Throughout the 1840s the female convict establishment was spreading throughout Hobart. With Cascades being well over capacity for most of its operating years, and the conditions and infant death rates drawing much public attention, a number of other sites were established, both near and far, to take the pressure off the Factory.
Women were held at a nursery site in Dynnyrne, and on board the convict hulk the Anson; some were moved to hiring depots and to the other female factories at Ross and Launceston. Meanwhile the infant death rate was not improving, despite various locations being trialled as better options than Cascades.
In order to alleviate the problem and in an effort to re-centralise the convict administration of females, plans were prepared in mid-1849 for a nursery – or Yard 4.
This yard was designed to house a large nursery building that ran along the western wall, the windows and verandah facing east to capture much of the daily sun. The building was designed to house 88 women and some 150 children, allowing for babies to stay with their mothers until they were weaned at nine months and placed in the care of other nursing mothers until admitted to the Queen’s Orphan School at three years of age. The yard also hosted a commodious cookhouse/laundry and a shelter shed was located in the centre of the large exercise yard.
The yard’s buildings were completed in late 1850 and were visited by Colonel Mundy on New Year’s Day 1851:
“In a large exercise yard, with an open shed in the centre to afford shelter from the sun, we found sixty women, with as many babies from two years to as many days old… Some of the females, I found, were the hired nurses of the establishment – not the mothers of the children… many of the wretched little ones, in the hands of the nurses, will never know either parent… There were a score or so of wooden cribs, in each lay two, three or four innocents, stowed away head and tail, like sardines a l’huile; while others were curled about like a litter of kittens in a basket of straw.”
Mundy recorded 730 women and 130 infants at the factory at the time of his visit. Obviously, despite the good intentions, overcrowding and poor conditions continued to plague the establishment and saw the nursery move in and out of the site for its remaining years of operation.
Yard 4 had nearly a dozen different owners between 1905 and 1993. Mr Henry Brooks owned the property of 8 Harold Street between 1910 and 1939. Mr Brooks was responsible for renovating and converting the Yard 4 Nursery building into four separate dwellings which he leased to local families.
Unfortunately the building was heavily damaged by fire in 1929 and was subsequently demolished. In an effort to recover some of the £2000 worth of damage done to his building as a result of the fire, Mr Brooks offered up the remains of the building for £1 five shillings per 1000 cleaned bricks.
Landscape elements and low gabion walls indicate the location of various parts of the yard during the Female Factory years, in particular the laundry functions.