Variety Bay – Bruny Island

‘The Variety Bay Historical Site consists of a complex of three separate, but linked areas located on the Murrayfield private property on North Bruny Island. The remains of a pilot station built by William Lawrence is 1831, a brick works and St Peter’s Church.’ (from pamphlet – Bruny Island Historical Society)

The meeting point is very easily missed. Check your map and directions thoroughly. A car is needed as the sites are over a wide area.

The Variety Bay heritage site is part of Murrayfield Station which was established to teach agriculture to young Aboriginal people. Murrayfield is operated by the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC), a corporate Commonwealth body.

St Peter’s Church was built by William Lawrence. William Lawrence was the son of convicts. He used every opportunity to build power and influence. He ingratiated himself to the local clergy by inviting Bishop Nixon, the first bishop of Tasmania and his party to his home for refreshments. St Peters was the first church south of Hobart. Parishioners travelled by boat from all parts of the Channel. It was built in 1846/7 and used until 1892. The building is of Colonial Bond construction(three brick width walls)  and the bricks were made by convicts. The church had fixed pews made of Huon Pine. The adjacent cemetery was segregated. Convict graves were located further from the church.  The Bligh Museum at Adventure Bay was modelled on this building and made from 26,000 handmade bricks from Variety Bay.

200 convicts lived on the property and were responsible for making bricks, building and maintenance works. Clay, shell grit burned for lime and sand were all available at the site. 60% of bricks were unfit to be used. The bricks at the top of the kiln melted into a deep blue colour. These can be clearly seen on the outside walls of St Peters. Remains of the brick works are visible however some are regularly taken as souvenirs by visiting boat parties.

The pilot station was built on a hill overlooking Variety Bay. The bay was so called due to the variety of fish found in the waters. The two storey house overlooked an acre of gardens managed by Mrs Lawrence. The site shows remains of brick and wooden stables and a baker’s oven. An advertisement of July, 1853 described the house as;

11 convenient, lofty and well-furnished apartments which vary in size from 18×16 feet to 20×18 feet. Several of the bedrooms have fixed bedsteads. A large tank of brick and cement holds 30 tons. Outer buildings include an outer office, 6 stall brick stable, 4 stall weatherboard stable, large barn, men’s house, storeroom, fowl house, cattle shed, pig sties.

Gail Foster