Hunter’s Street
Hunter’s Island was connected to the mainland by a narrow sand spit which could be crossed at low tide but was waist deep at high tide. Until a permanent stone causeway was built between the island and the land passengers who disembarked their ship at Hunter’s Island but could not afford a boat ride to shore were often carried across the spit “piggy back” for a lesser fee. The causeway was completed in 1821 and became Hunter’s Street. Hunter’s Street still essentially follows the line of the original sand spit and stone causeway, while the island itself is more or less under the Utas Art School building.

Until other wharves were built in Sullivan’s Cove Hunter’s Wharf was the place where most migrants disembarked at the end of their journey from Britain and also where most goods, for import or export, were loaded or unloaded from ships.
Initially the flow of goods and trade from Hunter’s Island was controlled by influential officers of the Hobart military establishment but soon passed to astute or well connected civilians who thrived in the growing colony.
Over a short period of time the causeway was expanded and with some back filling around the island’s shores and the building of dock platforms the usable area around Hunter’s Street expanded. Hunter’s Street originally terminated at its intersection with Macquarie St. Land reclamation and construction projects in Davey Street now means it ends at Davey Street.
Hunter’s Island / Hunter’s Street was the ideal location for merchant’s warehouses and business premises.

Because most of the buildings in Hunter’s Street date back to the early 1820’s they provide a continuous, tangible link to the precinct’s past.
The first buildings on Hunter’s Island were tents such as tents for stores and guards. These were rapidly replaced by timber structures. Once the causeway was completed in 1821 the easy movement of building materials and equipment meant that the merchants could build safer more durable sandstone structures with material from the nearby quarry. These included warehouses, residences, hotels and other buildings. Many of these early buildings still exist, are still in use and are rich in a history that is reflective of Tasmania’s history.
An example of the historic content of these buildings is 17/19 Hunter Street, which is today a restaurant and hotel called the “Drunken Admiral”.
This building was built in about 1825, replacing a timber structure of earlier date. It was originally owned by the Leith Australia Company which was a Company set up to promote trade between Australia and Britain and also to promote Scottish migration to Tasmania. In 1828 the building was leased as a store and then to the government as a barracks for the Army’s Ordinance Corps. In 1849 it became a receiving depot and temporary accommodation for military pensioners who were being encouraged to migrate to Tasmania with the promise of a grant of land and a free horse. For various reasons a portion of these men refused to leave the temporary barracks and caused considerable destruction within the building as they used internal timbers for fire wood. The government responded by handing the building over to the Immigration Association as accommodation for newly arrived migrants. The first batch of 208 persons to be accommodated there included 169 single Irish women.
In the late 1850’s the building became a part of Murdoch’s flour milling business and was used as a mill and warehouse. In 1923 the building was absorbed into the IXL Empire along with the rest of Hunter’s Street. In 1978 it became the Drunken Admiral.

Walking from the corner of Davey and Hunter’s Street towards the Art School the original buildings that still exist today, are:

Current NameStreet No. & Previous Name

1.Drunken Admiral  (17/19 Leith Australia Company)
2.IXL Court Yard     (19a {old lane way to slum tenements?})
3.Henry Jones Art Hotel  (21?)
4.Henry Jones Art Hotel  (25)  IXL & Henry Jones &Co
5. Jam packed (27)  IXL (previously owned by Captain Billy Bunster)
6. Art Mob       (29)  IXL (previously owned by Captain Billy Bunster)
7.IXL design    (31) Commercial then Shades Tavern (Captain Billy Bunster)
8.Timeless Way      (33) Residence of Bunstert then Peacock  then Sir Henry JOnes
9.Blank façade(35) Owned by Captain Billy Bunster
10.      Entrepot Art supplies(37) Owned by Sarah Smith
11.      UtasArt School   (39>)

The Tasmanian State Library holds a large number of high quality images of the Hunter’s Street Precinct, these fall under the categories of:

1.Hunter’s Island
2.Hunter’s Street
3.Hunter’s Wharf
4.Old Wharf

These images stretch evenly through time in a range of media from sketches and paintings of Hunter’s Island at the time of Settlement circa 1804 up to modern photographs.
They include numerous views of the precinct and from the precinct which give a visual insight into the progression of development in Hunter’s Street, Sullivan’s Cove and Hobart.
Thumb nail examples of these images are attached. A much larger body of images exists in numerous repositories including private collections, the Utas eprint collection, the Tasmanian Maritime Museum collection, the TMAG Collection. The facsimiles of the totality of these images could and should be drawn together into a definitive “Hunter’s Wharf Precinct” collection.

People: Merchants, Migrants and Shady Characters

(There are portraits available of all the persons mentioned below)

Lieutenant Governor David Collins was the person who chose Hunter’s Island and Sullivan’s Cove as the site for the future City of Hobart. He ordered the construction of the first buildings on Hunter’s Island and built the first jetty and then wharf. He was also responsible for shaping the sand spit to function as a pedestrian connection with the mainland at low tide.
Collins is a highly interesting character. A competent and compassionate administrator with a good understanding of human nature, he was involved in the Australian colonial experience from the arrival of the First Fleet and wrote the 19th century’s most complete literary work on the colonies, assisted by his wife Maria.
Collins embraced the opportunities and challenges of the Lieutenant governorship of Van Diemen’s Land and the establishment of a viable settlement there. He personally invested in a long term future in the Colonies by taking on a large amount of debt to adequately equip himself for the expedition.
On arrival in the Derwent he immediately saw the failings of the settlement at Risdon and chose the infinitely more suitable location of Sullivan’s Cove as the site for the permanent settlement with Hunter’s Island as his administrative centre and docks. His choice of locations was proved correct however despite his best endeavours he was thwarted at almost every turn by incompetence in the British bureaucracy and corruption and cronyism within the military. He died suddenly on March 24th 1810 and was buried in Hobart with full military honours. (A substantial memorial to his work and vision exists in St David’s Park. A two way link of some kind between the Hunter’s Wharf precinct and the David Collins Memorial is a logical development.)

Captain William (Billy) Bunster was a colourful sailor/merchant who built at least two of the buildings still existent in Hunter’s Street, numbers 31 & 33, in 1821 immediately after the causeway was created. Billy Bunster made his fortune from sealing and kangaroo skins as well as salt and general trade. He was one of a close knit group of merchants and seamen who made their fortunes from their Headquarters on Hunter’s Street. Bunster was with some of that group when, at a dinner party, they were captured and imprisoned by the James Brady gang of bushrangers.
By the late 1840’s Bunster owned six of the (very valuable) allotments on Hunter’s Street.

W. A. Bethune was an astute Scottish businessman who established himself on Hunter’s street at about the same time as Billy Bunster. The two men were friends. Bethune acquired land on Hunter’s Island and built offices and warehouses on the east end of the island. With Captain James Kelly Bethune was one of the founders of the Hobart Bay Whaling Club which saw quick fortunes made from whale oil and bone. Whilst having dinner with Captain Bunster and some other friends the James Brady gang of bushrangers attacked and captured the dinner party. Bethune and the others, wealthy merchants and farmers, were marched through a rainy night to be locked in the Sorrel jail. Some time later Bethune had the satisfaction of capturing one of that gang himself and handing him over to the authorities. Bethune went on to make a fortune from merino sheep and wool; owning ten’s of thousands of acres around the Lake St Claire district. His family are still a major presence in Tasmania with his great, great, great grandson being the leader of the Tasmanian State Opposition in the 1960’s?? 

John Philip Deane leased the building at 31 Hunter’s Street from Billy Bunster, around 1825, and created Hunter’s Street’s first pub, the Commercial Hotel. As the first stopping off point for migrants disembarking at Hobart Deane reasoned it was a good place to set up a premises providing honest food and clean accommodation. Deane was a professional musician trained on the violin and piano but when he arrived in Hobart he appears to have been trying to make his fortune in the business world as he did not mention his musical status until after his business ventures failed and he was forced to teach music and give performances to feed his family. He sold the Commercial Hotel to William Mawle who changed its name to The Shades Tavern. Deane was one of the first professionally trained classical musicians to migrate to the Australian colonies but he suffered through the lack of a population with sufficiently sophisticated musical tastes to provide him an income. To try to compensate for this he moved between Sydney and Hobart teaching music and giving performances with his children who he trained to play different instruments. He died at age 55 but his children went on to follow various musical careers.

Sarah Audrey Smith was an astute widow who was probably Tasmania’s first successful business woman. She owned the large building and allotment at 37 Hunter’s Street (now the art supply shop and gallery of the Art School) in the 1830’s and was a neighbour of Bunster and Bethune. She also owned a 1,500 acre farm known as Sunbury Cottage at The Tea Tree Brush bordering the Shannon river on the Clarence Plains, on which she ran mostly cattle through the late 1820’s and 1830’s. In the late 1830’s she leased the farm and moved in to live in Hobart. She probably did not mind being a widow as it seems her relationship with her husband William Smith was not altogether happy for on the 12th of April 1823 William advertised in the Hobart Town Gazette.
“Whereas my wife Sarah Smith, Having absconded from her home, I here by caution the public against giving her credit on my account as I will not pay any debts contracted by her. Wm Smith”
Sarah was well off financially and mixed with the Hobart gentry. She had her portrait painted by Hobart based French artist M. Lempriere in exchange for paying six months worth of his daughter Mary’s school fees. (The location of this portrait is not known at this time.)

Michael Howe was considered one of Tasmania’s worst bushrangers and his head is buried under Hunter’s street as are the bodies of several of his gang members who were hung on Hunter’s Island gallows and giblets. Much has been written about Howe which I will not duplicate here other than to say that he was shot and killed some distance from Hobart so the men who killed him removed his head and returned with it to Hobart where it was put on display of the Hunter’s Island giblet before being buried. It would probably be worth working out roughly where his head was buried (probably under the Art School building) and telling that slightly ghoulish but interesting story.

William Lanney (King Billy) was the last full blood male Tasmanian Aborigine. He was born in 1835 and grew up on Flinders Island. At age 13 he and the remnants of the Aborigines from Flinders Island  were moved to the “reservation” at Oyster Cove on the Channel. Lanney first began work on the wharves around Hunter’s Street and Sullivan’s Cove and eventually became a well respected whaler, a lance man. In 1868 he returned ill from a whaling expedition and died in his room at the “Dog and Partridge” hotel in Barrack St.

Other Noteworthy Hunter’s precinct people worth a mention

Lady Alice Jones (nee Glover) wife of Sir Henry Jones, she was a major supporter of the Tasmanian arts through the 19th and early 20th century; mother of 12 children. Very little exists in the literature about this interesting woman. Does anyone know if she was a descendant of John Glover the great Tasmanian Artist? Daughter? Granddaughter?

John Watson was a shipwright who came to Hobart in 1831. He had a ship building business on the shore of Hunter’s Street opposite the Shades Tavern and was a popular and respected figure in Hobart until his death at 85.

George Peacock owned the jam manufacturing business on Hunter’s Street which ultimately became IXL he was a devout Wesleyan. Much has already been written on Peacock so nothing further is added here. Further details are on line @ 'Peacock, George (1824 - 1900)', Australian Dictionary of Biography

Sir Henry Jones founder of IXL jams. A huge amount of material already exists on Jones for details got on line to 'Jones, Sir Henry (1862 - 1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography

Charles Ernest Webster founder of Websters and Co A huge amount of material already exists on Webster see: Webster, Ernest (1864 - 1947)', Australian Dictionary of Biography


A large number of maps exist in the State Archives and the archives of the Lands Department. A sequence of these maps would create interesting layers or links between the various other historic entities in this precinct. The maps are rich in data and images and show clearly the changes to the natural and man made landscapes progressively through time.
The maps could be used in association with buildings and people as portals or links.

Hunter Street Links with Tasmanian Regions

Each person mentioned above had close links with other areas of Tasmania. For example Captain William (Billy) Bunster had a farm in the Sorrel District and also operated on various island around Tasmania while Bethune had a large property in the Lake St Claire area where he farmed. Likewise the connections between IXL and the fruit producers of the Huon and Channel districts creates a link with Hunter Street and those areas. The extent of the links that can be created between Hunter Street and the rest of Tasmania is extensive and can not be fully developed within the constraints of this paper.


The more readily accessible histories of this precinct are full of white male businessmen however there were at least several interesting females associated with this precinct who have left a reasonable historic footprint. To try to balance this work I have included one successful business woman, Sarah Smith, and an Aboriginal man William Lanney. Ideally I would like to see a broader cross section of the precinct’s human history represented than was possible within the time constraints of this work. 
Because the Hunter’s precinct is so dense with historic material there are many stories and areas that have not even been touched on in this work. Below as some other items which would be worth considering, even in a prototype.

It might be interesting to include some stories and characters from the Wapping/slum district which encroached on the western end of Hunter’s Street or to include some discussion about the people living in slum tenements in the laneways behind Hunter’s Street.

The Steam Packet Hotel was in Hunter’s Street about where the Chancellor Hotel now stands, these two hotels create an interesting historic contrast. There is mention that a woman owned or was the licensee of the Steam Packet hotel and that she was an interesting character. It might be worth doing a story on her.

As the Commercial Hotel  / Shades Tavern was the only long term Hotel in the Hunter’s Wharf precinct ( 1824 to the 1870’s) and because of its connection to the Theatre Royal some interesting history about the Pub and its several Owners might be included as well as a link to the Theatre Royal and then Peter Degraves. Degraves also links in via his ship the Hope, which regularly called at Hunters Wharf and also his ship yards at Battery Point.

Hunter’s Street Time Line

1804 to 1810

David Collin’s group arrives aboard the ships Ocean and Lady Nelson
Hunter’s Island named after Collin’s friend Governor Hunter
Settlement established in Sullivans Cove
Commissariat and Supply Tents huts set up on Hunter’s Islands.
Work begins making sand spit suitable for traffic at low tide.
Jetty built on Hunters Island
Permanent guards stations on Hunter’s Island to protect boats and supplies

1811 to 1820

Jetty on Hunter’s Island is now a Wharf
Structures on Hunter’s Island are now of timber
Structures include Commissariat, guards’ quarters and storerooms
Migrants disembark at Hunter’s Wharf

1821 to 1840

Stone causeway to Hunter’s Island completed
Stone buildings begin to replace timber buildings
Commercial Hotel starts business
Bay whaling and seal export trade boom
Exports of timber
Migrants Increase.
Ship building and fishing coexistent with Hunter’s wharf
New Wharf built at Salamanca to share load

1841 to1860

Gold Rush on Mainland sees initial increase in exports:
Timber, food, beer etc.
Bay whaling ends is replaced by Sperm whaling

1861 to 1880
Tasmania enters depression due to Mainland gold rush related activities
Migrant rates decrease
Shortage of labour
Peacock’s Jam factory operating on Hunter’s Street

1881 to 1940

Henry Jones buys out Peacock’s Jams and establishes IXL
IXL and Henry Jones dominate Hunter’s Street
Wharf and dock area expands

1941 to1980

IXL and Hunter’s Street go into decline
Drunken Admiral and Art School begin

1980  to present

Hunter’s Street redevelopment in conjunction with Tasmanian tourism boom

Old Maps of Hobart Hunters Street and Hunters Wharf
Hunter's Wharf and Hunter's Street Historic Precinct Hobart
Hobart's Hunter's Wharf and Hunter's Street Historic  Precinct

Hobart's Hunter’s Street Wharf Precinct Historic Content Summary

The Hunter’s Street Wharf Precinct is a historically rich area which is dense in content that creates links between the very beginnings of British settlement at Hobart and its spread out into the rest of Tasmania. This work will summarise the history of the Hunter’s Wharf precinct from the arrival of Lt Governor Collins through to the present day. Because of the vast amount of historic material that exists concerning this precinct and the time and size constraints required of  this work I will endeavour to summarise that material but will have to overlook a significant body of interesting historic material.

Hunter’s Island

It appears that the Aboriginal name for Hunter’s Island has been lost however we do know that the Aborigines who lived in the area were known as the Mouheneener people. There is little in the historic record of this people’s involvement with the Hunter’s Island area. Rev. Knopwood briefly records his visit to their village which was situated in the Sandy Bay area on the 29th of February 1804:
“……..At 3 (p.m.) I walked some distance (to) see many native huts, but none of them (the Aborigines).” 

Knopwood walked from his tent in Sullivan’s Cove. It is known that there was a large Aboriginal settlement at Sandy Bay near the outlet of the Sandy Bay creek.
From this little information, and the fact that there were no “native huts” reported as existing in the vicinity of Sullivan’s Cove when Collin’s arrived, it can be reasonably deducted that the estuary of the Hobart Rivulet and the rocks around Hunter’s Island would have been well within the hunting and fishing range of the Mouheneener people living at Sandy Bay.
The existing historic evidence indicates that the Aboriginal people of the Derwent estuary area, whose lands surrounded the first two settle English settlements in Tasmania were not an aggressive people and that they did not act in a hostile manner to the new arrivals on their shores until provoked. The establishment of a permanent British presence on Hunter’s Island and in Sullivan’s Cove was the beginning of the end of the Tasmanian Aborigine’s traditional life and, except for the surprising resilience contained within their culture and people, the British arrival off Hunter’s Island could well have resulted in their complete extinction. The last full blooded, male, Tasmanian Aborigine, William Lanney, worked, lived and died around the Hunter’s Island precinct.

View from Hunter's Wharf toward Mount Wellington circ 1870
Below: Hobart Town from Hunters Wharf in 1839. This view is looking across Sullivan's Cove toward Salamanca with Mount Wellington in the background
Map of Hobart Town circa 1850 showing Hunters Street and Hunters Wharf beginning to expand as Hobart's merchants become more affluent and the warehouses increase

Lt Governor Collins
Lt Governor Collins arrived on the ship Ocean in the company of the ship Lady Nelson at the failing settlement established at Rison, on the 5th February 1804 and decided to look for a more suitable site. The site he chose was Sullivan’s Cove (named after his friend John Sullivan the permanent under secretary at the Colonial Office).
He moored off Hunter’s Island (named after his friend and patron Governor Hunter) where he built the new colony’s store houses and Commissariat as well as Hobart’s first jetty on the east tip of Hunter’s Island. This location was sheltered and offered deep water anchorage close to the Island’s rocky shoreline. Moreover the island offered a secure, easily guarded location for the new colony’s stores. This location later became the site of the colony’s first wharf, which became known as Hunter’s Wharf and then Old Wharf.
Hunter’s Island was also the location of Hobart’s first gallows and giblets and the scene of its first executions. Several of Tasmania’s most notorious bushrangers including the Howe gang were executed then hung on the giblets there. Their remains are still buried under the bitumen and concrete that now covers Hunter’s Island.
Migrants and Convicts
For the first two decades after settlement virtually all migrants and convicts disembarked at Hunter’s Wharf on Hunter’s Island. For this reason their first experience of Hobart and Tasmania was at this point. It is difficult to imagine the emotions people would have felt stepping onto dry land from the ship that had been their home or prison for 3 months. Standing on the Old Wharf looking around at this new land that was to be their home (or prison), probably for the rest of their lives. Many migrant stories start at Hunter’s Wharf.

An historic map of Hobart circa 1880's