NORFOLK ISLAND 3…World Heritage Area

Buildings in the Quality Row Area

After another excellent night’s sleep in Governor’s Lodge Resort, we decided we would do a slow inspection of the buildings in the Kava Heritage area that we had not yet had time to visit. By this stage we had discovered that there were four main roads down to Sydney Bay and we decided to use the Collins Head Road and on to the Driver Christian Road to get us down to the far end of the southern coast of Norfolk Island at Cemetery Bay. Half way down the hill we decided to stop to take in the view looking out to Nepean and Philip Island as can be seen in the image below

I particularly wanted to stop at the bottom of this road and inspect the convict-built bridge with the confronting name of ‘Bloody Bridge’. On the previous day we had been on a bus tour where our driver had told us a particularly ghastly story of the convict-gang who built this bridge as well as murdering their overseer for his excessive cruelty. In order to hide the crime, they incorporated his body inside the brickwork of the bridge. The story then turned into an Edgar Alan Poe tale where blood seeped out through the brick-work of the bridge and revealed the crime! Great story but alas its historicity is very dubious. The name ‘Bloody Bridge’ didn’t appear until 1878 and the story seems to have been passed on since then, not for what it reveals about convict days, but the quality of the sensational murder story. Despite the mythical story, the bridge was very interesting to have a close look at and its setting was the usual gorgeous, forested valley.

After crossing the bridge and following the road around to Cemetery Bay, another inspired view of the two offshore islands appeared off to our left.

Our second destination of the morning was the Norfolk Island Cemetery. It’s a rare thing to visit a 200 year old cemetery with gorgeous mountain views and at the far end of the cemetery, a great view out to sea. We were told that the attractiveness of the cemetery’s position causes some travelers to decide that this is where they would like to spend eternity. The folk running the cemetery can arrange this.

This cemetery was established with the second settlement in the 1820s; cemeteries used during the first settlement are no longer in existence but there are some headstones from as early as 1792 that have been moved here. We weren’t the only visitors to take a slow stroll around the headstones, the gravess at the east end of the cemetery where the old headstones were situated gathered a lot of interested folk. There were all sorts of tragic short stories etched in grave stones about the harshness of life on the island of drownings, accidents, murders and executions. There was an area of the graveyard that appeared to be set aside for descendants of the Pitcairn Islanders who came here in 1856. The images below are of headstones that particularly attracted my attention.

There was a gate at the other of the cemetery that took the walker outside the fence with a view of Cemetery Bay. Here there was a mound with a sign detailing the history of what became known as ‘Murderer’s Mound’ by 1892. Apparently there are real records from 1846 of what happened to the convicts who rebelled against the harshness of their treatment in the so-called ‘Cooking Pot’ Uprising. 26 convicts were tried for murder and rebellion and 12 were convicted and executed. The guilty were buried here in a mass grave with ‘Roman’ priests performing the service.

From the cemetery we drove our car down to the far end of Quality Row and parked opposite the New Military Barracks. It is confusing for the average tourist to get their head around the need for two military barracks for a small convict settlement on Norfolk Island. The new building for housing guards began in 1835, a year after the ‘old’ military barracks was completed. When convicts are treated in the way they were on Norfolk Island, it is not surprising that the administrators were fearful of a convict uprising. Today these buildings are used as Norfolk Island’s Administrative Centre. The colourful canons flanking the steps are from HMS Sirius that disastrously sank in 1790 on the reef that could probably be seen from the top floor windows of the New Military Barracks

In between the Military Barracks there is an empty block of ground the is referred to as the Parade ground. The Old Military Barracks is set inside very high stone walls and consists of three fine Georgian buildings. They were built between 1829 and 1834 and they originally contained Officers’ Quarters, Soldiers’ barracks and a hospital, In the 20/21st centuries these buildings have housed the Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly and these days the ground floor of the central building houses the Island’s courthouse. Due to it being now a courthouse, we were not able to go inside but we couldn’t help but notice complex issues being advertised out in the enclosed yard. There was a mini-tent city set up here consisting of three tents and not a lot of activity going on in or around the tents. We had already seen signs in the centre of Burnt Pine like the green hand above that advertised the five demands Islanders asked of the Australian Government. Presumably the plan was to advertise their demands to Australian tourists who would go home and pressure their local members.

Our plan was now to go and have a look at a couple of the restored houses that were neighbours of the Military Barracks. The first of these, Number 10, Quality Row, was built in 1844 for the Foreman of the Works who was responsible for building the infrastructure for holding convicts during the Second Settlement. It has been use ever since and was restored in the 1980s and today is a House Museum.

We arrived at this House Museum at opening-time so we were lucky to immediately get an introduction to the history of the house by one of the volunteers. The drawing of the settlement at Kingston below was completed around 1855 and so shows the buildings along Quality Row that were abandoned around this time when NSW authorities decided to move their convicts to Tasmania. It also gives a good idea of the empty buildings that were waiting on Norfolk when the Pitcairn Islanders arrived in 1856. The story of these descendants of the Mutiny on the Bounty and their tragic journey looking for a home that left them stranded on Pitcairn Island in 1793 is well known. The next 63 years saw this community suffer from every possible disaster and so they gained approval from the British Government to move to Norfolk. These issues were raised by our guide at 10 Quality Row as this building was passed to the family of Christian and Miriam Young and their fifteen children who won the right to live in this house in a lottery. They lived here from 1856 to 1890.

The houses along Quality Row were all built to the same design during the time of the Second Settlement. Number 9, Quality Row, built in 1839, once housed the engineers who managed the Goal’s buildings. Like the other houses on this street, it was renovated in the 1980s and now houses the Research centre for those looking for information on descendants who may have lived on Norfolk or for those tourists looking for more info on the island’s history. We strolled through the centre and the displays were excellent and very informative.

Another major building on Quality Row is Government House which is the official residence of the Administrator of Norfolk Island. This fine Georgian building was built in 1829 and is the most intact remaining government house building in Australia. We were just over the road from Government House and its driveway when we came out of the Research Centre house but there was no direct line of sight of its buildings. It was only when we went around to the back of Emily Bay that we realised that a short walk gave us access to great views of this lovely building.

When I was flying to Norfolk, the guy next to me in the plane explained that he was having a week on Norfolk to play golf. He came over most years to play in a tournament which he confessed he had won a number of times. When seeking a photo of Government house, I have to admit that I trespassed on one of the course’s fairways; there can’t be too many golf courses in the world built within a World Heritage Site next to a Government House! It is a nine-hole course that is built at the end of Quality Row and its Club House and Pro Shop are also heritage Buildings. Prior to 1856, these building was listed as belonging to the local Stipendiary Magistrate. The photo on the right above shows the buildings still in ruins around 1950.

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