On historic Barrack Street in central Hobart, a road
that’s now often crammed with traffic, two tiny cottages have stood side by
side for more than 150 years. If you happen to be passing by,
take a glance in their direction. Both cottages are listed on the Tasmanian
Heritage Register and are important as simple cottages dating from the early
settlement of Hobart. In contrast to many other cities in Australia, we are
lucky in Hobart (and in Tasmania generally) that little buildings like these
have managed to survive the pressures of modern development and ‘urban
renewal’. It’s also notable that their primary residential use hasn’t changed
over the years. Historical information can help us understand any changes that
may have taken place and often the most useful resource is early photographs.
The photo below is part of the ER Pretyman collection, available from the
Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office on the LINC website. These photos were
taken on glass plate negatives and are of such high quality that you can zoom
in to see an amazing level of detail.
On closer inspection the photo reveals the rear of the
Barrack Street cottages (highlighted) and shows that number 49 was originally
one of three conjoined houses, with number 49 being built to the streetfront
boundary and the other two conjoined houses stretching back away from Barrack
If you’ve passed the two cottages in the past year, you may have noticed some changes are underway. Both owners have
been slowly but surely carrying out building work, undertaking some alterations
and, in the case of number 49, some additions. It’s important that cottages
like these remain in use and, to support this use, that a resonable level of
modern amenities are provided.The Heritage Council recognises the importance of
maintaining the historic use of heritage places and encourages owners to think
carefully when contemplating making changes. Although the basic exterior forms
have stood the test of time, the cottages have undergone many layers of changes
over the years, including some modern interventions.
For number 55 the owner was keen to strip away
modern finishes, which included the careful removal of umpteen layers of green
paint to reveal the original sandstock brickwork. Internally the old
floorboards are being patched and repaired, the 1980s bathroom refitted and
insulation added to the attic bedroom. The program of work was supported and approved by certificates of exemption.
For the neighbouring house (number 49) the scope of changes was more
wide-ranging. The block is very tight and before the current work was
undertaken the tiny cottage offered cramped living areas and a small attic
bedroom, all with limited outlook and natural lighting. The architects did not
have much room to play with. A modern dormer addition was removed and replaced
by a new link and addition fronting Barrack Street. The new extension is simple
in form, echoing the character of both cottages. The work is nearing completion
and the clever design has transformed the house, by adding a new study and a
sun-filled living/kitchen opening into a courtyard garden, whilst retaining the
essence of the original house. The new work is distinct from the historic form
of the cottage, yet sits comfortably in the streetscape.
Property owner Matthew Cooper said that 'when first thinking of this extension many years ago I always had its heritage in mind. With help from the architects (Preston Lane), we established a great working relationship with Heritage Tasmania in relation to our shared vision for this property. The outcome of which has been in the best interests of not only the building itself, but also still speaks to its rich history and the general public as a whole. It hass been challenging but very rewarding for myself and for the people who have worked tirelessly on it to get the finished product just right. All in all I hope people enjoy it.'
Small heritage houses
like these pose many challenges for owners and architects; however in both
cases the owners are to be commended for their consultation with Heritage
Tasmania and also for their commitment to ‘doing the right thing’, ensuring a
bright future for the cottages.
Thank you to Deirdre Macdonald and the property owners for supplying this article.