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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

Visiting the Brickendon convict Colonial farm village in Tasmania Australia

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

Brickendon near Longford, Tasmania in Australia is a farm settled by William Archer in 1824, after he emigrated from Hertford, England. Today, visitors have the opportunity of visiting this historic site, which seven generations have been, and are still, farming. I felt something special as I drove towards this Colonial Village. As you drive, English hedgerows line the sides of the road, so it is like unwrapping an anticipated Christmas gift when the estate suddenly comes into view and you step back in time.

As I wandered around Brickendon in spring, the fields were dotted with sheep, and the cutest lambs were looking for a feed. They followed me along the fence as I walked, hoping for refreshment.

Brickendon was an agricultural property. They grew crops such as oats, wheat, barley, hay, potatoes and turnips. William’s brother Thomas farmed the property next door, Woolmers, which ran sheep and cattle. This is a convict story as “the skills and labour of assigned convict men and women were the key to the prosperity of estates like Brickendon, and indeed to the colony of Van Diemen’s Land.” (Tasmania)- from brochure at the estate.

Convict and servant labour was shared between these two adjoining properties, depending on the needs of the harvest and seasons. Brickendon’s shoemaker James Jones made shoes for the Woolmers’ men. Brickendon’s wheat was carted across to the Woolmers’ mill and brought back as flour.

This is one of eleven sites to have been entered on the World Heritage list, because of its outstanding significance within the Australian convict system.

Most convicts to Australia were young and fit for work. This was needed in the new colony, where the labour of convict men and women was cheap and necessary to build roads, farms, buildings and manufacturing. The women were sent to domestic service. It also freed up the crowded English prisons where over 220 offences could get you transported to the land down under.

The master had to feed, house and clothe his convicts. He also had to punish them of any wrong doings. It is recorded that William Archer treated his men fairly, and even, on occasion, generously.

William and Thomas’ father William Archer came to live at Brickendon in 1827. He kept a diary which detailed the labour force and the duties they performed. It was noted in the diary that most of the convicts were transported for theft either from houses, shops or people. Such was the desperation of hungry people for their families. People were transported for life for insignificant crimes (by today’s standard) such as stealing a silk handkerchief. Most never saw their friends or families again.

In 1841, all male convict labour was withdrawn from private masters. They were kept in government service from then on. At the end of the assignment and transportation of convicts the Archers had to find and pay for labour.

Today as you wander the grounds, try to imagine what it was like in the bustling days of the early 1800s. The pillar granary was used to store grain, flour and other perishables. It was constructed on “staddle stones” which kept out vermin and water, and prevented mould. A timber framed building was mounted on the stones.

Two Sussex barns were built in 1827 to store the harvested produce and also occasionally house livestock.

Between 1824 and 1829 this small cottage was home to the Archer’s. After 1829 they moved to a larger home nearby.

A nearby cottage is now guest accommodation, but initially it was a dairy with a small overseer’s cottage. The cottage garden bursts with flowers as the green foliage contrasts well with the cream cottage walls.

A large open fire and bread oven would have been working each day to provide meals for the farm workers.

Religion was seen as fundamental to the reform of convicts and they were expected to attend services, often twice on a Sunday. Imagine the 33 convicts crowded into this small Victorian chapel.

The brick granary is next to the wooden shearing shed and stables. Built in 1830, wheat was stored here. The weight of the grain could push the walls out, so metal S shaped discs, seen on the outside, are attached to stablising bars that run through the building to the other side.

In the 1830s, Brickendon only ran a small flock of sheep to supply the farm with meat. Visitors can wander through and see equipment used in the past. They can also feel and smell the wool here.

There are all sorts of old farming machinery in the implement shed and nearby paddock for people to wonder at. It was hard yakka (work) in the days before modern equipment when the farming was all done by manual labour. In convict days there would have been a carpenter, blacksmith and wheelwrights working industriously here.

I enjoyed my time wandering around Brickendon. Pick up the Walking Track brochure upon arrival, and leisurely stroll the grounds. All buildings are well marked, and the paths are easily navigated. There are many other buildings such as the poultry shed, blacksmith shop and slaughterhouse to look through.

The brochure includes extracts from William Archer snr’s diary 1829-1830. When reading these passages as I walked the paths, I felt the history become more alive. It is a marvelous opportunity to walk through this living property, to reflect on the past, and see that it will continue into the future. I am thankful to the Archer family for opening their property for visitors to share and enjoy.

Woolmers Lane, Longford, Tasmania, Australia

To read about the nearby Woolmers estate, owned by William's brother, Thomas, click here

Happy Travels!

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