After 199 years, the future is still looking good

FEW businesses in Australia can claim almost two centuries of operation, let alone by the same family. Weedington in Oatlands is one of a few in Tasmania that can claim that mantle with fifth-generation John Weeding, his partner Maria and the families of their sons, Anthony and Nick, now presiding over the 199th consecutive year of family operation.

The Weedington property was first settled in 1823 after a 1000-acre land grant was given by the Governor of New South Wales to English settler James Weeding. In the 199 years since the property has weathered some significant changes. Even before the current homestead’s construction in 1833 the property fell under the newly formed and self-governed colony of Van Diemans Land.

Weedington was in operation before the Cascade Brewery or the Van Diemans Land Company were established. John died 15 years after the grant was given but his property continued to live on through the Weedings’ loyalty to their Oatlands property. Only Brighton’s Summerville Farm and Gala Estate in Cranbrook have been in operation longer.

Through the generations of Weedings the farm has faced all sorts of highs and lows. Generations with children in the dozens, years of significant drought, cold weather and deluges that the Southern Midlands loves to surprise its occupants with. It is the management of these hardships that has seen the property blossom in the years of John and Maria’s tutorship.

“I arrived on the property in 1982 when I married John and back then it wasn’t a particularly big property,” Maria said. “The property still had quite a bit of debt to pay off back then too. “Since then we’ve grown the property to what it is today by purchasing neighbouring properties. “It’s given us the opportunity to spread out our farm and our livestock.”

Today the property spreads out over seven times the size of the initial land grant. That 7000 acres (2830ha) runs approximately 7000 sheep predominantly for wool and breeding. Wool has been a staple on the property since its inception, made no clearer than by the site’s shearing shed.

Between the more modern sandstone barns and stables that, in their own right deserve a second glance, is the Weedington shearing shed. Built soon after the property was granted, the split-shingled walls of this remnant of colonial Tasmania are remarkably preserved mostly due to the extensions that have been carefully added over the years.

“The biggest extension was only done a few years ago and was mostly spearheaded by Nick,” Maria said. “There was a lot of excavation around the existing shed and a lot of development into the forward-facing yarding systems, sloping floors and better grates for drainage. “It meant we could bring the shed in to the modern age while still preserving what we have.”