Around The Square – Some Recollections of George Town in 1889 (Part 1)

Reg. W Treasure’s drawing of the Youl’s Residence/Female Factory
Reg. W Treasure’s drawing of the Youl’s Residence/Female Factory
ABOVE: Reg. W Treasure’s drawing of the Youl’s Residence/Female Factory from “Treasures of George Town” published by GT&DHS Inc. 2003

Supplied by Diane Phillips

[This article is reprinted with the permission of The Examiner. It first appeared in the Launceston Examiner, Sat 29 June 1889 and was reprinted in The Tasmanian a week later. It refers to the demise of the house built for Revd John Youl, that became the Female Factory from 1825-1834 and later housed the Magistrate.]


When the season returns for excursions to George Town, visitors will miss an object that has long been familiar. The large two-storey brick building fronting on Cimitiere street, about half way across Regent Square, known as the Police Office, has ceased to exist. It had long been in a very dilapidated condition, and for several years it bad been deemed too unsafe to be inhabited; indeed it was considered that it was owing chiefly to the admirable structure of its roof that the walls were held together.

Be this as it may, the building has long been regarded with suspicion by the villagers, and probably not a morning has passed after a stormy night, that many eyes have been directed to it in the full expectation that it must have succumbed. Still it maintained its vertical position, continuing to look down like some venerable patriarch on the changing fortunes of the place with which for the last 70 years it has been associated, and of which it might not inappropriately be imagined to be the accredited guardian.

As we have stated, the house has been unoccupied for many years, and piece by piece much that was movable has been taken away. The property was sold by the Government fifteen or sixteen years ago, and the purchaser, Mr. T. C. Just, removed the windows and the doors and staircase, which were made of Blackwood. Possibly some of the bricks may also have been borrowed, for of course no one would think of wrongfully appropriating Imperial articles, to say nothing of the fact that every one was stamped with a huge broad arrow!

Shortly afterwards the property was purchased by Mr. W. Lawton, the present owner. Deserted and mutilated, the building had long presented a melancholy aspect, and as the weather had continually been gaining more ready access to the walls, the effect had been to make them increasingly insecure. Last week the end was evidently not very remote, and on Friday afternoon the western wall, with about half the northern wall, fell in, accompanied by the western side of the roof; and on Monday another large portion of the northern wall and roof fell. The shock and strain caused by the falling material, especially the second floor, so shattered the remainder that it could no longer be neglected, and Mr. Lawton at once took steps for having it pulled down, and this was successfully accomplished on Thursday last without accident of any kind. Only a mass of bricks and timber now marks the site of this long familiar and historic stricture.

The building in question is said to have been erected in 1818, some thirteen or fourteen years after the first settlement of the colony at Risdon by Lieut. Bowen. It was intended for the accommodation of the chaplain, the Rev. J. Youl (father of J. A. Youl, Esq., now in London), whose cure then embraced the northern half of the island.

A site for a church was at the same time reserved at the southern angle of Cimitiere and Elizabeth streets (opposite the property known as The Grove, built by Lieut. Friend, R.N., and for many years occupied by Dr. Richardson). The church was commenced, but for some reason long since forgotten its character, before completion, was altered and it became a school, and this was burnt down a few years after, the prisoner women from the neighbouring factory bringing their wash-tubs and buckets with water in the vain attempt to extinguish the flames.

For some little time George Town was the head-quarters of the Government on the northern side of the colony. Twice it was visited by Governor Macquarie, who came from Sydney, accompanied by his wife. Indeed Lady Macquarie receives credit for having, in one of her numerous exploring rambles, discovered the spring of fresh water which issues from the sandy rise a little beyond the Post-office, and after following the hollow at the rear of Hyrons’ old house, crosses the main road to the Heads a couple of hundred yards beyond on its way to the river. Colonel Arthur, when Lieut-Governor of the island, occasionally visited George Town, and was entertained by the Commandant, who resided in the Government Cottage, at the corner of Ann and Cimitiere streets. From 100 to 150 male convicts were lodged in a penitentiary at the lower end of Ann-street, where the cottage of Mrs. Patterson now stands.

The gaol was on the site of the present watch-house, together with barracks for a small military guard. The prisoners were occupied chiefly in quarrying and burning limestone at West [Middle] Arm for the buildings required at George Town, and latterly for the lighthouse at the Heads. One cannot look back to that period without regret that, with so much of a useful and permanent character needed to be done, human labour should have been wasted with such criminal prodigality. The streets of the township were, indeed, marked out, and channels cut to carry off the storm water; but no attempt was made to construct a road to Launceston to which, at a very early period, it had been found necessary to transfer the head quarters.

In consequence of the non-existence of such a road all the visits of the Governor and Lieut.-Governor had to be made by boat, and a large cutter (the Opossum) was maintained almost exclusively for the purpose of transporting prisoners and stores between the two places. The building whose history we have been sketching, though originally intended for the residence of the Colonial Chaplain, as he was then designated, was never so occupied. #

#Despite this comment, there is proof that the Youl family did live here from 1821 -1824.

To be continued in the September Edition…

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