Tag Archives: Hobart

Salamanca Place

Because we were on a camping trip, Tasmania’s state capital, Hobart, was kind of a hit-and-run. We saw some wonderful historic places, including the shot tower, and had a couple of hours to wander through Salamanca Place, but urban environments were not our focus. As a result, I feel I really need to return to Hobart someday to give the town a bit more time—especially since it is becoming well known for the innovative chefs using high quality local ingredients in an ever-increasing number of sensational restaurants. I’d also love to browse the famous Salamanca Market, an open-air market that sprouts each Saturday on the broad plaza that stands between the rows of historic sandstone warehouse buildings and the harbor’s edge.

However, though we weren’t there long, we were there long enough to discover that Salamanca Place deserves its reputation as the local “scene,” the site of numerous delightful galleries and specialty shops, charming cafés, and a fair number of those innovative restaurants.

England’s illustrious Duke of Wellington is the source of the name of this lovely stretch of Georgian and Victorian buildings. As the hero of the Napoleonic wars in the early 1800s, his name, his title, and the names of his battles are found dotted all over the former British Empire. Here, Mount Wellington rises behind the city of Hobart, and Salamanca Place commemorates the Battle of Salamanca in Spain. (Because Hobart predates Wellington’s victories, both the mountain and the warehouse district had different names prior to the Duke’s successes. The mountain, which was first noted by Captain William Bligh when he visited Tasmania, had been known by several names, including Table Mountain, because it reminded some of Table Mountain at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. Salamanca Place was previously known as the Cottage Green.)

The photo below shows the stretch of Salamanca Place that faces the water, as well as part of the broad plaza that is home to the Saturday market.

Salamanca Place


1 Comment

Filed under Australia, Book, Food, Geography, History, Travel

Hobart’s Shot Tower

Originally, musket balls, grape shot, and other smallish round projectiles were produced in molds. This was slow work and more often than not resulted in flawed, uneven shot that was not particularly reliable and could even be dangerous. So a better way of creating shot would be an important invention.

About the same time Britain was pulling the last of her forces out of the newly independent United States, and a few years shy of Britain heading for and claiming Australia, a British plumber named William Watts was watching dripping water, and he noticed that the water droplets became perfectly spherical as they fell through the air. He ran home, added a few more stories to one side of his house, and started experimenting with trying the whole spherical drop concept using molten lead. It worked. The liquid lead became spherical while falling and hardened into that shape when it hit the bucket of water Watts had waiting for it at the bottom of the tower. By using different sizes of colander, he could produce different sizes of drips and therefore of shot. And so was born the shot tower.

The Industrial Revolution had been in full swing for some time, and people had gotten accustomed to happily hopping on the latest invention, and shot towers were no exception.

When Thomas Jefferson got Congress to pass the Embargo Act in 1807, with the hope that it would keep Britain and France from hurting U.S. shipping, it spelled the end of importing British shot. The first shot tower built in the U.S. was the Sparks Shot Tower in Philadelphia, which was completed in 1808. In this tower, tons of ammunition was produced during the War of 1812 and the Civil War. The Sparks Shot Tower was actually in operation until 1903.

The first shot tower built in Australia was the one I saw along the banks of the Derwent River, just outside of Hobart. It is a remarkably handsome shot tower, and is the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere. An enterprising Scot named Joseph Moir constructed it almost single-handedly, completing it in 8 months and dropping his first shot in September 1870. Moir’s factory produced shot for contemporary muzzle-loading sports guns. Moir died four years after his tower was completed, but his sons took it over, and it continued to operate for 35 years.

The tower is actually more impressive than you might guess from the photo below. Constructed of more than 8,000 individually curved and tapered sandstone blocks, it is more than 30 feet across at the base. The internal spiral staircase of more than 300 steps allows for enough space in the center of the tower to accommodate the falling lead droplets, and the tower is surmounted by a room that offered enough space to comfortably process the lead, and which now affords visitors stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Shot Tower, Tasmania

1 Comment

Filed under Australia, Blogroll, Book, History, Travel