Forcett House was the home of James Gordon, farmer and magistrate, after whom Tasmania's mighty Gordon River was named. Built in 1832 on a sandstone knob that commands panoramic views over Pitt Water in southern Tasmania, it was at the time part of an estate of some 600 acres.
Forcett House has been beautifully preserved, thanks in part to the dryness of the sandstone on which it sits.
A unique feature of this convict-brick homestead is its clerestory (pronounced clear-storey), a small upper level rising above the roof. Its glass walls provide light for the five-bedroom attic that was originally servants' quarters, and it doubles as a 360-degree lookout for unwanted guests.
The attic part of the home remains virtually untouched since the 1800s; even the original grey paint is still intact.
Dividing the lounge room and dining room downstairs is a beautiful concertinaed cedar door, which folds back to make the two rooms one. In the middle of this is another door, enabling access between the rooms when they are divided.
Allowing light to stream into the living areas at the front of the home are magnificent Palladian or Venetian windows. The home also features several blind or 'dummy' windows—windows that don't have an opening, but even have the glazing bars painted in.
Downstairs are just two bedrooms; James Gordon and his wife never had children. However, at the western end of an enclosed courtyard is a two-storey convict-built section. This housed the original kitchen and granary but has now been converted to self-contained accommodation should extra guests arrive to stay.
James Gordon was born in Forcett, Yorkshire, and emigrated to Sydney to pursue a career in trade. He was appointed naval officer at Hobart Town in 1814, but left this posting a year later to focus on farming
his land grant. He was considered a highly progressive farmer but is blamed for the introduction to Tasmania of the spear or Scotch thistle, apparently doing so for sentimental reasons.
Gordon was appointed district magistrate and coroner in 1826, and principal superintendent of convicts in 1828. From there followed stints as a police magistrate at Launceston and then Richmond, closer to home.
His failure to keep proper financial accounts was his downfall. After several complaints and a number of inquiries that cleared him of fraud, he was forced to resign as police magistrate in 1832, and in 1835 he was also replaced as a member of the Legislative Council, to which he had been appointed in 1829.
Gordon was a good friend of sealer James Kelly, who later became harbourmaster of the Derwent
River. In 1815 Kelly set out in a whaleboat on a circumnavigation of Van Diemen's Land, on which he discovered Port Davey, and Macquarie Harbour at Strahan. It is said that Gordon had given Kelly the whaleboat on which he explored the river at the mouth of Macquarie Harbour, and so it was named in his honour.
James Gordon died in 1842 and left his estate to his wife for her distribution among relatives. Forcett House was owned for a time by the Harvey family, which was closely connected with George Adams' Tattersall's empire.
Forcett House was bought a few years ago by Robert and Carmel Torenius. Carmel, the Mayor of Sorell, had secretly adored the home for years and could hardly believe her luck when the auction made her and her husband its proud new owners.
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