There are many historical buildings around Sydney, but one that always captures my attention is Vaucluse House, nestled in the southern headland of Sydney Harbour and overlooking the secluded cove of Beach Paddock.
The first cottage on the property built in 1805 belonged to Sir Henry Brown Hayes, who having been transported to NSW for kidnapping an heiress in his native Ireland with the intent to forcefully marry her for her fortune, re-established himself on the secluded estate. In 1827 the cottage was sold to William Charles Wentworth, a prominent barrister who also had a dash of controversy for his time – he lived there with his lover Sarah Cox, a daughter of convicts. They went on to have ten children and made extensive & impressive additions to the estate including a sandstone stable & coach house, barracks, two storey kitchen wing with a larder & dairy, three storey bedroom wing, dining room, sitting room, drawing room, laundry, storeroom & verandah. They also fostered a beautiful kitchen garden and a ‘pleasure garden’ with a fountain.
Sydney Living Museums has done a magnificent job of restoring & bringing back to life Vaucluse House, by drawing on plant lists and letters to recreate a mid 19th century kitchen garden and using old trades, traditional methods & materials to repair the buildings & interiors. The roof was restored with sheer oak shingles sourced from Northern NSW, laid as they traditionally were and the internal porch and colonnade were fixed of damp through the application of a poultice and re-plastered with a traditional 3 coat lime plaster. Internally the house’s furnishings, particularly in the drawing room, have been researched based on auction adverts in an 1853 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald and then sourced from authentic suppliers, right down to passementries imported from France.
All the old trades & materials present in and around Vaucluse House are a beautiful marriage with the values of The Society inc – humble and honest materials honed by master craftsmen. The natural surfaces of flagstone paving, sandstone and plastered walls and the recreated historical spaces in the kitchen wing became ideal backgrounds to showcase The Society inc range.
I encourage you to set aside some time during the summer holidays to pay a visit to this beautiful gem, take some time to soak up some history and wander through the gardens! Vaucluse House & its tearoom are open daily during public school holidays 10am – 4pm.
Visit Vaucluse House