Ilfracombe, named after a small town in Devonshire England, originated in 1891 as a transport nucleus for Wellshot Station, the largest sheep station in the world at the time (in terms of stock numbers). The town had three hotels – each with its own dance hall, a soft drink maker, a coach builder, two general stores, a billiard saloon, a dressmaker, three commission agents, a couple of butchers, a baker and a saddler. Today there are just 350 people living in a region which covers 6,500 square kilometres.
Another record to be claimed by the region is the moving of the largest mob of sheep as a single flock. In 1886 a mob of 43,000 sheep were moved through the area by a droving team of 27 horsemen. That doesn’t include the cooks, blacksmiths and hands which would have been needed to accompany the drovers!
Transport was once the lifeblood of the area. Long before the railway reached as far as Ilfracombe, wagons drawn by up to 30 horses took three months to carry the wool to the nearest port, Rockhampton, 650 kilometres away.
It is unlikely that any other Australian town could boast such a brilliant display of historical machinery, as does Ilfracombe. Not only that, but it’s all on public show, with antique machinery and farm equipment lining the entry road to the town.
Nowadays Ilfracombe is a small Outback Queensland township surrounded by large grazing properties, located 27 kilometres east of Longreach and 80 kilometres west of Barcaldine.