Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Mayor's Court and the Hobart Town Hall Keeper

Meet Mr Mike Lonergan, present Keeper of the exquisite Faranese Palace miniature, the Hobart Town Hall, Tasmania (erected in 1866). His impromptu guided tour of his ground floor offices and the Mayor's Court room was a revelation. To the left of the main entrance, Mr Lonergan pointed firstly to his office which had always been occupied by the Keeper, and where Thomas J. Nevin had sat at a desk during his incumbency in the position as both the Town Hall Keeper, and as the official police photographer for the Municipal Police Office, also housed in the Town Hall in those years, between his appointment to the civil service in 1875 and his dismissal in 1880.

Here, inside the room which had functioned as the Mayor's Court Room - "the Mayor also being the Chief Magistrate" - Mr Lonergan stood on the exact spot where the Police Office cells were formerly located below, in the basement. That area, he explained, was now just a room for electric cables etc, but in Thomas Nevin's time, it was the place where prisoners (i.e. "convicts") were brought up from the Port Arthur penitentiary as the site there devolved, and incarcerated until commanded up the now-demolished stairway into this room.  On incarceration, the prisoner was photographed by Thomas Nevin prior to appearing before the Magistrate.The prisoner was then either sentenced to a further term at the Hobart Gaol, or discharged with various conditions.

In this south-east corner of the Mayor's Court room, on Mr Lonergan's left, was once the doorway where the prisoner entered from the stairway and cells below. It is now a wall decorated with mid-20th century paintings.

Mr Mike Lonergan Hobart Town Hall keeper 2012

Mr Mike Lonergan Hobart Town Hall keeper 2012
Photo posterized © KLW NFC Imprint 2012 ARR

Located in the building is the Keeper's apartment, also used by Mr Lonergan, where Thomas Nevin, his wife Elizabeth Rachel nee Day and their first five children resided. A son - Sydney John - died there on 28 January, 1877, aged 4 months. Their children would have played on the original tiles at the main entrance and around the main chamber upstairs.

The Launceston Town Hall Keeper

The Launceston Town Hall keeper, Edward Hooper Dix 1895
Photo copyright© KLW NFC 2012 ARR
E.H. Dix, Town Hall Keeper 1895. Unattributed. QVMAG 1994 LCC
QVM: 2005: POOO2

Published in McPhee, John A. (John Alexander) & Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (Launceston, Tas.) (2007). The painted portrait photograph in Tasmania : 1850 - 1900. Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Tas

Update 25 October 2012

The Hobart City Council plans to restore the police cells in the basement of the Hobart Town Hall. Article published in The Mercury 24 October 2012. Photo © KLW NFC Imprint 2012.

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