16 April 2024

Arts & Crafts Tassie: Markree House 1926

Cecil William Baldwin (1887–1961) was born in Melbourne and trained at the Burnley School of Horticulture, working as a landscape gar­d­ener until the outbreak of WW1. Cecil enlisted in the 40th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Forces and served as a lieutenant in France and Belgium. He was wounded and repatriated home in 1918.

Following the end of the war, Cecil Baldwin worked in the Repatriat­ion Department in Hobart where he was the officer in charge of voc­at­ional training. He also became active in community associations est­ablished for the welfare of ex-servicemen, and became president of the 40th Battalion Association. Objects from Cecil Baldwin's military service and work with returned soldiers are on exhibition at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

Cecil married Ruth Maning (1878–1969) in 1918 at St George’s Church, Battery Point.

Front of the house

Markree stands on part of the c1820 Heathfield Estate located in Battery Point in inner city Hobart; the land and its sandstone wall were not sub­divided until the 1920s. Fortunately the sub­division created a small enclave of finely detailed houses and one of them, Markree, was built in 1926 for Cecil and Ruth Baldwin. It was designed by Bernard Ridley Walker in the Arts and Crafts style. [The firm Hutchison and Walker were prominent Tasmanian architects who were also responsible for other important structures around town. Walker had spent 1911–13 in London and was particularly influenced by the Arts & Crafts Movement].

Many years earlier, when the Arts & Crafts Society of Tasmania was founded in 1903, young Ruth Maning had gone to evening classes to study wood carving. Three of the pieces she created herself - an Art Nouveau bookcase, a blackwood desk carved with gum nuts and a picture frame carved with stylised firewheel tree branches can be seen in Markree's sitting room. Other pieces of furniture came from Ruth’s parents. The furniture is the finest part of the entire home and garden complex.

    Furniture made by Ruth Maning Baldwin


Dining room

Markree has 4 bedrooms including a nursery. It is set on 3 levels with a broken back tiled roof and prominent eaves with exposed timber panelling underneath. The roof has 2 tall simple brick chimneys with terracotta pots. It has timber double hung sash windows and painted timber louvred shutters. The front entrance is enclosed in a brick portico with a wide, detailed brick arch and wide doorway. The interior is in near original condition with 3 ms high ceilings, and features such as the original picture rails, original brass hardware on doors and windows, solid doors, timber detailing and intact original wallpapers. There are portraits and family heirlooms from Ruth Baldwin’s ancestors who had come to Hobart in the 1820s as merchants and professionals. The nursery holds many of Henry Baldwin’s original toys.

Some of the objects were not originally from the family. There are ceramics, wooden carved furniture and silverware of the period that have been brought in to the house since eg the 1920s Tasmanian oak and blackwood furniture was made by local cabinet-makers Coogan and Vallance & Co.

There were a few changes over the decades. The Baldwins had a small room added and enclosed the open balcony on the ground floor in the mid 1930s. Son Henry installed new carpets, lights, curtains and wallpaper. However the dining and sitting rooms have been restored to their 1920s decoration through a grant from the Copland Foundation e.g the original 1926 wallpaper, a damask paper with an Art Deco leaf border, has been copied from a surviving panel. 

Their Arts and Crafts garden

The garden also reflects the Arts & Crafts influence. It was laid out by Cecil Baldwin himself. The leading Australian garden designer, Edna Walling, had studied at Burnley at the same time as Cecil, so it is possible that the two of them had worked on projects together. Today the garden is long and narrow with a central gravel path that leads from the house to the bottom of the garden. The elements typical of Arts and Crafts gardens are the roses, ponds, low stone walls, winding pathways and naturalistic plantings. There was no rigidly planned formality in this garden!

Cecil and Ruth Baldwin lived at Markree until their deaths when the property passed to their unmarried son, Henry Baldwin (1919-2007). It was Henry who bequeathed the house, contents and an endow­ment to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. This was one of the largest single bequests ever received by an Australian gallery.

Because of its design, location, original condition, history and ability to show the pattern of urban infill that occurred in Hobart in the first half of the C20th, Markree has been provisionally entered in the Tasmanian Heritage Register a couple of years ago and was permanently registered in 2023.

The house and gardens are open Saturdays (Oct-April) from 10am to 4:30pm. On the other days, visitors must pre-book at the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery; the guided tours start at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm.

The Baldwin family

Many thanks to Lynne Merrett for sending this material.


Deb said...

The gardens are stunning but I am not sure what arts and crafts influences are.

jabblog said...

That was a generous gift and made sure the contents weren't broken up and auctioned.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

Bloody great photos, the name Cecil Baldwin rings a bell in my head but I am not sure why, I did like the post

roentare said...

It is really a nice garden to visit. I will put this place on my next trip to Tassie

Hels said...


Arts and Crafts gardens incorporate the use of natural, often local materials and traditional craftsmanship, respecting regional traditions. The gardens were created with natural finishes, in harmony with the built environment so that people could sit in the garden and relax. At the heart of the Arts and Crafts movement was a reaction against industrialization and mass production. There was a desire to revive craftsmanship and restore simplicity and honesty.

Hels said...


thank goodness the Baldwins bequeathed the house and contents to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Two generations after national treasures have been used and loved, the public forget about them and some crud pulls them down to rebuild.

Hels said...


Cecil Baldwin was hugely famous from his involvement in WW1, and I saw his memory in the Australian War Memorial in the ACT.

Hels said...


the furniture, doors, blinds and floors are too brown for me, but they perfectly symbolise the era of the house. The garden, on the other hand, is WELL worth visiting. I will add another garden photo to the post.

Parnassus said...

Hello Hels, Markree house looks like an ideal house museum--not only is it a one-family house, it also retains its original gardens. Its old woodwork is very important--it shows the taste built into a major house of its period. If it looks a little dowdy, that can be an effect of being in a museum house--they never look like they are inhabited, not matter how many "homey touches" and original objects are strewn about.
The furniture made by Ruth Baldwin is very attractive and impressive. It reminds me of the remarkable handwork of the American author and artist Madeleine Yale Wynne, for example:


Katerinas Blog said...

It is very important in a place to have some preserved buildings to remind the history of the area. Fortunately the house was bequeathed and maintained so well both inside and out. Thank you for bringing it up (I love old houses).

mem said...

What a lovely post . I love this house and garden . I have a particular affection for arts and crafts and also Battery Point . Its good to have local things sometimes . There are so many interesting buildings with interesting histories closer to home.

Andrew said...

I struggle to identify Arts and Crafts designs but I can see it in this property. It's in such a prime location and I hope not just this house can be preserved but the neighbourhood character too. The garden does sound very Edna Walling.

Margaret D said...

Good post Hels. So many memories for me at Battery Point, it's where I studies Ballet when young.
The house looks amazing, and it's so wonderful that it was donated and kept the same as before. So much history in that area and in that house too. Thank you.

Hels said...


I had the same thoughts about selling my 1930s house - great house exterior, great garden, but inside peeling wallpaper, lights that looked modern in 1950 and floor boards that need replacing. However my home is not heritage protected and Markree House is. So they know of course what needs renovating and what changes are not allowed.

Cecil and Ruth Baldwin were very engaged in the design of their home, Cecil as landscape gardener and Ruth as a craftswoman. Even before the work started, they knew that the furniture in Markree would be impressive.

Hels said...


If there aren't many buildings in a particular style that have survived, the few that HAVE survived become even more precious. So when the last Baldwin bequeathed the house, contents and an endow­ment to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, he was being both historically sensitive and financially generous.

Hels said...


the first time we travelled to Tasmania, I thought the early architecture was going to be largely prisons, port facilities and army services. As I got older and wiser *cough*, it occurred to me that some of the residential and business buildings in Tasmania were of great interest. Now I love going on the Spirit of Tasmania down to Devonport.

Hels said...


Agreed. The Arts and Crafts movement arrived to reform design and decoration in mid-19th century, originally in Britain. It was a reaction against a perceived decline in standards that the reformers associated with machinery and factory production. But that doesn't help us a great deal in describing the columns, windows, doors and room layout.

Edna Wailing was certainly one of Australia's leading landscape designers, and Cecil Baldwin also had a great influence on the gardens.

Hels said...


Battery Point is still very special... you were fortunate back in your youth. St George’s Anglican Church is lovely, Arthur Circus and all those gorgeous cottages are special, and the expensive houses and hotels are even more special.

Where do you live in Tassie? I will drop you a note before our next trip and you can show us your favourite architecture and coffee shop :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Hels - I wonder where Cecil and Ruth Baldwin gained their knowledge of the Arts and Craft movement - whether they were in England and some stage in the latter half of the 1800s. Very fortunate that Hobart has this wonderful museum now ... cheers Hilary

hels said...

The Balwins were born and lived in Australia, and trained here using British books and journals. But most ambitious and creative young people travelled to Britain for a few years before settling back permanently, buying a house and having babies.

Spouse and I moved to Europe for the early years of our life together. His post-grad training in British hospitals was immediately recognised by the Australian authorities.

Luiz Gomes said...

Boa tarde de quinta-feira minha querida amiga. Sempre aprendo com seu trabalho maravilhoso.

My name is Erika. said...

I like the arts and crafts style furniture in some ways, and in some ways I don't. I think it depends on the piece, and that probably is true for all styles of furniture. But I do like this house and that garden looks amazing. Have a super start to your weekend Hels.

Hels said...


That is probably true for all styles of furniture, correct. But furniture is very largely inside the house and not seen by anyone except the family and the occasional guest. Only the external architecture and the gardens are seen by everyone, and must be fantastic.

Mandy said...

What a beautiful home and garden. I like the idea of an arts and crafts-inspired garden. The wooden interiors remind me of many of the heritage homes in Johannesburg.

Hels said...


Thank you. If you have a reference to some heritage homes in Johannesburg from the same sort of era, please send me a link. I'd love to see the spread of arts and craft gardens and houses around the world.