Austins Ferry’s hidden historical gem

4 September 2019|Community News| Off Comments off on Austins Ferry’s hidden historical gem|

TASMANIA’S oldest unmodified cottage has been granted a new lease on life after undergoing significant repairs under the watchful eyes of new caretakers, artist Kaye Green and young historian Louise Kemsley.

James Austin’s Cottage, nestled on Austins Ferry’s foreshore, was built more than 200 years ago and was the original home of James Austin.

Thought to be a “convict of choice”, James Austin was transported to Australia for stealing beehives and, together with his cousin James Earle, went on to establish the original ferry service from Austins Ferry to Old Beach.

Ms Green, who took over caretaking for the cottage in May this year, said not many people knew of this local historical treasure, which was owned by the Glenorchy City Council.

“This cottage has never had much of a profile in the community and we really just wanted to breath some new life back into it,” she said.

“We’ve undertaken some major repairs, including new windows, replacing the doors and a number of structural repairs.”

The new-look James Austin’s Cottage will be officially re-opened at a community open day event on Sunday 22 September.

The event will be a celebration of the cottage and include BYO picnics, historical dress and hopefully, a coffee and food van.

The main attraction, however, will be the unveiling of the James Austin portraits – a selection of works enthusiastically crafted by grade five/six students at the neighbouring Austins Ferry Primary School.

Ms Green said as soon as she thought of the idea of involving the local primary school, she was hooked.

“There are actually no photos or artworks of James Austin and we thought that was a real shame – we knew we wanted a portrait, but the question was how to get one,” she said.

“We really wanted to start getting involved with the community, so we thought asking the local primary school was the perfect way to start.

“The kids were absolutely fantastic and hopefully we can continue our relationship with the school into the future.”

Austins Ferry Primary School grade five/six teacher Jonathon Cook said it was great to bring some local history into the classroom.

“Although, I’m embarrassed to say that not many of us knew that there was a historical cottage only a couple of kilometres from our school,” he said.

“Kaye came into our school and spoke with the kids about what we know of James Austin and from there, they did their own research about the styles of the time and produced their own portraits of what they thought he looked like.

“The kids had a lot of fun and did a fantastic job with the portraits – we clearly have some real artists shining through at our school.

“This connection to their local area has really made the learning come to life.”

Ms Green said she was “thrilled” with the portraits and would have a hard time choosing a winner.

“As soon as we saw the portraits, Louise and I knew we would have to bend the rules and choose more than one winner,” she said.

“But, all of the portraits will be made into a display book and kept at the cottage, which will be a nice thing to have here for people to look through.”

The winning portraits will be displayed above the fireplace in the cottage.

The James Austin’s Cottage reopening will be held on Sunday 22 September at 2pm.

James Austin’s Cottage is located at 12 Austins Ferry Road, Austins Ferry and regular opening hours are Sunday from 2pm-5pm.

“I encourage everyone to come and see an example of Tasmania’s colonial history,” Ms Green said.

“We really want the community to love and be proud of this little historical treasure we have here on our foreshore – and it’s a nice thing to do on a Sunday afternoon.”

For more information, visit the James Austin’s Cottage Facebook page.

Caption: Austins Ferry Primary School grade five/six students with their James Austin portraits.

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