My excellent travel-agent Lisa Machin at Sheffield Travel Centre Ltd [http://www.sheffieldtravel.net] has a knack of finding comfortable hotels for me even in unlikely places, and sometimes she excels herself.
From the bottom of the hill the Lenna Hotel, Hobart [http://www.lenna.com.au] looks like a conventional block of modern hotel rooms built above a carpark. It’s only when the taxi turns into the entrance that Lenna itself, a largely intact and well-restored Victorian villa, comes into view. The rooms, therefore, are modern and fully up to specification; the lobby, lounge and restaurant are splendidly Victorian. I was very happy to spend my stay in Hobart there.
Lenna – the word apparently the Tasmanian indigenous word for ‘house’ or ‘hut’ – was built on what was then a bare hillside overlooking the harbour by a whaling captain and ship-owner, James Bayley (1823-1894), in the 1860s.
It was bought by Bayley’s brother-in-law, the ship-owner and merchant Alexander McGregor (1821-1896), whose brother John had built the Gothic Hillcrest next door. James Bayley requested that the original hip-roofed house should not be destroyed, and so Alexander McGregor incorporated it into the taller Italianate structure that he built between 1874 and 1880.
Mr McGregor could observe maritime comings and goings in Hobart harbour from his lookout at the top of the house. The current hotel-owners are rightly proud of this and make it accessible to guests.
In other parts of the world this feature is known as a “widow’s walk”, presumably because it allowed widows during heavy mourning to take exercise unobserved while etiquette prevented them appearing in public.
Eventually, in 1914, the house passed to Sir Alfred Ashbolt (1870-1930), a rich businessman described in the Australian Dictionary of Biography as the “undisputed leader of the commercial community in southern Tasmania” in the final years of his life.
Lenna eventually became a hotel in 1973 and now belongs to Lloyd and Jan Clark, who treasure its original features.