Earlier this week I did a post detailing our trip to Macquarie Lighthouse, Australia’s oldest lighthouse. You may remember our disappointment in discovering that we couldn’t climb it as we hadn’t booked a few months in advance. Of course there’s always a silver lining when it comes to our travels and our smart phone quickly provided us an alternative adventure. Vaucluse House.
Vaucluse House is one of the historic buildings that are part of Sydney’s living museums. It is heralded as one of Sydney’s remaining 19th century mansions which is still surrounded by its original gardens. The original small cottage was built by Sir Henry Brown Hayes, who had been transported to NSW as a convict for a kidnapping offence. In 1827, William Charles Wentworth successfully acquired the property at auction for the tidy sum of £1,500. He grew the property to around 515 acres and move his family in to live in 1828. They carried out major building works across the site, adding further storeys, rooms and decorative features. However it was never finished. Wentworth died in England in 1972 with his wife Sarah returning his body to Vaucluse where he received a state funeral and was buried in the mausoleum behind his rock. In 1911 the estate left the Wentworth family. In 1981 the property was transferred to the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales who completed extensive renovations to bring it back to resemble what it would have in the 19th century.
The kids walked around the house with eyes as big as saucers. At every turn they found something new to look at and explore. It took us a few hours to work through each room and discuss the various features and learn about life almost two hundred years ago. What an adventure!
The Service Wing
We chose to do the self-guided tour through Vaucluse House and started with the Service Wing. The Wentworth’s took their planning from the English, and had both a butler, housekeeper and their staff.
The scullery was where all the dishes were washed with the dirty water poured down the slop drain. It provided one of the passages to the upstairs area.
The kitchen was constructed in 1829 and was the centre of the two-storey service wing. It was here that the cook and staff prepared each meal for the Wentworth family. This was a fun area for the kids with some common kitchen utensils on offer to try. It has an extensive batterie de cuisine consisting of 137 pots, pans and jelly moulds, many which show evidence of being repaired at one time or another. You will find heirloom vegetables in the kitchen garden which still used in this very kitchen.
Just outside the Butler Pantry we found some aprons and hats that we tried on before entering the room. We loved this room and were able to show the kids how candles were snuffed out – the old fashioned way! Back in the day of the Wentworth Family, this room was where the head of the household staff positioned himself to oversee activities in the house and arrivals at the property. The china, glass and silver was polished and stored in this room. The lamps were also refueled and the candle wicks trimmed.
Retaining its original arched brick bins for bottled wine and the ceiling hooks for hanging meat, the cellar consists of two rooms which remain cool all year round. We noticed trickling water beneath the stairs. We visited on an interesting day where the room was set up with a goat carcass.
The Family Home – Ground Level
The Breakfast Room
Imagine being so wealthy that you have a separate room from your dining room to eat your breakfast! The Breakfast room was built between 1837 to 1840 and was a place for informal family meals. Note the carved oak furniture which was purchased by Fitzwilliam Wentworth in England in c1872.
The Dining Room
The Drawing Room
Here you will see part of the original cottage that was built by Sir Henry Browne in 1847. The floral wallpaper border, plaster cornice, Italian marble fire surround and cast iron grate are all original, whilst the paintings are copies of old master paintings acquired by the Wentworth family in Italy. The original furniture was sold off back before 1853 and was crafted from Brazilian rosewood with crimson damask upholstery. The room has been created to reflect this. Look at the opulence!
This discovery was not on our map. The Wentworth’s brought back from Europe these flushing toilets which they installed on their return. They were Australia’s first flushing toilets! Gravity filled when flushed, there were two to allow immediate use by other guests (they took a long time to fill). The kids found this fascinating and we had to stop them from trying to flush them!
The Family Room – Second Level
The Second Room
We discovered this room on the staircase, unseen from the ground floor. It was a private sitting room for the family which was actually called the Second Room back in 1853. There are many original features in the room including the fireplace and grate.
The Principal Room
We were unable to visit this room as it was under renovation
Fitzwillam’s Room in the Hall
This room was never finished. The large open hall was partioned by large cupboards to create a bedroom for Wentworth’s second son.
The Family Room – Second Floor
Of course the kids were going to find this room pretty spectacular, They were able to identify a number of old fashioned examples of games and furniture that we have at home as well as many unfamiliar pieces such as mosquito nets. It’s believed that this room was for the four youngest Wentworth Children who were aged between 5 and 12 back in 1853.
Miss Wentworth’s Room
Named for the eldest unmarried daughter, in 1853 it was shared by Sarah Eleanor and Eliza Sophia Wentworth.
The stables, firewood hut and gardens were our next stops of exploration. What a magnificent site!
You can visit Vaucluse House from 11.00 am each Friday through to Sunday or everyday during the NSW School Holidays. A family ticket will cost you $17.00. Don’t forget to take a quick trip to Wentworth’s Gothic Mausoleum which is a few blocks away.