Town hall designed by thieving bigamist, historian discovers

A LAUNCESTON architectural historian has unearthed a secret about one of Launceston's most treasured buildings - that it was designed by a thieving bigamist con man, and not the highly respected architect that has long been credited with its design.

Retired university architecture lecturer Anne Neale recently found that the treasured Launceston Town Hall was designed by Henry Edwin Bridges, under the false name Horace Bennett, and not esteemed architect Peter Mills.

Dr Neale said there seemed to be good reason for the true architect's identity to be hidden for such a long time.

She said Bridges had spent a life concocting scams, skipping across towns and states to escape debts - and even his wife and children.

Dr Neale said Bridges came to Australia from England after being charged with being "a rogue and vagabond", in relation to a real estate lottery scam.

She said when he arrived in Tasmania in 1858, he established a gold-mining scam in Hobart, and the Hobart Polytechnic Bazaar, a place used by prostitutes to meet clients, and described as "the hell of Hobart".

Dr Neale said he moved to Launceston a year later and started a bigamous marriage.

She said town surveyor George Babington commissioned Bridges, then known as Horace Bennett, to design the Town Hall for a fee of seven pounds.

Dr Neale said Mills had once denied he was the Town Hall's architect in one article printed in The Examiner in 1867 which discussed the building's design flaws.

Dr Neale will give a full presentation on her findings at a ceremony at the Town Hall at 5.30pm today.

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