It was like riding down an English lane on our way.
Woolmers was given as a land grant of 800 acres to Thomas Archer, an early free settler in 1813. He selected excellent farming land bounded by two permanent rivers. With his assigned convicts he did very well. His father and three elder brothers subsequently also immigrated to the area and commenced farming.
We took the guided tour through the house. It is a low weatherboard structure. Thomas was very involved in civic life and politics, so he felt he needed to make his house a little more suitable to his standing in life and added a couple of extra rooms for entertaining.
They are very grand. Furniture from the finest furniture houses in the latest style of he 1850s. No photos were allowed inside.
Thomas' son Thomas was to take over the estate, but unfortunately died of scarlet fever at a young age, so the property was then left to his 10 year old son, Thomas the 3rd, who was sent to England to be educated. The propery, now 35,000 acres, was leased. When he returned, he had no interest in farming and continued to lease the land and just visited when he wished. This continued for and few generations.
Eventually, as the land was not being farmed productively by the family, the government resumed most of it, firstly in the early 1900s and then for soldier settlement after WWII.
In the 1930s Thomas the 5th and his wife Marjorie came to live at the property. Marjorie updated the fabrics on the furniture and had the walls papered. This is how the property looks now. They only had one son, who was sickly as a child and Marjorie was advised that contact with other children could lead to an infection that could be fatal for "Young Tommy". Therefore, she kept him home in isolation. He was an only child and became virtually a recluse in adult life as he had always lived that way.
As a result, the property had become a time capsule. Young Tommy created a family trust on his death and the property is now on the World Heritage Register, along with Brickenden, as a site of significance for convict assignment, as the majority of convicts were assigned to properties.
In 2001 the National Rose Garden was established on the site of the old orchard. It would be beautiful in spring time, but was not putting on much of a show when we visited. I did like "Elle".
By now it was lunch time. After lunch we visited Brickenden.
When Thomas' eldest brother William Archer arrived he took up the adjoining land on the other side of the Macquarie River and named it Brickenden.
William, like Thomas was the son of a miller, so had to learn farming practices.
Unlike his brother over the river, he concentrated on farming rather than civic life. His original weatherboard cottage from the 1820s is still standing.
The interior construction was intriguing, with brick infill between the frame timbers.
Like Woolmers, Brickenden was founded with convict labour. Most of the original buildings still standing. This one is a granary, with its unusual vermin proof footings.
The tiny chapel is a feature.
The rustic cookhouse was interesting.
Very basic inside.
The poultry house was more substantial.
It is still used as a poultry house.
Brickenden continues to be a family farm with three generations living in the family home.
The most recent Mrs Archer instigated opening up the early buildings which were no longer being used, and falling into disrepair, to the public.
Cottages are available for accommodation and the barn is a popular wedding venue.
Picture the cavernous barn decorated for a wedding. It would be spectacular.
By the entrance gate there was a huge pot that we felt would be good for cooking missionaries, as per the cartoons, but we had to make do with Mick.
Once we had finished visiting the farm village, we crossed the road to where the current home is located and were able to visit the heritage gardens.
Poppy the dog, with her tennis ball kept us company.
The coach house was rather tasty. Bikes and machinery made you realise that this is still a working property.
Before we started out tour of Brickenden we watched a DVD on the family that had aired on the ABC. It was saying how it had stayed in the family and at the end discussed wether the youngest generation would keep the farm going or would do something else. William was 16 at the time. Apparently, that DVD is ten years old and he has now completed Ag College and has returned to the property to work alongside his father Richard.
The garden has mainly been Richard's mother's pride and joy. Richard's parents are about to move from the family home and retire in town.
It appears that the Archers at Brickenden will continue, unlike at Woolmers.
We are very fortunate that both these properties are so well preserved.
As we were about to leave Richard Archer came over for a chat. He was a nice, ordinary farmer. He does most of the work maintaining all the buildings. He said he is pleased to see the buildings preserved, as they were falling down when he was a kid.
We intended to just have a quiet evening back at our camp site, but it ended up very social, being joined by our for friends and another couple that both we and our friends had run into during our trip.