Hobart Town 1879

Balloon’s Eye View of Hobart Town 1879

Featured in the

The Australasian Sketcher - May 1879

Irene Schaffer

                                  Hobart Town wood engraving by A.C. Cooke

Albert Charles Cooke (1836-1902) was a painter, engraver, draftsman, and illustrator, was born in England and emigrated to Victoria in 1854. As well as working as an artist and architectural draftsman he created many illustrations for illustrated newspapers, for the Picturesque atlas of Australasia and for other publications. He also created bird’s-eye views of Melbourne and Sandhurst (Bendigo) in Victoria.

Description in The Australasian Sketcher


‘In giving a view, on a large scale, of the city of Hobart Town, the capital of Tasmania, it is needful to accompany it with some description of the city. Most readers are aware that it is named after Lord Hobart, who, in 1803, the date of its foundation, was Secretary of State of the Colony. The city, as our engraving shows, is picturesquely situated on a site sloping up from the bank of the broad estuary of the Derwent to the rise of Mount Wellington, which forms so noble a background to the view of the city from the river.

The ground is undulating, which lifts some parts of the city into high prominence, and adds much to the picturesqueness of its aspect, as it nestles under the shadow of the proud mountain, which rises behind it to the heights of 4,166 feet. The chief public buildings of Hobart Town are situated in Macquarie-street, not far from the wharf. Of these we may name the Post-office and Supreme Court buildings., the Town-hall and the Museum. The Government buildings are in Murray-street, close to the Post-office, and at the bottom of this street, and over looking the harbour, and the house of Parliament. The Customs-house is close at hand. The large military barracks, a relic from the old days of Imperial expenditure, occupies a commanding position in Davey-street, and the Hospital is in Liverpool-street.


We have in former issues depicted the castellated mansion, Government-house, which is situated in the Domain, overlooking the broad expanse of the Derwent, and presenting at every point the most charming views of the town and the surrounding scenery. Hobart Town is well supplied with churches, in which all the different religions denominations offer up public worship.

The city has an area of 1,270 acres, and the population, as taken by the lst census in 1870, numbered 19,092. Municipal affairs are managed by a Mayor (Mr. W. H. Burgess) and a council of alderman, consisting of Messrs. E Mather, E Espie, J. Harcourt, J. Watchorn.Addison, M.F. Daley, W.H. Burgess, F.J. Pike, G .S. Seabrook.

The city is well supplied with water from the springs on Mount Wellington, and the supply is adequate to all requirements. The crowning glory of Hobart Town, even beyond its mountain background, is the magnificent harbour accommodation it possesses in the broad stream of the Derwent. On the side of the river an which the town stands is a wide semicircular bay, known as Sullivan’s Cove, which forms the harbour. This is well sheltered, and offers deep water sufficient for the draft of the large English vessels, which visit the port. On the south side of the bay is a fine wharf, fronted by spacious warehouses, and equal to affording berth-room for half a dozen ships of the largest size. The imports of the port in 1877 were in the value of £664,439, and the export £720,136. The port has steamboat communication with Melbourne, Sydney, and New Zealand, and railway communication by the Main Line Railway with Launceston, in the north of the island...'


View of Hobart Town. - The Australasian Sketcher for May contains a double-page view of Hobart Town. The artist has succeeded in giving an excellent illustration – the best, in fact that we have seen of this city. All the public buildings, principle places of business, and the streets are well defined, while the harbour is very faithfully portrayed.

The view presents the appearance of having been taken from some point in the port, though it is evident that the artist, who spent some days here, must have visited every portion of the city, and carefully noted the buildings and streets, or his picture would not have been the faithful view that it is. If space would have allowed, a better idea might have been given of the harbour, “the crowning glory” of the city; but Mount Wellington has received full justice, so that even those that who have not had the pleasure of seeing it will admit that there is some truth in the lines quoted in Walch’s Guide representing the mountain as crowned “on a throne of rocks in a robe of cloud, with diadem of snow.” 

A short sketch of the city, with high culogistic references to the mountain and the harbour, accompanied the sketch. Messrs. Walch and Sons, the agent for the Sketcher, has sold a very large number of copies, and they have telegraphed for more. People here with friends in other parts of the world could not do better than assist circulating this issue of our illustrated contemporary, whose enterprise deserves its due reward.

I discovered this print many years ago and thought what a wonderful insight it was to early Hobart Town. About ten years ago I took another look at it when I was organizing the Hobart excursion for my group. I also needed to have a close look at Collins Street and see where Bidencope’s first store was situated. By doing close-ups with my camera I discovered that it portrayed almost every nook and cranny in Hobart. Since then I have taken dozens of photos of every part of the print. I have made these into photo cards and they have proved very popular. I also have slides and this can make a lively time when showing them to fellow family researches, as they can observe where their ancestor lived or the church they were married in. I have found it very accurate, the only thing that is a bit off putting is the way the roads are portrayed, but that was done so that almost every building, house etc. could be shown. I still marvel at how Cooke could have done it, as the Hobart Mail said he spent a `few days in Hobart.` Because this was originally a wood carving the photos are very clear, with every line of a building distinguishable.

I have been able to identify and give a name to the properties in Macquarie-street between Argyle street and the City Hall from the Valuation Roll, and every one fitted correctly with the print.


I can supply a copy of the full print (much reduced as the original print was designed to be placed in the center of the large size newspapers of the day) also close-ups of any street, church or building that is required.
Book with photos can be found on my book list