Sunday, September 21, 2014

Marcus Clarke and Thomas Nevin at the Old Bell Hotel 1870

MARCUS CLARKE in Hobart, Tasmania 1874
THE OLD BELL HOTEL Elizabeth St. Hobart
THOMAS NEVIN's STUDIO 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart

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

Marcus Clarke at the Old Bell Hotel
In January 1920, the Old Bell Hotel in Elizabeth St. Hobart closed its doors for the last time. This notice repeated the story that Marcus Clarke had written parts of his famous novel For The Term of His Natural Life (1874) while imbibing in the parlour.

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

By November 1921, plans were in place to demolish the hotel and in its place erect a two storey building renamed Old Bell Chambers housing a suite of shops and offices and a motor garage at rear, according to this report:

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 wav for new business premises, which will be styled "Old Bell Chambers". The most historic, and probably most interesting, reminiscence associated with the old building is the fact that Marcus Clarke is believed to have written his famous story, "For the Term of His Natural Life," in the main parlour of the inn. Though doubt is often cast on the possibility of this being actually true, owing to the author's reputedly short sojourn in Australia, it is more than probable that the original notes on which his narrative was framed at leisure were penned in the inn parlour on his return from a visit to the penal settlement at Eaglehawk Neck and Port Arthur. The site has a frontage on Elizabeth Street of 50 feet, widening to 70 feet at a depth of about 150 feet. The ground floor of the front portion will be occupied by shops, with suites of offices on the first floor, approached  by a stair-way leading direct from Elizabeth-street, and isolated from the shops by means of a reinforced concrete wall. The rear portion of the site will be occupied by a spacious motor garage, accessible by a right-of-way from Elizabeth-street The tender of Mr. A P McElwee has been accepted for the erection of the building, which will be carried out from the design prepared bv the architect, Mr R W Koch, who will supervise the construction.
Source: THE "OLD BELL" INN. (1921, November 4). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved October 23, 2014, from

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 would have been one of his preferred watering holes. The closest, however, was The Royal Standard Hotel located right next door to his studio, situated at 142 Elizabeth St on the corner of Patrick St, owned and operated by James Spence from 1862 to 1874.

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 (1842-1923) 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. according to his grand children Eva and Hilda - children of his youngest son Albert and wife Emily Nevin - who were five and three yr olds, born 1917 and 1919 respectively, and who were still alive when this weblog went online in 2003.

Views of the Old Bell Hotel
The Old Bell Hotel (or Inn) was located at 132 Elizabeth Street, in one photograph, a streetscape ca. 1890, and at 146 Elizabeth St. in another 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 residence at 138-140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart, and on the same side of the street. Thomas Nevin acquired the business and premises from Alfred Bock in 1865, operating in the name of Nevin & Smith until 1868 with Robert Smith's departure for NSW and continued as a commercial photographer at the same premises until late 1875 when he was appointed to the civil service at the Hobart Town Hall with residency.

When Thomas Nevin took these two stereographs of his studio and shop front at 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart, shown at extreme right of the frame, the Old Bell Hotel would have been located at 132 Elizabeth St, just at the crest as the street dipped towards the River Derwent and visible at the distant perspectival centre in each frame. According to Alfred Bock's advertisement for an apprentice in 1863, the address of the City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. was "Three doors from Patrick-street, Hobart Town ..." .

Source: The Mercury, 7 July 1863.
The City Photographic Establishment at 140 Elizabeth St "Three doors from Patrick-street"
Alfred Bock’s new gallery was actually a glass house.

A view of Thomas Nevin's studio and shop, extreme right of frame, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart
Stereograph by T. J. Nevin ca. 1867-70 of the City Photographic Establishment
The dark building next door at 138 Elizabeth St, Nevin's residence, was leased from A. E. Biggs
T. Nevin impress on lower centre of mount.
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection TMAG Ref: Q1994.56.12

Another view of Thomas Nevin's studio and shop, extreme right of frame, at 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart
The dark building next door at 138 Elizabeth St, Nevin's residence, was leased from A. E. Biggs
Stereograph by T. J. Nevin ca. 1867-1870 of the City Photographic Establishment, three doors from Patrick St,
TMAG Ref: Q1994-56-33 Verso blank

This photograph (below, right click for large view) distinctly shows The Old Bell Hotel on the right hand side of Elizabeth St. if one is looking towards the wharves, with the address as No.132 Elizabeth St.

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 photograph shows the Old Bell at 146 Elizabeth St, Hobart:

Source: TAHO Ref:PH40-1-93c

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

When the photograph (below, top left) was taken of three boys standing outside the Old Bell Hotel, the authors of this article published in the Mercury Supplement series Cheers! on Hobart's hotels in 2005 stated that the hotel's address by then was 146 to 150 Elizabeth St. Hobart.

The Old Bell Hotel at what is now 146-150 Elizabeth t. Hobart
J. V. Peck licensee; the property at Nos 136-140 in his wife's name Catherine Peck by 1886
Source: Mercury Supplement Cheers, Friday August 26, 2005
Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2019 Private Collection

Marcus Clarke's sources
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 snr, Thomas' father, and Thomas Nevin's involvement with photographing the prisoner and ex-prisoner population. The Nevins 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. Thomas Nevin may have introduced Marcus Clarke to William Robert Giblin, Thomas Nevin's family solicitor, who was the Attorney-General and later, Premier, and he may have also introduced Marcus 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.
Watch The Movie (1929)
Watch the full version here at YouTube -

Monday, September 1, 2014

Prisoner Thomas JEFFRIES, aka five-fingered Tom


Prisoner Thomas Jeffries (wrongly labelled as Henry Jeffries in 1915)
Photographed by T. J. Nevin at the Hobart Gaol 15 October 1873
Photos taken at the NLA on 16 December 2016
Copyright © KLW NFC 2016 ARR

Verso: Prisoner Thomas Jeffries (wrongly labelled as Henry Jeffries in 1915)
Photographed by T. J. Nevin at the Hobart gaol 15 October 1873
Photos taken at the NLA on 16 December 2016
Copyright © KLW NFC 2016 ARR

NLA Catalogue (incorrect information)
Part of collection: Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874.; Gunson Collection file 203/7/54.; Title from inscription on verso.; Inscription: "299 ; Henry {incorrect - Thomas} Jeffries, native, taken at Port Arthur, 1874"--In ink on verso.

Two outlaws called Thomas Jeffries
The 1870s police identification photograph (above) of locally-born offender Thomas Jeffries may have been wrongly transcribed verso in the early 1900s with the name "Henry Jeffries" when sent from John Watt Beattie's "Port Arthur Museum" located at 51 Murray St. Hobart to Sydney for travelling exhibitions associated with the fake convict hulk Success. This cdv of a Tasmanian prisoner, together with dozens of others transcribed verso with "Taken at Port Arthur 1874" are estrays from early 1900s exhibitions on the theme of penal heritage which were intended to lure the intercolonial tourist to visit the ruins of the former prison at Port Arthur, 60 kms south of Hobart.

The photograph does not appear on the NLA's list of "Convict Portraits, Port Arthur 1874" published in 1985 under Thomas J. Nevin's name as the photographer, so it was either discovered or acquired by the NLA at a later date. Nor does the name "Thomas Jeffries" or the name "Henry Jeffries" appear on the list of prisoners sent to Port Arthur from the Hobart Gaol in the 1870s and returned again in 1873-1874 to the Hobart Gaol at Parliament's request. No other prisoner appears in the police gazette notices by the name of "Henry Jeffries" for the decades 1860s-1880s, so the name "Henry" is incorrect. This prisoner is not to be confused with Mark Jeffrey who was photographed by Nevin in 1877 at the Hobart Gaol.

However, there was another prisoner, a well-known bushranger by the name of Thomas Jeffries who stood trial for the murder of an infant and was hanged in 1826, and whose sketch by Thomas Bock "taken in the dock" (Dunbar, QVMAG catalogue 1991:25) is held at the State Library of NSW. The physical similarities between the 1826 sketch of Thomas Jeffries and the 1870s photograph of Thomas Jeffries suggest that the latter might have been the former's grandson, especially as the prisoner photographed in the 1870s was a local, i.e. born in Tasmania ca. 1845, (1873-28=1845) if he was considered by police to be 28 years old in 1873 and 32 years old in 1878, and not an offender transported prior to 1853, the year in which transportation to the colony ceased.

State Library of NSW
Image no: a933021h
f.18 Thomas Jeffries: on Trial for the Murder of / Mr Tibbs' Infant. 20.9 x 15.2 cm.
Thomas Bock - Sketches of Tasmanian Bushrangers, ca. 1823 - 1843
DL PX 5 Sir William Dixson bequest, 1952

Police Registers and Gazettes
The Tasmanian Police Gazettes, published weekly, which began to document in detail all crimes, warrants, arraignments, convictions, returns of inmate numbers, and discharges from the mid 1860s, are clearly the most comprehensive source of an offender's criminal career. Tasmanian Prison Registers in bound form of criminal record sheets to which the prisoner's mugshot was pasted have not survived in public archives from the decade of the 1870s (it would appear, up to this point, at least), but those bound registers extant from the late 1880s onwards with photographs included which are held at the Archives Office Tasmania (TAHO) have indeed survived and give a clear idea of the meticulous systematic documentation undertaken by the Colonial government's administration.

Smaller registers from 1870s, however, do survive, which document prisoners' sentences in the Hobart and Launceston Sessional and Supreme Courts, particularly those which record men sent to the Port Arthur prison after the processing of their warrant and photograph at the Hobart Gaol and Police Office. Those photographs were reproduced in duplicate (four or more) with at least one pasted to the prisoner's criminal record sheet. Most of these 1870s extant photographs are now loose; they were either removed in the 1900s from the sheets for archiving, and the sheets destroyed, or they are duplicates produced by the original photographer Thomas J. Nevin in the 1870s or by a later copyist such as J. W. Beattie ca.1900 .

Online at TAHO is one such register, the CONDUCT Register - Port Arthur (CON94-1-2) for the years 1873-1876. This register not only lists many of the names of prisoners as those whose photographs have survived from the 1870s, it also documents in detail the daily earnings of the prisoner while incarcerated at Port Arthur. Most important are the Hobart Police Office's annotations from warrants with the prisoner's dates of arrival and departure from Port Arthur, plus further sentences dealt out in the Hobart courts for crimes committed into the 1880s and concommitant sentences at the Hobart Gaol. Several of these men were sent to Port Arthur at the end of 1874, a year after the departure of the non-photographer Commandant A. H. Boyd (Dec. 1873), whom some would wish to believe photographed them there (eg the corruptible Marg Burn at the NLA for their collection 2007). This is a clear indication that this register was maintained conjointly by the police administration in Hobart and clerks at Port Arthur from 1873 and beyond the date of closure of Port Arthur in 1877. The red ink on these records, according to journalist Marcus Clarke, author of For the Term of His Natural Life (1874) was added at the Hobart Police Office where he viewed them on 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 photographs of many of these prisoners on the list are held at the National Library of Australia as loose items. When first accessioned by the NLA, the photographs were housed in a large leather-bound album, similar to a conventional 19th century family album (1962/1985 and personally witnessed for this weblog in 2000). None were pasted to criminal record sheets, and no accompanying register was recorded. Donated as estrays from exhibitions, sourced originally from a defunct government department (by Dr Neil Gunson in 1964), and viewed already as aesthetic rather than vernacular artefacts, these mugshots in their original context would have accompanied this particular register, (CON94-1-2)

Jeffries, Thomas - Native - Folio 11
Entered on second page of Index of -
Item: CON94-1-2

Archives Office of Tasmania – digitised record
Item: CON94-1-2
Series Number: CON94
Start Date: 01 Jan 1868
End Date: 30 Sep 1876

Thomas Jeffries' brief stint at Port Arthur
Sentenced to 8 years in Launceston on September 1, 1873 for horse stealing, Thomas Jeffries was received at the Hobart Gaol on 15 October 1873 where government contractor T. J. Nevin photographed him in prison clothing. Two months later he was sent to the Port Arthur prison 60kms south of Hobart, arriving on Christmas Day, 25 December 1873. Transcribed from a memo from Det. Sergeant A. Jones at the Municipal Police Office in Hobart was this warning:
Vide this man's warrant:
Memo:Thos Jeffries has expressed the intention of absconding the first favorable opportunity.
Det. A. Jones 15.9.73
Mr C.D.C Propsting
Thomas Jeffries stayed eight months at Port Arthur. He was returned to the Hobart Gaol on 12 October 1874. The Civil Commandant (Dr Coverdale) noted this in the register:
Removed to Gaol for Males Hobart Town per schooner Harriet this day to complete his sentence.
Civil Commandant 12 October 1874

Second page: Vide this man's warrant:
Memo:Thos Jeffries has expressed the intention of absconding the first favorable opportunity.
Det. A. Jones 15.9.73
Mr C.D.C Propsting

Folio 11, Port Arthur Conduct Record of Thomas Jeffries, (CON94-1-2 at TAHO)

The mugshot of Thomas Jeffries appears to fit the police description stated in the warrant for Thomas Jeffries, in terms of age at least, if not for the beard and whiskers, so this is not a booking shot taken on arraignment in Launceston, but rather taken by the government contractor, commercial photographer T. J. Nevin, on being received at the Hobart Gaol where prisoners were routinely shaved, bathed and dressed in prison clothing on arrival. This photograph was NOT taken at Port Arthur, despite the title devised by the cataloguist at the NLA from the cdv's verso inscription, nor was it taken by the reviled commandant A. H. Boyd. These ahistoric furphies continue to be promulgated by "interpretationists" at the Port Arthur Historic Site theme park who would wish to inveigle their visitors in the same way that Beattie et al deceived visitors to his museum in the 1900s in the name of tourism.

After sentencing at Launceston in September 1873, Thomas Jeffries was held at the Hobart Gaol for nearly two months, from mid October 1873 to Christmas Day 1873. He would have been photographed again on discharge, per police requirements and regulations, in 1878.

"Known as five-fingered Tom, having a sixth finger on the side of right hand"

Warrant for Thomas Jeffries issued on 23 May 1873, per police gazette.

Thomas Jeffries, aged 28 yrs, was arraigned at the Recorder's Court, Launceston, on 1 September 1873, for horse stealing, sentenced to 8 years, and transferred to the Hobart Goal in mid October. He spent 8 months at Port Arthur only, from Christmas Day 1873 and was returned to the gaol in Hobart in October 1874 where he remained until the residue of his sentence was remitted on 23 September 1878. On discharge, he was 32 yrs old, and "free".

One of Thomas Jeffries' distinguishing physical features was the fifth finger or sixth digit on his right hand which earned him the moniker of "five-fingered Tom". Mugshots showing hands was a feature of police photographs of prisoners in some jurisdictions such as New Zealand around this date, but not until the late 1880s in single mugshots of Tasmanian prisoners, when the frontal gaze had also become the standard pose, thought not consistent until the 1890s where the two-shot system of full frontal and profile photographs was introduced (after Bertillon). For example, in these two photographs of Francis Shearan taken by Nevin at the Hobart Gaol, the 1877 booking shot shows the hands and the full frontal gaze, but the shot taken on sentencing and incarceration betrays the classic 1870s studio portraiture technique typical of Nevin's commercial practice.

Two prison photographs of the same man, Francis Shearan (or Shearin, police records show spelling variations and aliases): left is the booking photograph 1877, right is the sentencing shot, 8 years for murder, taken in July 1878. The photographs of Francis Shearan are documented verso with the inscriptions:
Booking shot; "Francis Sheran 'North Briton' Murderer of Lawrence Fallon 1877"
Sentencing shot: " Francis Shearan Murder 8 years 23-7-78".

State Library of NSW
Nevin, T. J.
Photos of convicts

All photography copyright © KLW NFC 2009 - 2013 ARR.

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