VISIT TO SOMERCOTES, ROSS
Last Tuesday we visited Somercotes, an old farming property near Ross.
Now what makes this place worth posting about: it's not a house museum, it's a working farm with an assortment of outbuildings and an old homestead they're trying to maintain. So it has some rather interesting features.
I did completely forget to get a photo of the whole house but there is one here or an older one. If you've ever been down to Hobart, you've probably seen it in the middle of a paddock just after the second turn off to Ross. Unless you are looking at the other side of the road.
The estate was established by Captain Horton back in 1823, which is of course, a Long Time Ago. The focus then was on establishing the farm buildings and the house was constructed later, sometime before 1842.
There's a courtyard at the back, formed by the house, two side wings and a bit of wall.
The building on the right is the dairy and the double roof is for insulation.
Note the bars on top of the wall.
Also more on the back of the house. Ross was very remote at the time the property was established, and the fortifications was intended to keep out bushrangers and aborigines.
Intended anyway. They had a visit in 1843:
From the character of Captain Horton, we judged him to be the most likely gentleman in that locality who was able, however unwilling, to perform an act of benevolence, and upon this supposition we decided on paying him a friendly visit. We soon arrived within sight of the fortress it being the most appropriate name I can find for that gentleman's residence, which was defended by an outer wall with embrasures, and, in fact, all the other appliances of a citadel about to be besieged. We therefore reconnoitred for a short time in order to ascertain if the enemy had any weak points which could be turned to advantage, and at length resolved to take the garrison by assault. Advancing with a firm and determined front, and after some slight skirmishing, we made ourselves masters of the outer works and also succeeded in taking fifteen of the enemy, whom we immediately placed in durance, with the exception of one who conducted us to where the main body was posted.
Our strength being now reduced, having to leave one of our number in charge of prisoners, we were obliged to act with great caution. The troops in the garrison were as yet unconscious of our presence, as we carried the outer works at the bayonet point, but on advancing to the ramparts we were seen by a scout, who quickly retired to give the alarm, but Jones, with great presence of mind and the most undaunted bravery, rushed across the ramparts and knocked the scout down before he could give the alarm, and afterwards charged the enemy. On hearing the fusilade inside, I was of the opinion that the assaulting party had met with a determined resistance and might in all probability be vanquished. Resolving to revenge the death of my comrade, I fiercely commanded the guide to climb the ramparts, being responsible for his safe custody, and speedily bore up for the attack, and, passing over the body of the scout, I found Jones engaged in a hand to hand encounter with the captain of the garrison, who, on seeing a reinforcement coming up at the charge, gave himself up as a prisoner of war and the fortress at once capitulated.
When in possession of the fortress we brought in our prisoners, placing them all together, upon which we were informed by the captain that a female had made her escape during the conflict and would likely return in a few minutes with a fresh body of troops. He also made use of very insulting language not at all becoming the character of a gentleman, and, among other things, observed that he was not afraid of losing his life, if I was. I cautioned him to be silent and to retract his expressions, and with these injunctions he complied at the end of my gun. Had he been armed and in a position to defend himself, I would have put his courage to the test, if all the Police in Ross and Campbell Town were on the premises. Jones now stripped him of his watch, and in my rambles through the fortress I found a young lady in deep mourning, with whom I did not interfere, thinking that as Mrs. Horton had made her escape all further precautions were unnecessary. We then quitted the garrison, taking very little with us, and as no blame could be attributed to any of our party, who all acted with the greatest courage and determination, we resolved at some future time to pay another visit to our friends, when we might have a better opportunity of testing the courage of the officer in command.
From Martin Cash: The Bushranger of Van Diemen's Land in 1843-4: A Personal Narrative of His Exploits in the Bush and His Experiences at Port Arthur and Norfolk Island
The courtyard entrance.
Inside the courtyard that can be seen through the gates. That other side was apparently built as a wall, then a roof and floor were added lately. This older photo shows it without the bushes. More interesting, I think.
The front of the house. Unusual window design. Unusual here meaning "I haven't seem it before". The windows have shutters both inside and out. The inside ones are closed. The external ones don't seem to match the windows.
View from the front of the house: 5000 cherry trees and the ruins of an old school. It seems the trees that once hid the portico were removed to improve the wind flow through the orchard. The Midlands Highway runs across the middle of the photo there. (Two green paddocks separated by a hedge, then the highway, then the ruins and cherries.)
Wooden trim on the verandahs is typical of the early homesteads. During the Victorian-era it became cast iron and then back to wood for Federation-era houses.
Side windows, covered with external shutters. They obviously fit the windows better than those at the front, but this is the side wing not the main house. Sandstone flagstones.
Immediately behind the house, is a cottage. The back part there was built in the 1820s and the front part in (if I remember correctly) the 1850s. Note the door joining them.
The guide made a point of the difference in the quality of the brickwork for each part.
(The camera was being contrary. A large unmoving object, a short distance away and the light is fine, so lets make it blurry.)
This is the Ticket of Leave building, where we had morning tea.
Note different roofing materials.
Our guide explained the a ticket of leave was given for good behaviour "to convicts who had left Port Arthur". We do know what is wrong with that statement, yes?
The back of the building. The bit on this end is obviously a later addition.
From inside that bit, you can see the shingled roof of the older part.
Back to the outside photo, note the fence. There's a lot of this fence about but I haven't seen it before so I have no idea how old it is. And metal confuses me.
There's more of it here. Note the gate. This is other building in the Australian Heritage photo database entry. I'm guessing it was workers' accommodation. Now it's tourist accommodation.
The same with this one. The windows on these cottages are a single frame and hinged on the side.
I missed what this building was used for, but mother referred to it later as the blacksmith's shop
Which seems to be the case :) It was a tiny, dark room crammed full of bits.
That is a colour photo. (Small room with little light, of course the camera works. OK so it's touch out of focus in places but I love the lighting effect.)
A horse-powered pug mill for preparing the clay for brick making.
I saw these at the entrance and they looked out of place with the rest of the fence. Here they are again on the other side of the house. They don't look quite so out of place here, but still oddly shaped gates posts. That's because they weren't built as gate posts. Can you see them in this photo?
I'm thinking these are water pumps, old and new.
Now this shed turned out to be very interesting, but it can keep until next time.
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