PIONEERS OF "THE PARK"
Mt. Field National Park was formerly known at National Park and is now one of Tasmania's foremost tourist attractions. The spectacular scenery, abundance of wildlife, glorious waterfalls, bushwalks and skiing facilities which are accessible to everyone, owe their development largely to one family- The Marriotts - a family who loved the area and were able to envisage its future potential. Charles Marriott married Mabel Dann at Tyenna on New Years' Day,1900. Their first home was built there by Robert and Charles Rolls, and the weatherboard building still stands (1984). The couples children, Charles Jnr. Robert Allan, Matilda and Edith were born at Tyenna (Mrs Marriott was attended by a midwifery nurse), and their last-born, Cedric was born at National Park. Charles Marriott purchased land formerly owned by Mr.L.M.Shoobridge in 1908 and this land surrounded Russell Falls, which later became a National Park Reserve. Charles was formerly a farmer at Tyenna, and foresaw a good future in buying this land so close to the Falls. His plan was to establish hop fields there, cater for fishermen, and supply lunch and afternoon tea to visitors who were venturesome enough to clamber across a swinging bridge and negotiate a home-made track to view the Falls. Charles conceived his dream of building a guest house on the banks of the Russell River (now the Tyenna River), and to make it a reality he had to clear virgin land, assisted only by his children. He used cross-cut saws, stump-jacks, mattocks and picks. It was a great day for him when he took delivery of his first monkey-winch. The Rolls brothers built a six-roomed house for the Marriott family on the spot where "Pamfield" now stands, and afternoon teas were introduced for visitors to the area, and soon grew in popularity. It was 1910 when the Guest House opened its doors to the Public, and as Charles was also a road contractor, he was involved in the building of the road from Russell (now known as Westerway) to Russell Falls. He had a "brake" which held eight passengers, and he used to drive to Russell each day to meet the train which brought the tourists, and take them back to his home, where his wife, Mabel would provide a welcome hot lunch. After the tourists had walked to view the Falls, Charles would return them to Russell in time to make the return train journey to Hobart. The extension of the railway began in 1911, and by 1917 was completed, this meant that the daily service to Russell was no longer required. Passengers were able to travel by train from Hobart to National Park, with time to have lunch at "Russell Falls House", walk to the Falls, and catch the return train to Hobart. Business grew so rapidly that the six-roomed house had to be extended to provide sufficient accommodation. When completed, it contained thirty-six rooms, with the dining room seating eighty people at one sitting. The name was then changed to "Park House". In 1917, the National Park was officially opened by the Governor, Sir Francis Newdegate. The Vice-Regal Party, other officials and their wives lunched at Park House, together with officials of the National Park Special Board, which had been constituted under the Scenery Preservation Act, to arrange a policy for the future development of the area. Among the guests on the opening day was the Hon. Henry Dobson, Chairman of the National Park Special Board, who together with other members had travelled to Mt. Field and Lake Dobson in 1911 and again in 1915. The main purpose of the first visit was to inspect the newly discovered Lady Barron Falls, and Mr Dobson was highly impressed with all that he saw, and described his impressions in a letter to the Hobart "Mercury". He spent a night with the Marriott family at Park House, and the next morning reached Lake Fenton after a walk of three and a half hours. This was before the road was constructed to Lake Dobson.
Mr.W.A.Belcher was the Park Ranger during the early days of National Park, and when Mr. Dobson and members of the Board paid a visit in1915 they used the tracks that had recently been cut by Mr, Belcher. In 1913 when the Solomon (Premier) Government was in office, a sum of five hundred pounds was appropriated from the Special Commonwealth Grant Funds for the purpose of establishing the National Park. A portion of the money was spent by the Lands Department prior to the formation of the Scenery Preservation Board. The Special Board still had two hundred pounds in hand and they visited the area to assess how to best spend this. Their recommendations included providing fireplaces for picknickers, stocking the streams with fish, and any other amenities deemed necessary or desirable. Board members were convinced by what they saw, and resolved that the strongest efforts be made to preserve the Park in its natural state. Special precautions were taken to check the possible outbreak of bush fires and to curb vandalism. The plan to provide shelter sheds close to Lakes Jollytail and Lake Fenton was conceived, and fireplaces were to be built close to the shelters on the Russell Falls track, with enforcement of regulations regarding the lighting of fires, so that fires would be lit only in the appointed places.
These were the embryos of an idea which grew into one of Tasmania's greatest assets.
Charles Marriott retired from Park House, and the property was leased in 1946. The first telephone in the area was installed at Park House and the number was National Park 1. It was after the tenants relinquished their lease, that Mr. Cedric Marriott took over the management for his father, until the 1950's when the property was sold to a mainland firm. During the time that Mr.Marriott Jnr. Managed Park House, winter sports were held at the lakes and tarns, and Park House catered for all involved. Horse-drawn sleds and pack horses were the only means of transporting bedding, food and sports equipment to the lakes at that time. When it was sold, Park House was converted to a Ski Lodge, but sadly its career ended when it burned down in 1964/65.
Charles Marriott Snr. died in 1949, and is survived by his daughters, Mrs Edith Gossage (Devonport) and Mrs Matilda Fleming (Launceston). His son, Cedric now lives in N.S.W. Mrs. Gossage and Mrs. Fleming have vivid recollections of their childhood days and the years their family spent developing the business associated with Park House and National Park.
Edith Gossage's memoirs
The scenic walk to Russell Falls drastically changed when a bush fire swept through the Reserve with a front of three miles wide, leaving in its wake great devastation of the foliage growing over the track at the time. There were hollow trees along the track with glow- worms in them. They were a wonderful drawcard for people on package tours staying overnight. Many would make the trek to the Falls in darkness, especially to view the natural glow worms display.
The opening day of the National Park, when the Vice-Regal Party and other dignitaries lunched at Park House was a very special and exciting occasion. The event was reported in the Hobart "Mercury" on October 15TH 1917, and mentioned " a little girl, Edith Marriott, presented a bouquet of wildflowers to His Excellency".
There were vivid memories of the men who brought "moving pictures" to the country centres. When they visited National Park they used the dining room at Park House for the show. Acetylene gas was used to run the motors of the projectors, and the Marriotts used the carbide residue to clean the fireplaces the next day.
Edith recalls her father piling logs of wood together and covering them with turf and setting them alight. When the blaze came through, more soil was needed until the logs were burnt through, the coals were raked and water poured all over to quell the fire. The charcoal was then used in fireplaces to supply heat to dry hops that were spread on hessian and suspended in the kilns. The hop fields and crops of small fruits grown along the river flats were then a big industry. Hop fields and raspberry canes once covered the area where the Reserve facilities are today.
On reading of the possible introduction of a charge for vehicles to enter the Park, she recalled a childhood prank. She and her brother would watch for vehicles turning into "their" road. They would run up and make sure that the gates to the Park were closed. As the vehicles approached, they would graciously open them for the visitors. They usually received pennies as a reward. Memories were vague as to how these pennies were spent. It may have been on some of the goodies sold by Paul Astrella, a hawker who visited, with a covered chaise-cart, selling clothes and some foodstuffs. He always had a large tin of boiled lollies displayed.
On a recent visit to the area Edith saw an aspen tree, tall and flourishing in the Reserve at the junction of the Falls Creek and the Tyenna River. Many years ago, a Miss Shoobridge, rode up the river from Russell (Westerway) , and when she came to the junction she accidentally dropped the makeshift "whip" that she used for her horse. The stick took root, and for many years the Marriott family watched the leaves of this majestic tree shimmer in the sunlight.
Over the years, many Tasmanians have merely accepted the existence of National Park, perhaps even taken it for granted. It is none the less appreciated by all who travel there to admire the beauty and awe- inspiring magnificence of the unique scenery. What we do not appreciate, and do not take the time to ponder, is the sheer hard work, perseverance, determination and tenacity of these pioneers who had a dream- a dream which sometimes may merely have seemed a nightmare and gave the generations to follow, a legacy of everlasting beauty.
This story was told by Mrs Edith Gossage,daughter of Charles and Mabel Marriot and originally written by a family friend, a descendant of the Dann family in January 1984.
It was recorded in the hope that it would create addedawareness and pride in the contribution which thepioneering Marriott family made to the Derwent Valley.
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