Oatlands is an important historical village in the centre of Tasmania, Australia, halfway between Hobart and Launceston on the Midland Highway. Oatlands is considered to have the largest number of colonial sandstone buildings in any town in Australia, and many of them were built by convict labour.
With a population of approximately 580 people, it is the largest town in the Southern Midlands Council area and is surrounded by rich agricultural land.
Oatlands is one of Tasmania’s oldest settlements and was named by Governor Macquarie after an English town in the county of Surrey in 1821. It was developed as a military base for the control and management of convicts because of its equal distance from Hobart and Launceston. Convicts were assigned to nearby farms and properties, and also worked on public buildings, roads and bridges.
There are a number of unique landmarks in Oatlands, including the Callington Mill and St Pauls’ Church. The mill was built in 1837 and is slowly being restored to working order, and the Catholic church was designed by Augustus Welby Pugin, the father of Gothic Revival architecture.
For some years after 1848, Oatlands was the place of exile of the Irish nationalist leader Kevin Izod O’Doherty, where his stone cottage still stands.
Oatlands was generally a relatively prosperous town in the 20th century but by the 1990s the Tasmanian economy slump, the highway bypass and a Tasmanian Midlands rural drought had a very negative effect on the town. Much of Tasmania’s economic renewal, like the highway, has bypassed Oatlands which today is a lot quieter than it used to be. The residents are attempting to grow the town once more by making it a peaceful local centre with a tourist friendly image.