Nevin Street and the Cascades Prison for Males

CONSTABLE JOHN NEVIN civil service 1870-1891
NEVIN Street, South Hobart

Constable W.John Nevin (1852-1891), younger brother of photographer Thomas J. Nevin (known as Jack to the family), entered the civil service from his eighteenth birthday in 1870 in the capacity of warder at the “Cascade Asylum” according to his obituary. It was formerly known as the Cascades Female Factory, South Hobart, but by 1869 the site housed the Invalid Depot, the Boys Reformatory Training School and the Cascades Gaol for Males. Jack Nevin continued service there until he was transferred to the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street in 1877. He remained in service on salary in administration as gaol messenger, wardsman and photographer until his death from typhoid fever in 1891, aged 39 yrs, while resident at the gaol. His length of service with H. M. Prisons was twenty-one years. According to his obituary published in the Mercury on 18th June 1891, he was a well-respected civil servant who left no family but a large circle of friends.

Jack Nevin was sixteen years old in January 1868 when he posed for this photograph taken by his brother Thomas in the studio at the City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town. It was one of several photographs of children and young adults taken by Thomas J. Nevin in partnership with Robert Smith during the Royal visit to Hobart of Queen Victoria’s second son, Prince Alfred, on board HMS Galatea.

Subject: William John Nevin (1852-1891), known as Jack to the family;
also known as Constable John Nevin from 1870-1891
Photographers: Thomas J. Nevin (older brother) and Robert Smith
Location and Date: 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart, Tasmania, January 1868.
Details: verso stamped with Royal insignia of three feathers, coronet and Ich Dien;”From Nevin & Smith late Bock’s, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town”
Source: Private Collection, Sydney Rare Books Auction, June 2019

In the constabulary

Signature of W. J. Nevin on document below:
Previous employment with police: nine months at Gaol Males Cascades from Aug 1875 to April 1876

W.J. Nevin – renewed applications to join the Constabulary Tasmania 1877 and 1881
Records Courtesy State Library of Tasmania

While a constable at the Cascade Gaol for Males, John Nevin was involved in an incident reported in the Mercury, 27 October 1875:

Constable John Nevin, Mercury, 27 October 1875.


Tuesday 26th October, 1875
Before Mr. Tarleton, Police Magistrate
PEACE DISTURBERS. – Robert Evans and William Inman were charged by
Constable Pearce, of the Cascades, with having disturbed the peace
in Upper Macquarie-street on the 24th inst. The defendants pleaded
“not guilty”. Constables Pearce and Nevin, of the Cascades,
proved that the defendants were throwing stones and making a
disturbance. The Police Magistrate said that in Upper
Macquarie-street there existed the roughest of lads in Hobart Town.
He would sentence both defendants to 14 days’ imprisonment, and warn
them that on proof of a second they would probably be birched.

This photograph of Jack (William John) Nevin taken in his mature years, ca. mid 1880s, by his brother Thomas J. Nevin, appears to be only one to have surfaced, at least in family collections to date. He is not to be confused with Thomas and Elizabeth Rachel Nevin’s son by the same name, William John Nevin (1878-1927) who died prematurely in a cart accident.

Constable John (W. J.) Nevin ca. mid 1880s.
Photo taken by his brother Thomas Nevin
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & Private Collection 2009 ARR. Watermarked.

Adjacent to the Cascades Gaol for Males in the 1870s and leading directly up the hill behind it was a wide track, now a “No Through Road” named “Nevin Street”. On the left, ascending the hill going northwest, and located at an address now called No. 2 Nevin Street, was a cemetery associated with the prison from its days as a Female Factory – a prison for females (1850s) – to its last uses as an invalid depot, orphanage, prison and reformatory (1870s onwards). Thereafter, the deceased were moved to the Cornelian Bay Cemetery. Surrounding parcels of land were sold to a milkman by the government in 1908. Constable John Nevin was on duty at the Cascades on 11th May 1876 when the Government buried Trucanini there, considered in her time as one of the last Tasmanian Aborigines.

The cemetery site itself at No. 2 Nevin St is vacant, however, marked as heritage interest. This report was compiled by the Tasmanian Heritage Council on 27 November 2007:

The location of the graveyard is shown on two historical plans. A
c.1859 plan of the Female Factory Reserve shows the graveyard to the
northwest of Yard 5 as a roughly triangular shaped parcel of ground
(AOT, PWD 266/382). An 1884 survey locates a morgue building on what
was later to become Syme Street. It also locates nine graves
orientated east-west, along the eastern boundary of the graveyard
(LO, Hobart 65, 90469). Private residential development from the
mid- to-late twentieth century occupies most of the place today. The
housing is not considered to be of State heritage significance.
Described in The Mercury in 1873 as ‘a pretty little green patch of
three-quarters of an acres … and has no denominational
subdivision. Prisoners, paupers and juvenile offenders, of all
creeds, find a resting place in the same spot, and a few graves are
marked with neat little crosses erected by the friends or relations
of those buried there’.

From Kangaroo Valley to the Cascades Gaol, 1870s
The track or road was formally named Nevin Street at a date yet to be confirmed (at Lands and Titles Office?). The track leading to it was used by walking clubs extensively. In 1935, this map was issued by the Hobart Walkers’ Club, which shows a road in heavy outline leading up from the prison, leading northwest up McRobies Gully.

Title: Mt. Wellington Park map of roads, tracks, etc. / [compiled by] V. W. Hodgman
Creator: Hobart Walking Club (Tas.)
Map data: Scale unknown
Publisher: 1935
Description: 1 map ; 17 1/2 inches in diameter (part col.), rolled
Format: Map
ADRI: AUTAS001131821340
Source: Tasmaniana Library

Detail of Hobart Walkers Map 1935 showing relative positions of the Nevin farm next to the Lady Franklin Museum and the two possible routes taken across country by Constable Nevin to the Cascades Gaol for Males in 1875.

The 1935 Hobart Walkers Club map (detail above) shows two very distinct routes to the southeast which John Nevin might have chosen in the 1870s on his journey from the family farm at Kangaroo Valley, situated next to the Lady Franklin Museum where Thomas and John’s father John Nevin snr had built their cottage. Whether on foot or horseback, the first and longer route he could have taken was along Kangaroo Valley road, alternatively titled Lenah Valley Road by 1922, to the waterhole and the cabin named by the Old Hobartians (alumni of Hobart High School) as their own by 1935. He would then veer south on the path to the New Town Falls, crossing Brushy Creek until arriving at the edge of a very steep ravine . Once there, he would join the McRobies track until arriving at the Hobart Rivulet, passing below the Cascades Brewery. The track, much wider at that point, passed by the cemetery, and ended directly opposite the Cascades Prison.

McRobies Gully Postcard ca. 1900s
TAHO Ref: NS8691373

Alternatively, he could have proceeded from the Museum along Brushy creek road a short way, then crossed onto a track which joined Pottery Road running bedside the creek, and joining another track until he reached the Slides. Descending a steep hill side on another short track adjacent to another creek led him onto the McRobies gully track which widened into a roadway, ending adjacent to the wall of the Cascades Gaol. It therefore seems likely that the present Nevin Street was originally the track leading up McRobies Gully and the path Constable John Nevin used when coming and going to and from work at the Cascades Prison for Males from 1870 to 1877.

When Constable John Nevin renewed his contract and term of service in 1881 with H. M. Prisons Department, he was still living at home with his parents in the house built by his father on the property at Kangaroo Valley, which was situated on land adjacent to the Lady Franklin Museum and the Wesleyan Chapel and school house where his father John Nevin taught children by day and adult males by night. He would have travelled via the city streets to the Hobart Gaol in Campbell St. by 1881, eventually taking up residence there. He was active in assisting his brother in photographic sessions both at the Hobart Gaol and adjoining Supreme Court. His employment was listed as salaried in administration and resident at the Campbell St Gaol on the electoral roll of 1884, and listed again as “gaol messenger” in residence when he died suddenly of typhoid fever in 1891.

Signature of Wm. John Nevin, Kangaroo Valley, 24th November 1881.

Surveyor’s Map showing Hobart Gaol 1887 (TAHO)

As government contractor to the Lands and Survey Dept. from 1868, Thomas J. Nevin snr, took many photographs on the tracks leading from Kangaroo Valley across to the waterfall, Brushy Creek, the reservoir waterworks, and Hobart rivulet, mostly produced with the dual purpose of providing documentation of works and weather damage in local landscapes as well as supplying local and intercolonial visitors with commercial stereographs. These photographs (below) were taken around the same years as Constable John Nevin’s second attestation, 1881, to service at the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street. They are from the State Library of Tasmania’s Pretyman Collection.

Title: Photograph – Group on walking track in bush setting
Description: 1 photographic print
Format: Photograph
ADRI: NS1013-1-808
Source: Archives Office of Tasmania
Series: Photographs and Glass Plate Negatives Collected by E R Pretyman, 1870 – 1930 (NS1013)

Cascades Prison for Males
TAHO Ref: NS1013145 (n.s. n.d.) This photo shows the track that is Nevin St rising up to the right

Cascades Prison for Males
TAHO Ref: NS1013146 . This photo was taken from Nevin St. Beattie print, no date.

Cascades Prison for Males
TAHO Ref: NS1013148 (n.s. n.d.)

The naming of Nevin Street may well have been a decision taken by surveyor John Hurst arising from the historical ties of his father, James Hurst, also a surveyor, and John Nevin snr’s family in Ireland, reflected in their respective family friendships in Tasmania. For example, Thomas J. Nevin acted as informant on the birth registration of surveyor John Hurst’s son, William Nevin Tatlow Hurst in 1868 while John Hurst was working elsewhere in the state. This was the first use of the name “Nevin” by the Hurst family in Tasmania. On another family occasion, John Hurst’s mother Eliza Hurst was a signatory witness to the marriage registration of Thomas and Jack Nevin’s sister Mary Ann Nevin to John Carr at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley in 1877. The naming of Nevin Street by a family of surveyors connected to the family of brothers Thomas and Jack Nevin, is therefore a likely outcome of a shared family history.

No Through Road. Looking up Nevin St.
The vacant block in bottom left of this photo is the site of the cemetery at 2 Nevin St.
Photos copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2011 ARR

Top: Looking northwest towards Nevin St from the prison wall
Bottom: Looking southeast in the opposite direction towards Cascades Road
Photos copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2011 ARR

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