1803

1803

‘If it lives, we want it.’ 

So went the motto of legendary private collector and founder of The Victorian Acclimatisation Society, Edward Wilson.  Mr Wilson, like so many of his colonial counterparts, established his society with the intention of introducing animals with economic, game or recreational value to Australia.  Among the prized species introduced were cashmere goats, pheasants, swallows and, as a gift from His Royal Highness Prince Albert, the majestic red deer.

Easily the most famous of the deer species, red deer are the enormous, majestic, hyper sensitive ones, whose huge antlers have been glorified by everyone from Saint Hubertus to C S Lewis.

And it was this very antler that captured the imagination of Penny Hansen and lead her to transform her brother’s venison farm into a true nose-to-tail operation.

The daughter of a country vet, Penny grew up on a small orchard on the slopes of Mt Canobolas, ten minutes outside of Orange in northern New South Wales. 

“We had a few blackberries, and Dad had heard that deer were great at keeping them under control, so he removed some trees and bought a small herd of fallow deer, which he loved,” Penny explains.  “They are delicate, graceful animals and the herd grew for several years.”

The flighty fallow deer were eventually replaced with more manageable red deer and the herd grew to a commercial size thanks to Penny’s brother Tim - who came back to the farm after a successful career as a meat trader. “He simply wanted to be back in Orange, live on the land and see if he could commercialise and grow the deer operation dad had started,” Penny explains. 

The result is Mandagery Creek – a brand now renowned around the globe for its high quality, lean venison and served in hatted restaurants around Australia (just ask Matt Moran) and, by request, even the Saudi Arabi palace.

Tim and his father Andrew have had neighbouring farms for ten years and managed and expanded the herd together until recently, when Tim took the reins.  Among other sustainable practices, Tim implemented a cell grazing system to make more time for the commercial velvet side of the deer farming operations.  

The other natural biproducts of the operation, the deer’s naturally shed antler and hides, weren’t a part of the equation until Penny went to New York and caught sight of a product sourced from a family cattle ranch in Oregon.  It immediately resonated with her.

“Expanding our story of deer grazing on open lush pastures in a highly transparent and ethical…by using all aspects of the animal to create not only premium Australian meat, but also premium Australian artisan products, was a natural progression we were all excited about,” Penny explains.

And so began 1803.  Named after the year the first species of deer were introduced to Australia, 1803 is the work of the Hansen family and a handful of expert artisans in remote corners of Australia.  Her range includes buttery deer leather bags and pouches, ham swords, knivesherb cutters and cleavers fashioned from carefully selected pieces of antler, and soft hides and cushions.

Among Penny’s collaborators are legendary Tasmanian cutler Tom Hounslow, leather craftsman Jarren Borghero in the Yarra Ranges, and artist, designer and screen printer Julie Paterson in the Blue Mountains.

Whether it comes to life in a shower of sparks in Tom Hounslow’s workshop overlooking Bruny Island, or in Julie Paterson’s cottage in the mountains, each piece in the 1803 range is completely unique and made by several pairs of hands.

“There have been several great surprises since starting 1803,” says Penny.  “[Firstly] my education as to how important and special artisanal skills are in a world that is increasingly fast paced and consumption focused. [Secondly] the relationships forged and the interest in our story.  We are a small family working with nice people to make beautiful things and it is something we are very proud of.”

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1803 cheese knives, cleavers, paring knives, ham swords, herb cutters and bags are now available.