The historic and beautiful township of Oatlands is located 79 km north of Hobart and 115 km south of Launceston on the Midlands Highway.
The area was first formally explored by Europeans when Governor Lachlan Macquarie and his party passed through in 1811. It was another decade before Macquarie returned to the district. On the second visit he recognised the present site as "a very eligible station for a town" and, according to a local plaque, he named the town "Oatlands" on 3 June 1821. The name reputedly referred to a rich grain-growing area of Macquarie's native Scotland.
Oatlands importance was guaranteed in 1821 when Macquarie decided to establish a road from George Town (at the time it was known as Port Dalrymple) to Hobart. A number of military posts were established along the road and Oatlands was chosen as one such site.
In the following five years a few settlers moved into the area but it wasn't until the arrival of a military detachment in 1825 that it began to develop.
The early history of the town is a reminder that the local Aborigines did not give up their land without a fight. Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur's decision to lay out a town meant that some 35 workers were sent to the town to construct buildings, clear the ground and create new roads. This small group were at such risk from Aboriginal attack that the troops were sent to guard them. It should also be remembered that Arthur had a rather fanciful notion of rounding up all the Aborigines on Van Diemen's Land and that Oatlands was the centre of these operations. They were famously unsuccessful spending vast numbers of hours and resources. The Aborigines simply slipped through the infamous "Black Line" each night and the troops returned after weeks of hunting down the indigenes with only a small boy and an old woman to show for their labours.
In 1832 the town was surveyed by Surveyor Sharland who, believing that Oatlands would eventually become one of Tasmania's major centres, marked out more than 80 km of streets. In the next decade the town grew rapidly so that it now has arguably the finest concentration of Georgian buildings of any town in Australia.
Modern Oatlands is a service centre for the surrounding farming community. It has the usual array of modern facilities which blend successfully with the town's historic past.
Things to see
The town's major attraction is Callington Mill on Old Mill Lane which was built in 1836 by John Vincent. Vincent, with his wife and seven children, had arrived in Hobart Town in 1823 with £869. He was an entrepreneur who established the Norwood Inn in Bothwell and the Bothwell Castle Inn at York Plains. Vincent's enthusiasm for the mill was short-lived. In 1839 he tried, unsuccessfully, to sell the mill and in 1840 he handed it over to his son John Jubilee Vincent. At the time the mill was producing 20-30 bushells of flour an hour. By 1850 the mill had been sold to Thomas Jillett who established a steam mill and production rose to 5-7 tons of flour a day. By 1862 the property comprised a two storey flour mill driven by steam and wind, a two roomed cottage for the miller with a large store, a three stall stable, a house, a baker's shop "and two cottages fronting the main street with stable and coach house adjoining, a large and well arranged dwelling house of twelve well proportioned rooms, four stall stable with hay loft, cow shed, piggeries and yard". The mill continued to operate until 1892. In 1909 a storm blew the sails away and in 1912 it was gutted by fire. It was restored by the National Trust with funds made available by Amatil as part of a Bicentennial Gift to the Nation.
The Oatlands Court House, located on the corner of Campbell Street and The Esplanade, is the oldest building in Oatlands. It was built by convict labour in 1829 and is a fine example of a Georgian public building with usual 12 pane windows. It was originally constructed as a combined Chapel and Police Office. In 1829 the local Police Magistrate, Thomas Anstey, wrote "I think the size of the building is 32 ft by 20 ft, it is constructed of solid masonry and shingled - and I believe it will be the cheapest work of this kind ever performed by Government: it having been erected and covered in by two men wearing their irons the whole time; and who would otherwise have been employed during those three or four months in breaking stones on the road." It was purchased by the National Trust in 1977.
The Old Gaol
Located in Campbell Street it was built by convict labour around 1830, has a three bay facade and a high stone wall which originally surrounded the exercise yard. All that is now left are the entrance gates.
White Horse Inn, Main Street
Built by George Atkinson in 1834 and originally known as Lake Frederick Inn it changed to Dulverton Inn in 1836. It eventually became known as the White Horse Inn in 1853. It is a large and gracious building.
Holyrood House was built in 1840 by the Oatlands police magistrate. In 1860 it was purchased by Dr Wells who later sold it to Dr Morehead. It became known as "the doctor's house". Set in two acres of gardens, full of deciduous trees and shrubs, it is one of the town's most impressive buildings.
Located 6 km east of Oatlands Parattah is of interest because the local Austral Park farmhouse was once the home of Hudson Fysh who was one of the founders of Qantas. It also has the gracious Fernhurst which is located opposite the local railway station.
Other Historic Buildings
There is no substitute for just walking down the main street of Oatlands. The town is recognised to have the largest collection of pre-1837 buildings in Australia with a total of 87 stone buildings in the Main Street and a total of 138 within the town boundaries. The visitor wanting to inspect the buildings in some detail should get a copy of Let's Talk About Oatlands which lists a total of 36 places of interest and provides very detailed information. There is also a local history, A History of Oatlands by J.S. Weeding, available which provides very detailed information on all the historic buildings in the town.
The Central Tasmanian Tourism Centre
77 High St
Oatlands TAS 7120
Telephone: (03) 6254 1212