Oatlands is an historic town located in the Southern Midlands of Tasmania, Australia. Its history is deeply intertwined with the broader history of Tasmania and, particularly, the significant role it played during the convict era.
Oatlands, with its convict-era history and well-preserved heritage, stands as a testament to Tasmania’s colonial past. The town’s architecture and landmarks provide a glimpse into the challenges and triumphs of the early settlers and convicts who played a pivotal role in shaping the region. Today, Oatlands serves as a living museum, inviting visitors to explore its history and appreciate the resilience and craftsmanship of those who once called it home.
Early Settlement and Exploration
The story of Oatlands begins with the exploration and settlement of Tasmania by European colonists. In 1806, Lieutenant Colonel David Collins established a settlement at Hobart, and the expansion of European presence led to the exploration of the surrounding regions. Oatlands was founded in 1821 by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, making it one of Tasmania’s oldest settlements.
Convict Era and Penal Settlement
The convict era in Tasmania, then known as Van Diemen’s Land, had a profound impact on Oatlands. The town served as a significant penal station, and convict labor played a crucial role in shaping its development. Convicts were assigned to various tasks, including the construction of important infrastructure such as roads and buildings.
One of the most notable structures from this period is the Oatlands Gaol, built between 1835 and 1837. The gaol served as a place of punishment for convicts who committed offenses within the region. Its construction represented the British colonial administration’s efforts to maintain control over the convict population and enforce law and order.
Heritage Buildings and Georgian Architecture
Oatlands boasts a remarkable collection of Georgian architecture, much of which was constructed during the convict era. Many of the town’s buildings were built using convict labor, showcasing the skilled craftsmanship of the time. Notable examples include the Callington Mill, a working windmill built in 1837, and the Commissariat Store, which dates back to 1830 and now houses a local history museum.
Decline of Convict Transportation and Oatlands’ Evolution
The decline of convict transportation in the mid-19th century had a significant impact on Oatlands. With the cessation of transportation, the town saw changes in its demographic and economic structure. Free settlers, attracted by the fertile agricultural land, began to establish themselves in the area, contributing to Oatlands’ growth.
Preservation and Heritage
In the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st century, there has been a concerted effort to preserve Oatlands’ rich heritage. Many of the historic buildings have been carefully restored, and the town has become a popular tourist destination, allowing visitors to experience the convict history of Tasmania.
Things to Do and Places to Visit in the Oatlands Area
From Hobart: 1 hr 11 mins
From Launceston: 1 hr 19 mins
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Population: 540 (2006)
Elevation: 406 m
Location: 84 km N of Hobart
Local Council: Southern Midlands | Visit Council Website