High Peak

When the Grant family made the move from their Hobart city home to High Peak in the 1950s, their friends threw a party to say a proper farewell. Which was very 'Hobart' when you consider that the new location at Neika was only about fifteen minutes' drive from the old one in town.

But situated high on the slopes of the spectacular Mount Wellington, there is a sense of isolation in this subalpine environment of forest and pristine creeks, and this is what made High Peak such a perfect summer retreat for generations of the Grant family from the late 1800s.

Neika is about thirteen kilometres from Hobart along the winding old Huon Highway that was once the main thoroughfare between Hobart and the thriving Huon Valley apple-growing district.

Charles Henry Grant, described as 'pre-eminently a money making machine and successful speculator', bought twenty-three acres of land here in 1888, and in 1891 he engaged prominent architect George Fagg to design him a chalet for his family's summer residence.

Fagg remains highly regarded for his work on church buildings, including the chancel and chapel of Hobart's St David's Cathedral. The mountain chalet he designed is a grand, two-storey Victorian Tudor-style building, with an asymmetrical roof featuring gables of different sizes with battened ends.

The exterior woodwork is of rare King Billy pine— the trees were cleared on site—the windowsills are of Huon pine, the lower floor was built of rubble stone collected on the property, and the upper storey features stucco over timber lathes and wire mesh. The home, one of only a few heritage Tudor-style buildings in Tasmania, has a grand formal entrance hall, dining and drawing rooms, children's playroom with separate entrance, a large kitchen, butler's pantry, seven bedrooms, servants' quarters, and a more recently built conservatory/sunroom living area. From the upstairs balcony, the views down over Kingston and the

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Derwent River are perhaps only surpassed by those from the Mount Wellington summit.

Exquisite stained-glass windows brought out from Belgium and featuring rare cranberry glass roundels adorn the front door. The home is decorated with Jacobean-style English oak furniture that was hand-carved in France especially for this summer home.

The house and tennis court at High Peak sit at the bottom of highly significant gardens, which have thrived in annual rainfall of over a metre (twice that of Hobart) and rich volcanic soil. Some of its rare species include monkey puzzle trees, or Araucaria araucana, native to the lower slopes of the Chilean Andes and so named because they would puzzle (as much as severely injure) any monkey that tried to climb them. It takes about eighty years before the monkey puzzle trees even produce seeds. Those in the garden of High Peak were bought by Charles Henry at great expense about 130 years ago, and it is from High Peak that the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens has recently received a monkey puzzle seedling.

There are also sequoia trees or giant American redwoods, yew (which can live for thousands of years), other araucarias and conifers, yellow holly, spruce, cedar, Norfolk pine and the common macrocarpa pine.

The formal gardens are laid out with extensive English box and pittosporum hedges, hydrangeas, and the Grants stopped counting the different rhododendrons at fifty-two. Thanks to the possums, the roses have to be kept in a separate area under protective nets but, nevertheless, springtime ushers in a carpet of flowers.

The Duke and Duchess of York were entertained at High Peak in 1901, as were departing Antarctic expeditioners, and in 1902 High Peak hosted a garden party as part of the Australian Science Congress.

Charles Henry Grant, a brilliant mathematician and engineer, came to Tasmania in 1872 to oversee construction of the Hobart to Launceston rail line. After the first train travelled the route in 1876, Grant pursued a range of business interests; some of his many directorships included Cascade Brewery, Hobart Gas and the Hobart Coffee Palace. He was returned unopposed twice as a Legislative Council member for Hobart, and was the driving force behind the Hobart Electric Tramway company.

Such was the esteem in which C.H. Grant was held that when he died in 1902, flags on all public buildings in Hobart were flown at half-mast, and in 1914 the locality of Granton was named in his honour.

Stained Glass The High PekHigh Peak Hobart

His son, Charles William Grant, inherited High Peak in 1912 along with the family tradition of playing a prominent role in public life. In addition to serving as a state and federal politician, C.W. Grant was foundation chairman of the Hobart Bridge Company, which built the first pontoon bridge connecting the eastern and western shores of Hobart in 1943. He was also chairman of Cascade Brewery, had involvement in Hobart's first crematorium and was a director of Davies Bros Ltd, publisher of the Hobart Mercury newspaper.

In the 1950s, C.W.'s son, Charles Henry, his wife, Gwen, and their three young boys decided to move from Hobart and make High Peak their permanent home, prompting the farewell party from their Hobart friends. Their son Jim and his wife, Annabelle, live here today.

High Peak was lucky to survive the Black Tuesday bushfires that swept through southern Tasmania in 1967, claiming sixty-two lives. The fires came so close to the home that all the trees just below the formal garden were lost, and a man had to spend the entire day on the roof, putting out spot fires as the sparks landed. When High Peak was re-roofed in 2003, the Grants discovered that the whole length of a barge-

board on a northern gable of the house was charred through, so close did it come to being another casualty of one of Australia's worst disasters.

Re-roofing is just one of the many updates that have occurred at High Peak since Jim and Annabelle moved here ten years ago from the property they named Off Peak, just down the hill. They repainted High Peak, laid new carpet, added a conservatory-style living area, renovated the laundry and bathrooms and have spent hours sorting through the heritage stored in some of the old cupboards.

A clean-out of the linen cupboard uncovered several elegant maids' pinafores, cuffs and hats. In a small brown paper bag lying among old toothbrushes used for cleaning the silver was a stunning ivory silk presentation dress, with intricate bugle beading; it is thought Jim's grandmother probably wore it when she was presented to the royal court in England.

One of the biggest challenges is keeping the house warm. Jim is experimenting with double glazing and is so impressed with the initial results that plans are afoot to double glaze everything, even the fine stained-glass windows, to ensure that this grand old summer home continues to have a bright future, year-round.

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