Now that I’ve finished my Masters (yay!!!!) I am free to explore more of Sydney and its wonderful museums and heritage sites. Today was a particularly fantastic day exploring Rouse Hill House & Farm and Hawkesbury Regional Museum with my amazing friend Imogen. Make sure you check out her guest post on Manly Museum & Art Gallery! (Manly Museum & Art Gallery – Guest Post) This post will focus on Rouse Hill House & Farm.
We were very lucky to be the only two on the 11 o’clock tour. We were even luckier that our tour guide, Marnie, was incredible. She was unbelievably passionate, eager to share stories, and drove us from the visitor centre to the house in a buggy. Considering how hot the weather was today, we were especially grateful for the latter!!
For those of you who have never heard of Rouse Hill House & Farm here is a very quick overview. It was originally built in 1813 by Richard Rouse and was subsequently owned and lived in by six generations. Rouse came to Australia as a free settler and rose through the ranks very quickly to become Superintendent of lumberyard at Parramatta. At its peak, the house was a social hub welcoming personalities such as Banjo Patterson. In some rooms you can find 19th century furniture mixed in with trinkets and television sets from the 1950s. Both the house and its land have many stories to tell, including those of the original Indigenous inhabitants and those concerning the Great Depression. On the tour we visited the house, stables, and woolshed.
Marnie began her tour in the gardens covering the basic history of the house and its tenants. We were then guided through the ground level which included the living room, dining room, and ladies withdrawing room. We could not access the top level, however, it will soon be opened to the public. In each room Marnie pointed out a few objects and told us a couple of interesting stories. We then walked through the outdoor entertaining area and into the stables. The latter was probably my favourite part of the tour. The stables have been pretty well preserved. It was great to see some 19th century graffiti from two stable boys who etched their names into a wooden door. No photographs of these individuals survive yet their names will remain attached to the house.
Whilst I can appreciate their “letting the house take its natural course and not interfering too much” attitude it was, in my opinion, problematic. There are a few ways you can approach heritage. For example, you can knock it down, do it up, or leave it alone. Each site or place requires a slightly different treatment plan so I want to talk specifically about Rouse Hill. Whilst I think leaving the rooms as they have been for generations is all well and good, there are parts of the house in need of love and care. For example, parts of the ceiling have fallen off and have been left exposed. I think a balance could be struck here without ruining the atmosphere and history. It was too “one end of the heritage spectrum” for me. There will definitely be people who disagree with me on that statement.
After the wonderful tour, Marnie recommended we use the computers in the visitor centre to view the top level rooms and explore the ground floor rooms in more depth. Both Imogen and I agreed this was a great use of technology. Especially considering you could zoom in on some objects to discover more information. In saying that, it would have been great to include more information on the objects as most were quite vague. I’m sure this is a work in progress.
We would like to thank Marnie for our tour and for bringing the history of the house to life. Although this was the only interpretation available, if you can get a good guide it can be all you need.