These stories may contain descriptions of childhood trauma and abuse. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices or names of people who may have passed away. If you need help, you can find contact details for some relevant services on our support page.

English born Tasmanian builder and publican, Robert Wiggins (1826-1899), was in an orphanage as a child.

Robert Wiggins was born in Brighton, Sussex to Mary and James Wiggins. James Wiggins was transported (for assault) to Tasmania in 1831 on the Argyle convict ship. From 1844, James became a successful publican, holding the license for several Hobart hotels.

Mary arrived in Tasmania with her son, Robert, and three other children, Janes, James, and Martha, in 1834. The family had travelled on the Strathfieldsaye and within a few days of their arrival, eight-year-old Robert was admitted to the Queen’s Orphan Asylum (1833-1879), the first institution to house children in Tasmania.

Robert was released from the Orphan School just eight months later.

Robert Wiggins went on to hold a number of hotel licenses as his father did, and he was a successful builder.

Wiggins built the Wesleyan Church in New Town (now the Uniting Church) during the late 1850s, New Town Primary School in 1860 and sections of the Launceston Gaol, amongst many other private and public buildings.

In 1862 Wiggins won the contract to build the Infant Orphan School on the site of the Queen’s Orphan Asylum.

Robert Wiggins married Mary Ann Eliza Adams in 1847 and the couple had twelve children. Some of their sons became builders too.


Benson, Michele. “5655 Robert Wiggins.” Friends of the Orphans Schools

“Queen’s Orphan Asylum (1833-1879).” Find and Connect, 2021.

Snowden, Dianne. Voices from the Orphan Schools: the Children’s Stories. Self-published.

Image available here.