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Mariners Cottages

The Wooden Boat Guild of Tasmania meets at the Mariners' Cottages, 42-44 Napoleon Street, Battery Point. (See map.)

The Cottages, which have previously also been used by the Cruising Yacht Club of Tasmania and an antiques chandlery, have a long connection with Tasmania's shipbuilding history, as shown by this information on a sign which used to be on the front of the building:



Napoleon Street   *   Battery Point   *   Tasmania

These COTTAGES are believed to be the oldest remaining buildings on the site of the ship building yards in Napoleon Street. They are painted brick, English bond, three bricks thick, with lath and plaster inside. The internal walls are of timber, with random width tongue and groove boards. The ceilings are the same and inside the roof are the battens to which shingles were once attached.

The cottages were built on a portion of the 90 acres of land originally granted to William Sorell, Esquire, third Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land. These 90 acres were sold in 1824 to William Kermode for 600; in 1833 the block on which the Mariners' Cottages stand was bought by James Kelly, Master Mariner of Hobart Town. He leased the site in 1839 to John Watson, shipbuilder, who bought it from Kelly in 1843 for 736 19s 4d.


The conveyance mentions "land and buildings" and it is believed that John Watson had already built the lower cottage or that he built it even after purchasing the land on which he had purchased his famous shipyard. On one survey, documenting the lower cottage is marked as a store, and it is believed that John Watson used it to store timber and other articles for shipbuilding. There were also a blacksmith's shop and a carpenter's shop nearby.

John Watson arrived from England in 1831 and for two years he was in charge of the shipbuilding yard at Port Arthur. He set up his own business on the site in 1839 and among the ships he built were the famous "Flying Squadron" — Flying Squirrel, Flying Fish, Flying Childers (the ship on the coat of arms of the Hobart City Council) and Flying Fox. Others were the Sisters, Panama, Fair Tasmania, Free Trader, Swordfish and Southern Cross. The barque Runnymede, a famous whaler featured on the cover of the 1988 Hobart phone book, was another Watson-built ship.


In 1856 the property was offered for sale:

"That Extensive, valuable and Important Property known as Mr Watson's Ship-yard with cottages, workshops, stores, jetty and wharf etc. etc. which will be divided into convenient and judiciously arranged lots."

The whole property was sold to Duncan McPherson for 4000.

The shipyard was run by J Lucas and R A Jeffrey and then, in the 1880's by Messrs Tilly and Williams.


After the shipyard was sold, the cottages were leased to various tenants for more than a century. Some very poor additions (more than 50 years ago), rising damp and water spillage from the roadway had all caused considerable damage, especially in the top cottage.

In 1983 Hobart City Council, as owners, leased the cottages to the National Trust of Australia (Battery Point Group); in return for a peppercorn rent, the National Trust agreed to restore the cottages and has spent more than $20,000 doing so.

In addition, members of the Cruising Yacht Club of Tasmania have given many hundreds of hours of labour.

ABN 86 565 998 371

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This work, including all text and any attached documents and images is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Australia License. Except where a specific author or copyright holder is identified, attibution is to the Wooden Boat Guild of Tasmania, Inc.