The Officers' Quarters
The Officers' Quarters is the only building at Eaglehawk Neck surviving from the period of military occupation. It is thought to be the oldest timber military building in Australia. Remnants of the garden are also visible, noticeably the Norfolk Island pine. The first section of this building was erected in 1832. In April of that year Ensign Jones reported that 2 000 bricks had been sent down from Hobart 'for the purpose of completing the chimneys of the Officers' Quarters and the Soldiers Barracks'. Lt. Bunbury described his quarters as 'a rickety little wooden house at the foot of a gloomy, thickly wooded hill, within nearly 200 yards of the sea'.
Plan and Elevation of the Officer's Quarters, by Henry Laing, 1836
(Archives Office of Tasmania)
Henry Laing, a former convict and Surveyor of Buildings, drew up plans of the buildings on the peninsula in 1836.
Lt. Governor Denison and his family stayed at Eaglehawk Neck in January 1854. Alterations were made to the Officers' Quarters at that time. Denison wrote:
Here we are [with] nine children and three servants, squeezed up into a little cottage on the seashore of Pirate's Bay. The cottage consists of six rooms of moderate size, that is, about fourteen feet square, one bit cut off from a passage about five feet by six which is used as a dressing room by me, a kitchen of small dimensions, and a sort of store-room by the side, in which my two boys sleep.
He went on to muse that his girls had killed no less than twenty six large snails or slugs which had crept through the joints of the floor in their room at night.
After the closure of the military station in 1877 the property was acquired by private settlers. When the Costello family moved to Eaglehawk Neck in 1918 the building was in a state of disrepair. Blackberries grew right up to the door and ivy had taken over two rooms. The Costellos undertook many improvements to the building over the years.
In addition to the dogs along the dogline, military guards kept a constant watch along the narrow isthmus at Eaglehawk Neck. They lived here, in the military barracks. In 1839, 24 non-commissioned officers lived here, although one report suggests that in 1836 up to 40 soldiers may have been housed here.
Erected by 1836, the store was a shingle-roof building. It was used as a store, and, at least in 1841, was also used to house prisoners.
One of the first buildings to be erected at Eaglehawk Neck, the guard house was a weatherboard building with a shingle roof. It had a full length verandah in front.
There were no roads to Eaglehawk Neck in 1832. All supplies had to come by sea. A jetty over 300 m long was built to allow supplies to be brought into the shallow Eaglehawk Bay. A sentry box stood at the end of the jetty and was manned whenever a prisoner was at large.
The remains of the jetty can still be seen.
Dogs were also placed on platforms out in the water to detect absconders attempting a sea crossing. Together with the dogs along the dogline, they made an impassable barrier.
The semaphore station which once stood here was a part of a system which operated throughout the peninsula. The semaphore was principally used to convey information about absconders from Port Arthur.
There was a hut for the signalman at the base of the semaphore. The signalmen were convicts.
A line of ferocious dogs kept a constant watch for escaped convicts along the narrow isthmus. Today, a cutting through the sand dunes marks the location of the dogline.
The sentry box which stood here was a portable structure and it is probable that its location changed from time to time. It was manned day and night.