A piece of farming history

Historical homestead opens its doors

Property
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Members of the public can gain a rare insight into a piece of Australian farming history when the first farm west of the Great Dividing Range open its doors this weekend.

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Members of the public can gain a rare insight into a piece of Australian farming history when the first farm west of the Great Dividing Range opens its doors this weekend.

Colonial icon Macquarie at O'Connell will be holding open days this Saturday and Sunday, April 6 and 7, offering a rare opportunity to view the oldest and most historically significant farm in the Central West.

In 200 years, only three families have held the farm that explorer William Lawson was first granted as a reward for his role in finding a route over the rugged Blue Mountains in 1813 and thus enabling the fledgling colony to expand.

Lawson, along with his fellow explorers Gregory Blaxland and William Charles Wentworth, were each offered nore than 400 hectares (1000 acres) as reward by Governor Lachlan Macquarie.

Lawson chose the current site of Macquarie and by 1815 had 100 cows on his new farm, earning it the title of the first farm west of the Blue Mountains.

With a fascinating timeline spanning over 200 years, Macquarie is not only the first farm but is believed to be the oldest occupied dwelling over the Great Dividing Range.

Situated on the Fish River between the hamlet of O'Connell and the city of Bathurst, the Macquarie homestead and convict barracks were completed by 1824 and are still very much intact today.

Young soldier-farmer William Lawson (1774-1850), became famous as a result of his participation in the first European crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813 when he was 19.

After establishing his base at Macquarie, he soon discovered an abundance of excellent pasture country west of Bathurst, and became one of the most successful graziers in NSW, along with John Macarthur and Samuel Marsden.

The property remained in the Lawson family until 1889, when the homestead block was sold to the McKibbin family and was sold again to the Hennessys in 2012.

"The homestead is a Georgian farmhouse built in the early Australian colonial tradition with wide verandahs, low doorways leading off the hall and thick brick walls up to 500mm," Ray White Emms Mooney principal Pat Bird said. 

"Given the unavailability of building material at the time, it was constructed of all locally sourced materials.

"The rambling homestead, consisting of the main building with two wings enclosing a courtyard, is surprisingly large, especially as it was built by convict labour from local materials.

"The 27 bedrooms, extensive cellars and two storey convict barracks with domestic convict accommodation in the roof, are an impressive example of superbly restrained restoration that now allows modern living in this unique place.

"It has been estimated that one million bricks have been used in the buildings and the timber, all cut by hand with a cross-cut saw by the convict labourers, is thought to be 300 or even 400 years old.

"There have only been three families to own - the Lawson, McKibbin and today the Hennessy families.

"With minimal change of ownership, so many more of the original features have remained."

Owner Paul Hennessy reiterated that Macquarie holds great historical significance as the oldest farm on the western side of the Blue Mountains.

"The property is here due to the patronage of the father of Australia, Lachlan Macquarie, and the property carries his name," Mr Hennessy said. 

"My wife and I, as owners of this very historic property, have regarded ourselves as custodians and curators."

The couple have been restoring the property since 2012.

The open days, sponsored by Ray White Emms Mooney, will be held this Saturday and Sunday, April 6 and 7, from 10am - 3pm, located on 3397 O'Connell Road, O'Connell.

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