The Hobart

Hobart Homes: Signalman’s Quarters

by Zilla Gordon
Hobart Homes: Signalman’s Quarters

A modern-looking home sits in Battery Point’s historic surrounds, adding an interplay between old and new. But the contemporary facade only continues the story of the 1853 stone cottage known as the Signalman’s Quarters.

Photo credit: Joe Grey

The home originally formed part of a semaphore network – a visual telegraph system – which communicated with ships in Hobart’s ports.

At the time, the network could send messages from Hobart to Port Arthur in only 15 minutes.

But as communications developed, the cottage was repurposed.

Recently restored, today it’s a family home.

Photo credit: Joe Grey

Heritage – a challenge and opportunity

Project architects Fred Ward and Cath Hall from 1+2 Architecture said working within the constraints of heritage conservation requirements meant thinking of innovative solutions that often weren’t considered with new-build projects.

“The challenge was to offer a contemporary approach with a design sensitive to the cottage’s layers of history,” Fred said.

Along with their heritage consultant, they began meticulously searching through records, archives and plans of the building.

They learned a group of sheds previously had existed on the property.

“We know from the drawings we have that there were multiple iterations of ‘a shed out the back’,” Cath said.

What is now referred to as the front of the house was previously the back of a building, so sheds were built in several parts of the block.

As the use for the cottage changed, so did its entrance, with each side of the building all used as the front door at different times.

Today from the street, it appears that there are no windows or doors – a nod to when the back of a house was closest to the road.

Photo credit: Joe Grey

Old and New

Cath said it was more than just a conscious selection of materials that made the restoration so successful.

“It’s also about how the building is responding on the site,” she said.

Colonial cottages were “rectangular boxes” and normally only included bedrooms, sitting and dining rooms.

Sloped wooden structures – which resembled verandahs – attached the cottages would house the laundry, kitchen and a washroom.

These historic ephemeral additions are reflected in the project’s use of timber and with the inclusion of a sloping roof.

Photo credit: Joe Grey

The client wanted a more light-filled home with an open-plan living design, despite the building’s offering of separate boxed rooms and small windows.

Balancing heritage requirements and their client’s needs, Fred and Cath designed a “cluster of structures”, consciously broken down in scale, with verandah-like frameworks rather than an unbroken mass of a new building.

Even the new has intertwined with the old – the chimney has been imprinted with four semaphore characters.

“We wanted it to be something that makes people stop and think, ‘what is that?’” Cath said.

“When you’re given all this history about a place, when it’s ingrained in the bricks and mortar of a home, it gives you this fuel or ammunition for this new thing you create to be relevant and interesting,” Fred said.

Fred and Cath have created a contemporary addition that stands graciously in relation to the cottage and its heritage surroundings.

It acknowledges its history while allowing the Signalman’s Quarters to forge its own.

Love this

Cold Water Wake Up Call
It seems everywhere I turn someone is talking about or participating in cold water swimming right now.
A Short Geelong Getaway
Since the Spirit of Tasmania terminal moved from Melbourne to Geelong late last year, a visit to Geelong has been on the radar.
27 Hobart Friends Get Snipping For One Off Wine
The borders were declared shut in Tasmania on the 30th of March, 2020; the first stare to do so amid the COVID- 19 pandemic and hard lockdown of Hobart followed.
Danphe Nepalese and Indian Food + Peppermint Bay Bar and Bistro
Nepalese food is a comfort in our house. Having spent much time trekking and mountain climbing in Nepal as a younger man, Nepalese food is something I always love to go back to.
That’s DR Hannah Gadsby To You
From Smithton to Netflix and the Emmys stage, Tasmanian stand up comic Hannah Gadsby has forged an unlikely path. Following on from the massive success of her shows Nanette and Douglas, Hannah brings her new show Body of Work to Hobart this month.
PODCAST: Incat founder Robert Clifford on why electric boats are the future
Robert Clifford is the founder of Incat, a Hobart company building fast ferries for the world. Always looking to future opportunities, he has identified where Hobart sits in the next wave of transportation. For more of this interview listen to The Hobart Magazine podcast.
Is Tourism Ready For More Forestry Wars?
Tasmanian forests are special. They’re home to centuries-old trees, including the tallest flowering trees on the planet, and support unique native species. Yet not everyone agrees on how these forests should be managed.
Hobart Chefs: When The Obsession Becomes Real
Tasmania’s brand as a foodie haven is cemented. But within the local hospitality industry there are those who love to use local produce...and those who are next-level obsessed with it. We spoke to a bunch of Hobart chefs who are top of the game when it comes to fostering relationships with local farmers and growers.
Did You Know Australia’s First Female Doctor Was Hobartian?
Tasmania, despite its small size and population in comparison to the mainland, has produced more than its proportionally predicted percentage of significant figures and heroes of Australian history. 
Return Travellers Adding Pressure to Hobart Housing
For all of us 2020 was a year like no other, punctuated by rapid change and plenty of new challenges. For vulnerable people in Tasmania, including people facing homelessness, those on low incomes and those facing increasingly higher rents, it was very challenging. We are seeing a growing demand for homes in Tassie from international travellers returning home, people moving for work and others seeking the lifestyle that our Apple Isle has to offer.
AboutContributeAdvertiseNewsletter Sign UpContact
May 2024

Stay up to date with everything happening at the Hobart Magazine.

Thank you to Luke Brokensha for mobilising his friends and local residents recently to host two rubbish clean ups along the Hobart Rivulet after heavy rains.
The warm weather returns...hello summer.
Need a laugh? Check out @theinspiredunemployed feed on Instagram.
Moto Vecchia Cafe in Bellerive and Czegs Cafe in Richmond have joined the Clarence City Council dementia program, creating dementia-friendly spaces for all patrons.
It’s hard to believe it’s not standard practice to have a working phone in every aged care room - shared phones make private conversations impossible and increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Tacks on the tracks. Mountain bikers beware of tacks being left on certain tracks on the mountain.
Just when you think your cousins are alright. NZ Opposition Leader Judith Collins took aim at Tassie during her recent (unsuccessful) campaign, calling us Australia’s “poor cousin.” She also seems worried about us nabbing tech businesses, “It’s a lovely part of the world but do you necessarily want to go there with your high- tech business? Possibly not,” she said. We beg to differ!