Lewd women, grisly murders, sailors drinking themselves to death and typhoid. Sounds like your typical 19th century port.
Early Hobart’s Wapping district was known as a sewage-ridden slum, but was that really the case? Who else lived there and why did it disappear?
The settlement sprang up around Hobart’s early wharf at Hunter Street and endured until it was almost obliterated by industrial and commercial pressures of the mid-20th century.
While it saw many phases, the profile remained one of poverty and prostitutes, housing Hobart’s poorest of the poor.
The name originated from the Wapping area in London which had a similar profile. At one time, both were the site of executions.
It was bordered by Liverpool, Campbell and Macquarie Streets and on the eastern side, Park Street, now the Brooker Highway.
The streetscapes are gone or bear little resemblance to the former layout, except for the back alleys around the Theatre Royal.
Amongst the pubs and workers’ cottages, the Theatre Royal opened in 1837 and remains Australia’s oldest working theatre.
The original building had a tavern beneath the auditorium which hosted cockfights among the mayhem of drunken revelry and prostitutes plying their trade.
The people of Wapping were working class employed by the nearby factories — jam, tanneries, ice, soap, gasworks and a slaughter house among them — which were established near the Hunter Street wharf.
Robyn Everist, who has been taking tourists around Wapping since 2010, points out that while the district was poor, local services met many of their needs; milliners, a butcher, a school and even a barrister.
Wapping had its own Ragged School, a Hobart version of the free education which charities ran in Victorian England.
The Wapping area should provide a high quality and stimulating residential environment and enjoyable, secure, safe and convenient routes for cars, pedestrians and cyclists.
The area should develop as a lively “people place” centred on Collins Street and sheltered or buffered on the high traffic edges.
But the new locals tend to disappear into the apartments which are worth upwards of $500,000, and a far cry from the original dwellings.
An attempt to reinstate the name was also part of the plan, but many Hobartians would struggle to tell you the location of the modern-day Wapping.