Several years ago, I confessed to Think Tasmania readers that I wasn’t very good at map-reading. The map in question was a Hobart City Council map for the historic walk around Battery Point. I had to abandon the suggested route and just go my own way in the finish. I still managed to uncover quite a few Tasmanian heritage gems; but came away with a feeling there was much more to see.
Battery Point Heritage: Walk This Way
Despite my earlier failure, I’m inspired to try the historic walking tour again. It was the brief time I spent in Princes Park that prompted my curiosity. After a stroll around, I was keen to know more about the lovely space at the end of Castray Esplanade in Hobart. Following that visit and a little research since, I’m now really enthused to go back for a more in-depth discovery.
At the edge of Princes Park stands a white cottage, once used to signal ships entering the River Derwent to the harbour of Hobart Town. Like the signal station at Mount Nelson and Eaglehawk Neck, it was also part of the chain of semaphore stations used to relay messages between Hobart and Port Arthur in the early 1800s.
Defending Hobart from Russian Invasion
Battery Point was so-named following the construction of coastal batteries, one located near Princes Park. The batteries were built by the British and designed to protect the capital of the colony from invasion. Hobart was an international freight, trade and supply port and therefore vital to the community. Attack from the perceived enemy was feared, in particular Russian warships.
Between 1804 and 1942 there were reputedly twelve permanent defensive positions constructed in the Hobart region, including the Princes Park site near Salamanca Place and Castray Esplanade. Macquarie Point further north and Kangaroo Bluff near Bellerive Village on the eastern shore of the Derwent River were supposed to combine with Battery Point to create an impenetrable arc guarded by cannons. There’s some conjecture now about the validity of the plan, but fortunately its effectiveness was never tested.
Princes Park: Battery Point Underground
The name Princes Park was coined as a reminder of Hobart’s heritage and to honour the men who served in the batteries of the area. Mulgrave Battery was built in 1818 and later (in 1855) renamed Prince of Wales Battery. In 1841 the Prince Albert Battery was built further up the Battery Point hill. Hence the name… Princes Park.
Some of the batteries were linked with a system of tunnels. Mike Fry mentioned Hobart’s underground in his recent series about the Penitentiary Chapel and Ghost Tour. Convicts were moved to and from the court house and cells via the underground tunnel system… the spirits of some poor souls may even remain there!
I missed this, but apparently visitors can see the iron gateway to the tunnel at the base of Princes Park. Photographs of the gate and underground rooms have been posted online, and apparently guided walks visit the well-preserved tunnels.
Something Old, Something New
Princes Park is a combination of both old and new in Battery Point. Co-located on the heritage site is a colourful children’s playground. Obviously popular with families, I witnessed much activity. Besides the parents and kids near the playground, there were people walking their dogs; tourists absorbing the history and photographers snapping the autumn colour on the trees. A place for everyone, by all accounts.
As for the Battery Point Heritage Walk, my plans to revisit that endeavour have now been updated to the Battery Point Sculpture Trail. Starting from the “1833” sculpture on Salamanca Place and ending at the “1909” sculpture on Marieville Esplanade is supposed to take me an hour to walk. No doubt I’ll need to allow much more time though, with detours through the village.
Battery Point: More to Explore
Roger Findlay gave us hints about walking his favourite route from Hobart to Sandy Bay via Battery Point. Points of interest include Errol Flynn Reserve, the Sandy Bay Marina and the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.
We also love the architecture of the grand heritage buildings of Battery Point, and who doesn’t? You may remember our call for Tasmanian historians regarding the house called “Oljato” (which means water by moonlight) as featured on the ABC TV show Who’s Been Sleeping in My House?
And of course there’s all the antique stores to explore; Narryna Museum in Hampden Road and a visit to RebeccA’s Studio Gallery is an absolute must. We may just need to call into Jackman and McRoss Bakery for a snack; or maybe even the Shipwright’s Arms Hotel for a cool drink.
As always with our articles, we’re inspired to follow one story with another… and then another. Everything in Tasmania is entwined and linked; and that’s just the way we like it.