National Heritage Places - Woolmers Estate
Woolmers Estate in Tasmania is one of the most intact 19th century homesteads in Australia. It was continuously farmed by six generations of the Archer family from its settlement around 1817 to the death of the last heir in 1994. A range of significant buildings, interior features, and artefacts survive from every period of the Estate's history to the present. The Estate is also significant for its association with the use of convict labour through the assignment system, which provided labour to settlers in exchange for food and clothing. Situated on Woolmers Lane, 7 kilometres from the town of Longford and 20 kilometres from Launceston, the Estate is open daily to the public.
Woolmers Estate was included in the National Heritage List on 23 November 2007.
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Servant and master
The assignment system was set up to provide labour to settlers in exchange for food and clothing. The government also saw the system as a cost-effective way to develop colonial infrastructure, assist settlers to develop their land and reform convicts through hard and constant work.
The layout and architecture of Woolmers made a strong distinction between master and servant, which the colonial authorities believed was an important aspect in the reformation of convicts.
Built between 1819 and 1821, the Estate's original single-storey house is still evident as part of the later grand gentlemen's residence and surrounded by convict workplaces such as the woolshed, blacksmith shop, stables, gardens, paddocks and the former chapel.
Over time as the estate increased in prosperity, Woolmers became one of the finest colonial estates in Tasmania with grand houses, formal gardens and separate cottages for gardeners and coachmen. The buildings in their landscape setting provide an insight into the evolution of the estate as a large pastoral property over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries.
A rare farming homestead
While many large farming estates were established in New South Wales and Tasmania, Woolmers is unusual because its homestead and surrounding buildings are in good condition. Woolmers is also unusual for having remained in the ownership of the same family for over 170 years, until the death of Thomas William Archer in 1994.
The 1840s Italianate modifications were designed by William Archer, a family member and the first architect born in the state. The Estate's outbuildings, workshops, cottages, plant and artefacts are a unique record of the range of operations of a property owned by wealthy colonial pastoralists, supported by convict labour.
Another outstanding aspect of the place is its extensive collection of artefacts, which reconstruct life during successive periods over the last two centuries. Many of the early convict farm workers can be identified from surviving musters, farm diaries, correspondence and conduct records. Combined with the excellent condition of the buildings, these artefacts make Woolmers a rich source for future study and research.
Woolmers joins other convict sites on the National Heritage List, including the neighbouring Brickendon Estate, Sydney's Hyde Park Barracks, Fremantle Prison and the Kingston and Arthur's Vale Historic Area on Norfolk Island.