Volunteers are working hard to prepare the site for its new life as a tourist attraction. (ABC News: Damian McIntyre)
The historic town of Ross in Tasmania’s Northern Midlands boasts many beautiful and significant sites.
Now plans are underway to make the local sandstone quarry the next big tourist attraction in the convict-era town.
Sandstone from the quarry was used in the construction of many of the original buildings in the village.
A group of local volunteers has been working to open the quarry up to the public.
Some may say they have rocks in their head, but proponent, Debra Cadogan-Cowper said the quarry was a significant site.
“We just want to open it to people like the community here in Ross and also the wider general public and tourists to come and have a look at the birthplace for a lot of our village,” she said.
“I think it’s significant because it’s still here untouched as it would have been.”
She said it was rare that historic quarries, like the one in Ross, were open to the public because they were often on private property.
“They’re inaccessible to the public, but this one is accessible to the public so it’s lovely to be able to maybe educate people a little bit further about building materials of those times and explain how it was done and give them a connection to the rest of Ross,” she said.
Archaeologist Brad Williams says the quarry is an integral part of Ross’ historical story. (ABC News: Damian McIntyre)
Archaeologist Brad Williams said the quarry was most likely used from the late 1800s to about 1910.
He has not found any evidence that it was used by convicts.
“It’s fairly significant because I guess it’s part of the story which is untold,” he said.
“People recognise the sandstone buildings and the sandstone bridge at Ross and sandstone architecture is a really important part of Tasmania’s history, but it’s really often that this type of site gets overlooked.
“It’s just amazing that this can be presented and made publicly accessible.
The 1891 Ross town hall is one of the sandstone buildings in the village. (ABC News: Damian McIntyre)
“You can look at a stone building or you can look at the Ross bridge and you still don’t get that first part of the story.”
Sandstone from the area was exported overseas because of its high quality.
The quarry is one of many that operated in Ross, but it is not known exactly which buildings the sandstone from the quarry was used in.
Working bees are getting the Ross sandstone quarry ready for visitors. (ABC News: Damian McIntyre)
“This type of site wasn’t particularly documented in the early days so it’s really hard to find too much information on it,” Mr Williams said.
The community hopes the opening of the quarry will make a valuable addition to other attractions in the town and lead to an increased number of visitors.
Many original buildings in Ross are made of locally quarried sandstone. (ABC News: Damian McIntyre)
“We have such a beautiful village, we’ve got the bridge, we have the Female Factory site here and this is just another addition to that suite of things that people can see when they come to Ross,” Ms Cadogan-Cowper said.
“If it’s another place to come and see in Ross it keeps people here that little bit longer.
“Just to actually understand how all of that process worked I think is a really interesting thing for people to know, and then to see the finished products as you do in the Ross Bridge and the many buildings we have in Ross made from this type of freestone is another link.”
The Female Factory site in Ross, where female convicts were housed. (ABC News: Damian McIntyre)
Working bees have been held to clean the site up and get it ready for visitors.
Gorse and dead trees have also been removed from the area, while funding has been provided for conservation and interpretation plans, an archaeological survey, site panels and fencing.
Interpretation signs for the quarry are planned as well as stonemason demonstrations and even small concerts and theatrical performances.
Ross Bridge in central Tasmania is a key tourist attraction in the village. (Supplied: Steve Robinson)