In 1938 the Tasmanian newspaper The Mercury published the following, circa 1840s portrait of Mr John Osborne, one of the State’s pioneering horticulturalists. It’s impossible to make out from the reproduction, but he is holding….a pineapple!

Osborne was born in Staffordshire England, on Christmas Day 1804. He emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land, and married native born Mary Ann Pennington in 1839. Around 1842 he established a substantial plant nursery in Montpelier Road, Sandy Bay.

Map showing Montpelier Street, where John Osborne established his nursery.

John liked to push the boundaries, and despite a rather arctic climate he managed to produce pineapples with the assistance of hothouses, and a boiler which heated pipes. It was hardly surprising that he came both first and second in the ‘Pine Apple’ section at a horticultural show in the early 1840s;

Mr Osborne shows off his prize pineapple

Sadly, no really early images of Pineapple Place exist to my knowledge, but below is a home built on the property in the 1860s.

Home built by Mr Osborne the pineapple man, circa 1860
MR OSBORNE’S HOUSE AT PINEAPPLE PLACE, BUILT CIRCA 1860

No doubt the growing population of rabbits in Tasmania proved a challenge for John Osborne, but flowers, fruits and vegetables were also attractive to Hobart’s larger, domesticated livestock. At one point he had two horses impounded for straying onto his property.

John Osborne Senior died on January 31, 1878. The business was passed down to his son, another John, who by 1911 had taken over the title of Osborne Senior and was the patriarch of a large family;

THE MERCURY APRIL 20 1911 – Today, Mr. and Mrs. John Osborne Sen., celebrate their golden wedding, and we are sure will do so with the best wishes of all who know them. Mr. and Mrs. Osborne have a large family of children, numbers of grand-children, and several great-grand-children. Mr. Osborne’s father, the late John Osborne, established the well-known nursery at Pineapple Place, Hobart, and did useful work in pioneering what has now become our great fruit industry. The son, subject of this notice, followed in his father’s footsteps, and the grandsons too are prominently engaged in horticultural pursuits, notably the Government fruit expert Mr John Osborne Jun.

By WWI the business had expanded into landscaping and floral art. The following advertisement appeared in The Mercury;

POST WAR … AND FURTHER EXPANSION

From 1925, a city store opens;

Advertisement for the Osborne nursery at Pineapple  Place

FAREWELL TO PINEAPPLE PLACE – As the city expanded, development reduced the size of the nursery. In 1938, the final 2 acres were sub-divided and sold off as residential building blocks. Mr Osborne’s original holding had been about 11 acres.

Newspaper ad for Pineapple Place  nursery.
THE BIG SELL-OFF – HISTORY UNDER THE HAMMER

SUBDIVISION OF OSBORNE’S GARDEN, HOBART

The Mercury, August 10 1938;

The sale by auction of Osborne’s garden, Montpelier Road, Hobart, which has been divided into 8 building blocks, marks the end of the nursery gardens opened in the 1840s and which acquired the picturesque name of ‘Pineapple Place’, from the fact that founder of the old established firm of nurserymen, for many years trading as J. Osborne and son, grew pineapples in the gardens. The Osborne family carried on as nurserymen for more than 90 years. The sale created considerable interest and five of the eight blocks were disposed of.

John Osborne died on January 31 1878.

THE ‘APPLE’ DOES NOT FALL FAR FROM THE TREE

AUGUST 6 1941

Miss Hazel Osborne left Hobart yesterday for Smithton, where she will begin training in horticulture as a member of the Women’s Land Army at the Rocklyn nurseries. Miss Osborne, who is the daughter of Ald. and Mrs. W. W. Osborne is following in the family tradition. Three generations of her family have been engaged in horticulture in Tasmania, but Miss Osborne is the only member of the fourth generation to take it up. Her great-grandfather, Mr John Osborne, came from England and established Pineapple Place Sand Bay, in 1840. He was one of the pioneers of horticulture in Tasmania. Miss Osborne’s grandfather succeeded to Pineapple Place in the early 1880s and her father Ald. Osborne was engaged in horticulture during his early years.

R.I.P. ‘Mr Pineapple’ and your descendants. I’m more fond of apples without the pine prefix, but I’m sure you grew and sold plenty of those as well in dear old Tassie, the Apple Isle.

HERE IS A TRIBUTE TO ANOTHER TASMANIAN DELICACY—THE SCALLOP!

2 Comments
  1. Hi. Great article. There is a book by Donald howatson 2016 the story of sandy Bay Street by street that has more informal toon on pineapple place nursery where Osborne street is. It sounds like it was subdivided several times the last in 1938. I can send a photo or PDF of page if you like. Great read. Nick.

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