Hunting Ground, April 2015
Hunting Ground is a small historic property in the Southern Midlands region of Tasmania, on an escarpment overlooking the Jordan River in the Lower Jordan River Valley. For thousands of years the area was used and inhabited by the Aboriginal people of Tasmania:
kutalayna (Say: ku tah lie nah) is the Aboriginal name of the Jordan River. It formed the border between the Big River tribe on its western side, and the Oyster Bay tribe on the east.
kutalayna runs through the territory of the Mumirimina (Say: Mu mee ree mee nah) one of ten bands comprising the ‘Oyster Bay’ tribe. It was the largest tribe in Tasmania, with an estimated population of 800 people at the time of invasion. It covered 8,000 square kilometres of country along the east coast from St Patricks Head to the Derwent estuary and Tasman Peninsula, to the mouth of the Jordan River and inland to St Peters Pass in the midlands, east to the Eastern Tiers, and then northeast back to St Patrick’s Head.
[Ryan:1996:17; Plomley 1992.Tribes:25; TAC palawa kani Program]
The scattered archaeological sites of different sizes throughout the valley show the complex ways the land was used: seasonal hunting campsites along the river, places for stone collecting and working, swampy areas where reeds were collected and used.
The Jordan Valley was one of the favoured hunting grounds where the Oyster Bay people gathered with their close allies, the Big River tribe.
[Officer 1980; Ling Roth 1899: 168; R Paton email 8 January 2010]
(visit the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre website for more information about the Mumirimina people of the Lower Jordan River Valley)
The area later named 'The Hunting Ground' is a small locality between the towns of Kempton and Elderslie. We acknowledge the Tasmanian Aboriginal people as the original custodians of the land on which we live.
Hunting Ground is a story waiting to be revealed - bit by bit - as we research and piece together fragments of its history. The real estate description of the property gave us our first, intriguing taste of the Hunting Ground story:
“The former congregational church at ‘Hunting Ground’, Clifton Vale ...
Services were begun on New Year’s Day 1852.”
- unknown source
The 10 acre site contains the red brick convict-built Hunting Ground Congregational Church, the Clifton Vale Private Cemetery, two timber cottages and a stables - all of which were once part of a much larger estate known as 'Clifton Vale' (c. 1826). The church was built in the early 1850s, with the first service - as quoted above - held on 1 January, 1852. It was later used as a school for the local community. As for the cottages, we think they may predate the church, with the main cottage possibly built as early as the 1820s.*
The cottages, December 2013
This extra snippet of information relating to the church was found via Trove:
The anniversary of the Congregational Sunday-school; at Hunting Ground, was celebrated on Tuesday, evening, 9th, by an entertainment. The programme consisted of choruses and recitations by the scholars, which showed careful training by Mesdames Cornish and Oswald, who have the charge of the school. Other items were given by Mesdames Woods and Oswald, and Rev. F. A. Woods, (pastor), who also presided. The report was encouraging, showing an increase of 10 scholars during the year. The church was tastefully decorated, and refreshments provided by the ladies. A collection was taken up in aid of Sunday school prizes, and was liberally responded to.
- The Mercury, Hobart, Wednesday 17 June 1908.
When we purchased the property in October 2011, it was in a pretty derelict state. We have restored the buildings, with architect Christy Bryar designing a simple yet striking glass and steel addition that connects the two existing cottages. Besides this newly-built 'invisible link', the original buildings - while structurally improved - retain their rustic feel, with original features, materials and weathered surfaces. Our vision was to keep it much the way we found it: well worn, with all the character and age that a 160+ year old property contains.
Dale outside the main cottage, pre-restoration.
*we are still finding out about the history of Hunting Ground and are looking forward to finding out more - stay tuned.