In April 2010, we travelled to Tasmania for a holiday, we decided to spend a couple of days in two towns, New Norfolk, and Oatlands. It was just be be a brief visit, as we knew that the Jillett's had lived there, and we were aware that the Callington Mill was getting repaired.
We found New Norfolk, and with the help of modern technology and the google maps, we finally found a little cemetery in an area known as Back River.
Here we located numerous grave sites all with familiar names. We stayed at an old Mental Institution.
Next day we travelled onto Oatlands, through some very beautiful country, full of old buildings and houses, and some strange crop growing under cover.
We arrived at Oatlands, and were fascinated by the old buildings and the layout of the town. We visited the Mill, and saw the restoration project.
We had visited and had lunch in the stables just down from the mill, and later we decided to search the cemeteries for the graves.
We nearly gave up because we just couldnt find any graves for Thomas and Mary Ann, then we decided to investigate the grave site which had been cordoned off with marking tape, due to its condition. We couldn't believe our eyes when we found that this in fact was the resting place of three Jillett children and their parents.
That discovery opened up a whole new segment of the family history. It was very apparent something had to be done to repair the grave site, fill it in and cement the base! Then we learnt that it was heritage listed with Heritage Tasmania. That created a whole new story!
Thomas Jillett Grave in Oatlands 2010
Thomas Jilletts Vault in the Oatlands Cemetery. The vault was built as a momunent to his 3 young children who all died within 3 weeks of each other in February 1859, of scarlet fever.
The vault is in a very bad condition and near collapse. The vault is on the Tasmanian Heritage register, and as such approval for restoration or repair lies with that department.
Given that the family descendants own the vault, it is their responsibility to attend to the repairs. As Thomas' descendents appear to live in the mainland states, there is absolutely no benefit to any of the family for the vault to be restored. However, given that there is a very high interest amongst tourists to learn and discover more of the early days from the convict settlers, visitors will arrive in Oatlands, and be treated to a great experience in the newly restored mill.
Then they will walk down the street to the cemetery to experience first hand how a Colonial family lived and worked, and they will be met with a pile of rubble.
That is not the impression that we would wish to give to any tourist, who took the time and effort to learn about the Jillett family. The sadness of the time is reflected in the Vault, and the reality of all the children who perished. As Thomas's decendents we owe it to them to ensure that the vault is restored so it will be part of the Historical Records of Oatlands, for future generations to share.
A submission is currently before the Federal Government for a funding grant of 50% under their Historical Sites Program.
The support from key players in the Oatlands area, has been overwhelming.
KH August 2010