Convict Farm Village

A view between the original cottage and smokehouse into the quadrangle with the Village barn in the background. Both of these buildings are constructed with bricks made on Brickendon during the 1820s. A group of ducks and turkeys graze in the foreground. Photo: Rob Burnett.

Are you the descendant of a convict or free settler? Did your relative come out from England or Ireland and make good, or did they suffer for their crimes? 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.

At the Brickendon Farm Village which dates from 1824, you will discover where men like John Welsh, William McKay and John Watt worked, the conditions they lived in and what their fate was. Whilst women were sent into domestic service in the grand houses, the men worked and developed the farms. They were paid no wages, but they were fed, housed and clothed and sometimes punished according to the regulations of the convict system.

Many of these men were skilled tradesmen, like wheelwright Benjamin Cooper and blacksmith John Jenks so they were very useful to William Archer and the rest were just put to work in the fields digging ditches, scaring birds and making dung heaps! You will be amazed walking into the Blacksmiths shop — untouched since the last blacksmithing was done during the 1930s and in the cookhouse you can almost see the convict men sitting at their dinner table in the cookhouse with the large fire blazing and the smells of fresh bread.

The Convict Interpretation Centre offers visitors an opportunity to learn about the Assignment convict system and how it impacted on the development of Van Diemen’s Land.

The Farm Village was the hub of Brickendon, imagine the days when 20 draught horses ploughed the paddocks, sheep were shorn by hand shears, cows were hand milked morning and night and chickens produced those delicious free range eggs. A few things have changed since those times but the evidence is still here. Friendly sheep, a range of poultry, horses, goats and a pig called Aggie are all here to have a pat or enjoy your company as you explore the Brickendon Farm Village.

  • Village Barn illustration
    Sussex Barn illustration

    Village Barn & Sussex Barn

    The Village Barn and Sussex Barn were built in the late 1820s to store oats, hay and straw. Livestock were also housed here during bad weather or illness. Behind the barns lay the stackyard and dung heap. This area was the site of intense activity, especially during harvest time.

    ‘Woolstencroft with six others moved threshed straw from machine to the stack in the rick yard, and dung from the barn door and threshing station to the new dung hill… Luck and Leech preparing to tan hides, making pit in NE corner of stack yard … Cotton, Burrows and Watt with six bullocks clearing up the stack yard … Perkins and Cooper fitting up the threshing machine for working… While bringing in the hay at sunset the men all struck leaving the stack and wagons and the floor about the stack in a very littered and unsafe state …’

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  • Pillar Granary illustration

    Pillar Granary

    Built to store grain, flour and other perishables, this is the only building of its kind in the southern hemisphere. It was constructed on ‘staddle stones’ to keep vermin and water out, and to circulate air, preventing mould in the stored products. This particular form of construction, a timber framed building mounted on stones, is characteristic of southern England, the original home of the Archers and many of the convicts who laboured here.

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  • William Archer’s Cottage illustration

    William Archer’s Cottage

    This small brick-nogged cottage was William Archer’s home from 1824 until 1829 when he moved into a new, larger home about a kilometre away. Despite the bad reputation surrounding convicts — they were frequently called ‘desperate’, ‘excessively bad’ or ‘very dangerous’ — William wanted to have all the farming men near his house.

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  • Smokehouse & Oven illustration

    Smokehouse & Oven

    A fire was lit in the base of the building so that the smoke would rise through the hanging meat and preserve it. Bread was baked in the oven alongside until a new oven was built in the Cookhouse (No. 8).

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  • Poultry Shed illustration

    Poultry Shed

    Built in the early 1830s, its convict builders demonstrated their skills through the decorative details. Look for the carved fascia boards, the fancy brickwork for the pigeon loft and the brick pilasters at each corner.

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  • Outhouse illustration


    Most illnesses among the convicts were treated with purgatives; either salts (copper sulphate) that cause vomiting or calomel (a mercury compound) which is a laxative. Both are now regarded as too toxic for human consumption. The men must have spent many uncomfortable moments in this outhouse.

    ‘Two tablespoonfuls of salts in a quart bottle of water for Jones, Mackay and Ditchfield … Luck ill; gave him an emetic and then a dose of calomel … Paget fell ill after breakfast and gave himself an emetic and then a dose of calomel … Bracer has been out three times in the night and cannot work …’

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  • Cookhouse illustration


    The large open fire and bread oven provided meals for all the single men on the farm. None of Brickendon’s men were punished for stealing food or complaining about rations. This is revealing, for a hungry man usually meant an unkind or unsympathetic master. Convict Housepainter John Alcock cooked

    ‘the first harvest dinner served in the field today.’

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  • Chapel illustration


    This Victorian chapel is built on the site of the original convict chapel. Masters were expected to ensure that the convicts attended services as religion was seen as essential for their reformation. Unfortunately, the men did not always appreciate this concern for their spiritual welfare. According to their records, James Jones preferred drinking at the Crown Inn and John Padgett played cards rather than attending divine service.

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  • Convict Quarters illustration

    Convict Quarters

    A small group of buildings once stood here, although only foundations remain today. It consisted of the convict quarters and the carpenter’s shop, with a sawyer’s hut separate to the main building. A sawpit was located in the middle of the large building and a well lays nearby.

    The carpenter’s shop in 1828–30 was the domain of wheelwright Benjamin Cooper, who could make anything from a wagon to a butter churn;

    ‘Cooper still on new body for cart. .. lining new wagon … making four new lightwood harrows … splitting out spokes and making yokes … repairing threshing machine … putting new handles in hoes …cutting wheels off a tree for the old cart. Other men also used the space for small jobs; Fuller and Perkins making hurdles … Lowen repaired roller frame … Thorpe rake making …’

    The quarters housed the men; here they slept, ate, drank, socialised, and found refuge.

    ‘Much dissatisfied with Burrows who was making away to his hut during the day … Tomlinsons brought rum to the farm, were drunk themselves and sold a bottle to Gillen so he was drunk too. Constable searched all the huts but could find no more … Ditchfield came in from ploughing in the rain pleading illness, went to his hut and went to sleep … Bracer for assaulting Mackay had up to the Police Office, ordered 25 lashes — he returned after midday and kept to his hut, refused to do anything.’

    The sawyers’ hut was separate from the rest of the accommodation, providing some privacy. At times it was a safe haven for other workers. John Welch, who had fallen out with the other men and received 50 lashes for refusing to work, returned from his punishment and was

    ‘allowed to move to the sawyers’ hut until they all exhibited a more peaceable disposition.’

    The sawpit was also in constant use; men with bullock teams were kept busy felling trees and bringing logs from the bush to the sawpit, where sawyers George and Samuel Tomlinson turned out planks for new buildings.

    ‘Dodd and Glover with ten bullocks brought 16’ long log to sawpit.’

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  • Blacksmiths’ Shop illustration

    Blacksmiths’ Shop

    This was one of the busiest places on Brickendon; blacksmiths toiled over the forge to produce and repair all the metalwork needed by both Brickendon and Woolmers. Wheelwright Benjamin Cooper also used the lathe here to make wheel hubs.

    ‘McJames and Jenks making new tines and putting them in the harrows… shod William Archer’s horse… making rivets and nails for the wagon wheel… repaired a brace iron…’

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  • Stables illustration


    Prior to widespread use of machines on farms, horses were critical to farming operations, transport as well as recreation. Horses were used to pull carts and wagons as well as transporting the Archers and their workers to and from the property to neighbouring estates, family and further afield. Keeping the horses healthy and properly shod (with horseshoes) relied on trustworthy convicts and the blacksmith.

    ‘Thursday 15th October 1829….Horses: Sold Rattler and Spanker to Mr. Reiby… Saturday 13th Febry. 1830… Gates. His work is not likely to be profitable at all … He looks after the horses.’

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  • Slaughterhouse illustration


    The slaughterhouse was critical to the sustainability of the property. Built in c.1830s it provided a suitable space to allow for the processing of meat for food for both the family and labour of the property.

    ‘Paget & Moger washing and drying at the River in the paddock. The wool clipped before the sheep are slaughtered for meat.’

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  • Dip Shed illustration

    Dip Shed

    The shed attached to the slaughterhouse allowed shelter to the sheep dip where sheep were ‘dipped’ to eliminate parasites. Sheep dip chemicals, first developed in the 19th century, commonly included arsenic.

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  • Old Farm Cottage illustration

    Old Farm Cottage

    Read about our accommodation options.

    This was initially a dairy and a small cottage where the overseer lived. Overseers were usually either convicts who were at the end of their sentence, or ex-convicts. They were in a difficult position; they had authority but had more in common with the men under them than with their master. Men were often disobedient and insolent to overseers. James Smith got 30 lashes for insolence and William Perkins got 50 lashes for using threatening language.

    ‘Welch and Padgett complain and are angry at MacKay being set to domineer over them; have been very idle all day.’

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  • Shearing Shed illustration

    Shearing Shed

    With only a small flock of sheep in the early years, the shearing shed construction was kept small. Merino sheep were run for their wool, while “meat sheep” were kept for sale and farm rations. William Lock (capable of shearing 30 sheep a day) would often shear prior to them going to the Slaughterhouse (No.13) for butcher John Leech to do his work.

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  • Brick Granary illustration

    Brick Granary

    This was built in the early 1830s as the production of grain expanded. Wheat was stored here until it could be sold or taken across by punt (boat) to Woolmers to be ground into flour;

    ‘James Gillin with 72 bags of wheat, four cart loads, to punt… 123 bags … 90 bags.’

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  • Cart Shed illustration

    Cart Shed

    This shed housed farm machinery like the threshing machine, wagons, ploughs and harrow. It was all made and maintained by skilled assigned convicts, who included a wheelwright, a carpenter, and several blacksmiths in 1829–30.

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  • Hay Shed & The Archery illustration

    Hay Shed & The Archery

    Although new to the site, these spaces follow the form of earlier buildings that were located here including hay sheds and a milking shed. The hay sheds were open on the eastern side and had a ramped drive allowing through access to the stackyard. The milking shed was located closest to the Sussex Barn. These early buildings were demolished in the 1950s. Today these purpose-built spaces are used for functions and events.

    ‘Tuesday 9th Decr. 1829. A fine night. Foggy morning, fine day…Haymaking: Luck, Morgan, Alcock, raking and turning & cocking. Some of the first cut.’

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  • Farm Cottages illustration

    Farm Cottages

    Constructed from recycled materials and located just a short stroll (80 metres) from the historic Farm Village, these three cottages form part of the suite of on-site accommodation for visitors who would like to enjoy overnighting in a World Heritage Site.

    The perfect place to relax while overlooking the English-style countryside. Located side-by-side, Pumpkin, Pea in a Pod and Sweetcorn Cottages are perfect for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy a little piece of farm life.

    Read about our accommodation options.

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