Douglas Vale Historic Homestead and Vineyard hosted descendants of the founder, George Francis, at the popular tourist destination on Wednesday March 7.
Dawn and Peter Francis from Caterham in Surrey, England along with their Baulkham Hills, Sydney daughter Dawn, enjoyed their tour of the historic site.
George Francis arrived in Australia from England in 1844 with his wife, daughter and three of his four step children.
His daughter married Napoleon Wilson and his granddaughter married Earnest Dick. Both the Wilson and Dick family names are prominent in the Port Macquarie-Hastings region but once George Francis had passed away there was no one to carry on his family name.
That was why it was so exciting to actually meet Francis family members at Douglas Vale, said a spokesperson for Douglas Vale.
“The other amazing fact highlighting their visit, was the donation by Peter Francis, almost ten years ago, of the Francis family Bible, to the Douglas Vale Homestead,” the spokesperson said.
“This Bible dates back to the sixteen- hundreds and was given to George Francis’ parents in 1810, one year before George as born. It is a highly treasured artefact and is on display in the homestead.
“Peter told the volunteers that the Bible was given to him following the death of his grandfather in 1998. Upon realising the amazing efforts in restoring the property by the Douglas Vale Conservation Group, he decided that its home should be at Douglas Vale.”
The historic Douglas Vale story began in 1859 when vigneron, George Francis, bought two parcels of land totalling 20 acres on what was then the New England Road.
He had prospected enough gold at Major’s Creek diggings near Braidwood to buy the property, build the cottage for his family and start the vineyard with Black Isabella cuttings believed to have come form the vineyard of Major Innes’ property at Lake Innes.
He had worked for Major Innes for three years, planting his vineyard, before going gold prospecting. The Black Isabella grapes were imported from America.
George later purchased land to a total of 44.7 acres.
The property was named after George Francis’ first wife, Margaret whose maiden name was Douglas. Her family originated from Scotland.
Douglas Vale developed into one of the finest vineyards in the district. Its wines were exhibited in Bordeaux in 1882, Amsterdam in 1883, Calcutta in 1884 and 1885 and in London in 1886, winning commendations and medals.
TAFE as the new owner of the property, was unable to prevent the vandalism that occurred following Patsy’s death in 1993.
As a response to the decision by TAFE to demolish the property, The Douglas Vale Conservation Group was formed in 1995.
Only approximately 4.1 acres remains of the property today. The homestead is the oldest remaining timber house in the Hastings region and with the out buildings, represents the last remaining fabric of the pioneering wine industry of the 1880’s.
There is an amazing collection of family memorabilia which has been donated by family members and is on display in the homestead. The vineyard in the oldest in Port Macquarie and in the late 1880’s it was the largest.
Douglas Vale Conservation Group is the only volunteer run homestead and vineyard in Australia.
We are always looking for interested people to volunteer and we have a variety of roles which they can become involved in.
The Conservation Group is preserving Douglas Vale as a working museum/vineyard for future generations.
The homestead and its curtilage are classified by the National Trust of Australia and is included in Port Macquarie/ Hastings Council list of Heritage sites.
It opens every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 10am until 3pm at 235 Oxley Highway.
Third Saturday in April: Heritage Open Day 21st April 2018
Third Saturday in October: Bi Centennial Open Day 20th October 2018