1, 2, 3 History: a tour of Kingston, Norfolk Island

 1, 2, 3 History: a tour on Friday 15th April 2011, in Kingston

(to be read in conjunction with the previous post on 1, 2, 3 History)

A visit to a number of sites in the KAVHA where the boundaries between the settlements are blurry and obscure and challenge the neat 1st, 2nd, 3rd Settlements descriptions.

Tour maps:

We will use the fold-out map in Issue 2 of Your World Inflight|Onshore magazine because:

  1. It shows a larger range of building dates than any other map,
  2. It is an example of how asking new questions about KAVHA’s history is beginning to influence how others are seeing the site’s heritage values.

We will also use the KAVHA fold-out map, 2nd edition (2010), because it is bilingual with Kingston’s place names written in English and Norf’k, illustrating a changing and more inclusive approach to interpreting the site.

Periods can’t be ranked

Stop 1:            No 9 Quality Row, Kingston

  • Land grant (Lot 33) to Nathaniel Lucas in 1791, surrendered to the Crown by 1814
  • Designed by Royal Engineers, built by convicts 1839-40, REO quarters until 1855, then occupied by transition staff (not sure which one, possibly William Waterson and his wife)
  • Balloted to Rev. George Hunn Nobbs and family 1856-1903, then returned to the Crown
  • Medical Officer’s Quarters 1903-1940
  • Burnt down 1940, rebuilt, burnt down again 1951, rebuilt 1968 by private lessee, reconstructed again 2000 by KAVHA
  • Lucas, Royal Enigineers, Nobbs were all significant in their day.  Can any one period really be said to be more important than another?
KAVHA Public Research Centre, 9 Quality Row, Kingston

KAVHA Public Research Centre, 9 Quality Row, Kingston

Impact of inconvenient history

Stop 2: Government House, Bligh Street, Kingston

  • On Dove’s Plot (proposed church site, after church site in Church Street was reallocated to the military) – hill was cleared and leveled: what does that description mean?
  • Kitchen – possibly Assistant Surgeon Jamison’s stone cottage of 1796?
  • Built 1803-04, renovated 1826-28, additional wings 1829-35
  • State Rooms, cellar and kitchen from earliest periods
  • The House is consistently presented as an 1830s building.
  • Span of famous residents: Major Joseph Foveaux, Captain John Piper, Captain Alexander Maconochie, Sir William Denison, Sir Charles Rosenthal – figures of national/international stature, not sadistic tyrants having their perverted ways, a stain on Australian history.
  • Orientation to both convict and military quarters is a 2nd settlement-centred interpretation – town layout in 1803 was different: views then were over town and to the islands: a ‘Country House’ outlook.  Quality Row built after renovations.
  • Prime example of an ‘inconvenient history’, the 1, 2, 3 method encourages interpretations of the House that are narrow and miss the strands of continuity.  Doesn’t stand up if looked at across all periods.
Government House, Kingston

Government House, Kingston, viewed from Quality Row

Bligh Street, Kingston, looking southwards from Quality Row

Bligh Street, Kingston, looking southwards from Quality Row

Transmission of knowledge

Stop 3: Chimney Hill, canal, and lime kilns, Bay Street, Kingston

  • Former industrial quarter of Kingston
  • Chimney Hill a vernacular place name since 1790s – how passed on?
  • Series of lime kilns in continuous use from 1790s to 1940s – how was operational knowledge passed on?  Only superseded by WW2 technologies and materials
  • Canal, built early 1790s around north of Chimney Hill to drain swamp, replaced early 1830s by Serpentine ‘grotto’ channel through Hill, then by 1941 concrete channel south of hill
  • Environmental change to swamplands and to bayside foreshore: show a story of humans shaping the landscape to their own ends.  The story can be read in the changes.  1, 2, 3 method separates each of these events so they appear unconnected.

    Chimney Hill (ridge on right) after after 150 years of quarrying for lime stone, with serpentine form of original entrance to Government House revealed by sequence of bridges from Bay Street, Kingston

    Chimney Hill (ridge on right) after after 150 years of quarrying for lime stone, with serpentine form of original entrance to Government House revealed by sequence of bridges from Bay Street, Kingston

Shared social values

Stop 4: Polynesian Marae site and Old Burying Ground, Bay Street, Emily Bay

  • Polynesian archaeology strongly suggests more than ‘occasional’ visits
  • No above-ground materials, very little documentary evidence – value of archaeology in the absence of built or documentary evidence
  • Old Burying Ground 1790s-1810s?  Dates uncertain.  Are graves still in situ?  Do pre-1820s headstones in present cemetery mark actual graves or are they moved from here – or elsewhere?  One used as a flagstone in 1840s renovation of OGH kitchen.
  • William Waterson returned, Norfolk King wanted to return, descendants still do – plenty of such stories: suggest strong genus loci or sense or spirit of place – something like the heritage list criterion of ‘social significance’.
  • This was the fringe of the Old Town, beyond the industrial area and across the creek [metaphorically, the River Styx].  King found Polynesian bones; other bones have been found in this area – Polynesian or European?  There is at least a ‘mortuary’ themed history of this area that would show attachment and settlement.  Other burial grounds across the island.  Is there is a sacred/spiritual aspect to such places that all communities have shared in some way.  1, 2, 3 method discourages exploring such histories.
Bay Street Bridge crossing canal, built early 1790s, connecting the Old Burying Ground to the left and the industrial area to the right.

Bay Street Bridge crossing canal, built early 1790s, connecting the Old Burying Ground to the left and the industrial area to the right.

Comparisons needed

Bay Street in existence since early 1790s – did it follow an even older abandoned Polynesian pathway?  Comparison: at the same time, roads from Sydney to Cooks River and to Parramatta following Cadigal paths.  Need more comparative work, as pointed out by many others, including Professor Nobbs.

Effects of 2nd Settlement Focus

Stop 5: The Old Town, Pier and Bay streets, Kingston

  • HMS Sirius site 1790 and causeway/stepping stones: metaphor for wider picture of known and unknown stories about same event and place.
  • Landing Place 1788 – ‘High Street’ – clue: building alignments – the Government Houses 1788/1792 (early layer exposed), OGH (Surgeon’s, Wentworth) Kitchen c1793, Civil Hospital Wards 3 & 4 c1793
  • Queensborough Road 1792
  • Surgeon’s Quarters 1826, US Consulate 1890s/1900s (whaling), Lions Club 1968
  • Guardhouse c1796/1841, Double Boatshed, seaside c1796/1841 (south wall scorch marks from ‘Great Fire of 1814’)
  • A focus on the 2nd Settlement in isolation has disconnected that period from roots in the older spaces of the Town of Sydney Bay, and in the very foundation of European colonization across Pacific Australasia.  The story of whaling and maritime activities is probably central to understanding the whole 19th century history of Kingston, across all periods.  The Localist historians have recognised the value of the whaling story, and the Academics have shown interest in maritime trade and voyages.
Bakehouse built c1793, later used as a Guardhouse in the 1820s, a library in the 1850s, and a boat shed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Pier Street, Kingston (Pier Store, built 1825,  in background).

Bakehouse built c1793, later used as a Guardhouse in the 1820s, a library in the 1850s, and a boat shed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Pier Street, Kingston (Pier Store, built 1825, in background).

Transmission of stories

Bloody Bridge, Gallows Gate, Murderer’s Mound, Quality Row? – early thanatourism from 1890s – ascribed a fantastic “history” to the site: where did these ideas come from – are they echoes of convict stories transmitted through the Pitcairners to the travel promoters??

Quality Row, Kingston, looking eastwards with Old Military Barracks on the left.

Quality Row, Kingston, looking eastwards with the Old Military Barracks on the left.

Bloody Bridge, at the eastern boundary of the Historic Area

Bloody Bridge, at the eastern boundary of the Historic Area

Murderer's Mound, outside the eastern boundary of Kingston Cemetery, reputed mass burial site of thirteen convict men executed after the Cooking Pot Riots in 1846

Murderer’s Mound, outside the eastern boundary of Kingston Cemetery, reputed mass burial site of thirteen convict men executed after the Cooking Pot Riots in 1846

Need for knowledge across periods

Stop 7: Pound Paddock, Quality Row, Kingston (depending upon time)

  • Town Creek or Soldier’s Gully Creek (layers of names) runs through here.
  • Tunneled/built over 1835, created Parade Ground.
  • Site of 1st All Saints Church 1870, destroyed in a cyclone 1872.
  • Church moved to Commissariat in 1874.
  • Old Military Barracks 3rd storey removed for Methodist Chapel 1884 – traces survive in interior gable ends.
  • St James Chapel Anglican 1842-1870, Methodist Chapel 1870s-1885 – 7th Day Adventist Church 1890s-1910.
  • 1908 Protest Burnings: Nos 1, 5, and 8 Quality Row, West Offices Old Military Barracks.
  • Missing buildings did not just vanish: they were quarried, recycled, parts still exist in other locations – connections to other local histories.
  • Pitcairner presence in the landscape is subtle, but it is not absent.  Often evident in what is no longer there.  That needs an understanding of what was once there, before jumping to any conclusions about motives.  Can’t address such a question without going beyond 1, 2, 3 method.
St James Church of England Chapel, built 1842, in north-eastern corner of the Prisoner's Barracks, view from Bounty Street, Kingston

St James Church of England Chapel, built 1842, in north-eastern corner of the Prisoner’s Barracks, view from Bounty Street, Kingston

Landscape is dynamic, not static.  It can be read like a document (e.g. new streets following old routes).  New chapters are always being written in the story of any landscape

The landscape fails to show nice, simple cleavages between periods: layers overlap, poke through into later layers, precise dating is uncertain.  Clean breaks between periods are not evident in the landscape – because they aren’t there.

“A historian of places needs a stout pair of boots” – an idea attributed to the great English landscape historian WG Hoskins, also to Australian historian Manning-Clark, also in the title of military historian Peter Stanley’s 2008 guide to visiting Australia’s overseas battle sites.

History is complicated and messy, just like real life.  Stout boots help us keep out feet on the ground – and encourage us all to get out there and explore our heritage places for ourselves, especially, as I hope I’ve shown you today, those places where the boundaries between the settlements are blurry and obscure and challenge the neat 1, 2, 3 method of writing Kingston’s history.

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