Revival in Kempton

The Kempton Council Chambers includes the remains of 1828 Watch House (far left, partially visible), the 1880 Council Chambers (centre) and the 1837 Superintendent's Cottage/Police Office (far right).

Southern Midlands Council is known for its Georgian streetscapes and the economic value being generated through protecting, using and celebrating historic heritage places.

In Kempton, the Council Office and Chambers have undergone a range of changes that provide new spaces for the Council as well as conserving rare elements of the buildings, including the remains of an 1828 Watch House.

Green Ponds, as Kempton was then named, was a major stopping point on the route from Hobart to Launceston. The Watch House provided temporary accommodation for convicts being transported across the colony, to confine prisoners given short sentences for minor offences or awaiting transfer for trial on serious offences, and to confine people arrested for breaches of the peace such as drunkenness.

The majority of the Watch House was demolished before 1947, and the one remaining room – the men's lock up – was re-roofed and used as a shed for the Council Clerk's House. The Southern Midlands Council has restored that structure, reconstructing the original steep roofline, but truncating it to represent the fact that the building was once larger. The remainder of the footprint of the original building, which also included four solitary cells, women's lock-ups, a cook house and rooms for the constables and watch house keeper has been marked with sandstone inlaid in the ground.

In 1862, Green Ponds became a municipality and it was not long before the Warden and Councillors tired of the inadequacy of conducting all its business in the same building as the Police Office. Despite the ardent plea that “there is a large amount of police business carried on in this municipality and that no municipality in the Island is so badly provided with the room absolutely required by the Magistrates, Council Clerk, police and the suitors in the different cases to be determined", the Government provided no assistance. The Council took matters into their own hands, and borrowed money to construct two rooms between the Watch House and the 1837 Superintendent's Cottage and Police Office.

At the first meeting in the newly created chamber in March 1880, the skylight leaked and from then on, its function seems to have remained a point of contention for many years, with the windows painted and a plasterboard ceiling covering the structure internally. Restoration of the chambers is nearing completion, with the skylight restored once again shedding light, not rain, into the chamber.

 

 

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