Woolmers reunion weekend
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.