Key dates in Thomas Nevin’s life

Key Chronology 1842-1923

Professional photographer Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923) produced large numbers of stereographs and cartes-de-visite within his commercial practice, and prisoner identification photographs on government contract. His career spanned nearly three decades, from the early 1860s to the late 1880s. He was one of the first photographers to work with the police in Australia, along with Charles Nettleton (Victoria) and Frazer Crawford (South Australia). His Tasmanian prisoner mugshots are among the earliest to survive in public collections, viz. the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston; the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart; the Tasmanian Heritage and Archives Office, Hobart; the Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasman Peninsula; the National Library of Australia, Canberra; and the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, Sydney.

Thomas nevinlate 1870s

Above: Thomas J. Nevin, self-portrait with table-top stereo viewer ca. 1870
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2005-2022 ARR


Thomas J. Nevin was a professional photographer, civil servant, member of the Loyal United Brothers’ Lodge, bailiff and special constable. He was born near Belfast, County Down, Ireland on the 28th August 1842 and died in Hobart on March 12, 1923. He arrived in Hobart, ten years old, from Plymouth on board the convict transport Fairlie in July 1852 as a free settler, accompanied by his parents and three younger siblings, Mary Anne (b. 1845), Rebecca Jane (b. 1847) and William John (Jack, b. 1852). His mother, Mary Nevin nee Dickson (b. 1810) was born in England, and moved to Newtonards, Ireland with her brother, nurseryman Alexander Dickson where she met and married Thomas’ father John Nevin (b.1808, Grey Abbey, Ireland). He had served in the Royal Scots First Regiment in the West Indies from 1825, at the Canadian Rebellions 1837-38, and pioneered journalism while in service. He worked their passage as a guard of the 294 adult convicts, and warden of the 32 exiled Parkhurst boys on board the Fairlie, arriving in Hobart in July 1852 (AOT MB2/98). The family settled at Kangaroo Valley near Hobart Tasmania where John Nevin snr built the family house on property in trust to the Wesleyan Church which included orchards neighbouring the Lady Franklin Museum, Ancanthe, the Wesleyan Chapel, the schoolhouse where Mary Ann Nevin, Thomas ‘ sister taught children by day and their father John Nevin snr taught adult males by night, and an acre of adjoining gardens leased from the Nairns (Hobart Town Gazettes 1873-1880).

In November 1865, Thomas Nevin’s sister Rebecca Jane Nevin, died aged 18yrs, at Kangaroo Valley. Their father John Nevin snr published a poem in January 1866 commemorating her life titled “Lines on the much lamented death of Rebecca Jane Nevin who died at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley on the 10th November 1865“. In April 1868 John Nevin published a poem in pamphlet form titled “My Cottage in the Wilderness” (SLNSW) celebrating his contentment at settling in Kangaroo Valley (renamed Lenah Valley in 1923)..

From the early 1860s Thomas Nevin operated a photographic studio at New Town with the business name of “Thomas Nevins”, i.e. the “s” signifying the possessive, as in “the studio of Thomas Nevin”. By 1865 he was assistant to photographer Alfred Bock whose residence and studio he leased from A. Biggs at 138-140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town on Alfred Bock’s departure for Victoria in 1867 (Hobart Town Gazettes 1870s). Nevin maintained the business name of the studio, The City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town. With partner Robert Smith, they formed the firm Nevin & Smith, producing stereographic views and hand-tinted studio portraits (TMAG and Private Collections). The firm Nevin & Smith celebrated the visit to Tasmania of Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria by devising a rare Royal insignia stamp in 1868 (State Library of Victoria Collection, private collections). However, the partnership was short-lived. Robert Smith moved to Goulburn, NSW and the firm known as Nevin & Smith was dissolved on 22nd February 1868, undersigned by Thomas Nevin’s solicitor, later Attorney-General, W.R. Giblin. Thomas Nevin continued with the business name, the City Photographic Establishment at the same address, and exhibited photographs of Melville St under snow (1868) and A Party at the Rocking Stone Mt Wellington (1870) at the Wellington Park Exhibitions (TMAG Collection). He also exhibited stereoscopic views, prize cards and cartes-de-visite at the Tasmanian Poultry Society’s annual exhibition at the Town Hall in August 1869 and the Town Hall Bazaar on 1st April, 1870 (Mercury Friday 1 Apr 1870 Page 2 ). For his work as the firm of Nevin & Smith, he was granted a colonial Royal Warrant, and for his work with the Lands and Survey Department of the colonial government, he was granted another colonial Royal warrant by authority. By 1870 Nevin was providing photographs of mining and reservoir works at the Huon and Cascades on government commission, as well as providing group portraits and landscapes for tourists to the Lady Franklin Museum and and John Franklin’s Tree at Kangaroo Valley, Hobart.

On July 12th, 1871, Thomas Nevin married Elizabeth Rachel Day, niece of merchant mariner Captain Edward Goldsmith (1804-1869), daughter of master mariner Captain James Day (1806-1882) and Rachel Pocock (d. 1857, Hobart) at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley, Hobart. He photographed the Odd Fellows’ Hall for the Loyal United Lodge and IOOF in the same month, July 1871. Several examples of his stereography survive from collaboration with commercial photographer Samuel Clifford (late 1860s – late 1870s). Some full-length portraits survive with the verso inscription Clifford & Nevin, Hobart Town (QVMAG , TMAG and Private Collections). Samuel Clifford advised the public in 1876 that he could provide prints from Nevin’s negatives for his former private patrons and friends (Mercury 17 Jan 1876) since Thomas J. Nevin’s appointment to the civil service full-time as Office and Hall Keeper of the Hobart Town Hall precluded commercial remuneration. He continued with the production of prisoner mugshots for the Municipal Police Office and Mayor’s Court, housed within the Town Hall, and at the Hobart Gaol with the assistance of his younger brother Constable John (W. J.) Nevin.

In 1870, younger brother Jack (William John) Nevin joined the civil service, aged 18 years, and was stationed at the Asylum, Cascades Prison for Males, Hobart. His service continued at the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street as Constable John Nevin, “Gaol Messenger”, a rank which covered his duties as photographer, and as a hospital “Wardsman” until his untimely death from typhoid while still in service, at 39 yrs old.

Between January 31st and 2nd February 1872, Thomas Nevin was commissioned to photograph parties of VIPS visiting Hobart on trips to Adventure Bay and Port Arthur. The trip to Adventure Bay resulted in a series of group portraits which included the Hon. Mr. James Wilson (Premier of Tasmania), Alfred Kennerley, (Mayor of Hobart and Police Magistrate), the manager of the Van Diemen’s Land Bank, the Hon. John O’Shanassy (former Premier of Victoria), Mr John Miller (Cape of Good Hope), Father Sheehy, Mr. Tobin (Victoria), John Woodcock Graves jnr (barrister Tasmania), Captain Clinch (commander of the City of Hobart), the Hon. James Erskine Calder (former Surveyor-General), and Robert Byron Miller (barrister Tasmania). The trip to Port Arthur included British author Anthony Trollope, Premier J. M. Wilson, lawyers Howard Spensley, Solicitor-General of Victoria, and the Tasmanian Attorney-General W.R. Giblin, Nevin’s family solicitor since 1868, who had requested Nevin join them to organize facilities on site and procedures for photographing prisoners in accordance with recent legislative provisions in Victoria and NSW. They stayed a few days while Trollope gathered information from interviewing prisoners, including Denis Dogherty, whom Nevin photographed among other recent absconders. He took photographs as well of the derelict state of the buildings, of costly but unfinished engineering works, and general vistas across the site.

Thomas J. Nevin was married and a first-time father by June 4th, 1872 when heavy rains and the great landslide at Glenorchy destroyed houses, farms, businesses and streets and tore boulders and vegetation from the slopes of Mount Wellington. He was living at the residence adjoining his city studio and the glass house/gallery, The City Photographic Establishment, 138-140 Elizabeth St. Hobart with his wife Elizabeth Rachel Day and their new-born daughter May (Mary Florence Elizabeth) who was born just a fortnight earlier on the 19th May 1872 (she died to the day exactly 83 yrs later, on 4th June 1955). That Tuesday night of the great flood in Glenorchy, photographic stock at Nevin’s old studio in nearby New Town was probably saturated by the heavy rain, if water damage on some of his extant photographs taken a few months earlier in January 1872 at Adventure Bay, is any indication. But his anxieties would have been far greater concerning his parents living in the cottage his father had built at Kangaroo Valley on land above the Lady Franklin Museum, in the northern foothills of kunanyi/Mount Wellington.

Within days of the landslide, Thomas Nevin was out and about taking photographs of the damage on commission for the Lands and Survey Division of the Hobart City Council, most likely in the company of Mr. Hull, Council Clerk for the district. Three extant stereographs are held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Both stereographs in yellow mounts bear verso his government contractor stamp with the Royal Arms insignia issued to Thomas J. Nevin by the Attorney-General, W. R. Giblin and Surveyor-General J. Erskine Calder in 1868 for use on government commissions. The same stamp appears on police photographs of prisoners (convicts), of the Royal Mail coach operated by Sam Page, of full-length and mounted cartes-de-visite of staff members of the Hobart City Council, their wives and children, and on photographs of streets, landscapes, mining operations, caves and geological formations.

In December 1872, Thomas Nevin nominated his neighbour James Spence, government contractor and licensee of the Royal Standard Hotel at 142 Elizabeth St (corner of Patrick St) as an aldermanic candidate for the Hobart City Council elections, held at the Hobart Town Hall. Although James Spence failed in his bid to sit on the HCC, from early 1873 Thomas Nevin’s presence at the Hobart Town Hall became increasingly important. He provided photographic records for the Municipal Police Office, located within the Hobart Town Hall, of prisoners on transfer from regional gaols to the Hobart Gaol, including those received from the Port Arthur prison and those discharged from the Mayor’s Court. In late 1875, Thomas J. Nevin was appointed above 24 applicants to the position of Keeper of the Hobart Town Hall, and gazetted again as the HCC Office-keeper in 1878 (Mercury Tue 1 Jan 1878 Page 1). He maintained a studio for police photography at the Hobart Gaol and Hobart Town Hall, as well as his old studio at New Town. His services to the City Police extended to acting as assistant bailiff in the City and Supreme Courts for Sub-inspector John Dorsett (1881-1888; Mercury August 1886). His last documented assistance to police was noted by the Mercury, 19th July, 1888. He was the only commercial photographer in Hobart to receive commission on contract to provide the Municipal and Territorial Police with prisoner identification photographs for the central registry of the Inspector of Police, Town Hall.

Thomas Nevin’s contractual arrangements extended to advertising for Samuel Page, also a government contractor who delivered the Royal Mail between Launceston and Hobart, and conveyed prisoners taken into custody at regional police stations to the central courts, prisons and depots in Hobart. Thomas Nevin and his brother Constable John Nevin travelled in the company of constables and prisoners on Page’s coaches for his police work, but the majority of their prisoner identification photographs were taken at the Hobart Supreme Court and Hobart Gaol (also called the Campbell Street Gaol) on the occasion of the prisoner’s sentencing and release, and at the Mayor’s Court and Municipal Police Office, Town Hall, where tickets-of-leave were issued and renewed.

In the years 1873-1877 Thomas Nevin also assisted police and the Prisons Department in security matters during the devolvement of the Port Arthur penitentiary on the Tasman Peninsula, when prisoners were transferred and received at Hobart institutions. These arrangements were ordered by Nevin’s solicitor and referee, Attorney-General W.R. Giblin (Journals of the House of Assembly July 1873), who contracted Nevin and whose portrait Nevin took ca 1874 (Archives Office of Tasmania). Extant examples of prisoners photographed by Thomas Nevin for these purposes and on these occasions survive in the hundreds in several formats: as uncut paper prints, as loose cartes-de-visite printed in oval mounts and a few as glass negatives, some copied again by J. W. Beattie in the 1900s for sale as tourist tokens and display at intercolonial exhibitions associated with the fake convict ship, Success. It was during this era of intense interest in penal heritage that Beattie et al wrote the fake information on the versos of loose cartes-de-visite printed in oval mounts – “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” to encourage interstate tourism to Port Arthur. Three panels of forty (40) paper prints from Nevin’s 1870s negatives survive at the QVMAG, collated by Beattie and Searle for touring exhibitions at Hobart, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. A few from the 1870s survive still pasted to the prisoner’s criminal record (rap sheet) but most now which have survived intact date from the 1890s, and are viewable online at the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office. The NSW State Archives and Records Office, Sydney, holds the earliest of these rap sheets with photos, dating from September 1871.

The first of exhibitions organised in the 1970s of Thomas J. Nevin’s prisoner mugshots was held at the Centenary of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney and at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne in 1976. The Exhibition Catalogue was written by Daniel Thomas, Senior Curator and Curator of Australian Art, Art Gallery of NSW. The Tasmanian contributor was antiquarian Geoffrey Stilwell, a Trustee of the Centenary Celebrations of the Art Gallery of NSW and Special Collections curator of the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania.

In 1977, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, exhibited a large collection of these prisoner photographs with correct attribution to Thomas Nevin. Many of the men photographed in the 1870s had been transported as Parkhurst boys to the prison at Port Arthur. Several of the original photographs were salvaged by convictarian John Watt Beattie from the Sheriff’s Office at the Hobart Gaol in the 1890s and reproduced as commercial items. Had they remained intact and in situ, they would have survived as the Hobart Gaol Photo Books, the supplement to the Tasmania Police Gazettes (known then as the Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police) which recorded on a weekly basis the offence, sentence and discharge of every man, whether photographed or not. Once the prisoner’s photographs were removed by Beattie et al from the criminals’ rap sheet, the photographs lost their contemporaneous reference, and have been misattributed and misappraised as “portraits”, i.e. art objects by the public institutions which hold them. The terms and execution of Thomas Nevin’s prisoner commission were contractually and generically similar to  those of other professional photographers working in prisons, Fraser Crawford (1867, South Australia) and Charles Nettleton (1873, Victoria).

Between 1869 and 1880, Thomas J. Nevin was an active member of the Loyal United Brothers’ Lodge. His photograph of the Odd Fellows’ Hall was praised in the Mercury 25 July 1871. He placed advertisements in newspapers soliciting medical profession services for Lodge members and their families in 1875, and was an Anniversary Ball committee member. He attended the inquest on the death of coach maker and family butcher William Snelling as one of seven jurors at Allen’s Royal Exchange Hotel on 25 January 1875.

In January 1876, A. E. Biggs, proprietor of Thomas Nevin’s shop, studio and glass house, advertised the premises to let at 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart on the eve of Thomas Nevin, his wife Elizabeth Rachel and two children relocating to the Keeper’s apartment at the Hobart Town Hall where his appointment to the civil service as Office and Hall Keeper included the photographic documentation of discharges from the Mayor’s Court. As Hall-Keeper he maintained the building, organised events and supervised constables on night watch. The Town Hall housed the central registry of the Municipal Police Office and Office of the Inspector of Police, in addition to cells in the basement. It also housed a first class library with an extensive range of overseas newspapers which was praised in the New York Times (1875) by the visiting American Expedition who photographed the Transit of Venus in Hobart (1874). The Keeper’s position (an archaic term still used in Britain to denote the manager of an archive and its house) was a consolidation of Nevin’s commission working with the Municipal Police. Their choice of T. J. Nevin, a well-known commercial photographer and government contractor, to the Hobart Town Hall staff was a clear indication of the value they placed on maintaining his ongoing services as a police photographer.

The Mercury Supplement reported on January 24, 1876, that –

‘Mr. Thomas Nevin, photographer, has been appointed Town Hall keeper, Hobart Town, in succession to the late Mr. Needham. There were 24 applicants for the office.’

Although employed now as a full-time civil servant, Thomas Nevin maintained his commercial photographic practice, sometimes in collaboration with friends and photographers, Samuel Clifford and Henry Hall Baily, as well as another studio at New Town in partnership with his younger brother Jack (Constable John or W. J. ) Nevin who was also salaried in the H.M. Gaol administration under the supervision of the Keeper Ringrose Atkins. Constable John Nevin acted as assistant during his brother’s commission of photographing prisoners taken into custody at the Hobart Gaol after arraignment and sentencing at the Hobart Supreme Court next to the prison in Campbell Street.

In 1879 Hobart Town Hall Keeper Thomas Nevin was sworn in as a “special constable” i.e. he was ordered to carry arms, to help police control riots at the Town Hall during the lecture of the lapsed Catholic Canadian priest Pastor Charles Chiniquy. On the evening of 3rd December 1880, Thomas Nevin, still on duty, was returning to the Town Hall from the printing offices of the Advertiser with “photographic apparatus and chemicals” in hand and in the company of photographer Henry Hall Baily when he was arrested by his nemesis Constable John Blakeney on the charge that Nevin was seen pretending to be the ghost who had been terrorising the women of Hobart. Detained but not arrested, Thomas Nevin was released by his friend Detective Connor and the charge of “acting in concert with a person pretending to be a ghost” was dismissed. That person, the one who is mentioned several times in the Mercury account of 4th December 1880, may have been Nevin’s colleague at the Town Hall Municipal Police Office, the Information Officer Edwin Midwood, father of cartoonist Tom Midwood. The upshot of this incident was Nevin’s dismissal from the Town Hall position for inebriation while on duty, and the “GHOST” -whose identity Nevin knew but refused to reveal – was never caught and prosecuted.

Dismissed from the position of Keeper for being inebriated while on duty, Thomas Nevin was nevertheless defended by his friend Detective Connor at the Police Committee enquiry into the incident. As Nevin recounted the incident, after leaving Baily, he had returned to the Town Hall where he had heard the constables’ whistle. His alleged drinking while on duty was in fact a trumped-up charge levelled at him in revenge by Constable Blakeney whose demotion in October 1880 was due entirely to Nevin’s complaint against Constable Blakeney three months earlier for the exact same offense of drunk while on duty.

Thomas Nevin maintained his work on commission with the Hobart Municipal Police and Territorial Police from his photographic studio at New Town until 1888, producing prisoner mugshots, as well as commercial stereographs and portraits. He continued with a commission at the Hobart Gaol assisted by his brother Constable John Nevin until 1887 and acted as assistant bailiff for the City Police Sub-inspector John Dorsett (Mercury 1886; AOT; Reeder 1995; Death Warrants with photographs, Mitchell Library SLNSW; Private Collections). In 1888, he signed a resolution at the Hobart Town Hall in support of a bill proposing the centralisation of the various police forces. He died at his residence, no. 270 Elizabeth Street Hobart on March 12th, 1923, survived by six adult children.

At some point Thomas Nevin must have decided the Wesleyans weren’t for him, despite his father’s Trusteeship of the Wesleyan Chapel at Kangaroo Valley, and the taking of his wedding vows there in 1871. He was the only member of his immediate family to be buried at Cornelian Bay cemetery within the Church of England. The Hobart Town Hall experience of religious violence during Chiniquy’s visit, the death there of his son Sydney at four months old, and finally his dismissal, probably because of Temperance intolerance, changed his life. The hanging of Job Smith too, amidst much public outrage at the continued use of capital punishment in 1875, may have affected him, since Job Smith as William Campbell was one of the prisoners Nevin photographed at Port Arthur in 1874. Neither Thomas Nevin nor any of his children volunteered service in the Imperial Forces at the Boer War (1899-1902) or at the First World War (1914-18).  Pater familias and Wesleyan John Nevin snr had not brought his family across the world to settle in Tasmania to see them sent off to fight another war. His nightmarish experiences fighting the French in waist-deep snow at the Canadian Rebellions in 1839-40 were set as example enough that none of his family should ever go to war again.

During the 1890s-1900s, Nevin maintained an interest in photography, producing some enduring images of his family, but he turned his attentions to training horses, a love engendered in his youngest son Albert and the generations following, well into the 21st century.

Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923)
Record details at Cornelian Bay Cemetery, 12th March 1923

Links: Complete Archive || Site map: Work || Site map: Family

Summary by Date:

1842: Thomas J. Nevin is born near Belfast, Ireland, 28th August, to John Nevin and Mary Nevin (nee Dickson).

1845: His sister Mary Anne Nevin is born near Belfast, Ireland.

1847: His sister Rebecca Jane Nevin is born near Belfast, Ireland.

1852: January, his brother William John, known as Jack Nevin, is born near Belfast, Ireland.

1852: Thomas James Nevin arrives in Hobart, Tasmania, in July with his mother Mary Ann nee Dickson, his father John Nevin snr, and siblings Mary Anne, Rebecca Jane and William J. (Jack) on board the convict transport Fairlie (ex-Portsmouth) as free settlers. Their father John Nevin snr was a guard and warden on board of the 32 exiled boys from the Parkhurst prison.

1863:  His father John Nevin publishes a poem in the Tasmanian Times on the death of his Royal Scots comrade-in-arms James William Chisholm with whom he had served at the Canadian Rebellion of 1839.

1864: Thomas Nevin sets up his photographic studio at New Town, operating with the business name “Thomas Nevins” (possessive apostrophe omitted). He photographs the Queen’s Orphan Asylum and St John’s Church for incoming administrator Dr John Coverdale.

1852-1870: Thomas Nevin resides with parents at Kangaroo Valley in the Glenorchy electoral district, Hobart. His father John Nevin publishes poetry, holds a trusteeship of the Wesleyan Chapel there and teaches children and adults as occupier of the schoolhouse. During these years Thomas Nevin learns portraiture from established photographer Alfred Bock (until 1867), and stereography with commercial photographer Samuel Clifford (late 1860s to late 1870s). He maintains concurrently his photographic studio in New Town with the business name of “Thos Nevin New Town” and advertises his stereographs of New Town and Kangaroo Valley for sale at the New Town Post Office.

1865: Thomas Nevin leases Alfred Bock’s former dwelling and studio at 138-140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town (the property of A. E. Biggs, Victoria), and continues to use the business name, T. Nevin, The City Photographic Establishment, late A. Bock, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town.

1865: His sister Rebecca Jane Nevin dies at Kangaroo Valley, aged 18 yrs. His one surviving sister Mary Ann Nevin, applies to the Board of Education to establish a school at Kangaroo Valley with the support of amateur photographer and naturalist Morton Allport. Their father publishes a poem on the death of their sister Rebecca Jane Nevin (held in Special Collections, University of Melbourne).

1866: Thomas Nevin sets up the firm Nevin & Smith at the same premises in partnership with Robert Smith. Photographic work includes studio portraits, carte-de-visite vignettes, stereographs, and albums of views, tombstones, and residences. “Nevin & Smith” appears as a studio stamp and labels on these cartes and stereographs.

1868: The firm of Nevin & Smith celebrates the visit to Tasmania of Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria by devising a rare Royal insignia stamp in 1868 (State Library of Victoria Collection, private collections). Thomas Nevin exhibits a photograph, “Melville St under snow, July 1868“, at the Wellington Park Exhibition. They photograph groups at celebrations for Queen Victoria’s birthday on May 27th 1868, as well as residences, tombstones, and visitors during the Duke’s visit in January. The partnership with Robert Smith is dissolved in February 1868, and Nevin’s liabilities are undersigned by his solicitor W.R. Giblin who issues Thomas Nevin with a colonial Royal warrant to provide documentary photographs for the Lands and Survey Department, renewed in 1872 to include work for the Municipal Police Office for the photographic documentation of prisoners.

1868: John Nevin, father of Thomas, Mary Ann and Jack (W.J.), publishes a poem entitled “My Cottage in the Wilderness” as a pamphlet (held at the Mitchell, SLNSW). Thomas Nevin takes a photograph of the family cottage as a visual adjunct to his father’s poem which he exhibits at the Wellington Park Exhibition (Private Collection).

1869: Thomas Nevin produces photographs of model birds fixed to prize cards which were attached to the cages of winning entries at the Canary and Cage Bird show at the Hobart Alliance Rooms in May 1869, and again at the Tasmanian Poultry show at the Hobart Town Hall in August 1869. These photographs were deemed to be of high quality by both the press and the recipients of the prizes.

1870: In April, Thomas Nevin exhibits a stereograph of ” A party at the Rocking Stone, Mt Wellington” at the Wellington Park Exhibition, and stereoscopic views and cartes-de-visite at the Town Hall Bazaar. In July, he advertises his latest panorama of Hobart, together with postal delivery of photographs mounted on calico. In November, he reproduces the Town Clerk’s poster informing the public on fire bell warnings as a photographic code of signals in pocket-sized carte-de-visite format, priced sixpence.

1870: younger brother Jack (William John) Nevin joins the civil service, aged 18 years, stationed at the Asylum, Cascades Prison for Males, Hobart. His service continues at the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street as Constable John Nevin, “Gaol Messenger”, a rank which covered his duties as photographer, and as a hospital “Wardsman” until his untimely death from typhoid while still in service, at 39 yrs old.

1871: Thomas J. Nevin marries Elizabeth Rachel Day (b. Rotherhithe, London, 1847 ), daughter of Captain James Day, master mariner, on July 12th at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley. Her parents Captain James Day and Rachael Pocock married in Hobart in 1841, witnessed by Captain James Day’s brother-in-law Captain Edward Goldsmith, master mariner and merchant trader, with whom he had served as navigator and first mate on voyages between London and Australia 1830s-1850s. The Nevins move into the dwelling attached to the studio and glass house/gallery at 138-140 Elizabeth Street. They attend the grand soiree for the inauguration of the new Odd Fellows’ Hall one week earlier, on 6 July 1871, and Thomas Nevin’s commissioned photograph of the Odd Fellow’s Hall is praised in the Mercury during July and August.

1871: Thomas J. Nevin, his wife Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day (b. Rotherhithe 1847) and her sister Mary Sophia Day (b. Hobart 1853) are named in a London Chancery suit as legatees of their late uncle Captain Edward Goldsmith. Paternal uncle of the Day sisters, Captain Goldsmith of Chalk, Kent and Rotherhithe, London had married their father’s sister Elizabeth Day of York at Liverpool, UK in 1829. Master mariner and merchant trader 1830s-1850s between London and Australia, Captain Edward Goldsmith was a friend of Sir John Franklin, and neighbour of Charles Dickens at Gadshill, Kent until his death in 1869.

1872: Between January 31st and 2nd February 1872, Thomas Nevin is commissioned to photograph parties of VIPS visiting Hobart on trips to Adventure Bay and Port Arthur. Their first child, Mary Florence Elizabeth Nevin, is born (known as May to living descendants) at 138-140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town. Notices and advertisements for Thomas Nevin’s photographic items, some taken in collaboration with Samuel Clifford, appear frequently between 1872 and 1876 in the Mercury and Tasmanian Times..

1872: June. Heavy rains and the great landslide at Glenorchy destroy houses, farms, businesses and streets and tore boulders and vegetation from the slopes of Mount Wellington. Within days of the landslide, Thomas Nevin is out and about taking photographs of the damage on commission for the Lands and Survey Division of the Hobart City Council in the company of Mr. Hull, Council Clerk for the district. Three extant stereographs by Nevin of flood damage are held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

1872: December. Thomas Nevin nominates his neighbour James Spence as candidate for the position of Alderman in the Hobart City Council Municipal elections at the Hobart Town Hall. James Spence was an experienced government contractor (waterworks, roads etc ) as well as the licensee of the Royal Standard Hotel, located next to Nevin’s studio, at 142 Elizabeth St on the corner of Patrick Street Hobart.

1873-1876: Thomas Nevin works on contract and commission as police agent and photographer, with patronage and support from contracted coachline licensee Samuel Page; Police Superintendent Richard Propsting of the Municipal Police, Town Hall; John Swan, Inspector of Police at the Hobart Gaol; Dr John Coverdale, MD at the Hobart Gaol, later Surgeon-Commandant at the Port Arthur prison from December 1873 (Walch’s Almanac 1873); and his solicitor, Attorney-General W. R. Giblin, to supplement prisoner records at the Hobart Gaol and the weekly police gazettes with photographs of prisoners who had re-offended, were arrested and sentenced on warrant, and who were discharged with various conditions. Thomas Nevin also takes a portrait of W. R. Giblin. Younger brother Jack Nevin is now a Constable at the Cascades Prison for Males (Mercury, 27 October, 1875).

1874: Thomas and Elizabeth Rachel Nevin’s first son, christened with the same name as his father’s, Thomas James Nevin jnr is also born at the residence attached to the City Photographic Establishment, 138-140 Elizabeth Street, on April 16th. Elizabeth Nevin’s father, master mariner Captain James Day, acts as informant on the registration of the birth in May 1874 while Thomas Nevin is away on business at Port Arthur (60 kms south of Hobart).

1874: On December 24th, the Hobart Mercury published a notice that Thomas Nevin had performed a “Photographic Feat” by managing to photograph the entire front page of the 23rd December issue of the Mercury and fitting it legibly to a card 3 x 2 inches in size.

1875: Thomas Nevin attends the inquest on the death of coach maker and family butcher William Snelling as one of seven jurors at Allen’s Royal Exchange Hotel on 25 January.

1875: Thomas Nevin’s mother, Mary Ann Nevin (nee Dickson, b. 1810), dies on 15th April and is buried at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley. John Nevin snr applies to the Board of Education to establish a night school for males at the Wesleyan Chapel schoolhouse.

1875: Thomas Nevin is listed as a Committee member for the Anniversary Ball of the Loyal United Brothers’ Lodge. He places advertisements in the Mercury soliciting the services of a medical practitioner for Lodge members and their families. Dr E. L. Crowther is appointed.

1876: In January, Thomas Nevin gains a further government contract over 24 other applicants. He is appointed “Keeper” at the Hobart Town Hall. The appointment notice appears in the Mercury 24th January, 1876. His employment as a civil servant continues under the auspices of the Office of Inspector of Police, the Attorney-General, the Mayor at the HCC, Town Hall, and the Premier’s Office of W. L. Crowther.

1876: Thomas Nevin moves his family into the residence at the Hobart Town Hall. He maintains the use of his New Town studio to which he will return in 1880. T. J. [James] Nevin is used on his government contractor photographic stamp encircled by the Royal Arms insignia of the Supreme Court. Examples appear printed on the verso of cdvs of prisoners and portraits of prison officials and their families, eg. the McVilly children.

1876: Their third child and second son, Sydney John Nevin is born at the Town Hall, but lives for only four months. His death notice appears in the Mercury on 29th January 1877.

1877: Thomas Nevin’s younger sister Mary Anne Nevin (b. 1846) marries John Carr, son of the late Captain Jas. Carr, on 12th May at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley.

1877: Younger brother Jack (William John) is now a Constable employed in administration at H.M. Gaol and assists older brother Thomas Nevin in producing prisoner identification photographs for prison and police authorities.

1878: March 14th. Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin’s fourth child and third son William John Nevin is born at the Town Hall, Hobart. William later dies in an accident in 1927, aged 49 yrs.

1878: May 1st. Sister-in-law Mary Sophia Day, younger sister of Thomas’ wife Elizabeth Rachel Day, and second daughter of Captain James Day, marries Captain Hector Charles Axup at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley, Hobart.

1878: On July 27th, Thomas Nevin’s sister Mary Ann Carr nee Nevin dies aged 34yrs at Sandridge, Victoria, days after the birth of her daughter who was named after her, i.e. Mary Ann Carr. The infant is brought to Tasmania and cared for by Thomas Nevin’s father John Nevin snr, who marries again soon after to widow Martha Salter nee Genge to provide a maternal presence for the child. The child is known as Minnie Carr, given the same moniker as her cousin, Thomas Nevin’s last born daughter Minnie Nevin (b.1884).

1879: John Nevin, Thomas Nevin’s father, marries again on 23rd October, aged 71 years old, to widow Martha Salter nee Genge, aged 46 years old, daughter of John Nevin’s late lamented close friend and Wesleyan preacher, William Genge. His wife Mary Nevin nee Dickson and mother of Thomas and the three younger siblings had died in 1875. John Nevin snr and Martha Nevin formerly Salter nee Genge are now the guardians of his grand-daughter Minnie (Mary Ann) Carr, daughter of Thomas Nevin’s sister Mary Ann who died soon after the birth in Victoria. John Nevin’s grand-daughter Minnie Carr lives at Kangaroo Valley with him until his death in 1887. She then moves to Warwick Street Hobart with Martha Nevin, technically her step-grandmother, but she too dies of internal bleeding, aged just 20 yrs old, in 1898.

1879: Thomas Nevin is sworn in as a Special Constable in June during the confrontations between Catholics and Protestants at the Hobart Town Hall arising from the visit of the lapsed Catholic Canadian priest Charles Chiniquy.

1880: April  2nd. Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin’s fifth child and fourth son George Ernest Nevin is also born at the Town Hall, Hobart.

1880: In early December Thomas Nevin is dismissed from the position of “Keeper” at the Town Hall, ostensibly for being drunk while on duty. The dismissal notice and full account of the incident with the “ghost” appears in the Mercury on 4th December, 1880. The Committee expresses regret at the dismissal from the Keeper position and mindful of his growing family, re-assigns Thomas Nevin to the New Town and City Police as assistant bailiff with warrant and photographic duties.

1881: John Nevin, Thomas’ father, publishes a poem in pamphlet form, lamenting the death of his friend William Genge (held at the State Library of Tasmania). He is still resident at Kangaroo Valley.

1882: Father of Elizabeth Nevin nee Day and father-in-law of Thomas Nevin, master mariner Captain James Day (b. 1804), dies at Sloane Street, Battery Point, the home of his younger daughter Mary Sophia Axup nee Day.

1882: Brother Jack Nevin, officially Constable John or W. J. Nevin, testifies to an inquest into the accidental death of colleague Constable Green (Mercury 19 May 1882).

1883: Thomas Nevin is listed on the Electoral Roll at 21 Cottage Green, Battery Point belonging to J. Heathorn of Heathorn’s Hotel, for whom Nevin produced commercial advertising. He maintains the New Town studio, working on commission for the New Town Territorial and Hobart Municipal Police as photographer, bailiff’s assistant and warrant officer, as well as supporting his brother Constable John Nevin as the Hobart Gaol prison photographer.

1884: November 11th. Their sixth child and second daughter Mary Ann Nevin is born. Known as Minnie to living descendants, her father signs her birth registration with his occupation as “photographer” at New Town.

1884: Younger brother Constable William John (Jack) is listed on the Denison Electoral Roll as a resident and salaried employee of the Hobart Gaol. He continues to assist elder brother Thomas with the provision of prisoner identification photographs for the police and prison authorities, functioning also as the Gaol Messenger.

1886: Thomas Nevin is employed as assistant bailiff with the Municipal Police Office in the City and Supreme Courts. His warrants are supplemented with photographs of prisoners, including those condemned to death (Mitchell Collection SLNSW). He is charged with Breach of the Education Act in August for keeping his children at home during an outbreak of whooping cough. After testimony from Sub-inspector John Dorsett of the City Police, the charge is dropped.

1887: Father of Thomas and Jack, John Nevin snr dies (1808-1887). He is survived by his second wife, Thomas and Jack’s stepmother, Martha Nevin, formerly Salter nee Genge.

1888: May 2nd. Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin’s last born child of seven in total, the sixth to survive, and fifth son, Albert Edward Nevin is born at 236 Elizabeth Street, Hobart. Thomas Nevin signs a resolution to the House of Assembly bill to centralise the various police forces.

1891: Jack Nevin, born as William John Nevin and known officially as Constable John Nevin, the younger brother of Thomas J. Nevin, dies suddenly from typhoid fever while employed at the Hobart Gaol, aged 39 years (1852-1891). His death and burial certificates state he was both wardsman and  messenger.

1898: Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin’s niece, Mary Ann Carr, known as Minnie Carr, daughter of Thomas Nevin’s deceased sister Mary Ann Carr nee Nevin who is now resident with their father’s widow, Martha Nevin nee Genge, at Warwick St. Hobart, dies of internal bleeding, aged 20 yrs.

1905: Thomas Nevin lists his occupation as “labourer” on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll for the seat of Denison, Tasmania. He is believed to have taken to carpentry and furniture removals (with William Hanson, a witness at his wedding in 1871), as well as horse training. Six members of Thomas Nevin’s family are listed, and all are resident at 236 Elizabeth Street, Hobart:

1905 Denison electoral roll

  1. Thomas Nevin senior (b. 1842 – d. 1923) – the word “senior” appears here to avoid confusion with his eldest son who bears the same name, Thomas James Nevin jnr. His occupation is listed as labourer. He is now 63 years old.
  2. His wife Elizabeth Rachel Nevin (b. 1847 – d. 1914) is now 58 years old. Her occupation given is domestic duties.

  3. Their son Thomas James Nevin jnr (b. 1874 – d. 1948) is listed as a bootmaker.

  4. Their daughter Mary Florence Elizabeth Nevin is listed as dressmaker. She was known as May Nevin to the family (b. 19 May 1872 – d. 4 June 1955).

  5. Their son George Nevin is listed as a labourer (b. 2 April 1880 – d. 30 July 1957).

  6. Their son William Nevin is listed as a shop assistant (b. 14 March 1878 – d. 28 Oct 1927).

The two youngest children born to Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin – Mary Ann (Minnie Nevin 1884-1974) and Albert Edward Nevin (1888-1955)- were not yet of voting age.

1907: Two marriages: Sonny and Minnie: –
Eldest son Thomas James (“Sonny”) Nevin marries Gertrude Jane Tennyson Bates (1883-1958) on 6th February at the Wesleyan Chapel, Hobart. They travel to the USA to join Gertrude’s family who migrated to California in 1907.

Youngest daughter Mary Ann (“Minnie”) Nevin marries James Henry Alfred Drew, carrier and van proprietor, formerly of Richmond Tasmania, on 28th March 1907 at the bride’s parents residence, 270 Elizabeth St. Hobart. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. J. H. Cain. Minnie Drew gave birth to five children between 1908 and 1914: Reginald, Jean, Joyce, and twins Lola and Lorna.

1911: Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin’s grandson is born to his first son Thomas jnr and wife Gertrude in Hobart in 1910. He is named Walter Sydney Tennyson Nevin, but dies on August 16th 1911.

1914: Elizabeth Rachel Nevin, Thomas’ wife, dies suddenly, aged 67 years at their residence, No. 270 Elizabeth St. Hobart. Her funeral notice appears in the Mercury on June 18th, 1914.

1917: Albert Edward Nevin, their last born child, marries Emily Maud Davis on March 5th at Launceston.

1923: Thomas J. Nevin the photographer dies at the family residence, No. 270 Elizabeth St. Hobart in March, aged 80 years. His funeral notice appears in the Mercury of March 12th, 1923. He was buried with the rank of “photographer”.

Burial 1923
When Thomas Nevin’s wife Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day died in 1914, her funeral procession was advertised as leaving the same residential address as Thomas Nevin’s in 1923, viz. No. 270 Elizabeth-street, Hobart.

Funeral notice for Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923)
Mercury 12 March 1923


NEVIN- Funeral of the late Mr. Thomas Nevin, of 270 Elizabeth-street, will move from his residence on Monday Morning (This Day) at 9.30 o’clock, arriving at Cornelian Bay Cemetery at 10 o’clock. CLARK BROS., Funeral Undertakers 17 Argyle-street. ‘Phone 1077

Not entirely following the printed format, Thomas J. Nevin’s burial registration nevertheless records key details:


Hobart Public Cemetery
No. 3422 (Schedule C.)
Answers to be written opposite to the following Questions at the time of giving Orders
1. What denomination? Ch of England and
2. Name of deceased? Thomas Nevin
3. Late Residence of deceased? Photographer
4. Rank of deceased? Elizabeth St
5. Age of deceased? 80 years …months…days
6. Where born? Ireland
7. Minister to officiate? Rev Summers[?]
8. Day of funeral/ 12th March 23
9. What Hour? 9.30 o’clock am
10. No. of Grave on plan issued? No. 277 Compartment DD
11. If a public grave?
12. If a private grave, what width? Yes feet
13. ” ” length? 8 x 4 feet
14. What depth?
15. If first or second interment? …feet
16. Nature of disease, or supposed cause of death? ….
CLARK BROS [stamp]
Signature of William Clark
Representative or Undertaker
Order received this … day of … 19
at … o’clock
£. s. d
Interment in Public Grave …
Land for Private Grave, 8ft x 4 ft 5: 4: 0
Sinking 6½ feet, or re-opening .. 1: 15: 0
Label …..: 2: 6
Certificate of Right of Burial … : 12 6
Permission to erect Monument : 10 0

£6: 4: 0

Descendant, author and webmaster of these privately owned Thomas J. Nevin weblogs – KLW NFC Imprint (current URLS below) gratefully acknowledges the contributions and encouragement of a dedicated group of descendants of photographer Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923), his wife Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day (1847-1914) and her sister Mary Sophia Axup nee Day (1853-1942). Their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren have provided invaluable information from their collective memory and rare memorabilia from family collections which have formed the basis since the late 1990s in developing online these three Thomas J. Nevin weblogs:-

In addition, scans, documents, and photographs from private collectors have been especially welcome. Extensive research for these weblogs over decades has involved collecting and evaluating original archival and newspaper documentation as well as unearthing and sourcing the many hundreds of holdings of Thomas J. Nevin’s photographic works in public and private collections, the pursuit of which is augmented every few months with the discovery of yet another early photograph by Thomas J. Nevin, another beautifully crafted poem by his father John Nevin snr, or more revelations about the voyages, friends and neighbours of Elizabeth Rachel Nevin’s and Mary Sophia Axup’s illustrious uncle, Captain Edward Goldsmith (1804-1869).

Many thanks to all contributors. Last updated October 2021.
NB: this information is subject to updates, revisions, and additions at any time.

From the KLW NFC Group

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