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Maria Island

Visitor's Guide

inset (second) image map Boatshed and Boat's Crew Hut Bridge Wash house and laundry Base of radio mast School Master's House Superintendent's Quarters House Six Terraced Cottages Reservoir and Mill Race Gaol First Store House and Military Barracks Hospital Surgeon's Quarters Barn Cemetary The Grand Hotel Raw Mill Cement Era Jetty Silos Clinker Storage and Cement Mill Coffee Palace The Twelve Apostles Religious Instructor's House Jetty Commissariat Store Senior Assistant Superintendents' and Assistant Superintendent's Quarters Smith O'Brien's, Officials' and Roman Catholic Chaplin's Quarters Penitentiary or Prisoners Barracks

Image Map of Darlington
Mess Room Cottage Cookhouse and Bread Store Bakehouse and Clothing Store Site of Solitary Cells Sewage Pond Separate Apartments Workshops and Stores Tan Yard 1829 and Lumber Yard 1830 Tan Yard 1829 and Lumber Yard 1830 Coffee Palace Coffee Palace Foreman of Works and Assistant Superintendent's Quarters Foreman of Works and Assistant Superintendent's Quarters Convict Administrative Offices Convict Administrative Offices Smith O'Brien's, Officials' and Roman Catholic Chaplin's Quarters Smith O'Brien's, Officials' and Roman Catholic Chaplin's Quarters Smith O'Brien's, Officials' and Roman Catholic Chaplin's Quarters Smith O'Brien's, Officials' and Roman Catholic Chaplin's Quarters Smith O'Brien's, Officials' and Roman Catholic Chaplin's Quarters Day Room And Chapel Penitentiary or Prisoners Barracks

Image Map of Darlington - Inset

1. Penitentiary or Prisoners Barracks 1830

Prisoners were originally held in a smaller log and bark barracks or in huts. The Penitentiary was erected in 1830 using over 200 000 bricks made at the settlement. At first, the building had six rooms of equal size. Five were dormitories and the other was fitted out as a chapel. Beams indicating the location of bunks may be seen in the interior walls. The men slept, with feet to the wall, in berths 0.6 m wide, in a tier of three bunks about 1 m apart.

In the second convict era, 66 men slept in each of the six rooms, until part of each dividing wall was removed in 1847 to make one large room guarded by a single officer. The men then occupied 282 berths like 'bottles in a bin' separated by wooden battens. In front of the building was a yard with a 3 m high wall and a gate with square brick buildings on either side to hold a prisoners' library and their bedding.

The building was modified in the late 1880s, and again in the 1920s to provide accommodation. The gables and verandah were added in the 1920s and the room alongside the Day Room became the Town Library. The original steps of the first penitentiary may be noted under the verandah, four doors from the left.

2. Smith O'Brien's, Officials' and Roman Catholic Chaplin's Quarters

The first two of the three cottages were erected in 1842 as Quarters for Assistant Superintendents. The central cottage was the Catholic clergyman's residence in 1849 before the Irish political prisoner, William Smith O'Brien, was placed there. The newly erected third cottage was then used by the Catholic clergyman. If you look through the window of Smith O'Brien's cottage, high up to your left, you will note the lath and plaster attic, complete with fireplace. It was here, during one period of cramped confinement, that O'Brien wrote his autobiography.

3. Senior Assistant Superintendents' and Assistant Superintendent's Quarters

The Senior Assistant Superintendent was in charge of solitary confinement prisoners, mess arrangements and the whole station in the absence of the Superintendent. The house was built in 1847 to a design used in a number of probation stations. The Assistant Superintendents were each in control of a gang of about 250 convicts. The building was erected in 1849, with two similar buildings alongside and another partly completed. In later periods it was joined to the cottage next door.

4. Commissariat Store

Commissariat Store

Commissariat Store

Major Lord, as instructed, commenced a new and larger provision store in October 1825. At the same time a stone quay was in progress, which was finished in 1828, complete with a crane.

The Commissariat Store is the oldest building on the island and was the venue of violent arguments, attempted robberies, etc. It was built to replace a small store house near the creek . Downstairs were the provision store, spirit room and office, with two store rooms above belonging to the Ordnance Department. A bakehouse was attached.

In 1837, the lower part formed a stable and the upper storey a wool magazine before it returned to its original use as a storehouse during the second convict era and a similar function in the 1920s.

5. Jetty

If you look carefully at the sandstone blocks of the jetty you will find a triangular bench mark. By 1876 the jetty was a dilapidated wreck and was repaired by Bernacchi, with Government assistance.

6. Religious Instructor's House

When the Reverend Thomas Dove arrived early in 1843, he complained that he was 'compelled to occupy ... the smallest and most miserable hovel on the island'. This prompted the design of a two-roomed house. Built in 1843 as a four roomed dwelling with kitchen it was soon to become the home of Reverend Charles Dobson and, from March 1846, his new wife.

Mr James Murdoch and Mrs John Dunbabin lived there in the 1870s followed by Diego Bernacchi and family from the mid 1880s.

7. Barn



This large building was erected as a store for agricultural produce from the nearby farm, about the site of the present airstrip. There are two features unusual in a convict building: it was not white-washed internally, and it boasts a triple diamond pattern high on the external wall facing the Cemetery. During the 1920s it became a machine repair and carpenter's shop for the cement company's railway system.

Don't forget to take a virtual visit inside the barn.

8. The 'Twelve Apostles'

A row of twelve cottages were originally erected at San Diego for vineyard workers around 1888. They were also used for accommodation in the 1920s. The timber cottages were sold in the 1930s for $200 each by Mr Howell and eleven of them re-erected at a Hobart suburb, in a street appropriately named Maria Street.

9. Coffee Palace 1888

Erected by the Maria Island Company, it was at times described as a restaurant before its official opening on 3 October 1888. It had two dining rooms and lounge room at the front with seven small rooms and kitchen at the rear. It became Adkins Boarding House in the early 1900s.

The Coffee Palace underwent significant conservation works in 1998 and now houses a museum. The museum comprises two front rooms -- the Reading Room and the Dining Room. Both are furnished as they would have appeared during the 1920s, and have many period artefacts on display. The atmosphere comes alive with an old pianola and oral histories of past residents. Diary excerpts from the explorers of 1802 through to the Rangers of 1972 can be read, while old photo albums show scenes from yesteryear. The Maria Island Mercury tells the history of Maria Island as told by newspaper articles, photographs and advertisments dating from 1825 to the 1990s.

Don't forget to take a virtual visit inside the Coffee Palace.

10. Clinker Storage and Cement Mill (part of the Cement Complex c. 1922)

The Clinker Storage and Cement Mill were together. Other associated works still evident include a pumphouse and pit, large concrete tank etc.

Coal was stored for use in the Coal Mill and Kiln House where the coal was pulverised to heat a 45 m long rotary kiln. An electrical power plant was nearby.

11. Silos

The silos are perhaps the most conspicuous remains from the concrete era. The finely-ground product ended up stored in the silos for transportation from the jetty.

12. Cement Era Jetty

Only the barest remains exist underwater of the long jetty erected during the second industrial era. It was equipped with a gantry and grab for unloading coal and had 9.14 m of water at low tide near the outer end. It was completed early in 1923 at a cost of $50 000.

13. Raw Mill

Portland cement was usually produced by grinding together, into a cream or slurry, about 75 per cent limestone and 25 per cent clay and feeding this into a long rotating furnace. The slurry was dried, fused and finished up as clinker, which was then ground as fine as talcum powder.

At Maria Island Cement Works, clay was transported from Bloodstone Point and a tramway network conveyed the limestone, possibly extracted at times by steam shovel, to the Raw Mill where it was made into slurry.

14. The Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel Ruins

Grand Hotel Ruins

The present ruins fail to do justice to what was an opulent chalet-style, timber building based on plans of the best French Riviera hotels. It was opened when the Premier, P. O. Fysh, and the official party were wined and dined in April 1888. The facilities included drawing, sitting and billiard rooms with accommodation for a least 30 guests. In the 1920's it became the offices of the National Portland Cement Company.


The people buried in this cemetery have been linked with the island in various ways over many years, they include:

  • James Jarvis, a child of six months, buried in May 1825. He was possibly the son of one of the early officers.
  • The inscription to Margaret Boyd tells its own story. Her husband (James Boyd) was to become the head of a number of convict stations, including 18 years in charge of Port Arthur.
  • Hohepa te Umuroa was one of the lesser Maori chiefs imprisoned on the island for 'rebellion'. Aged about 25 years, he was over 185 cm tall and died of tuberculosis on 19 July 1847.
  • The Superintendent's one year old son, Charles Lapham, was buried here in June 1848 and the Visiting Magistrate, Capt Benjamin Bayly, was interred after his death on 3 March 1850.
  • Thomas Adkins was works manager of the first cement works and died in June 1890 while preparing a sample of cement for the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition. His wife Rosa (who was later to run the island's Boarding House) died in 1942 at the age of 94 years and was the last person to be buried in the Maria Island cemetery.

Surgeon's Quarters 1843

Dr MacCurdy demanded that his house be of similar size to Reverend Dove's quarters, and so a four-roomed dwelling with kitchen was erected. It later became the home of John Dunbabin who lived there until the mid 1870s.

Hospital 1843

The hospital was built to accommodate about thirty men. It had three wards and a porch as well as four stores attached. One room had stained windows for patients suffering from ophthalmia. A cookhouse was also attached. The building was demolished about 1888 to clear the ground in front of the Grand Hotel.

Boatshed and Boat's Crew Hut c. 1828

These were, at first, of log and bark construction with a brick and stone shed erected in a similar location in the second convict era.

Bridge c. 1830

This appears in an 1832 plan, while the present bridge was erected c. 1842 but has been altered at various times. Only the abutments and piers are probably original.

First Store House and Military Barracks 1825

A small stone store house (center) was converted to a Barracks when the Commissariat Store was built. The other Barracks was of log and plaster with a stout log fence. A dozen or more soldiers of the 40th and 63rd Regt were stationed here in the first convict era.

Gaol 1831

This brick and stone building consisted of gaol room, four cells, Police office and yard. It replaced a 'miserable' log-built gaol and was used as Overseers' Quarters 1842-49.

Wash House and Laundry c. 1843

A nearby weir and convict storage pond were associated with the wash house and laundry. The stream ran through the building where the men washed, one hundred at a time, at 5 a.m.

Reservoir and Mill Race c. 1826

This was built to carry water to the fulling mill section of a factory and to turn a small corn mill. The 'fountain' seems likely to be of the first industrial period.

Six Terraced Cottages c. 1890

Two blocks of cottages were built of bricks from the Separate Apartments which were dismantled to build the Coffee Palace. The cottages have been restored.

House c. 1890 (Rangers' Residences)

These houses were believed to have been occupied by Bernacchi and to have been joined by their verandahs.

Superintendent's Quarters c. 1842

Superintendent Lapham's brick house had four rooms with kitchen and servant's quarters at the rear. The foundations may be traced in the paddock. A pathway extended from in front of the Penitentiary right along to the Superintendents Quarters.

School Master's House c. 1922

The school, located near vineyards further to the south was a timber building which was sold and removed in the late 1940's. Little is known about the Schoolmaster's house which consists of three rooms and kitchen.

Base of Radio Mast c. 1923

A transmitter was installed to facilitate communication between Melbourne and the Cement Works. It was a 'wireless telephone-telegraph apparatus' erected by AWA Ltd. and later placed in Mrs Hunt's cottage during the 30s.

Day Room And Chapel c. 1847

This was to provide accommodation during wet weather and served as Protestant chapel for the two Sunday Services. A school for convicts was held on Sunday evenings. In the Industrial periods it became a community hall, State School, cinema, church and later a shearing shed. The original stone floor has recently been exposed.

Convict Administrative Offices c. 1842

The large office belonged to the resident Magistrate (where convicts were tried for minor offences) and the other to the Superintendent. Originally the roof was hipped and the building had no verandah. The Industrial era saw the building used as a Post Office. Notice the stone supports of the verandah posts, they served a similar function for the gallery access to the second tier of Separate Apartments.

Foreman of Works and Assistant Superintendent's Quarters c. 1842

The Foreman of Works was one of the Royal Engineers responsible for buildings and their repair. These adjoining three room cottages abutted the administrative offices, However now only the sites are in evidence.

Workshops and Stores c. 1847

These included stables, storerooms for the office, Foreman of Works and agricultural tools, as well as shops for the tailors, shoemakers, coopers and carpenters.

Separate Apartments c. 1842 and c. 1846

The first block of 102 cells formed a rectangle nearly 85 m by 20.5 m. They were built to keep the worst behaved and suspected homosexual convicts completely separate. Improvements and additions were commenced until, at the very end of 1848, the complex consisted of 205 cells in two tiers. The 1846 cells were 3.05 m high, 2.44 m long and 1.22 m wide whereas the earlier cells were wider, longer but not as high. You can see where the two storey level is indicated by joists in the wall of the Bakehouse close to the oven's chimney. The building was derelict and housed pigs in 1876. Within ten years, the bricks were used to pave roads or build Bernacchi's cottages prior to the erection of the Coffee Palace where one complete cell exists beneath the floorboards.

Bakehouse and Clothing Store c. 1843

Each mess of ten convicts were entitled to five 1.14 kg loaves per day, with one baker appointed for every 150 prisoners. The oven, still intact, protrudes from the rear of the building. Both baker and cook were appointments for the best behaved. The smaller clothing store was fitted with shelves. Alterations were made in the Industrial Period with the buildings used as a bakery and blacksmith's shop (later a butchery).

Sewage Pond c. 1842

Water closets were located at either end of the Penitentiary as well as the Solitary Cells and Separate Apartments. Brick Sewers running under the eastern end of the muster yard still lead to this sewage pond.

Site of Solitary Cells c. 1842

Originally there were 23 punishment cells in a row behind the Bakehouse and Cookhouse. During 1845-46, these ineffective cells were replaced by two blocks of eight double-brick cells, which were soundproof and completely dark. Cells opened alternately front and back so that men could be exercised separately. Only the foundations are visible.

Cookhouse and Bread Store c. 1842

Of similar layout to the Bakehouse it had a large cooking oven and stove. One convict was appointed cook to every 100 prisoners. The cookhouse was demolished after being used by Bernacchi as workers' accommodation. The bread store was converted into toilets in 1971.

Cottage c. 1929

Built on part of the site of the Solitary Cells one of the foundations stands on a sandstone ventilation block from the Separate Apartments. Note the air-holes.

Mess Room c. 1845

Imagine 400 men of the 1st and 2nd class convicts seated at 20 tables. Racks contained plates etc and 20 locked boxes held cutlery which was issued only to 1st and 2nd class prisoners. The best of the 1st Class ate in their huts, while 3rd Class ate in the open yard and the 4th Class in their Separate Apartments. The room was used as a school and also served as the Catholic chapel. It was a mess hall in both of the Industrial Periods.

Tan Yard 1829 and Lumber Yard 1830

Both yards were enclosed by a 3.05 m high log fence. Raw hides and kangaroo skins were tanned etc with wattle bark used in the process. About 4 000 shoes were made annually, with 300 pairs being sent in 1830 for use in the infamous 'Black Line'. The Lumber Yard consisted mainly of saw pits.