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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Woolmers, Tasmania

From 1810 convicts were used in Australia to develop the new British colony. They built roads, bridges, courthouses, hospitals and also worked for free settlers and small land holders like the Archer family.

In 1817 Thomas Archer was granted 800 acres in the Longford district and in 1824 his brother, William Archer bought adjacent land now known as Brickendon Estate. They operated as two separate successful enterprises and a large number of convicts were assigned to both stations.
Male convicts worked as blacksmiths, tanners, bricklayers and farm hands. Female convicts worked mainly as domestic servants but occasionally worked alongside the men.

The original Woolmers home was built by convicts between 1819-1821. I asked about the bars on the windows in the bedrooms of the women convicts upstairs and was told the bars were most likely for their own protection and were not designed to keep them prisoner as most of the women sent here committed only minor offences.

Most of the outbuildings at Woolmers were built by convicts including family houses, workers' cottages, shearing sheds, a chapel, blacksmith's shop, stables, bakehouse, pump house and gardener's cottage.

By 1821 there was a growing number of freed convicts who were appointed to positions of trust and responsibility and many were granted land. By the mid-1830s only around six per cent of the convict population were 'locked up'.

The property passed through six generations of Archers before Thomas VI bequeathed the Estate and its contents to the Archer Historial Foundation in 1994. In 2001 the Archer Historical Foundation changed its name to Woolmers Foundation Inc.