Woolmers re­union week­end

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS - KAROLIN MACGRE­GOR

IT is 200 years since the es­tab­lish­ment of Woolmers Es­tate and this week­end fam­i­lies con­nected to the site will gather for a re­union cel­e­bra­tion.

About 100 peo­ple are ex­pected to take part in the re­union, many of them de­scen­dants of the orig­i­nal es­tate own­ers or the con­victs and free set­tlers who worked there.

Woolmers was es­tab­lished in the state’s North in 1817 by Thomas Archer and with neigh­bour­ing Brick­endon, the es­tate was in­cluded on the UNESCO World Her­itage List in 2010.

The es­tate was owned by the Archer fam­ily up un­til 1994 and is now owned by a pri­vate trust. It has more than 18 his­toric build­ings spread across 13ha, in­clud­ing spec­tac­u­lar rose gar­dens.

The Woolmers home­stead, a large build­ing with a flagged veranda, was the home of the pri­vate mas­ter. It was ex­tended in 1843 with a two-storey Ital­ianate ad­di­tion and re­mod­elled kitchen and ser­vice wing.

Fe­male con­victs lived in the at­tic above the res­i­dence. The home, the nearby kitchen, the ser­vants’ quar­ters, pro­vi­sions store and bak­ers’ cot­tages all re­tain their orig­i­nal form.

Male con­victs worked away from the main home­stead in the fields, farm sta­bles, cider house, wool­shed, black­smith’s shop, coach house and sta­bles and pump house.

Work­ers’ cot­tages, a coach­man’s cot­tage and shed and coach house and sta­bles are also on the es­tate.

The site of the male con­vict bar­racks is be­lieved to be lo­cated to­wards the bot­tom of the hill.

A vast col­lec­tion of arte­facts and writ­ten ma­te­ri­als has sur­vived and re­mains in the home­stead.

At the time when the es­tate was be­ing con­structed the con­vict pe­nal sys­tem was well es­tab­lished.

Thomas Archer was one of four brothers in the re­gion who used con­vict labour to de­velop farms in the early 1800s.

As an al­ter­na­tive to the death penalty con­victs were shipped from Bri­tain to the un­fa­mil­iar shores of Van Diemen’s Land, never to see fam­ily or friends again.

On ar­rival they were as­signed to a mas­ter who pro­vided food, cloth­ing and shel­ter in ex­change for free labour.

Af­ter gain­ing their ticket of leave, many were given a sec­ond chance at life. Some even­tu­ally be­came no­table cit­i­zens and many made valu­able con­tri­bu­tions to so­ci­ety.

One of these was Joseph Moore, of Le­ices­ter­shire in Eng­land, who in the win­ter of 1815 was sus­pected of steal­ing a goose and con­demned to death. His re­prieve was a life sen­tence.

He ar­rived in Van Diemen’s Land in 1817 where he com­menced life as a con­vict as­signed to Thomas Archer.

Doc­u­ments from 1819 show he im­pressed Mr Archer, earn­ing him­self the trusted po­si­tion of over­seer at Woolmers Es­tate. He went on to live a very full life and his de­scen­dants are most proud of his achieve­ments.

There have been very few changes at Woolmers over the past 200 years but one re­cent ad­di­tion is the new Nigel Peck Cen­tre.

At­ten­dees this week­end will get a pre­view of this vis­i­tor cen­tre be­fore it opens to the pub­lic. They will also take a num­ber of tours of nearby prop­er­ties con­nected to the Archer fam­ily and Woolmers and at­tend a re­union din­ner to­mor­row night. On Sun­day they will en­joy a tra­di­tional shears-style lunch and tours of the es­tate.

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