Huts of Mount Wellington
John and Maria Grist
Around the 1880s, a “craze” for building recreational huts on Mount Wellington first started. The Mountain had always been a dominating backdrop to the city and it greatly influenced people’s thoughts and imaginations. Hobart had a strong sense of identity and independence in the days before necessity compelled Tasmania to join the Federation. As the city had become very well established by this time, people’s thoughts naturally turned to leisure, and what better area to use for recreation than the mountain on their back doorstep?
Accordingly, small groups of friends, coworkers, or members of syndicates walked up the Mountain in the weekends carrying all kinds of tools and equipment, and vied with each other to find the most attractive, secluded sites, and to build the most elaborate structures they could, in which to spend their leisure hours.
Typically, a mountain hut would consist of a levelled site by a small stream, a chimney built of local stone, and a wooden structure embellished by extraordinarily elaborate intertwined dogwood branchwork. Many of the hut syndicates prided themselves on their fine cuisine and their love of culture and gentle company. Interiors were furnished with all of the comforts of home; one of the huts reputedly even contained a piano!
Very little is left of most hut sites today; an experienced eye and the instincts of a sleuth are needed to discover the remains – a rock platform here, a pile of mossy rocks there – which mark the only evidence of this most interesting and romantic pastime. Since these structures were almost always built of timber, they were nearly all destroyed by the fires which ravaged the Mountain in 1912.
However, the sites are still picturesque. Sometimes a visitor might have the excitement of discovering a well preserved chimney or other unusual remains. In October 2012, we were delighted to rediscover the remains of Clematis Hut, which had been lost for around a hundred years. The chimney remains and levelled recreation area in the front are nestled by the side of a secluded stream and surrounded by huge man ferns. Even the original foot track into the site, visible in many contemporary postcards, still exists today as a reminder of the pre-war Tasmanian people who spent their free time in creativity, hard work,innovation, imagination, and hospitality.
John and Maria Grist live in the beautiful island state of Tasmania, just to the south of Australia. They have a wide variety of interests: Tasmanian shells, Mt Wellington history, Tasmanian industrial archaeology, pinhole cameras, fractal images, and more. They both enjoy the outdoors, and have built up a sea shell collection over many years. They have always been interested in locating forgotten historical sites around the state. Their book can be purchased directly from www.mtwellingtonhistory.com or at book shops around Tasmania.
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