Saturday, January 14, 2012

Lady Franklin's Ancanthe Under Threat

In 1839, during the time that Sir John Franklin was serving as Governor of Van Diemen's Land, Lady Franklin bought 130 acres of land near Hobart Town with the intention of setting up both a large botanical garden and an associated library and collection of natural history (many items of which she had collected). The museum building was fashioned after a Greek temple, and it and the surrounding gardens were to be known as "Ancanthe." Sir John Franklin himself laid the corner stone.

Alas, after the Franklins' departure, her Ladyship's plans languished; in 1853 all the collections and the library were removed, and the temple used to store apples and potatoes. Fortunately, the museum building itself was returned to the City of Hobart in 1936, with the stipulation that it not be moved, and be used in a manner consistent with Lady Franklin's intentions. The Art Society of Tasmania uses it for exhibition space, and that's surely something of which Jane would have approved.

Yet since then, the gardens and estate surrounding Ancanthe have been reduced again and again, with even the central ten acres facing incursions. And then, just recently, they have fallen under threat from a proposed subdivision whose backer, David Crean, has managed to avoid review by the full Hobart City Council. Concerned over the threat to this historically significant and beautiful property, local citizens have recently expressed their views, urging to City to purchase and permanently preserve the area adjacent to the original Ancanthe estate as public lands. They have established a Facebook page, the Save Ancanthe Group, and are urgently seeking donations and support. I urge every reader of this blog, and everyone with any interest in the vital historical ties between Sir John and Lady Jane Franklin and Tasmania, to support this cause, and let their views be known.


  1. Dear Professor Potter,

    Thank you for your support for this very important campaign. I have provided a link to your blog from our facebook wall.

    Kind regards,

    Saving Ancanthe Action Group

  2. Hear hear! Creeping suburbia must be held back.

  3. Russell, can you give me your citation for the 130 acres please. I am trying to wade through the myths to get to the core of the matter (essential if it is to be successfully appealed in law) and accounts from Lady Franklin herself refer to 300-500 acres in all. So some clarity as to your source would be helpful

  4. The 130 acre figure is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography: