'Her Majesty's Victoria Magazine' is one of many Tasmanian Heritage Register entries that are being updated to improve information so that owners and the public are able to more easily understand a place's significance and therefore why it is listed in the Heritage Register.
Located on the Queens Domain in Hobart and known today as the Victoria Powder Magazine, the Heritage Register entry also encompasses the Guard House and Jetty.
During the early nineteenth century secure purpose-built magazines were constructed in the colonies, generally near city ports, for the storage of gun powder and ammunition. The magazines were held under government control and were often used by the military and also merchants to store private supplies of powder. Gun powder and explosives were used in civil engineering projects, quarrying, mining and ammunition manufacture for defence and farming.
There were a number of early powder magazines in Hobart Town that were largely temporary and unsuitable. The first powder magazine on the Domain was located in converted barracks, near where Government House now sits. Gunpowder was transported by ship to the powder jetty, located in front of the temporary magazine.
The Royal Engineers drafted plans for a new magazine, shifting house and guard house in 1845. Brothers John and Robert Meikle won the construction tender when it was advertised in 1850. The new Domain site was secluded, at a distance from the growing township and located in a small depression, giving it a natural confinement.
The complex was opened in April 1851 and named ‘Her Majesty’s Victoria Magazine’. Great care was taken to minimize the potential of sparks igniting the gunpowder – no iron was used in its construction or fixtures, and an exterior lightning rod was installed to prevent lightning strikes.
The 1851 magazine was originally constructed with two bays that could store 1600 barrels of powder on timber racking. The two metre thick walls, the cavity beneath the floor and vaulted roof would, had there been an explosion, absorbed some of the blast. A third bay was added in 1857-8, increasing holding capacity to 2400 barrels.
The shifting house, located separate to the magazine proper on the outer wall of the magazine, was where all the opening of casks and shifting of gunpowder from one container to another was carried out, due to the volatility of black powder.
The nearby guard house was constructed concurrently with the powder magazine c1851, most likely by the Meikle brothers. The residence was purposely located at a safe distance from the magazine. Extensions were made to the building in 1902.
A new stone jetty was constructed in 1873, which replaced an earlier structure. Ships tied up to a timber pontoon ‘T’ at the end of the jetty. The jetty was rebuilt post 2006, using existing sandstone rubble and surfaced with bitumen.
By 1966 the powder magazine was storing little gunpowder and was used by a group of American scientists to store up to 70 tonnes of drill-core items from Project Mohole. Project Mohole was a program that attempted to drill into the Mohorovicic Discontinuity, or Moho, and obtain a sample of the earth’s mantle by drilling into the sea floor at points where the crust is thinnest.
During the 1970s the magazine was replaced with structures at Tinderbox and then moved on to Queenstown. The Southern Volunteer Artillery have leased the Magazine since 1995.The site has been used for various events, including exhibitions, theatre productions and participation in Open House programs. Heritage Research Officer, Melinda Clarke