Stephen Horn and Audrey Twynam Horn
Australian Heritage Commission, 2001
4 - Richlands Homestead
via Taralga, New South Wales
Richlands homestead (detail) in 1997.
Richlands is a footnote in the renowned history of Captain John and Elizabeth Macarthur and their family, and was established as an outstation a day's ride west of the Macarthurs' main residence at Camden Park. County Argyle in NSW was named by Lachlan Macquarie during his 1820 inspection of newly discovered grazing lands south of Sydney. It comprises a strip of sparsely wooded upland country from the Tarlo River rising to Australia's Great Dividing Range. Richlands homestead is situated on the Range 50 km north of Goulburn, 30km due west of Bowral and 10 km north of Taralga, at the junction of Oberon and Wombeyan roads.
Under the control of the Macarthur sons, the estate was at its most extensive in the early 1840s and comprised 38,000 acres of prime grazing land including the present township of Taralga and all farmed country to the north. Grain, wool and tobacco were produced with Richlands wheat fetching premium prices in Sydney.
The present farm, homestead and 700 acres matches the original 1824 grant to Thomas and Leah Howe that was absorbed to complete the Macarthur holdings in 1838. Richlands farm, with the addition of 600 acres on the west of the road, has been worked continuously by the Twynam family since 1910. Hereford cattle and cross bred sheep are run for meat, with some return from wool and oats.
Shortly after the Howe farm purchase the headquarters of the Macarthurs' Argyle estate was moved from Taralga to Richlands. In 1841 skilled convict labourers commenced work on stone offices that commanded a defendable but exposed prominence. The offices were completed in 1844 when Thomas and Martha Denning occupied the attached overseer's residence. Judging by the pattern of Macarthur operations elsewhere the design imitated family-controlled homesteads in Parramatta and Camden.
As William Macarthur wrote to a brother in 1845:
The offices of rough stone … forming 2 sides of a small quadrangle consisting of a kitchen and dairy unfinished; 2 comfortable rooms occupied by an overseer his wife and 3 young children, the wife being Martha Gumbleton you may perhaps remember as a girl of 15 or 16 amongst the first batch of the Dorsetshire emigrants, and the husband Thos Denning our principal overseer, born in the service and entirely brought up in it.
The Dennings were beneficiaries of the system devised by the Macarthurs to assure a supply of loyal and skilled labour for their holdings. Thomas' parents were transported convicts, and 'old servants' of the Macarthurs. Thomas was trained in wool handling at Camden Park and then appointed stock overseer for the Argyle estate. Martha had been recruited from a Dorset village and assisted to migrate by Macarthur agents.
By 1845 work had commenced using bricks fired on site on a more conventional late Georgian residence for the new estate manager. George Martyr, freshly recruited from England, married in Sydney before taking up the position in 1848. Like the Dennings before them the Martyrs raised a family at Richlands but in more style, sufficient to accommodate monthly Church of England services. For thirty years from 1860 the homestead was occupied by leaseholders.
Note: Drawn by Mark Horn, 1974
Richlands from the roof overlooking the courtyard, 1997
Amongst them were poet Mary Gilmore's uncle George Cameron, assisted by the Macarthurs to emigrate, who had been a tenant farmer on the estate, and Edwin Hillas Jamieson who was present in 1888 when sparks from the kitchen chimney set fire to the shingle roof on the front residence, doing much damage. By 1890 Elizabeth Macarthur Onslow resumed the lease, and upgraded Richlands as a second residence for her grown family. A drive and orchards were planted, an iron roof was built, and the house refurbished. An office wall was knocked out to make a dining room. A telephone was installed in the pantry with an elaborate system of bells and flags to call up servants.
The NSW government resumed the estate and in 1910 broke it up into its 30 previously tenanted farms. Henry Twynam, an engineer from Goulburn, successfully tendered for the homestead block. While raising merinos to support a growing family Henry used his mining experience to construct a gas lighting rig (soon replaced by more reliable tilley lamps) and to build a septic tank to replace the distant outside toilet. Henry also installed windmills above wells which pumped dubious well water up the steep hill to elevated tanks which towered over the house. This required a web of galvanised steel pipes, most of which remain long after both mills have disappeared. Pipes running around the solid fuel cooking stove and into the roof cavity heated water for the bathroom.
Little else was done at the house. Verandah posts were replaced along with roof iron as the need arose. Annual coats of powdery red kalsomine were applied inside. Chimneys were patched with wire. The workmen's entrance to the estate office in Macarthur days (their only contact with the household) was converted to a meat safe. A small shed under the tank stand served for curing and corning, while bacon was smoked by diverting the kitchen chimney into the pantry.
Joan (right) and Dorcas Twynam at Richlands gate, c1917.
Constance, Henry's wife, added bulbs and berries to the wild assortment of roses, fruit trees, elms, laurels, hawthorn, oak, ivy, periwinkle and cyprus that flourished improbably on a windswept hilltop. A further consolation was music: she installed a piano in the front drawing room, which with her Irish family's ormolu furniture precariously preserved the gentility of the Macarthur house. Neither Constance nor Henry lived to see electricity laid on. Its coming helped forge a decent modern life and new feeling for place and community in the shell of an anachronistic, but successful experiment in colonial rural settlement.
With her only brother Ted lost on active war service Joan (the eldest daughter) took over the farm. To allow more daylight into the easterly facing front room, she removed large laurels, exposing the brilliant easterly vista. The septic tank was replaced by a less pungent edition. In 1956 Arnie Klassen, an itinerant Dutchman, painted interior timber work in deep pink and light blue. Lennie Walsh re-guttered and installed new galvanised rainwater tanks. The high timber tank stand (which gave an extravagant head to the bath water) was replaced by a steel version. Built-in cupboards were installed in the kitchen. Lino went down, and vinyl upholstered tubular steel kitchen chairs purchased (still in use).
Joan (right) and Dorcas Twynam at Richlands gate, c1917.
In the early 1960s Joan had the timber passage rebuilt, adding a sunroom at one end. This work was done by Bill Bensley whose ancestors were English farming families sponsored by the Macarthurs. An electric off-peak tank was fitted into the roof and separate shower and toilet partitions added to the bathroom. The kitchen fuel stove had been replaced by a more efficient coke-burning AGA in the 1950s which also heated water. The AGA failed at a crucial moment in family Christmas preparations 15 years later, and was peremptorily replaced by an electric stove. The kitchen, now minus hot water, required a bucket brigade from the bathroom at washing up time. One bedroom was refurbished for an invalid family member. Holidaying youngsters scraped off the kalsomine and applied paint to the walls and ceilings.
In the seventies, Joan had her neighbour Jim Scott extend the sunroom and add a new laundry, at the expense of the outside meatsafe. Gas hot water was run into the kitchen and a gas stove installed. The two verandah bedrooms and the old nursery were rejuvenated for visiting families. An inside bedroom was renovated for Joan's niece Judith Taylor and her two sons.
Ted Twynam on Maggie at Richlands, c1927.
The 1981-2 drought saw a bore sunk a kilometre away with underground lines extended to the house. For the first time water supply was secured, encouraging fresh attention to a garden. In 1988 the house was painted almost heritage green to match the Bicentennial brass plate marking its central place in district history. In 1990 termites destroyed both verandah room floors and a pressed wood floor replaced the original baltic pine.
Note: Scale 1:100
Owner Joan Twynam, again at Richlands gate, 1997.
With assistance from the NSW Heritage Office, Goulburn master mason George Ranken was employed in 1996-97 to repair chimneys and the thick stone walls, and arrest rising damp. Useless tanks and masonry stands were removed, the courtyard area levelled and a new garden and lawn laid down. The clear division of the house into early stone offices and later more elaborate manager's residence was exposed.
Other work included installation of a rubble drain and rebuilding or re-rendering the eight chimney stacks serving 11 fireplaces. The kitchen floor, destroyed by wet rot, was rebuilt using cypress pine, and peppermint gum bearers grown and milled on the property. Loose dirt was excavated to the original pressed earth level to allow under floor air circulation. The 1950s wiring was rejuvenated, the bathroom (finally) tiled and the toilet directly connected to the bore, rather than rely on a slow trickle from the garden tank.
Still to come is replacement of the 600sqm of 100 year old roof iron and much-patched guttering and flashings. Thus almost imperceptibly are Richlands' robust comforts being softened for its mistress of 50 years. A solar water heater to service bathroom and kitchen and polypropylene rainwater tanks will reduce reliance on gas, electricity and bore water. This will help re-establish harmony with the austere tableland conditions, and the ingenuity and fortitude of a succession of occupants.
Acknowledgements and Bibliography
Miss Joan Twynam, who has put up with invasions of privacy with good grace and cheerfulness. Peter Freeman and the NSW Heritage Office for encouragement and financial assistance (respectively). Essential assistance with research has come from Professor Alan Atkinson, and from local historians Mr Albert Lang and Mrs Pat Williamson and the Taralga Historical Society. Photographs: Miss Joan Twynam and the Horn family; drawings and plan by Mark Horn, reproduced in Freeman, Richlands Conservation Management Plan.
Peter Freeman Pty Ltd, History of Richlands Homestead, Richlands Conservation Management Plan, 1997.
Stephen Horn has spent an abundance of his and his children's school holidays and a memorable winter as a five year old at Richlands. In 1996/97 he managed a project sponsored by the NSW Heritage Office to carry out essential repairs, and conduct a study of heritage values of the homestead and surrounds.
Audrey Twynam Horn, a skilled family historian who grew up at Richlands, remains a regular visitor notwithstanding her memories of many more such winters. She is currently researching the Macarthur-Onslow occupation.
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