A 190 years in the making


The property is in the Ouse valley 4km NE of the village of Ouse, next to the start of the Central Highlands. White settlement began in 1822 when four 500acre blocks were surveyed heading west from the Ouse river 0.5 mile wide until the area was 500acres. The boundary fences of 2 neighbouring properties still reflect these far boundary lines.  The property was originally called Ravenswood in an area known as Native Hut plains on a river populated by the Big River tribe: the Teen Toomele Menennye or Lairmairrener with the Braylwunyer band occupying this area, who knew it as the Big River. A stone barn was built on the farm about 1826 with shooting ports built into the walls, along with a number of shepherds huts the remains of which can still be traced due to the blue iris planted near them and which still grow there.

A stone homestead was in place by 1842, built by David Burn; the first published author of drama in Australia who arrived at Rotherwood in 1841 and left there for Sydney in 1845. Renovations in the 1960’s found newspapers used for lining under the original wallpaper, addressed to Burn in 1842. The house still has an original window with multiple small window panes and iron bars in the window frame, used to either keep convict servants in or raiding bushrangers and aboriginals out.

It was an inn at some stage and had marble fireplace surrounds which have been badly damaged at some time during periods of absentee landlords. Sir John and Lady Franklin stayed there before leaving for their epic trip to the West Coast through the wild country, accompanied by Burn in 1842.

We don’t know much about the property’s history from 100 years until it was acquired for a soldier settler block after WWII. Brian and Lorna Brain leased it initially in 1947, and it has been in the family since that time with a block next door added in 1962 making the area 996ha. Their two eldest sons, John and Graeme came home to run the farm with them, with their parents dying at the end of the 80’s, until their retirement in the mid 2000’s.  The current owners, Bernard and Margaret Brain, Bernard being the youngest son, run it now after he came home in the late 70’s. They bought out John and Graeme in 2005 and have greatly expanded the irrigation on the property over the past 7 years.

The farm began with sheep for fat lambs, added Angus beef cattle, cereal cropping, was a pioneer in the peppermint essential oils industry,  poppies, vegetable seeds, other essential oils, grass seed, has grown seed potatoes, pyrethrum including hosting a lot of the early research by the University of Tasmania and a vineyard.

Brian Brain developed irrigation on the farm in the 1950’s on river flats, and it has steadily expanded since then, to now watering almost 400ha watering up to 190m above the river level, using flood, spray or dripper irrigation, with all the design and most of the construction done by the family.

© Rotherwood Farm