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A well regarded historian has raised concerns that Churchill's Hut, believed to be the

place where the last wild Tasmanian tiger was captured, isn't the real deal, casting
doubt over its listing in the Tasmanian Heritage Register - and potentially the state's
heritage approvals process itself.

The hut that's listed on the THR, located near the mountain Tim Shea in the
Florentine Valley, is believed to have been destroyed in the bushfires that ravaged
the South West Wilderness area in January this year. Reports first emerged of its
alleged destruction on January 30. The Parks and Wildlife Service is estimated to
have spent more than $20,000 on protecting the site after it became aware it was
under threat, according to Right to Information documents obtained by ​The
Examiner.​

Tourism Tasmania provided a grant to conserve the hut in 2007, when it was
officially listed on the THR.

Oversight of Churchill's Hut, a single-room hut with a bush-pole frame, was


transferred from Forestry Tasmania to PWS in 2013, when the Florentine River
Regional Reserve was created. It's situated 10 metres south of the Adamsfield Track
- near an old osmiridium mining outpost - and 100 metres west of Churchill Creek.

But now the hut's place on the THR has been thrown into question, with documents
revealing the serious concerns of a well regarded heritage assessment officer at
Heritage Tasmania about the legitimacy of the 'Churchill's Hut' that appears on the
register.

Nic Haygarth, an author and historian based in the North, who has written a book on
the history of osmiridium mining at Adamsfield, sent an email to Heritage Tasmania
registration manager Annita Waghorn at 10:32am on January 15 - when fires in the
Florentine Valley were precariously close to the hut.
Dr Haygarth says the real Churchill's Hut was built around 1925 on the northern side
of the Adamsfield Track by tiger trapper and osmiridium miner Elias Churchill, who
was based at Tyenna in the Derwent Valley area.

An image of what is believed to be the last living thylacine, which died in the Hobart Zoo in 1936. It's said Elias
Churchill was the one who caught the tiger, known as 'Benjamin'.

IMAGE

Churchill caught the last confirmed thylacine at the hut in 1933.

Dr Haygarth's email was prompted by a request from the ABC to use one of his
photographs of what he calls the "so-called" Churchill's Hut, which had appeared in
one of his books on the history of Tasmania, for an online news story about it being
at risk of destruction.

In the email to Ms Waghorn, Dr Haygarth outlines to her why the Churchill's Hut
listed on the THR "isn't the hut of Elias Churchill the tiger catcher".

"It looks nothing like Churchill's Hut as it appeared in its only surviving historic photo
in 1925," he wrote, referring to a photo published in ​The Mercury​ in October 1925.
"It is in the wrong place (on wrong branch of Churchills [sic] Creek, on wrong side of
track, about 1 km away)."

Churchill moved to Hobart in 1934 after being granted a licence to operate a hotel
there.

"There is no evidence of Churchill ever returning to Tyenna or the Florentine Valley


after 1934," Dr Haygarth wrote to Ms Waghorn. "I think his hut fell down or burned at
about this time."

IMAGE

"There are no references to it after 1925."

Dr Haygarth also said in the email that he had read detailed accounts written by
people travelling along the Adamsfield Track from the 1930s until the 1950s. None of
them, he said, mentioned Churchill's Hut.

He told Ms Waghorn that the "so-called" Churchill's Hut did not appear in a 1946
aerial photo of the area in which it was supposed to have been. However, he said a
1957 photo of the area showed a cleared area and "a possible building".

"I have looked at a lot of maps of the area in search of reference to the hut," he
wrote. "The earliest reference I found to it was on [a] 1958 ... map. The place where
'hut' is marked on that map appears to correspond to the position of the clearing and
possible building in the 1957 aerial photo."

Dr Haygarth's email was prompted by correspondence he'd had with Heritage


Tasmania senior executive officer Ester Guerzoni on the previous day (January 14).

In an email sent to a communications officer at the Primary Industries, Parks, Water


and Environment Department at 3:47pm that day, also addressed to Dr Haygarth,
Ms Waghorn and Heritage Tasmania director Pete Smith, Ms Guerzoni raised the
ABC's interest in obtaining one of Dr Haygarth's photos of the hut. Ms Guerzoni
refers to Churchill's Hut using inverted commas.

"Nic has included images of 'Churchill's Hut' and his research on the hut in one of his
many published books on the history of Tasmania," Ms Guerzoni wrote. "[The ABC]
was contacting Nic in his capacity as author and well-known and regarded
Tasmanian historian."

guerzoni email.png
IMAGE

"Nic responded that the image is not of the hut that everyone thinks is 'Churchill's
Hut' and noted he could provide no further comment (given he is now working with
HT). He did not make any reference to the entry for 'Churchill's Hut' in the
Tasmanian Heritage Register being incorrect although anyone reading his research
that is in the public domain and comparing it with the entry in the Heritage Register
could do the comparison themselves."

A Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment Department spokesperson told


The Examiner​ on Thursday that the Tasmanian Heritage Council had registered
Churchill's Hut to the THR back in the 2000s "based on the information available at
that time".

"The Heritage Council is aware of the views expressed by Dr Nic Haygarth," the
spokesperson said.

The spokesperson noted that the original THR entry for Churchill's Hut specified that
the site had "a contested history".

In a DPIPWE guide to assessing historic heritage significance, published in 2011,


Churchill's Hut is held up as a textbook example of a site that meets the criterion of
demonstrating rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Tasmanian heritage, in
accordance with the Historic Cultural Heritage Act.

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