History of Macquarie Manor

History of Macquarie ManorDesigned by renowned colonial architect Henry Hunter and built by Hobart builder James Gregory in 1875, Macquarie Manor was originally home to the surgeon Dr Richard Stonehewer Bright.

Named after former Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the Hotel was the centre of Hobart’s high society in the latter part of the 19th century, then more recently as the administration and social headquarters of the Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania (RACT).

In 1996, the Hotel was carefully restored to preserve its Victorian and Edwardian heritage, and is classified by the National Trust of Australia (Tasmania).

Where did the name ‘Macquarie’ come from?

In April 1809, Lachlan Macquarie was appointed Governor of New South Wales, and designated to replace William Bligh whose governorship had been wracked with controversy. Macquarie and his wife sailed with the 73rd Regiment from Portsmouth in the store ship Dromedary and escorted by H.M.S Hindostan on 22 May 1809, and they arrived at Port Jackson on 28 December. He took up his commission as governor on 1 January 1810.

From the outset, Macquarie saw the colony as a settled community as well as a penal settlement. However, his term of office also coincided with an increase in the number of convicts sent to the colony. His solution was to commence an ambitious programme of public works (new buildings, towns, roads) to help absorb these numbers. He also extended the practice of ticket-of-leave for convicts.

This policy of encouraging convicts and former convicts (Emancipists)) brought him into conflict with an influential, conservative, section of the local society. This group, known as the “exclusives”, sought to restrict civil rights and judicial privileges to itself. Many of these free settlers also had influential friends in English political circles.

Frustration and recurring bouts of illness led him to submit his resignation on several occasions. A serious illness in 1819 almost proved fatal, and the pressures of a commission of inquiry into the state of the colony, headed by J.T. Bigge, reinforced his desire to end his term of office and return home to defend the charges made against his administration.

Finally at the end of 1820 he learnt that this third application for resignation had been accepted. However, it was not until 12 February 1822 that he and his wife and son departed for England. (On 28 March 1814, after six miscarriages, Elizabeth had given birth to a son named Lachlan).
Macquarie, as Governor in Chief of the Australian colonies, was responsible for the administration of Van Diemens Land from Sydney. During this time the following Governors and Administrators of Van Diemens Land reported directly to Macquarie:

  • Colonel David COLLINS, Lt Gov., (South) 1 1804-1810 **
  • Colonel Thomas DAVEY, Lt Gov. 1813-1817
  • Colonel William SORELL, Lt Gov. 1817-1824

** Collins died in office in March 1810. It took three years to replace Collins as Lt Governor and a number of military personnel assumed administrative duties.

Macquarie visited Van Diemens Land on two occasions, in 1811 and in 1821. He personally inspected the work on the road from Hobart to Launceston and by all accounts, was instrumental in the orderly layout of the colony.

His relationship with Davey was not a happy one and the appointment of Sorell was seen as a great relief to the local population.
On a farewell tour of the colony in April 1821, Macquarie was so impressed with the Van Diemens Land and wrote glowingly of “this new gem in the crown of the British Empire”.

References: Rogues & Absconders, Alex Graeme-Evans

Biography of Lachlan Macquarie

Henry Hunter – colonial architect

Henry Hunter was one of Hobart’s most famous architects and the designer of the original house, built in 1875. Born in Nottingham, England — young Henry emigrated to Australia with his family in 1849.

In 1865 he set up practice as an architect and over a period of thirty years was involved in the construction of some of Hobart’s most famous colonial buildings. His buildings include the Town Hall, All saints Church, Derwent & Tamar offices in Murray Street and the supervision of the construction of St David’s Cathedral.

Hunter left Hobart in 1888 for health reasons and died in Brisbane in 1892 at the age of sixty years.

Henry Hunter had arrived in Van Dieman’s Land with Hobart Town a port of colonial buildings and primitive services. He left Tasmania with Hobart a city of improved services and many Victorian buildings, most of which had the Hunter hallmark of style and elegance.

Copies of the original Hunter plans were obtained from Crawford Shurman Architects and are proudly displayed in the foyer. The entire Hunter collection is currently in the process of being purchased by the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery.

Macquarie Manor – A home fit for a gentleman

Dr Richard Stonehewer Bright used to conduct his surgery in what is now the kitchen at Macquarie Manor. Modern patrons can rest assured that the only surgery undertaken now is the careful slicing of tomatoes, the frying of eggs and the boiling of water for fresh tea and coffee, all in readiness for our sumptuous breakfasts.

Dr Bright was Hobart’s senior medical practitioner, he was also senior surgeon at the Royal Hobart Hospital and operated his rooms from what is now Macquarie Manor. In 1870, Dr Bright commissioned Hobart’s pre-eminent architect — Henry Hunter, to design and oversee the construction of a residence fit for a gentleman.

In the post transportation era, Governor Macquarie’s dream that Hobart would be transformed from a penal outpost to a modern example of British success gradually came to fruition. Dr Bright engaged the Hobart builder James Gregory to transform Hunter’s plans into reality at a cost of £3,275


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