Thursday, 6 October 2011

Elizabeth Farm

Regarded by many as Australia's oldest surviving house, Elizabeth Farm, near Parramatta, was built by Elizabeth Macarthur in 1793 and is surrounded by a distinctive garden which will appeal to many.

Front of the house

After nearly two centuries of private ownership the property was acquired by the New South Wales State Government in the 1970s and was later put into the care of the Historic Houses Trust (HHT). The HHT restored the house and deliberately decorated it with reproduction period furnishings so visitors could sit on the 'colonial' furniture as well as touch objects, something unheard of in most historic properties

Informal hedge of plumbago on the drive

While the original  estate had originally been 250 acres, when the Government acquired the property it was little more an an acre. Little has survived of the original garden plantings apart from several mature hoop pines, a Chinese elm and an ancient olive (believed to be the oldest surviving specimen in Australia). The HHT expertly restored the garden using evidence from many historical sources, including watercolours, photographs and diaries. All the added plants used in the garden were available in the area in the 19th century. The result today is a largely restored colonial period garden.

The vegetable garden is used as a teaching tool

Like the house, the garden is incorporated into teaching programmes organised by the HHT. During term time school groups learn about Australian history and how people lived in the past. Dressed as servants the children learn, through role-play, about the life of the Macarthurs and the day-to-day  toil of colonial life. For many children the recreated vegetable plot is an incite into where are food comes from.

There are many cacti and succulents in the garden

For many years the garden has been under the care of Ann who in the company of her giant poodle keeps the property in fine fettle. One of my favourite parts of the garden is the cactus garden at the end of the driveway, and here we find a mature collections of Aloes and Opuntia all of which date from the time of restoration.

Elizabeth Farm. 70 Alice Street, Rosehill, Sydney, NSW. Tel (02) 9635 9488

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