Around 1830 the Old Bell Hotel was built at 132 Elizabeth Street, Hobart.
The Old Bell became a mecca for 19thC literary tourists. It was believed that in 1870 Marcus Clarke wrote the notes for his 1874 novel, For The Term of His Natural Life in the pub’s parlour. Interest was increased because Clarke was said to have used the long, narrow windowed hotel (renamed George the Fourth) as the location for the meeting between the characters Maurice Frere and Sarah Purfoy.
In 1918 the then landlord Mr Lindsay Kerslake sold out and built a new hotel at Port Arthur. He took along much of The Old Bell’s stock and furniture. Unfortunately the historic furniture was lost when the Arthur Hotel burned down in 1921.
AN AMAZING DISCOVERY AT THE OLD BELL
An interesting link with the past was accidentally revealed at the Old Bell Inn in Elizabeth Street on Wednesday evening last, when, in the course of some renovations a paperhanger scraped the wall coverings from a large size oil painting on the wall, which, from its appearance, must have been finished when the hotel was first erected.
The Old Bell is one of the historic landmarks of Hobart, standing in the main street not far from Brisbane Street. It is historic from the fact that in one of its rooms, much visited by tourists, Marcus Clarke, the author of ‘For the Term of His Natural Life’ is said to have penned his manuscript for this classic work. The picture is not in this room, but in what appears to have been a large dining rom that, at one time, ran from the front door to the rear, but which has since been divided up with partitions. (World, Apr. 19 1919)
The painting was found under nine layers of wallpaper, painted onto the bare plaster. It showed a typical Tasmanian landscape, with what appeared to be Mount Wellington in the background. In the foreground was a house, and three figures.
A few days later, more landscape paintings emerged;
It is obvious that at one time the decorations extended right around the room. There are indications that more work might easily be uncovered, but as some of the cement adjacent has crumbled with age, and is now supported with iron sheets, this would not be advisable…..The interest lies in the antiquity of the works, and their authorship, who still remain shrouded in mystery. (World, May 10 1919)
The paintings have since been attributed to the well educated convict Thomas Wainewright. He was transported in 1837 after being convicted of forgery and the attempted poisoning of various family members. During his years in Hobart Wainewright completed over 100 portraits of colonists.
Shortly after the paintings were revealed, The Old Bell became one of eight Hobart hotels to be de-licensed. It closed its doors on New Year’s Day 1920.
A CRY IN THE WILDERNESS
Someone spoke up, although he did seem more worried about access to Boags beer than the retention of a piece of history. 😎
A pub with no license is vulnerable, and sure enough, in November 1921, The Mercury reported that the Old Bell was to be torn down;
The demolition of another of the oldest public-houses in Hobart, known as the Old Bell Inn from the very early days of Hobart Town (as the city used to be called until comparatively recent years) is in progress, to make way for new business premises, which will be styled ‘Old Bell Chambers‘.
Did anyone bother to take photos of the paintings before demolition? It seems not. Oh the criminal shortsightedness.
If you walk by this building (now considered of architectural importance itself), please give a thought to what was there before, and perhaps reflect on what was a terrible loss of Tasmanian heritage.
I wonder where the bell in the little recess came from? As far as I know, the old hotel didn’t have one.
ANOTHER STORY FEATURING THE OLD BELL
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE COLOURFUL THOMAS WAINEWRIGHT, CLICK HERE.