Saturday, October 18, 2014

Thomas J. Nevin at the New Town studio to 1888

Title: New Town from "The Tower" [i.e. Church Tower, Congregational Church New Town Road]
In: Allport album IV No. 22
Publisher: Hobart : s.n., [Between 1880 and 1889]
ADRI: AUTAS001126184191
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts

Photographer Thomas J. Nevin was dismissed from the civil service and his residential position as Hall and Office Keeper at the Hobart Town Hall by the Hobart City Corporation in December 1880 amidst false allegations by a vengeful Constable Blakeney (see this article). From his appointment to the civil service in 1876, Thomas Nevin had produced the photographic registers of prisoners for the Hobart Municipal Police Office at the Town Hall in addition to the duties of events management and maintenance of the building and grounds. Prior to this appointment, he had provided the HMPO with prisoner identification photographs taken at the Port Arthur prison, the Supreme Court and Hobart Gaol in Campbell St. since 1872 on commission and as an adjunct to his commercial business.

Mindful of his growing family after his dismissal in 1880, the Hobart City Corporation retained Nevin's services as police photographer and bailiff with the Municipal and Territorial Police Forces on the recommendation of Superintendent F. Pedder, Sub-Inspector J. Connor and the Nevin family solicitor, Attorney-General W. R. Giblin. Younger brother Constable John Nevin (Wm John or Jack), the Hobart Gaol messenger in Campbell St, was his assistant when Nevin was required at Oyer sessions at the adjoining Supreme Court sittings. Together they continued to produce prisoner mugshots typical of commercial studio portraiture until 1888 (see this article).

But by January 1881, on dismissal from the Town Hall residency, Thomas Nevin relocated his family to the house his father John Nevin had built at Kangaroo Valley (now Lenah Valley, Tasmania). He resumed commercial photography nearby from his New Town studio. When Elizabeth Rachel and Thomas Nevin's second daughter and fifth child was born - Minnie (Mary Ann) Nevin - in November 1884 at New Town, her father declared his profession simply as "photographer" on her birth registration form.

Siblings Minnie and George Nevin 1884-1886
Photographed by their father Thomas Nevin, New Town studio, Hobart
Source: TAHO. Ref: NS434/1/245 and Ref: NS434/1/230.
Photos copyright © KLW NFC Imprint

In 1886, Thomas Nevin was still working with detectives as bailiff and photographer in the courts, but by 1888 with the birth of his last child, Albert Edward, he declared his profession as "carpenter", address at Argyle St. Hobart. His commercial studio stock, including Samuel Clifford's negatives, was acquired by the Anson brothers who produced prints from Nevin's negatives taken decades earlier, which they published one year later as an album titled "Port Arthur Past and Present", reported in The Mercury of 20 June 1889. For the next thirty years until his death in 1923, Thomas Nevin worked as photographer, lithographer, stonemason, carpenter, horse trainer, mechanic, orchardist, carrier and labourer. His wife Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day predeceased him in 1914. Six of their seven children survived to adulthood, the last - Minnie - dying in 1974, nearly a century after the last time her father registered his profession as "photographer" on his children's birth registrations. There was one child, however, whose birth registration he did not sign - that of his second child, Thomas James jnr. in 1874.

When Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin's second child - Thomas James Nevin jnr- was born at his father's studio, the City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town, on the 16th April, 1874  and given the exact same name as his father, it was master mariner Captain James Day, Elizabeth's father, who was the informant at the registration of the birth one month later on the 16th May 1874, and not the child's father.

Detail: Father-in-law Captain James Day signed the birth and registration form of Thomas James Nevin jnr, 19th April and 19th May 1874.

Source: Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office (TAHO)
Document ID: NAME_INDEXES:976011
Resource RGD33/1/11/ no 415

Thomas Nevin senior was 60 kms away at the Port Arthur penitentiary on the Tasman Peninsula, arriving there a week earlier, on the 8th May, 1874, in the company of a prisoner whom he had photographed with the alias William Campbell but who was executed at the Hobart Gaol in 1875 with the name Job Smith. Under the auspices of the Port Arthur Surgeon-Commandant Dr Coverdale, Thomas Nevin was in the process of photographing the prison inmates and updating police records against aliases, physical descriptions, and convict shipping records when the birth of his son was registered by his father-in-law who - as a widower - resided at the Elizabeth Street photographic studio with his daughter Elizabeth Rachel and son-in-law Thomas in the 1870s when not at sea. When the Nevins took up residence at the Hobart Town Hall on Thomas' appointment as Keeper, Captain James Day joined his other daughter Mary Sophia (registered at birth in 1853 as Sophia Mary) and her husband Captain Hector Axup in Sloane St. Battery Point where he died in 1882.

Prisoner William Campbell aka Job Smith accompanied by photographer Thomas Nevin to Port Arthur
Passengers aboard the government schooner Harriett, May 8th, 1874.
Source: Tasmanian Papers Ref: 320, Mitchell Library SLNSW. Photo © KLW NFC 2009 ARR
Nevin's hand coloured portrait of Wm Campbell aka Job Smith is held in the NLA Collection.

Thomas Nevin returned from Port Arthur to his Hobart studio in late May 1874 to rejoin his 2yr old daughter, Mary Florence, (known as May), his new-born son Thomas jnr, (known as Sonny), and his wife Elizabeth Rachel, on board the Star with his father-in-law Captain Day, but by September, he was travelling again on police business with his close friend and colleague, photographer Samuel Clifford, heading north to Launceston . In the final week of September 1874, they were passing through Bothwell, 45 miles north of Hobart, when they were enjoined to photograph the procession of Templars attending a large meeting. The Mercury reported their arrival in the town in a long account of the meeting, published on 26 September, 1874.

Samuel Clifford and Thomas Nevin in Bothwell
The Mercury 26 Sept 1874

The members of the Order, according to their respective lodges then formed in procession outside the building, where a capital photograph was taken by Messrs Clifford and Nevin, photographers of Hobart Town, who were located in the township on a travelling tour. The township was then paraded, the band striking up some lively airs, but a smart shower coming down, the procession was speedily dispersed in every directions in quest of shelter.

Scans courtesy © The Private Collection of John & Robyn McCullagh 2006. ARR.

Several carte-de-visite portraits survive in public and private collections with this inscription of the photographers' names on verso. A comparison with Thomas Nevin's signatures on his children's birth registrations would suggest that this is not Nevin's handwriting but rather Samuel Clifford's whose signature appears on the birth certificate of his son Samuel Charles George Clifford, born to Annie Margaret Clifford and Samuel Clifford, registered 9th January 1867. Both child and mother died in childbirth.

Detail, photographer Samuel Clifford's signature on the birth registration of his son.

Tasmanian Names Indexes TAHO
Registration year: 1867
Document ID: NAME_INDEXES:970518
Resource RGD33/1/9/ no 9004

The notice inserted in The Mercury, 17th January, 1876 by Thomas Nevin and Samuel Clifford announcing Nevin's retirement from commercial photography was to inform Nevin's clients that further reproductions could be obtained from Clifford. However, Samuel Clifford himself retired from photography in 1878, selling his entire stock to the Anson brothers, whose stock and studio in Hobart were acquired in turn by John Watt Beattie in 1892 on the Ansons' insolvency. Thomas Nevin resumed commercial photography in 1881 at New Town, and also sold on his stock to the Ansons and John Watt Beattie on cessation in 1888 (see this article).

T.J. NEVIN, in retiring from the above, begs to thank his patrons for the support he has so long received from them, and also to state that his interest in all the Negatives he has taken has been transferred to Mr S. CLIFFORD, of Liverpool-street, to whom future applications may be made.
In reference to the above, Mr T.J. Nevin's friends may depend that I will endeavour to satisfy them with any prints they may require from his negatives.
The Mercury, 17th January, 1876

This advertisement underscored Nevin's status as a full-time civil servant which was announced later in January 1876. As a civil servant, he was not entitled to further remuneration - "interest" as it is termed here - from his commercial photography. However, he continued with photographic work for the Municipal Police Office, located at the Town Hall, with duties as well at the Hobart Gaol. His earlier work from 1872 for the new Colonial Government on commission was to photograph prisoners on transfer to the Hobart Gaol, re-conviction, and discharge from the prison system with various conditions. And by 1880, he was producing commercial work once more with photographer and lithographer Henry Hall Baily, another close friend while still a civil servant at the Town Hall, a fact noted by The Mercury, December 4th, 1880. After dismissal from his position as Office and Hall Keeper, Nevin resumed commercial photography and continued working for the New Town Territorial Police and Hobart Municipal Police Office until 1888 when the several Police Forces were centralised at the Town Hall (see this article).

The New Town Studio
Thomas Nevin's first commercial business was acquired from photographer Alfred Bock at 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart on Bock's departure to Victoria in 1867. Nevin continued to operate from those premises, which included a residence and glasshouse as well as a studio and shop, until his appointment to the Hobart Town Hall in January 1876. The address of the New Town studio is yet to be determined. If it was located on the New Town Road, it would have been close to Pedder Street, since several of his photographs bear the name "Pedder" on verso, and one of his close police associates was Superintendent Frederick Pedder. Or it may have been located close to the Maypole Hotel, or the Methodist Church, given the Nevin family's close association with the Wesleyan Ministry. It may have been close to St John's Church, the cemetery, and the Queen's Orphan School, photographed several times over two decades by Clifford and Nevin. If it was located on the Augusta Road leading to Kangaroo Valley (renamed Lenah Valley in 1922), it may have been located close to the Harvest Home hotel, where Nevin photographed its famously large proprietor Thomas Dewhurst [Josh?] Jennings.

Title: Maypole Corner of Newtown Road and Risdon Road looking north
In: Allport album III No. 59
Publisher: Hobart : s.n., [ca. 1888] [s.n.= no name]
ADRI: AUTAS001126183722
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts

Title: [Thomas Dewhurst] Jennings - 32 stone
In: Allport album IV No. 45
Publisher: Hobart : s.n., [Between 1880 and 1889]
ADRI: AUTAS001126184324
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts

Title:Photograph - Exterior view of the Harvest Home Hotel, at Newtown, with the proprietor JENNINGS, Thomas D., standing outside
ADRI: PH30-1-2613
Source:Archives Office of Tasmania


Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Database
ITEM NAME: Photograph:
MEDIUM: sepia salt paper stereoscope,
DATE: 1870s
DESCRIPTION : Hobart from Lime Kiln Hill looking down Harrington Street
INSCRIPTIONS & MARKS: On back in pencil: a Pedder and stamped Thos Nevin/ Newtown

Thomas Nevin's NEW TOWN studio stamp,
Verso of Ref: Q1987.392
ITEM NAME: Photograph:
MEDIUM: Sepia stereoscopic views.,
TITLE: 'New Town from the Public School'
DATE:1872 TMAG Collection

This studio stamp is only one of seven different impresses and stamps used by Nevin between the years 1865-1888. The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery holds dozens of portraits by Nevin, some of prisoners, including a duplicate of his photograph of Wm Campbell aka Job Smith, and fifty or more stereoscopic views, several stamped verso with the New Town studio address, as well as a number taken around New Town (see this article). For example (from the TMAG online databases, 2006, copied verbatim):

Q16826.11 ITEM NAME: photograph: MEDIUM: albumen silver print sepia toned stereoscope, MAKER: Thomas Nevin [Photographer]; TITLE: 'A Mining Operation' DATE: 1870c DESCRIPTION : Appears to be a mining operation. The presence of crushed rock/ore. A trolley on tracks. Horse and pulley. Location uncertain, but there is a mountain or something like one shrouded in mist in the background. Perhaps Mt.Wellington. There are three men in the scene. One is partially hidden beside the shed on the right. INSCRIPTIONS & MARKS: Thomas Nevin New Town 
Q1994.56.28 ITEM NAME: Photograph: MEDIUM: sepia salt paper stereoscope, MAKER: Thos Nevin [Artist]; DATE: 1870s DESCRIPTION : New Town ? looking to the Domain INSCRIPTIONS & MARKS: Stamped on back: Thos Nevin/ Newtown 
Q1994.56.17 ITEM NAME: Photograph: MEDIUM: sepia salt paper stereoscope , MAKER: T Nevin [Artist]; DATE: 1870c DESCRIPTION : D Chisholm, standing at gate Bathurst ? Brisbane ? Street, Hobart Town, D Chisholm , school master, New Town School, 1872 [refer Q1987.388] INSCRIPTIONS & MARKS: None
The State Library of Tasmania holds many more stereoscopes by Nevin, many of which are accredited to Samuel Clifford or reprinted in albums bearing Clifford's name (see this article). Many more bear no studio identification, such as this one of William Graves standing on Nevin's carpet at the New Town studio ca. 1884. Although the Archives Office calls this man Payne, he is not the same man identified as "Brother Payne" in their collection of Brother Payne images. He is likely to be a pauper, arrested as William Graves by P. C. Badcock of the New Town Territorial Police, with assistance from Thomas Nevin, in May 1875. The police gazette gave these details:

19th March 1875: Description of Wm Graves
"About 60 years of age, about 5 feet 5 inches high, lame of right leg, walks with a crutch. Well known in Glenorchy district."

21st may 1875
"William Graves was arrested by the New Town Territorial Police with assistance from Thomas Nevin on 21st May 1875"

As police did not usually request paupers on short term convictions to be photographed, Nevin most likely was not required to supply police with a mugshot of Graves, whose detention was for one month.  BDM records show that William Graves was born in 1810 and died in 1893, aged 83, at the New Town Charitable Institution. This full length photograph of Graves was taken at Nevin's New Town studio later than the arrest in 1875, and dates somewhere between 1881 and 1886, supplied gratis too, given the man's condition.

TAHO Reference: PH30/1/221
Date: ca. 1880 (Misidentified as Brother Payne)

Thomas Nevin's signatures 1872-1888
"Defendant said that he was the father of a large number of children, and did not know which one was referred to. (Laughter.)"
The Mercury of the 11th August 1886 reported this comment and laughter, and that the defendant, i.e. Thomas Nevin, was working as assistant bailiff  to Inspector Dorsett when he was required to appear in the Magistrate's Court for not sending one of his children to school during a whooping cough epidemic.

Here is a synopsis of the children born to photographer Thomas James Nevin (Belfast 1842- Hobart 1923) and Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day (Rotherhithe, London 1847- Hobart 1914) with birth registrations: see this article for more photographs.

Above: 1872 - a confident artistic flourish which included the "Jas" in Thomas James Nevin's signature on the birth registration of their first child, Mary Florence Nevin (1872-1955 , known to the family as May.

Above: 1874 - Captain James Day, father-in-law, signed the registration form for the birth of Thomas James Nevin jnr. (1874-1948) while Thomas snr was away on business at Port Arthur.

Above: 1876 - now the Keeper at the Hobart Town Hall, signature on the birth registration of Sydney John Nevin (1876-77) who died of convulsions at 3 months.

Above: 1878 - now Hall and Office Keeper at the Hobart Town Hall, signature on the birth registration of William John Nevin (1878-1927), named after Thomas' brother Jack. Wm John died prematurely in a horse and cart accident.

Above: 1880 - still the Keeper at the Hobart Town Hall, signature on the birth registration of George Ernest Nevin (1880-1957).

Above: 1884 - dismissed from the Town Hall position three years earlier, Thomas Nevin was working from his studio in New Town when he wrote his profession, address and signature as "photographer, New Town, 18 December 1884" on the birth registration of Mary Ann Nevin (1884-1974), known as Minnie to the family and named after Thomas' sister Mary Ann Nevin who died in 1878. Thomas' mother's name was also Mary Nevin.

Above: 1888 - birth of their last child, Albert Edward Nevin (1888-1955), who would inherit his father's love of horses, a tradition passed down to his grandsons who train pacers to this day. Thomas Nevin listed his profession as "carpenter" on Albert's birth registration and his address as Argyle St, Hobart, but he continued to take photographs of family and friends well into the 1900s. This is a detail of a photograph he took of his wife Elizabeth Rachel Nevin ca. 1890-1900; the original may have been hand-painted.

Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day, photograph by her husband Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1890-1900
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & The Nevin Family Collections 2005-2014 ARR.

Albert Edward Nevin, youngest son and last born child of Elizabeth and Thomas Nevin ca. 1917
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & The Nevin Family Collections 2005-2014 ARR.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Marcus Clarke and Thomas Nevin at the Old Bell Hotel 1870

State Library of Victoria
Title: Portrait photograph of Marcus Clarke in riding gear [picture].
Date(s): ca. 1866 [unattributed]
Description: 1 photographic print on carte de visite mount : albumen silver ; 10.3 x 6.3 cm.
Identifier(s): Accession no(s) H2011.89

Eight hotels delicensed recently by the Hobart Licensing Court closed their doors last night. One is the Old Bell, where Marcus Clarke is supposed to have written a portion of his famous novel, "For the Term of His Natural Life."
Source: HOBART HOTELS CLOSED. (1920, January 2). Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA : 1910 - 1924), p. 4. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from

The Old Bell Hotel was located at 132 Elizabeth Street, in one photograph, a streetscape ca. 1890, and at 148 Elizabeth St. in a later photograph of the facade. In either case, it was just three doors from Thomas Nevin's studio, The City Photographic Establishment, his glass house and driveway at 138-140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart, and on the same side of the street. Nevin operated the business in the name of Nevin & Smith until 1868 after partner Alfred Bock's bankruptcy in 1865, and continued as a commercial photographer at the same premises and studio until late 1875 when he was appointed to the civil service. This photograph shows The Old Bell Hotel on the right hand side, numbered 132, and further down, the number 140 (the zero obliterated) next to the Bridges Bros. store which adjoined the laneway leading to Nevin's glass house.

Title: Photograph - Elizabeth Street looking south (Brisbane Street) - Bridges Bros and The Bell Hotel at number 132
Description: 1 photographic print
Format: Photograph
ADRI: NS1013-1-820
Source: Archives Office of Tasmania

But this later photograph shows the Old Bell at 148 Elizabeth St:

Source: TAHO Ref:PH40-1-93c

As it seems that Thomas Nevin was partial to a drink, inebriation being the chief reason he was dismissed by the Police Committee from his position of Town Hall keeper in December 1880, the Old Bell Hotel was the closest public bar to his studio during the 1870s and most likely his preferred watering hole. Thomas Nevin was still alive in 1920 (d. 1923) when the hotel, known as the Old Bell, was delicensed, so he may have contributed to this story that Marcus Clarke drank there while writing his famous novel, published in installments from 1870 after a visit to the derelict prison at Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula.  Marcus Clarke was a heavy drinker, a sufferer of dyspepsia and a disordered liver, dying at just 35 years old (1846-1881), whereas Thomas Nevin was a Wesleyan who not only proved immune to the illnesses which beset his other family members on the voyage out on the Fairlie (1852), he lived to the distinguished age of 81 yrs, his beard still red and his eyes still clear.

Title: Photograph - "Old Bell Hotel", Hobart - interior of bar [n.d.]
Description: 1 photographic print
Format: Photograph
ADRI: PH40-1-94
Source: Archives Office of Tasmania

If the story about the Old Bell is factual, propinquity alone would have brought Thomas Nevin and Marcus Clarke together, and to their mutual satisfaction, given the journalistic background of John Nevin, Thomas' father, and Thomas Nevin's involvement with photographing the prisoner and ex-prisoner population would have given Marcus Clarke a ready source of information regarding police and prisoners at the Hobart Gaol one street away from the Old Bell Hotel. Nevin may have introduced Clarke to William Robert Giblin, Thomas Nevin's family solicitor, who was the Attorney-General and later, Premier, and he may have also introduced Clarke to Maria Nairn, the widow of William Edward Nairn, sheriff of Hobart from 1857 until his death in 1868. Maria Nairn had leased an acre of land to John Nevin, next to the Franklin Museum at Kangaroo Valley, not far from Clarke's lodgings. These prototypes served Marcus Clarke's fiction, along with the officials "of position" who allowed him to view prison records at Hobart, Town on his request:

When at Hobart Town I had asked an official of position to allow me to see the records, and – in consideration of the Peacock – he was obliging enough to do so. There I found set down, in various handwritings, the history of some strange lives… and glancing down the list, spotted with red ink for floggings, like a well printed prayer-book …

Source: Marcus Clarke, THE SKETCHER. (1873, August 2). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946), p. 5. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from

THE LAST HOPE.Book III, Chapter XIII (page 290)
Image taken from Marcus Clarke, For the Term of his Natural Life
WL Crowther Library,
State Library of Tasmania
Source: Colonialism and its Aftermath

The Preface
Marcus Clarke's Preface to His Natural Life,
First Published: 1870. Source:

The convict of fiction has been hitherto shown only at the beginning or at the end of his career. Either his exile has been the mysterious end to his misdeeds, or he has appeared upon the scene to claim interest by reason of an equally unintelligible love of crime acquired during his experience in a penal settlement.
Charles Reade has drawn the interior of a house of correction in England, and Victor Hugo has shown how a French convict fares after the fulfilment of his sentence. But no writer — so far as I am aware — has attempted to depict the dismal condition of a felon during his term of transportation.
I have endeavoured in “His Natural Life” to set forth the working and results of an English system of transportation carefully considered and carried out under official supervision; and to illustrate in the manner best calculated, as I think, to attract general attention, the inexpediency of again allowing offenders against the law to be herded together in places remote from the wholesome influence of public opinion, and to be submitted to a discipline which must necessarily depend for its just administration upon the personal character and temper of their gaolers.
Some of the events narrated are doubtless tragic and terrible; but I hold it needful to my purpose to record them, for they are events which have actually occurred, and which, if the blunders which produce them be repeated, must infallibly occur again. It is true that the British Government have ceased to deport the criminals of England, but the method of punishment, of which that deportation was a part, is still in existence. Port Blair is a Port Arthur filled with Indian-men instead of Englishmen; and, within the last year, France has established, at New Caledonia, a penal settlement which will, in the natural course of things, repeat in its annals the history of Macquarie Harbour and of Norfolk Island.


Thomas Nevin photographed the street view of his studio, including the Old Bell Hotel, in the late 1860s from the corner of Patrick Street.

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection
Ref: Q1994.56.12 sepia stereoscope salt paper print T. Nevin impress
ITEM NAME: Photograph:
MEDIUM: sepia stereoscope salt paper print
MAKER: T Nevin [Artist]; DATE: 1860s late
DESCRIPTION : Hobart from near 140 Elizabeth Street on corner Patrick ? Street.
Nevin & Smith photographic Studio in buildings on extreme right [ refer also to Q1994.56.33]
INSCRIPTIONS & MARKS: Impress on front: T Nevin/ photo

THE MOVIE (1927)
Watch the full version

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