 lb. being used for a single charge. Dynamite also is used, and on occasions half a ton of explosive has been detonated, with imaginable results. The lower strata of the cliff is of a rich chocolate colour, indicating a large percentage of iron oxide contents. The mass brought down by the explosion is a high-class soap stone, or a comparatively soft stone having clay properties, many of the stones being of very considerable size mingled with soil of a similar nature. The stones and disintegrated material are loaded into trucks, each containing a yard in quantity. The trucks, when filled, are started, in charge of two men, along a set of light rails leading to the mill, the rails having a fall of one inch in 24 feet. Thus, the journey commenced, the trucks run to the mill by their own momentum, all haulage labour being avoided, and considerable time saved. As time is money a good deal of expenditure also is saved, and the price of the finished product is thereby lessened. A turntable is provided at a convenient spot to enable the trucks to be taken to workings in other parts of the quarry, the property, which was acquired from Mr. W. H. Cheverton, being 20 acres in extent. Arrived at the mill, the laden trucks are drawn in succession by a steel rope up an incline until the desired elevation is reached. Then a simple automatic arrangement on a side beam arrests its course, upsets the truck, and pours out its burden. From the time the trucks with the brick-making material reach the mill from the quarry and are mechanically hauled up, man-handling is dispensed with. Thereafter the mechanism comes into further play, and grinds and powders, moulds, and stamps, until finally, from machines at the far end of the mill, there emerges the completed brick, ready for the kiln. Enough material is brought from the quarry and kept on hand to enable the subsequent operations to be carried on for a time, perhaps a week, should a spell of wet weather make it impossible for the quarrymen to stay at their jobs. By this plan is minimised the possibility of continuous heavy rain holding up the works as a whole.



Deposited from the trucks, the clayey, stony mixture has to be reduced to powder. For this purpose, it first passes between steel drums revolving in opposite directions, and these form powerful crushers. The drums are studded with what may be described simply as steel excrescences, those on each drum being differently placed, so as to act most efficaciously. To use a colloquialism, all is grist that comes to the mill. Closely adhering lumps of earth and stones of boulder size, of intermediate degrees of softness, fall between the merciless drums, and are ground as by the inexorable mill of fate, which is said to grind slowly but exceedingly small. The crushers appear capable of dealing with any substance, however resistant to force, but there may be a limit to their power. In collecting material of the kind where iron and steel tools are necessarily used, a heavy hammer, for instance, might happen to be lost in a mass of rocky soil and brought unseen to the mill in a truck. Were this to occur it would have more than a good chance of getting between the crushers, and whether steel would grind steel in such a case is a matter best left in doubt. To guard against such a test, the crushers, for their salvation, are provided with a safety appliance which would at once come into action were the impossible to be attempted in such a direction.

As a matter of fact, the crushers deal with the stones irrespective of dimension, which is only regulated by the instruction given the quarrymen who fill the trucks that they are not to place in them stones beyond their power to lift. Yet the crushers never choke. The subsequent operations include the further treatment of the crushed material by means of a revolving pan, whence, reduced to a further degree of fineness, it is carried by an endless elevator and de- posited through a shute as another phase of its passage to the moulding machinery.


Under the old hand process, bricks were made in wooden moulds, some of which were faced with metal. With the march of time wood for such purposes has been superseded, and the clay substance, damped sufficiently to make it workable, is forced into metal moulds at Knocklofty with an attendant pressure of 30 tons. Thence other processes are gone through, each being of great interest to persons of a mechanical turn of mind. The bricks ultimately are delivered two at a time, beautifully shaped and in perfect condition, to the barrowman, whose duty it is to wheel them to the kiln, where they are placed by other workmen in position for burning. Two machines are employed, and each delivers bricks at a final pressure of 60 tons, at the rate of 2,200 an hour. The machinery is electrically operated, various motors having been installed, one being of 60 h.p. The whole of the work is carried out very expeditiously; and at a reasonably additional cost bricks of any pattern may be made, even those of an ornamental nature.


But a few minutes are occupied by the barrowmen – one at each point of delivery – in loading the bricks on to the barrows. A handful of sand is strewn on the top of each course, and the barrows are wheeled into the kilns as quickly as possible through the live holes or doorways which penetrate the kilns at regular intervals. The kilns, if not exactly built according to the Hoffman method, closely follow the Hoffman design. They are formed of a series of arched chambers. As the chambers become filled the entrances are hermetically sealed by closing with bricks and plaster, and an appropriate system of fires and flues ensures the proper burning of the bricks. The fires are fed with coal through a number of small round openings in the chamber roof, the holes being closed with iron caps. Looking through one of these from the floor above into a chamber under fire one gazes into a red-hot furnace, which may be confidently relied on to do all the burning necessary. More than 45 tons of coal are consumed weekly, or approximately 2,500 tons a year. Newcastle coal only being used. It is regrettable that Tasmanian coal is not suitable for the purpose, as otherwise an impetus would be given the coal industry in the State; but, unfortunately, Tasmanian coal runs too much to ash for the purpose. In a store adjacent to the kilns is kept a stock of 600 tons of coal, and the company has a store on the wharf in which 1,000 tons can be placed. In the manner briefly narrated, the working of the kilns and the burning of the bricks go on without intermission, a fixed working schedule being maintained as systematically as possible.

The Crisp and Gunn Company has two kilns, and the building of a third, to cope with the increasing demand on the works, is in contemplation. The larger kiln of the two contains 18 chambers, and each chamber takes 12,000 bricks, or a total of 216,000 in the kiln. In the smaller kiln are 16 chambers of relatively similar capacity. Several chambers are under full fire simultaneously, and some are at intermediate degrees of heat, while others are cooling. Still others are being supplied with bricks for burning. The existing kilns have a combined capacity of about 140,000 bricks per week, all of them being strong and serviceable. The percentage of imperfect bricks is very small, this affording proof of the care taken in their manufacture.

Brick Making machines



What are essential auxiliaries to the works are found in, as it were, the “side shows.” For a period of 20 years Mr. S Hutton has been in charge of the operations there, and he was able to show clearly that necessary adjuncts to the successful working of the establishment as a whole are comprised in the attached blacksmiths’ shop, and the department in which is kept a variety of iron working machinery and accessories. So great is the strain entailed on iron and steel sections of the running machinery, which undergo such constant and hard wear, that the need for renewal of component parts is perpetual. Hence the necessity for means on the premises of effecting repairs, and, when required making replacements. The blacksmith’s shop, with the inevitable forge, is not the least important adjunct, and the shop is rarely idle for any length of time. There is generally some task awaiting the descendant of Tubal Cain, who presides there, and, similarly, other descendants of the worker in metals of old are found doing something or other with the electrically driven metal working tools elsewhere. The usual contrivances are provided for cutting screw threads in piping, and for sawing off solid pieces of iron as though they were wood (the time occupied is considerably longer.)”

“A primrose by a river’s brim a yellow primrose was to him, and it was nothing more,” says Wordsworth. The lines might be applied to any unobservant visitor to the Crisp and Gunn Company’s brickworks. The individual who realises that in the production of the common or garden brick there is more than meets the casual eye is in an altogether different category. To such the visit is an education Messrs. Crisp and Gunn have left nothing to chance there in the making of a meritorious and marketable commodity, and in this world who can afford to despise the ubiquitous brick?  

March 29 1926 p5

Early Morning Sensation; Deluge at West Hobart

The Lower Wall Gives Way; Timely Rescue of Elderly Lady

With a muffled boom, which rose in an appalling crescendo to a deafening roar, the lower wall of the Hill-Street reservoir crumbled and burst outwards about 6 o’clock yesterday morning and let loose 100,000 gallons of water on the slopes of West Hobart. The torrent caught up the wall and threw it twenty, thirty, and even forty yards down Melville Street, laying low gardens, scouring the roads, and flooding houses in number.

An elderly lady, Mrs. E. Walton, whose small brick residence lay in the direct path of the torrent, was trapped in her own hall and in grave danger of being overwhelmed by the rising waters, when she was rescued by Mr. D. Reading, who lives almost opposite, and was the only eye-witness to the breaching of the walls by the terrific cataract. The house itself withstood the severe buffetting, but the interior and its contents were practically ruined.

The loss of water is, in itself, regarded as trifling. About a quarter of a million gallons still remain in the tank, and no shortage is expected to arise on account of its depletion.


It is extremely difficult to convey a correct and comprehensive impression of the appearance presented in the interior of Mrs. Walton’s house after the water had subsided and drained off. The house itself smelt dank, and damp, whilst its contents, furniture, clothing and apparel, grocery, and every conceivable article of use or ornament had been completely soused by the water, and befouled by the debris as to be almost wholly ruined and unfit for further use. A huge block of masonry had been hurtled through the back door, carried away a panel of an-other, and torn yet another from its hinges. This last door was eventually discovered about 50 yards down the road, buried under a heap of rubbish. Mr. Reading stated that he found the meat safe floating about the kitchen, and the top of a heavy wardrobe heading like any canoe for the front door when he first entered the house. The linoleums in every one of the five rooms had been torn up, and lay propped up against the walls in the most grotesque semblances, whilst its folds were found to harbour such things as frying-pans and cooking utensils of every variety, fowl feed, vases, broken crockery, and  a hundred and one other articles that had been swept from their shelves by the water… The fowl feed, it may be mentioned, was transported in some mysterious manner from the fowl-house in the garden, made its entrance through the backdoor; and finally came to rest in the folds of the linoleum of the drawing-room at the front of the house.

The back windows were shattered, and the crockery, and glassware, of course, suffered the same fate.  Mrs. Walton’s bedroom was in itself the most disrupted and disorderly chamber imaginable. Clothes, sopping wet, were, scattered all over the room, the dressing table was, all askew and covered with rubbish of all descriptions, part of the wardrobe was all awry in a corner of the room, the top portion being half in and half out of the door, where it bad been retrieved by Mr. Reading. There was nothing in its usual place, everything was “higgledy-piggledy.”

It is impossible to estimate the amount of the damage to the interior, of the house and its contents; but it must be considerable. Only the diversion of the water into Melville and Cavell streets, by the huge limber of stones and bricks saved the house itself from collapsing. As it is, the house is absolutely untenable, and what few really useful articles and ware that still remain to her Mrs. Walton intends retrieving this morning. Her jewellery and other articles of direct monetary value Mr. Heading removed from the house on his second excursion there, while the flood was at its height.

THE ONLY EYEWITNESS Mr. Reading’s Heroic Rescue

As far as can be gathered, no one was astir when the breakaway occurred, and Mr. Reading, who lives obliquely opposite the reservoir, a little more towards the city, appears to have been the only eyewitness. He had a most graphic story to relate when interviewed by a representative of “The Mercury” later in the morning.

“All night long,” Mr. Reading said, “I was disturbed by a peculiar noise, similar to that which Mrs. Walton heard, which I attributed, at first to rain. That impression I dismissed when looking out of my window, which fronts on Melville Street, I saw a cloudless sky and not the slightest sign of rain. Nevertheless, I put no serious interpretation on the noise although on no fewer than four subsequent occasions I rose and had a brief look about to see whether anything untoward was happening.

The noise increased towards morning, and about 6 o’clock I opened my window to have another peep. Then it happened. The whole wall of the reservoir seemed to bulge out and crumple up, while there was a muffled explosion and then an ear splitting roar as the water came through. Bricks and rubble, I could see from my window were thrown into the air and the flood came down on Mrs. Walton for all the world like a huge wall with a sheer solid face to it. My first thought luckily, was Mrs. Walton, whom I knew to be alone, and thinking, that she might be in some danger, I made across to her house first of all awakening my son Jack, whom I thought might be of some assistance to me. I saw the water strike the house, split up into two main channels, and deluge itself onto the street. I made my way as best I could across to the front door, although I was often up to my armpits, and succeeded in forcing open the door. To keep it ajar and make good my retreat, for the water in the house was getting deeper every moment, I propped it there with a big piece of masonry which providentially I found at my feet. In the hall, I found Mrs. Walton, who was in a fairly bad way, as she could not move, and the water was mounting every moment. I took her on my shoulders, and carried her to my home.”


The sight of the flood as it issued through the big breach in the wall, and of which he was the only spectator, is one Mr. Reading declared that he will never forget. Stones that four men could hardly lift, he said, were gathered and carried away “like chaff on a river,” to use his own words, and one had only to glance at the three big boulders resting on the side of the road some distance down the hill to be convinced that here was no exaggeration. The garden which would measure about 20 yards by 16, provided in itself all testimony wanting as to the destructiveness of the torrent. In the same way as it scoured the roads, sucking up the binding, and leaving the metal rude and exposed, so it ravaged the garden. Shrubs and small fruit trees were laid low and the limb of a pear tree was carried away, and the trunk split from fork to root. The tree was hacked and cut where it had been struck by the hurtling masonry, and high up in the branches were found safely reposed as though they had been placed there a small heap of bricks. The paths were swept clean, while much of the loose surface soil had shifted closer to the house. The whole appearance was of a garden bedraggled and besmired by filth and debris, and covered almost completely with junks of masonry.



The Mercury representative found Mrs. Walton sitting among the ruins of her goods and chattels, comfortable and snug in one of the few chairs still capable of use, and attended by many of her friends. Although appearing somewhat exhausted, she gave little indication of the trying experience that was hers. She needed no prompting to give her account of the break-away, and stressed, above all else, the debt of gratitude she owed Mr. Reading, to whom she said she assuredly owed her life.

Her story ran thus: Like Mr. Reading, she was vaguely disturbed by the peculiar and insistent noise that reached her in her bedroom, and she, too, attributed it to teeming rain, to which it bore a remarkable semblance. About 6 o’clock she was startled by the boom, and the almost simultaneous roar, and the wall gave away, and only foggily aware of what was transpiring, she had no chance of making good her escape before the water burst in on her house. The noise was deafening, and the water issuing through the doors and bedrooms created confusion, which she could never have thought possible. Instinctively she made for the front door way, but was overtaken in the hall by the avalanche which whirled and eddied around her while the water became deeper and deeper. She tried to force the door open, but the jam of the water was considerable, and weak as she was, it was beyond her. She was very exhausted, and the water was up to her armpits when Mr. Reading broke in and carried her off. “It was frightful,” she concluded, ‘”and I can’t say how much I owe Mr. Reading, I do not know what I should have done without him.”


There was one victim, of this astounding break away-a cat. Its’ favourite prowling grounds were the garden which, divides the reservoir from Mrs. Walton’s residence, and of an evening it squatted at the roots of a gnarled and ancient pear, tree. Searching round among the debris, later in the day, Mr. Reading discovered the unfortunate animal twined ”like-a bootlace” about the limb of a small tree jutting onto the street, its back broken, hind leg crushed, and terribly mangled. It had evidently been seized in the swirling vortex when the wall burst and hurled against the tree. One of its proverbial ‘lives ‘still remained to it, however, and it gave a feeble-meow when extricated from the debris which almost completely covered it. Mr. Reading despatched it with haste, putting the miserable animal out of its pain. A roost of fowls had a very fortunate escape. On the very outskirts of the flood, it remained untouched, almost undamped, though the water passed within a foot of the puny building. A dog, also the property of Mrs. Walton, is extremely fortunate, to be alive. Chained to a shed adjoining the fowl-roost it had not the slightest chance of escape, while the flood washed at its feet. It escaped with a drenching, but neighbours who are well aware of its none too genteel temper were greatly struck yesterday afternoon by its subdued demeanour. . . ‘


The reservoir is an old one, perhaps the oldest of its type in the State. When it was built none can clearly remember, although the general opinion gives its age at between 55 and 6O years. In appearance, it resembles somewhat a closed-in quadrangle. Round in tincture, it is roofed in, and supported by a number of stout columns of masonry and brick. Its walls are of masonry surmounted with brick and are part above and part below the level of the land. The wall through which the breakaway occurred bluntly faces the city, and it is interesting to note that the water is stated to have been only a few feet above the ground level, giving release to about 100,000 gallons of water. The wall itself gave every evidence of decay. The bricks are old (it is even said they are of Port Arthur manufacture) while the masonry is plainly crumbling. In fact, it resembles mere rubble and the mortar crumbles easily in the hand.

The unexpectedness of the breakaway is one of the most peculiar features associated with it. Mr. R. Sutton, the overseer, has occupied his present position for over 40 years, and he told a “Mercury” representative yesterday that there had not been the slightest sign of an impending breach in the wall. Only on Saturday night before retiring he had examined it, and found nothing to make him believe that it was unsound and likely to “gush” at any moment.

The reservoir and its tank, which lies immediately behind it, and is something like 15 years newer than the other, and of the subterranean type, are employed mostly for reserve purposes, and the loss of water is not likely to affect the water supply of Hobart or even West Hobart, whose immediate needs it generally fills. West Hobart is principally fed by the reservoir at Forest Road, the Hill Street storage being merely subsidiary. Then, too, in the light of the rigid estimation that with the present restrictions on the supply of water for irrigation purposes the daily consumption of water in Hobart amounts to 3,000,000 gallons, possibly slightly more, the loss of 100,000 gallons which would correspond roughly to say an hour’s supply is, if not insignificant, very trifling.


The suddenness of the break-away was bewildering. Without the slightest warning save for a peculiar hissing noise, which was audible to several throughout Saturday night, the huge wall cracked and split, and under the terrific pressure from 100,000 gallons of water, was literally hurtled forward into the neighbouring garden. The flood shot like a mill-race through this small patch, struck Mrs. Walton’s house, and most, providentially split into two streams, one of which charged down Melville Street and the other down Cavell Street. Masonry, bricks, and rubble were tossed into gardens and onto roads at inconceivable distances from the reservoir. The swirling water scoured the roads, sucking up, the blinding and leaving the metal stark and hard. Flowers and ornamental shrubs were caught up in the torrent, and the passages of the flood streams much later in the day could easily be traced by the deposit of debris, bricks, stone, shrubs, and even furniture, that were littered on the footpaths and roads. Houses, even as far citywards as Harrington Street, suffered most uncomfortably. The water swilled into the numerous by-ways and drains, and the whole slope was soused and drenched, ground floors being flooded, and gardens ruined. The avalanche of water spent itself in the basin of the city, and drained off into the river. Huge stones were deposited on the roads, footpaths, and in gardens. The West Hobart tramway lines were clogged and choked with filth and debris, and municipal gangs were early astir cleaning the track and making the road safe for traffic.

Huge boulders of masonry were cast against the back wall of the house of Mrs. Walton, and provided a check to the flood and a point of diversion. Sheltered, partially, at least, by this natural buffer, the house was able to withstand the shock of the deluge, and though Mrs. Walton is an elderly lady who lives there alone, undoubtedly owes her life in the first place. From further danger her rescuer, Mr. D. Reading, saved her, plunging into the flood as it poured through Mrs. Walton’s house, and, forcing his way into the hall, carried her on his shoulders to a place of safety. Mrs. Walton had not the slightest inkling of the break-away until the boom of the bursting walls reached her ears. Too late to make good her escape, she was in imminent danger of being engulfed by the rising water and drowned in her own hall when Mr. Reading burst open the front door and carried her to his own residence across the way. The venture was one full of risk and daring.


Mr. G. O. Smith, City Engineer, said last night, when, interviewed by a representative of “The-Mercury,” that it was the intention, of the Council to repair the reservoir. When the work would go forward he could not say, as their attention had been claimed by the immediate necessity of cleaning up the streets and putting Mrs. Walton’s house in order. (It was in fact re-built). The roof would be stabilised, but it was doubtful whether the Council would yet proceed with the work of re-erecting the breached wall. In fact, it was highly probable that they would demolish the little of it that still stands (though somewhat shakily), and maintain the storage below ground level. Even then it would have sufficient capacity for about a quarter of a million gallons, and be sufficient for reserve requirements.

In the

of July 27, it was announced that Council had decided to reconstruct the reservoir at a cost of £1000. This would give an added capacity of 200,000 gallons. The roof would also be reconstructed by a newer design costing £400. New pillars made of steel would be used in the construction.

Outer Building


Mr. Smith was asked what was the daily rate of consumption of water in Hobart taking, into account the restrictions on irrigation. He was not prepared, he said, to give anything like an officially correct estimate, as a great many of the mains were not fitted with meters, but he reckoned that it lay somewhere between three and four million gallons. “The loss of 100,000 gallons,” he said, “is therefore very small. The cost, however, will not be, and it is a pity that, it should have occurred just now when we are so hard up.”

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