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Wilmot, TAS

Home of the first Coles store in a "valley of views"

Wilmot is a tiny township which once had a single general store that served the surrounding rural area. It is on a scenic route from the coast to Cradle Mountain and consequently has become a popular stopping point for cyclists and motorcyclists looking for a quieter route to the Cradle Mountain National Park.

Location

Wilmot is located 129 km from Launceston via Devonport, 310 km from Hobart via Westbury and Latrobe, and 40 km from Devonport.

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Origin of Name

Wilmot was named after Sir John Eardley-Wilmot who was Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land from 1843 until 1846.

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Things to See and Do

Letterbox Trail
Tasmanians love vernacular art and in the case of Wilmot the speciality, which has focussed the local population, is roadside letterboxes mostly made from scraps of material (metal tins, buckets, pieces of wire and iron) and shaped into elaborate mail boxes. On one level they are a lot of fun. On another level there is a sense of community in the way most of the people in the district have decided to present their letter box as an expression of themselves. Everyone will find one that amuses them, one that they admire because of the craft involved, and one that is just plain silly.

Wilmot Museum
A small rural museum located in the local schoolhouse. It has an interesting collection of photographs and memorabilia and is now one of the few places where you can see photographs of the original G.W. Coles store. The building dates from 1894.

The Telegraph Pole Trail
You will notice that many of the telegraph posts have been painted to record the history of the area.

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History

* Prior to European settlement the area was occupied by members of the Tommeginne Aboriginal language group.

* The area wasn't settled until the 1890s. The settlers were confronted with the daunting task of clearing land which was densely timbered.

* The town was proclaimed in 1903.

* In 1904 the Wilmot Butter Factory was built. It was destroyed by fire in 1912.

* The first G.W. Coles shop was established in Wilmot in 1914. In the 1980s there was a brochure on the history of the shop which explained: 'Coles - A link with Tasmania. The personal link which the Coles family has long enjoyed with Tasmania began in the early years of the century when Mr George Coles, father and founder of G. J. Coles Ltd, left Victoria to buy and operate a general store in the small country town of Wilmot. It was at Wilmot that the one-time chairman and managing director of the company, Norman C. Coles, received his primary education at the time when his older brother A. W., later Sir Arthur, was assisting his father. The retailing chain which was destined to become Australia's biggest actually had its modest beginnings in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood when Mr G. J. Coles, Sir George, and his brother Jim, opened their tiny 3d, 6d and 1/- store in 1914. 'The Coles store at Wilmot was purchased by the original George Coles because of its bankruptcy. Needless to say Coles had trouble raising funds to purchase what appeared to be an unsuccessful business. Once he did his sons came back from World War I with its cheap goods. Afterwards he moved to Melbourne where he set up a chain based on the ideas of Woolworths. In its heyday Coles store in Wilmot actually had about 15 employees and three trucks were used to take supplies to the surrounding areas.'

* In 2014 the historic Coles Store was destroyed by fire.

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Visitor Information

The general store used to operate as an information centre. There is now no source of information although the Visitor Information Centre, 5 Pioneer Crescent, Sheffield does have information on the Letterbox Trail. tel: (03) 6491 1036.

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Useful Websites

There is a very good and detailed website - http://www.think-tasmania.com/wilmot/

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2 suggestions
  • The source of visitor information in Wilmot is at the local Historical Museum. The Museum is directly opposite the Wilmot Country Store, which is built on the “Original Coles Store” site. The “Coles Store” is to be rebuilt. The shop is now (2017) operating from the small new building which will eventually be the produce/hardware section of the complex once the main shop building is completed and open.

    Jo Ross