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LEWD WOMEN, SAILORS DRINKING THEMSELVES TO DEATH, GRISLY MURDERS AND RAMPANT TYPHOID - HOBART - 1800’s

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The people of Wapping were working-class employed by the nearby factories — jam, tanneries, ice, soap, gasworks and a slaughterhouse 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 that charities ran in Victorian England

"The organisation which set up the school wanted to differentiate between the schools being provided for the fine elite folk of society and those recipients of charity, to put you in your place to make sure you knew you were lower class. You were able to be educated, but your future serving higher classes was controlled," Mrs Everist said.

She believes former convict Ikey Solomon is also likely to have been a Wapping resident.

It's said Solomon was one of the characters from London's Wapping on whom Charles Dicken based his Oliver Twist character, Fagin.

Solomon's shady reputation as a trainer of pickpockets and receiver of stolen goods preceded his arrival in the 1820s in Hobart where he set up as a tobacconist and made a successful attempt to reunite with his wife.

Was it really a disease-ridden slum

"For it to be a slum it had to have non-permanent housing. This had permanent housing, this area had houses built of stone and brick and only a small portion of them was made of timber," she said.

Michael Sprod, the co-author of Down Wapping published in 1988, said the disease was certainly evident because the rivulet was used upstream to dump household waste, and it regularly flooded.

"There was cholera and typhoid outbreaks in Hobart not just down there as a result of poor sanitation, particularly around the rivulet, right up until the mid-19th century until the council got its act together."

Mrs Everist said Wapping got a bad rap because it was full of people who "liked a rowdy life, who drank far too much and weren't part of fine society".

"It got this bad reputation of being somewhere you don't want to go, a slightly dangerous place to go.

"But the people who lived here saw it completely differently. They saw themselves as a nice close-knit community, able to help your neighbours and look after your own."

An elephant was enlisted in 1901 to help residents in Wapping which was flood-prone throughout its existence.

But there is no escaping the seedy side and its reputation of being on-the-nose was accurate, given the nearby industries and the fact it was at the end of the Hobart rivulet — the city's early sewer.

The reputation for crime and vice was not surprising given the proliferation of pubs and prostitutes; 15 on one corner alone was recorded in one early statistic.

In the early days drinking holes for seafarers, British troops and the navy dotted the area, with 13 pubs in just a few blocks.

"There certainly were a lot of pubs downs there but there was also a lot in the city — they were smaller .. neighbourhood bars like we are going back to now almost," Mr Sprod said.

"Hobart was a very busy whaling port and seamen of that type came off the boats with lots of money and wanting a bit of entertainment and recreation."

Wapping houses on Hobart Rivulet

Despite its shanty town reputation, residents of Wapping lived largely in houses of stone and brick.

Was it as bad as people thought?

Much of the area's early social history is garnered from newspaper reports recording crimes ranging from publicans taking out orders to stop wives from drinking to some truly grisly murders.

In one particularly nasty crime in the 1820s, John Leach brutally stabbed his wife to death with a stick. He left her with horrific injuries but despite crying out for help for 30 minutes, no one came to her aid.

Leach went to the gallows for his actions which he believed were fully justified by her behaviour, described at the time as "unfeminine".

There are also accounts of seamen drinking themselves to death.

"There was a high influx of sailors and whalers who would be living away for many months and then they get off their ships and some drank themselves to death," she said.

Mr Sprod said the demographic was mixed and while prostitutes were heavily linked with the area, some of them came from outside Wapping.

Hobart Rivulet drainage work in the 1930s

The Hobart rivulet which carried effluent from central Hobart was the bane of Wapping residents.

"Although it was quite poor down there, they were poor but honest and, in fact, the district was probably really dominated by people who worked in the local industries," he said.

"It was a mixture of both, clearly the waterfront area had a lot of colourful life but the Wapping district was quite closely packed with housing and plenty of people who were decent upstanding citizens."

Mrs Everist said the residents protected their own.

"People who grew up here felt they were quite safe, you don't pick on your own. You might mug an interloper, mug a whaler who has got lots of money because he wasn't a local."

PHOTO- BEFORE AND NOW SHOT OF HOBART

PHOTO - A CARTOON DRAWN OF THE GRIM REAPER DEPICTING THE DEATH FROM RAW SEWERAGE.

PHOTO - TWO EARLY SHOTS OF HOBART - the 1860s.

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