Four precincts have been identified within the study area: the House Precinct containing a set of pre-1850s estate buildings, including the main house in its garden setting; the Coach House Precinct, containing a group of colonial buildings, including the Coach House, Coachman’s Cottage, and a number of timber sheds of more recent date; the Outbuildings Precinct, containing several colonial buildings including the Woolshed, Store, and several Workers’ Cottages; and the Cottage Precinct, which contains Woolmers Cottage.
Plan of Woolmers Four Precincts
While no documentary evidence has been identified to date, the following buildings are shown on an 1840s plan of the estate and must have been constructed by then:
Woolmers Key building and Development Periods
Convicts assigned to Thomas Archer of Woolmers and William Archer of Brickendon was the second highest number of assignments in the colony (with the Van Diemen's Land Company having the highest number of assigned convicts).
Year Convicts at Woolmers Convicts at Brickendon
1830 51 39
1832 60 38
1833 64 43
1835 45 34
The assignment system was designed to reward good behaviour of convicts, and required masters to behave in accordance with a long set of regulations. Masters who did not meet the requirements, such as failing to observe the Sabbath, risked losing the services of their convict assignees. Well-behaved convicts could become eligible for tickets-of-leave, which enabled them to earn wages while serving out their sentence. The assignment system was not without its critics. Opponents of transportation pointed out that the system amounted to a form of slavery, while others considered its inconsistencies to rely too heavily on the character of masters. Settlers who relied on the labour force often found the unskilled labour to be less than useful. The Molesworth report of 1838 concluded that transportation was an ineffective method of reform and recommended the abolition of the assignment system.
During the convict assignment period, the Woolmers estate took shape. Many buildings relate to the assignment period, or to the early years of the probation system. During this period, up to 64 convicts remained at Woolmers.