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«FLINDERS UNIVERSITY MARITIME ARCHAEOLOGY MONOGRAPHS SERIES Number 7 Convict Probation and the Evolution of Jetties in Tasmania Rick Bullers FLINDERS ...»

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148). However, that year, the government resumed control of the land from Mr Evenden for £426.5.0, and it became one of Port Arthur’s principal farm/outstations until the 1870s.

However, the number of prisoners was much reduced from the station’s heyday. In 1863 there were only 47 prisoners working at the farm (Brand, 1998: 158).

Operations There is very little documentary explanation of the operations at Saltwater River unearthed at this time. Cropping was the main source of employment for prisoners at the station. In the station’s early years, tilling was a manual affair, with little in the way of machinery of any description; the spade and hoe were the main tools used (Burn, 1842a, cited in Brand, 1998: 64). Bullocks were used from 1846 onwards.

Apart from cultivation of crops, La Trobe alludes to subsidiary industries at the station when he states that shells for lime were easily procured, and that timber and clay were abundant (Brand, 1990: 176). Lime, timber and clay would have enabled the station to be self-sufficient.

From around the middle of 1847, sheep were run at a new farm established a few kilometres away from the station. In May of that year, 50 prisoners were employed in erecting fences and huts for the new sheep farm (Brand, 1990: 176). As with all the probation stations, produce was transported to the jetty via a tramway and loaded aboard waiting vessels for export. It seems that the steamer Derwent was a regular visitor to Saltwater River, usually bypassing the nearby Coal Mines (Burn, 1842b).

Saltwater River was to be one of the more remunerative Peninsula probation stations, its agricultural produce supplying the rest of the peninsula. This was despite its siting far from the best ground and the brackish tidal influx (Jackman, 2004: 18).

Maritime Infrastructure Convicts constructed the first jetty at Saltwater River in 1842. Guiler (1998: 165) states that the structure was a long timber jetty with a stone abutment at the shore end, and that stone abutment remnants were still evident in 1995. However, there is no known documentary evidence that the original convict jetty actually had a stone abutment. The stone abutment remains at the site conform to the plans (Figure 18) of a third-generation rebuild of the jetty in 1886-7 (see below).

The jetty appears to have been about 396ft long, and was described as “out of repair” in 1872, but was still evident on Smith’s survey plan in 1876. The timber piles were still standing in 1885, when it was modified to conform to the new jetty built that year (AOT PWD 18/1/524, 1884c: 8However, plans for the new 1886 abutment state that the new walls were to be built “outside the present filling,” suggesting that there was originally some kind of walled, filled-in structure (AOT PWD 18/1/841, 1886a).

In 1883, Parliament voted £300 to construct a new jetty, and in 1884 a portion of £400 (also for jetties at Gardner’s Bay, Franklin, Kingston and Beauty Point) increased the amount available (AOT, 1883; 1884b). In January 1884, the Member for Sorell, James Gray, on behalf of constituents at Saltwater River, complained to the Minister asking why the government had been so slow in calling tenders despite the fact that the funds were available (AOT PWD 18/1/524, 1884a). The Minister’s reply indicated that this jetty was not considered a high priority (AOT PWD 18/1/524, 1884c).


Figure 18. Plans for the new stone abutment for Saltwater River jetty, built 1886 (AOT PWD 18/1/841, Jetty Saltwater River extension and completion: abutment on shore end, c.1886) The specifications for the new jetty, which were developed in August 1884, raise interesting questions as to its configuration and relationship to the old one. The contractor was told to run the new jetty out 200ft and raise the old jetty (for its 396ft length) to 8ft above low water so that it conformed to the new jetty (AOT PWD 18/1/524, 1884c). It appears that the new jetty was an extension of the old one, the length now being about 650ft (AOT PWD 18/1/841, 1886e). The 1884 specifications make no mention of construction of a new abutment, so it may be conjectured that the existing abutment from the convict jetty was still considered serviceable.

The following October (1884) William Andrews of Harrington Street, Hobart, was contracted to construct the jetty for £298.0.0, to be completed by 18 March 1885 (AOT PWD 18/1/524, 1884d).

However, in 1885 a further £250 was voted for extension and completion of the jetty and approaches (AOT, 1885a). In September 1886 three tenders were received for completion of the jetty: William Oates for £134, Messrs Lamb and Runney for £245 and William Andrews for £247 (AOT PWD 18/1/841, 1886c). It appears that Oates initially won the contract with his extraordinarily low offer, but he later withdrew citing a misunderstanding of the terms of the specifications, and forfeited his £5 deposit (AOT PWD 18/1/841, 1886b). The second-placed tenderers, Henry Lamb and Walter Runney, thus gained the contract for £245 (subject to deductions to the extent of £40 as arranged by the Inspector) to be completed by 6 March 1887 (AOT PWD 18/1/841, 1886f).

The specifications for this work included the construction of a substantial stone abutment, 83ft long on the western side, 44ft long on the eastern side with a wide-angled kick-back. It was to be 15ft wide at the end (see Figure 19). This arrangement conforms to the remains on site today.

5. SALTWATER RIVER STATION 31 Interestingly, the stone used by Messrs Lamb and Runney was taken from a ruined and collapsed wall at the Coal Mines. They had written to the Minister seeking permission to do so, and the local PWD Inspector, Robinson, recommended approval as “there cannot possibly be any objection to [the Coal Mines] stone being allowed [to be used by the contractors]” (AOT PWD 18/1/841, 1886d). Thus, not only did a piece of Government-sanctioned vandalism occur at the Coal Mines, but Lamb and Runney also gained financial favour in using free stone even though they had tendered to supply it at their expense.

Figure 19. The jetty at Saltwater River, looking back towards the Superintendent's house, probably c.

1880s. Note the iron tram rails and chairs, and the fence on the western side. (AOT 30/5425, Salt Water River, n.d.) In September 1898, Reverend B.W. Woolnough wrote to the PWD, on behalf of Saltwater River residents, requesting that the jetty be extended due to the inability of steamers berthing when winds blew hard from the north east (AOT PWD 18/1/3424, 1898). Nothing much was done until February 1900, when the Chief Inspector of Roads recommended that the jetty be extended “over old piles which are very dangerous at low tides and North to Westerly winds” (AOT PWD 18/1/3424, 1900a). This implies that the current jetty was shorter than a previous incarnation, and that the piles of the previous one were still in situ. In mid-1900, M. Flynn and Co. were contracted to carry out the extension and by December the work had been completed for a cost of £150.0.0 (AOT PWD 18/1/3424, 1900b). Plans for the extension were not available in the files and it is not known how long the extension was. However, one letter mentioned an extension of 20ft. (AOT PWD 18/1/3424, 1899). However, other evidence suggests an extension of five bays, which would equate to about 100ft. (Guiler, 1998: 165).

Guiler (1998:166) says that in 1920 the jetty was 520ft long, the first 336ft being on logs pigstyed to the correct height. At this time a corner of the T-head was broken and the jetty swayed with any disturbance. £550 was voted for the repairs.

By 1925 the tramway gauge had nearly doubled from a narrow 2ft during the 1880s, to 3ft 6in.

(AOT AD 266/1/815, 1925). In 1927, the jetty was 770ft long (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1927c).

Over the next quarter century, the jetty required frequent repairs.


In May 1927 complaints were made that vessels were being damaged by the jetty, and vice versa, whenever a sea was running, due to the low nature of the structure causing vessels to get caught over the top of the deck. To remedy this, fender piles (of 18in diameter) were driven, three across the head of the jetty, and two down each side of the head (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1927a). A total of £56.8.0 was allocated to this work (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1927b). However by September of that year the middle section of the neck was rotten and getting very dangerous (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1927c). Consequently, £404.0.0 was allocated for repairs, including 25 new piles, 12 girders, 20 walings, 7 girder reinforcing pieces and 500 deck timbers (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1927d). Given that the deck timbers were 6in wide, 500 new deck timbers equates to about 250ft of deck being replaced.

In November 1929, the stone abutment that had been built in 1886 was starting to come apart.

The sea had dislodged several stones in the abutment facing beneath the jetty deck. PWD staff recommended urgent repair so as to avoid more costly repairs in the future (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1929a). £10.0.0 was made available from the 1929 Bridges & Jetties budget to effect repairs (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1929b). The local Inspectors were also given authority to expend a further £8 on repairs in March 1932 (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1932).

In February 1935, the Inspectors noticed that two sets of piles in the neck had rotted completely, and consequently eight piles, three girders, eight walings and 40 deck boards were replaced for a cost of about £71.0.0. (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1935b). A further £15.0.0 was expended on repairs the following November (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1935a, c).

Three years later, in September 1938, £382.0.0 was made available for replacement of various piles, beams and decking that had become rotten (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1938b). A plan of the jetty, drawn by Inspector Overseer McNeill, noted the piles to be replaced, and details the jetty dimensions. The jetty was 729ft overall, with 36 piers (bays) with centres ranging from 15ft 8in to 24ft. The deck width was 10ft. The T-head of the jetty was 30ft by 20ft, with piles at 10ft centres. Depth of water at the head was 9ft at low water and 13ft at high water. The height of the jetty from the deck to the seafloor was 18ft at the head, decreasing to 6ft at the abutment. The guard rail was on the western side (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1938a). The old timber was sold to a Mr S. Bresnehan of Saltwater River for £1.10.0. (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1939).

In January 1943 a pile broke on the northern end of the jetty, causing the structure to drop about 1ft out of alignment. It was noted that the T-head was too short and needed to be extended about 20ft. (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1943a). A plan by Inspector Overseer McNeill shows the proposed extensions extending the depth of the T-head by 18ft, rather than the length, because vessels invariably berthed on the western side (Figure 20). In July, £340 was spent on the repairs and a further £85 was spent the following year to complete the repairs. In June 1945, £180 was expended on replacing 200 deck timbers and re-metalling the approach road (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1945).

By 1950 the future of the jetty was in doubt, and although steamers were expected to keep using the structure for some time, any further expenditure was to be limited to basic maintenance to keep it safe for a further two years (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1950a). Accordingly, £410 was spent to replace some piles and decking (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1950b).

In June 1952, the Department of Transport decided to close and demolish the jetty and requested that the PWD make arrangements (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1952). By July 1953 tenders were received for the demolition, but the PWD decided not to proceed until the Randall’s Bay and Taranna jetties had been demolished (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1953). Government bureaucracies are notorious for moving slowly and this case was no exception. Seventeen years elapsed before C.C.

Bailey and Sons finally demolished the jetty for $833.90 in 1970 (AOT AD 266/1/815, 1970).

5. SALTWATER RIVER STATION 33 Figure 20. Plans for the head extension at Saltwater River jetty in 1943.

The plans call for placing two 18’ x 10’ fillers in the neck of the ‘T’, giving the quay dimensions of 30’ x 38’ (AOT AD 266/1/815, N. McNeill, Saltwater River Jetty proposed extension, 22 February 1943) Summary of Maritime Infrastructure Cascades Station Jetty 1 Date constructed: Late-1841 to early-1842 (possibly still under construction during 1846).

Date demolished: 1870s?

Location: On the headland on the western side of the bay.

Configuration: Straight with (a T-head?).


Length: Unrecorded.

Width: Unrecorded.

Height: Unrecorded.

Construction details: Unrecorded.

Associated infrastructure: Tramway from sawmill; terminal retaining wall; jetty shed.

Comments: Remains of a jetty were still standing in 1876, but it is not known if it depicts this jetty or the Old Jetty (Jetty 2 below).

Jetty shed Date constructed: Unknown.

Date demolished: Unknown.

Location: On the headland on the northern side of the bay, near the jetty.


Length: Unrecorded.

Width: Unrecorded.

Height: Unrecorded.

Construction details: Unrecorded.

Comments: There is one reference to the existence of a shed near the jetty, where timber was sometimes stored awaiting shipment.


Tramway Date constructed: pre-1851?

Date demolished: Unknown.

Location: On the headland on the western side of the bay, near the jetty, to the sawmill to the south of the settlement.


Length: Unrecorded.

Width: Unrecorded.

Height: Unrecorded.

Construction details: Unrecorded, but probably using iron rails and rail chairs similar to those used at Saltwater River, rather than timber like those at the coal mines.

Comments: The tramway bypassed the settlement on the western side, circling around the curve of the bay and then turning sharply south west.

Ballast dump The existence of a formal ballast dumping area has not been recorded, however it appears that ballast was simply dumped when vessels were alongside the jetty.

Jetty 2 (The Old Jetty) Date constructed: 1850s-60s?

Date demolished: After 1888.

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