Exploring Tasmania... Part 3 - History

| July 6, 2011

Aaron Jennings, Cox & Kings’ Australasia Product Manager, recently visited Tasmania. Here is the third part of his blog on this trip.

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My first stop in Tasmania was Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart. Situated on the waterfront in a former jam factory. The property oozes character, with original features blended seamlessly with over 300 pieces of original and contemporary artwork. It was here that the Hotel Historian Warren Glover presented me with a list of all of the convicts that we sent to Tasmania between 1804 and 1853 that shared my surname: Jennings. There were 44 in total, and surprisingly one with my full name, who was transported on the David Clarke from Plymouth in 1841. This discovery was the perfect introduction into learning about Tasmania’s convict history and for my next port of call, which was Port Arthur.

In 1830 Governor Arthur chose the remote Tasman Peninsula in southeast Tasmania, as the ideal location for a penal colony. Named Port Arthur, this was no ordinary prison, but was specifically for prisoners who were already serving time elsewhere but had committed further crimes in the colony. Between 1830 and 1877, 12,500 convicts served time at Port Arthur, many of which died and were buried on the neighbouring Isle of the Dead. Today the area is UNESCO World Heritage Listed, has been renamed to Port Arthur Historic Site and is a must for any visit to Tasmania.

During my trip I made two visits to Port Arthur. The first was a ghost tour at night, after dinner in the restaurant I joined a group of 12 others for a guided tour. Walking with lanterns we stopped at various buildings around the site, while our guide told us stories about life during the penal era and his experiences with ghostly happenings during his years of guiding. Nobody on our tour saw a ghost but there’s an undeniable sadness that looms over the entire place and ghosts or no ghosts the tour gives an excellent insight into its history.

The next morning I returned to Port Arthur Historic Site and was staggered by the sheer size of it, something that wasn’t apparent during the evening and which the photos of Port Arthur fail to convey. After a brief tour, I was left to wander the site on my own, revisiting some of the locations I’d been to the night before and learning more about what for some was hell on earth and for others better conditions that they were used to in England or Ireland. All of which was hard to fathom but there was an unmistakable sadness about the place that left me yearning to discover and understand more about British history in Tasmania.

Cox & Kings offers luxury tailor-made holidays to Tasmania.

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