Douglas Vale Vineyard and Homestead is a much loved local iconic site, with a history dating back to 1859. As the only volunteer-run vineyard and homestead in Australia, it’s entirely unique, holds a special place in many locals’ hearts and often plays host to special events. Kay Morrison, Douglas Vale’s Functions Coordinator and Public Relations Officer, tells us more about the historical significance of the site, and fills us in on some of the upcoming events …
Please share some of the history behind Douglas Vale…
Historic Douglas Vale dates back to 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 Majors 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 from 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.
On the death of her father, in 1898, George’s daughter, Margaret Wilson, continued to maintain Douglas Vale as a successful vineyard until the last vintage in 1918.
When Margaret Wilson died in 1932, the ownership of Douglas Vale then passed to her daughter, Margaret Ethel Isabella Dick, the widow of Ernest Dick (his father had been responsible for establishing the oyster farming industry on the Hastings River). Margaret Dick was joined by her youngest son, Patsy, who remained living in the homestead after his mother’s death. In later years the State Government progressively resumed the land, mainly for educational purposes.
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 outbuildings, represents the last remaining fabric of the pioneering wine industry of the 1880s. 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 1880s it was the largest.
Introduce us to the Douglas Vale Conservation Group – where can we meet you?
Douglas Vale Conservation Group is the only volunteer run homestead and vineyard in Australia.
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’s list of heritage sites.
We are open on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 10am until 3pm.
Our address is 235 Oxley Highway, and we are located between Westport Primary School and Westport High School.
Our contact number is 6584 3792.
Douglas Vale Vineyard is renowned for hosting some amazing events. What’s on the agenda for the next few months?
Douglas Vale Open Days are held three times a year, from 9:30am until 2:30pm.
Third Saturday in January: Summer Open Day;
Third Saturday in April: Heritage Open Day;
Third Saturday in October: Spring Open Day.
On Saturday 24th March, the Datsuns Sports Owners’ National Championships is being held at Douglas Vale. The event is held in a different state of Australia each year, and this time it is New South Wales’ turn. We are very fortunate that Port Macquarie has been chosen as the location for the event. There will be approximately thirty cars on display, and judges will be selecting the winners in various categories from entries from all over Australia.
Douglas Vale will be providing Devonshire teas to the 55 participants. The event will commence at 8:30am and conclude at 12:30pm. Douglas Vale will be open to interested visitors on the day for viewing these unique cars, as well as wine tasting, tours and the purchase of Devonshire teas.
Our Heritage Open Day is being held this year on Saturday 21st April. This is being held in conjunction with the Art Walk and will have some Indigenous artworks on display. One of the artists is Russell Meehan, winner of the Kempsey Art Prize in 2009, who was also awarded Highly Commended at the Grafton Regional Gallery in 2017. There will also be a variety of craft stalls, food stalls, Devonshire teas and BBQ, a full programme of local entertainment and much more.