Battery Point is named after the three defence batteries that were built at various times on the point of land that is today’s park. They were statements of British territorial claim, a warning to foreign shipping and in the early days, a deterrent for convicts who hoped to steal an escape vessel. The batteries were also used for ceremonial purposes.
Mulgrave Battery was built in 1818 on the shoreline with an accompanying signal station. It was on the point of land known as ‘Blow My Skull Point’ after the explosive beverage once popular with the military officers who picnicked on this hill. Poorly positioned and all but useless, the fortification was described in 1829 by colonist Henry Widowson as:
[A] pitiful mud fort with half a dozen honeycombed guns perfectly harmless to the artillery men who fire them and serving only to make a noise on the King’s birthday and on one or two other public occasions. – Old Hobart Town Today, Frank Bolt, page 141
To remedy this situation, a second Prince of Wales Battery was built in 1840, and a third, the Albert Battery, was constructed at the height of the Crimean War in 1854.
By 1880, as a result of technological and building developments, alternative batteries were constructed in Sandy Bay and Bellerive. In 1882, the site was handed over to the City of Hobart as a recreation ground. The magazine and parapets were retained for military purposes in case of war.
Of the half-moon battery now in the progress of being constructed in the face of the hill near the flagstaff appears to our mind likely to prove of no use whatever, unless, indeed it is intended likewise to fortify the point abutting into the river by Sir John Pedder’s house.
For otherwise a vessel might anchor in perfect safety under this point, out of all possible danger from the guns of the battery, and by throwing a few shells put all the gunners to the rout.
We ask our readers to go and see the battery and then turn their eyes to the point we have directed; where vessels of considerable tonnage can float in perfect security from its guns, and this at a distance of a quarter of a mile from it.
– Hobart Town Courier, 28 May 1841