If I could sit all day on the verandah beneath the wisteria at Woolmers Estate, I would. Winter is an excellent time to visit as the purple of the wisteria contrasts beautifully with the house. I thought that I had missed out this year but I managed to see a tiny patch of wisteria on the last weekend in Spring!
Also in bloom in Spring are the roses. Woolmers Estate is home to the magnificent National Rose Garden. If you don’t yet know your David Austins from your… well… other roses, you’ll find that a rose has many names and not all smell as sweet! The vast collection deserves a good half-hour stroll through. Old and young alike will also enjoy finding the flash of orange in the pond at the bottom of the garden.
Woolmers Estate is a fabulous place to visit at any time of the year. Even if the flowers aren’t blooming, you could spend many hours exploring the grounds and historic buildings. These include the Blacksmith’s Shop, Stables and Servants’ Kitchen (now a café). You can even stay in some of the historic buildings. My favourite building is the picturesque Wool Shed. Treasures I’ve found around the property are the turret-like smoking room in the garden, a “twin thunder box” in the garden wall, a tiny vintage car and the wine cellar. Soon, Woolmers will also boast a first-rate function centre and restaurant.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Listed Convict Site, Woolmers was once the home of six generations of Thomas Archer. Established in approximately 1817, the buildings show the fullness of the lives of the Archers. You’ll learn about their innovation, successes (one played golf in the Australian Open) and tragedies. Unlike nearby Brickendon, which was founded by Thomas Archer I’s brother, William, Woolmers is no longer a working farm. This is because Thomas Archer VI was a recluse who had no children, leaving the property as a time-capsule for future generations to enjoy. While I’m very thankful for this, it’s quite a poignant realisation that such an inventive line of the Archer family is no more.
You must tour the house. This will cost more, and your guide will most likely take you through very slowly (my husband can’t stand this!), but you won’t fully understand the family until you view their private quarters. You’ll notice many points of difference between this house and others like it. Keep an eye out for the crockery set with the family crest (a bear paw holding an arrow), the shutters to protect from bush-rangers, the camera collection, the servants’ bell and the lack of mid-ceiling electric lighting. The latter was so that the aesthetics of the rooms would not be marred by the newfangled invention of electricity. This was a family who paved their own way.
Woolmers is located just south of Longford. You can reach it from the Midlands Highway, about five minutes’ drive south of Perth (Woolmers Estate is well signposted). Alternatively, drive through Longford down Wellington Street and Woolmers Lane until you reach the estate. You’ll enjoy driving down the hedged country lanes.
Current prices are $14 per adult or $32 for a family for self-guided tours. You’ll pay $20 per adult, $7 per child or $45 for a family. If this is your first visit to Woolmers, do the house tour. It’s well worth it! Opening hours are 9am – 4pm daily. Note that Woolmers Estate is closed on several public holidays (see their website for more details).