Wilmot is a small rural township, located in a mountainous region of Tasmania’s north west, about 40 minutes south west of Devonport. A town rich in pioneering history, settlement began in the 1890s. The pioneers over a period of years cleared the dense bush and Wilmot became famed for the dairy industry with cheese and butter production, and also potato farming.
Wilmot: Journey Back in Time
Wilmot was proclaimed on December 12, 1903 in its present location. In its hey day, Wilmot had a population of 1100 people. Today the population is around 350. In 1904 the first Wilmot Butter Factory was built. This building was destroyed by fire in 1912 and in 1913 the second butter factory began operation; a new and more up to date factory, which from records, produced an output of two tons of butter per week. There were about 90 suppliers of milk to the factory, mostly small settlers from within Wilmot and outlying areas, with most of the herds only consisting of about 20 cows. As one drives into Wilmot today it’s hard to believe this region once consisted of 42 dairy farms… today only two remain.
Wilmot Country Store: Original Coles Store
Home also to the Original Coles Store, where George Coles (father of the famed GJ Coles of GJ Coles and Co) owned and operated the store. George Senior had owned a succession of country stores in Victoria, but due to ill health, with his second wife and some of his family moved to Wilmot in 1910 to take over a bankrupt grocery business. In its hey day, this store had about 15 employees and three trucks were used to deliver supplies to surrounding areas. Today this country store stands proudly, memorabilia inside taking one back through history.
Present day owners, Pauline and Andrew Towning moved down from Queensland three years ago, for (in Pauline’s own words) a ‘cool change’, and have grown to love their new home in Wilmot. This store is a delightful stop for a light lunch or Devonshire tea in a quaint little tea-room. Being a place where locals meet, you may well find yourself chatting to Wilmot’s long time resident Dennis Maxwell.
Dennis owns a local bus service, and is a gold mine of history on the Wilmot region. His stories will keep you enthralled. En-route to Cradle Mountain, this delightful country store is the last fuel stop before Cradle, and provides Post Office and EFTPOS facilities.
The Wilmot Museum and Information Centre is housed in a building originally built as a school and church back in 1897. This museum truly must be seen to be believed. A huge collection of historical artifacts, memorabilia and tools relating to the history of not only Wilmot, but also of neighbouring areas such as Daisy Dell, Moina and Cethana.
Photos and local family history can be found here, and all so organised and carefully laid out. One area of the museum is dedicated to the War Years; a small room off to the side has you walking into a classroom of years gone by. Memories of the butter factory days, memories of potato growing years; ink pen and ink wells and clothing a hundred years old.
There’s an old piano, originally from Belmont Hall in the 1900s that went to Lower Wilmot Hall and eventually ended up here at the Wilmot Museum where it will now stay. Everything that tells the history of the way of life in Wilmot since settlement can be seen here. Many of the displays are privately owned and displayed here in the museum.
We had the pleasure of being shown through the museum by father and daughter, George Richards and Carol Hays, and were soon totally engrossed by the history they shared. George is a long time resident of Wilmot, and Carol grew up in the town. Their love of this town and its history becomes evident as you listen to them and realise how happy and willing they are to share their knowledge.
Even the local school at Wilmot is historic, being the resulting building of four schools. The three roof pitches telling the story of three school closures: Erriba, Narrawa and Lower Wilmot schools all being transferred to the Wilmot School where the three (combined with the Wilmot building) have created the present day Wilmot School. The school is also home to the Wilmot Online Access Centre where internet access is available six days per week, Monday to Saturday.
Wilmot Cottage Industry: Wines and Olives
Cottage industries are also beginning to be established in Wilmot: the Wilmot Hills Vineyard and Cragmore Olives. We had the pleasure of meeting Ricky Cragg of Cragmore Olives while on a recent visit to Wilmot. At his home he happily showed us the art of pressing olives. As he tipped them into the press they were crushed and the rich green oil flowed into a container. Truly an eye-opener to see where our olive oil comes from, and the methods used to extract this much used oil. A lookout by his olive grove gives magical views across the Wilmot countryside.
Artist in Residence: Don Foster
The story of Wilmot cannot be told without giving a mention to another Wilmot resident: artist, Don Foster. Don and his partner Barb moved to Wilmot nine years ago. Barb was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and they settled in a peaceful valley at Wilmot where Don spent the next seven years caring for Barb and allowing himself time to focus on his art. Sadly, Barb passed away in March 2011.
Don specialises in airbrushing, bringing to life on a canvas much of Tasmania’s nature and wildlife (his canvas being any medium from vehicles to walls; murals are his specialty… sheer magic). Don also uses charcoal as a medium for his drawings and creates 3D artworks (carvings) of much of our wildlife. These carvings are all unique; no two are the same.
With a passion for trout fishing, Don began carving trout from Tasmanian timbers, then hand-painted them with an airbrush. Incredibly, he gets the colours and markings of our trout to perfection. The trout is then mounted to a ‘backdrop’ painting, complete with water splash made with clear casting resin. The result? An incredible, three-dimensional image where the trout just leaps from the water.
Don is now also using this form to create 3D artworks of the Tasmanian Devil, platypus and many more native animals. Don’s incredible artwork is for sale, and can be viewed by appointment: phone 0415823777
Oh, and Don can also sing… a magical husky voice!
Letterboxes and History of Wilmot
- Visit Henry Buxton Lookout with views to Mount Roland and over Lake Barrington, home of Tasmania’s international rowing course and of course, a great trout fishing location also.
- A two hour return walk into Forth Falls. This moderate but beautiful walk to the Forth Falls, about 3km from Wilmot, is through native bush, and will lead you to both the Upper
and Lower Forth Falls.
Wilmot also has a couple of rather unique attractions: a trail of novelty mailboxes where one sees letterboxes created from recycled materials. And the history of Wilmot being told through paintings on telegraph poles. As you travel from Forth to Wilmot and on to Moina, slow down and enjoy the letterboxes. You’ll see the Tasmanian Tiger, Cow and Calf, Bumble Bees, Flowers, an Angel, a Cottage and many more. Then within the boundaries of Wilmot view the town’s history on these decorative telegraph poles.
Note ~ the Wilmot Museum is open to the public on weekends from October to May (9:00am–3:00pm) and from June to September (11:00am–2:00pm); and weekdays by appointment. If you are travelling through Wilmot and find the museum closed, then a phone call to Wendy Charleston on 6492 1479 or George Richards on 6492 1441 (or ask at the Coles Store) will have a friendly volunteer arriving in a short time to show you through. Entry to the museum is by donation.
Sadly, the photos from this article have been corrupted somehow. We will endeavour to re-load them one day, when we have a spare moment. Sorry!
All photos strictly ©Carol Haberle, H&H Photography. You can follow Carol on Facebook at Haberle Photo Cards. Carol writes feature articles for this website about all things Tasmanian. If you’d like Carol to visit you, please contact Think Tasmania.
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