29 Mar 2021
Abandoned in the 1980’s this elegant house has been partially restored and feels like a slice of Georgian Britain on the wild coast of Tasmania. It would have been a tough life for the Europeans back then. And many of them hated it here. We chuckled over some of their views. Like this a statement from Edward Curr, the man in charge of these parts back then:
“Nothing could be more unsightly than the generality of the tree, thinly clothed with leaves, and the trunks and huge branches covered with long, shaggy strips of dead bark…Our highest aim is to exhibit… something like the beauties which rise at every step in the land to which we have bade adieu, well content if we’re can… produce a corn-field surrounded by a post and rail fence, or meadow of English grasses clear of stumps.”Edward Curr, 1824
The restoration itself is interesting with exposed bits of the original walls and revealed layers of wall papers from the years. We explored the basement, kitchen, drawing rooms and the upstairs bedrooms.
After exploring the outhouses (chapel, school room, barn, stables etc) tucked at the back of the garden down by the road was a workers cottage that gave a glimpse of a more simple life.
Before we left the house, we bought the Highfield House information booklet to learn more later, we had enjoyed the visit and wanted to know more.
“Pull over, let’s see the ruin”
David parked on the side of the country lane and we climbed out to a wind swept field with the scant remains of the House’s convict barracks. There was not much information about these convicts, but basically they were treated as slaves and were deployed for hard labour. It’s a scary thought that it didn’t take much to be deported as a convict.
Today, only a small section of the barracks remain standing in a field full of cows, with a dramatic view over the bay towards The Nut.
Back in the warm car we drove the short distance to the base of The Nut – a sheer sided bluff which is an ancient volcanic plug.
There’s a chair lift or a short, steep, walk to the top. We could use the exercise, so opted to hike up.
Oh yes, it was deceptively steep! I’m not sure our heels touched the ground for most of the way up. We promptly abandoned any thought of jogging up. But it was over pretty quickly and then the circuit followed the rim of the undulating plateau.
We’d hoped to find a spot for a little plein air sketching but nothing really grabbed us as a suitable spot. We paused at the look outs for a dramatic view of Bass Straight, the cliffs and across to Rocky Cape National Park. I hope to do one of the walks in there one day.
Further around the circuit of the top and we reached a look out over the little fishing town of Stanley huddled at the base of the cliffs. Stanley was once the administrative centre for the Van Dieman’s Land Company, a royal charter formed in 1824. Highfield House was the manager’s residence and seat of the unofficial government of the North.
Along the circuit there were informations boards introducing us to the perspective and stories of the Palawa people. We learnt about what they hunted, the boats they sailed, and how they managed the land. It was moving to learn about the atrocities of the 1820’s to 1830’s many of which were allegedly committed by the Europeans of HighField House.
Later that night David read the information booklet from the House.
“There’s no mention of the First People in this” David said to me, closing the book as he finished reading it, cover to cover.
It was disappointing to find any acknowledgement of the treatment of the First People omitted from the Highfield House information booklet. In this day and age, history should be presented from both perspectives…in my opinion.
Hang on a minute, and I’ll climb down from my soap box.