Building Gardens and Grounds

Historical Buildings, Picturesque Gardens and Wide Paddocks

The Buildings

Main House

The main house was built by convict labour sometime before 1820 and was quite grand for its day, being two storeys high, of classical symmetrical Georgian design, three bays wide and two bays deep.  The western wing, which houses current Kitchen, Dining Room, Scullery, and Servants’ Quarters is an extension added sometime during the 1840s.  The ogee (concave/convex) roofed veranda and conservatory, and the bay window in the Ballroom, are Victorian additions with veranda completed on 27 February 1890.

Glen Derwent 2017

Glen Derwent circa 1910-20 (LINC)

Entry Hall

The entry hall door with sidelights is of typically Georgian style, although perhaps, “old-fashioned” in design compared to its contemporary European counterparts. Note the delicate three glass fanlight above the entry door, which is of early Georgian design and somewhat unusual in an Australian building.  The staircase consists of Australian red cedar balustrade and Huon pine treads.  The six-panel doors, along with the upstairs doors and skirting boards are also of cedar.

The Guests’ Lounge

This room was two rooms, which were made into one in the 1990s restoration works.  The original uses for these small rooms is not known, maybe “snug” bars reflecting the use of the property as an inn, although the dark marble fireplace suggests it was a formal dining room.  The built-in “bookcase” is the opening for the bar from which Oscar Davis served the patrons of his public rooms.

The fanlight window above the door to the Dining Room was exposed when the brick walls built on either side were removed during restoration.  This doorway would have led outside to the stable courtyard.  Convict-made bricks, salvaged during restoration, have been used around the fireplace. The brick maker’s thumb prints can be seen in these fireplace bricks.  The fireplace mantle was salvaged from a beam from the veranda, which required replacing.

A member of the Downie family painted the art on the door leading into the entry hall during the first decade of this century.  This was a relatively common feature in homes from this time, however not many remain in place as they were often removed and framed as paintings in their own right. Indeed these paintings were almost sold when the Downie family held an auction and “a person unknown” removed an auction label from another item and placed it on the door.

The Drawing Room

This room’s original use as a drawing room, to which ladies of the house would “withdraw” room is Of particular interest are the colonial Huon pine doors to the bathroom and walk-in wardrobe.   Also remnants of the bell system remain on the fireplace wall.  This  system extended  to the front door and all  ground floor rooms, terminating with  each rooms’ individual wires being  attached to  a bell fixed to  a wall in  what is  now   the   kitchen.  Each bell  was of a different  size  thereby producing varying  chime  tones.   Servants  knew  by  the  tone  of the  bell  which  room   was requesting  service.  One of these bells is now  mounted in The Conservatory.

The Ball Room

This room is currently occupied by a kitchen. The flooring is kauri – note that the bay window floor is baltic pine. This and the ceiling and roof covering indicate that the bay window was a later addition to The Ballroom (1870-1890).

The Dining Room

There was evidence of a skillion roof adjacent to the door leading to the guest lounge with a flue joining into the flue of the lounge fireplace. This indicates that the kitchen and laundry were located under a “lean-to” roof, with the fireplace using the same chimney as the fireplace of the public rooms in the house. When larger wing was added, the kitchen was then incorporated within the house and the laundry was located in the Tank Cottage. The kitchen hearth in the current Dining Room, is thought to have been part of the original kitchen.

The Conservatory

On the eastern side of the house, overlooking the tennis court and front garden, is the veranda that was enclosed to form the Conservatory. This serves as Glen Derwent’s Tea Room and Breakfast room. Sit in the sun and enjoy a leisurely breakfast or an afternoon G&T. For cool weather the Conservatory has a wood-burning stove to keep guests warm.


The Tank Cottage

The Tank Cottage, as its name suggests, started life as a water tank, or at least part of it was. Built by convicts, it consisted of three areas:

The tank was filled with water pumped from the Derwent River using a ram pump, which is now held in the Hobart museum.

The Master’s Stable

This weatherboard building was originally used to stable the master’s horse, with hay loft above, where the bedroom is now located. It has a private fenced garden, separated from the tennis court by an English Box hedge and overlooking across the ponds and paddocks to the river.

Master’s Stables front door

The Stables and Barn

This is the long sandstone building running east west along the northern side of the courtyard and appears to have been built in two stages.  The first was the western end, which now houses the stables and most likely started life as the original cottage on the early grant of land in 1808. These building are in remarkably good condition, still having the flagstone floor with cobblestones within the horse stalls, and chaff hoppers and bins, most of which also remain. The posts between the horse stalls bear ritual burn marks, thought to have been placed by the early settles to ward off fires.

The next building to be constructed was the barn, with the southern end of this building once being living quarters as seen by the door and window layout.  It is possible that the barn walls would initially have formed a walled courtyard with “loop hole” openings for the defence of the inhabitants, with the walls being made higher and roofed at some later stage.

To the east of the stables ,the middle arched door leads to the carriage house. Some saddle and tack racks remain on the eastern wall.  Next to the carriage house is a barrel cellar and the end door would have been the convicts’ cell.  Above these rooms was the carpenter’s loft.  The opening under the stairs to the carpenter’s loft was possibly a guard post, located next to the gates that was hung across the opening.  The hinges for the gates remain.


The Hop Kiln

Hop kilns are a signature feature of the Derwent Valley. The sandstone kiln at Glen Derwent is square in plan with a typical high vaulted roof, which once would have been capped with a louvred cowl.  Hops were spread on the slatted floor and fireplaces directed hot air below to assist with the drying of the hops. There is a flap in the apex of the roof that could be opened and closed to control the flow of air through the building.

The Grounds

Eastern Paddock

The eastern paddock is lightly treed with heritage pear trees and walnuts, oaks, beeches, poplars, silky oaks and wattles. It is currently home to a small flock of Suffolk sheep. The southern side is bounded by the eastern pond. In late winter and early spring, rows of daffodils stand testament to the paddock’s early use as a flower farm.  A “lost” variety of daffodil known as “Glen Derwent” was once sold in Tasmania, and most likely was developed here. Perhaps Glen Derwent daffodils still grow somewhere in the gardens.

The walnut tree is a favourite garden wedding location, but give us time to move the sheep out for a few weeks as it is one of their favourite summer camping spots.

Rose Gardens

There are several rose gardens under restoration around Glen Derwent. They include some heritage and modern shrub and climbing varieties. One of our ongoing projects is to identify some of the less well known ones.

Parterre Garden

Rob Virtue is constructing an octagon-themed parterre garden on the front lawn. Taking the place of the backfilled swimming pool, the garden is hedged by 1000 English Box plants. One hundred red and white Iceberg roses will be planted in the outer beds in July 2017. The four small corner beds contain pink standard roses salvaged from the overgrown front lawn. The inner beds will host annual flowers, including mass plantings of petunias, dahlias and hollyhocks in summer and tulips and irises in spring. The centrepiece, to be completed in winter 2017 will be a central  three-tiered cast iron fountain, in an octagonal pond built from sandstone sourced from the same quarry as the original outbuildings.


Tennis Court

Next to the Conservatory, on the sheltered eastern side of the house, is the lawn tennis court. The court is used on Saturdays by the Derwent Valley Croquet Club and guest are welcome to join in. One of this winter’s projects will be to re-erect the court fence which once doubled as a frame for climbing roses and sweet peas.


Glen Derwent has an orchard to the north of the barn, on the edge of the house paddock.  It contains several varieties of eating cooking and cider apples, plums, nectarines, peaches, pears, quince, cherries and apricots. The Hen Derwent chooks patrol the orchard helping keep it bug-free and cultivated and, occasionally, laying eggs.

The Ponds

Glen Derwent’s southern boundary is formed by a long, willow-fringed pond.  Fed by the former farm irrigation pipe from the Derwent River, it is home to wild and not-so wild ducks, platypus and some as-yet unidentified fish. We are hoping to release ornamental rainbow trout this season.