Our House: Winter Edition 2011


'Our House' is a seasonal newsletter produced by ACT Historic Places Front of House Coordinator, Ann Sutherland with contributions provided by guides and volunteers from the three Historic sites, Lanyon Homestead, Calthorpes’ House and Mugga-Mugga.

Image of tractor and truck in the Lanyon shed

Front Line News

by Ann Sutherland

Monday 16th of May 2011, saw the return of our ‘Annual Volunteers Day’.
Held in the Education Centre at Lanyon Homestead, the event as always
was a complete success. Each year we add more to the agenda in terms of professional development, and I believe AVD 2011 has raised the bar! The event started by a welcome to all from our CEO Harriet Elvin, Peter Haynes the Director of ACT Historic Places then provided a thought provoking presentation on Heritage Places and House Museums. The day continued with an interesting presentation by our Site and Project Manager; Greg Roberts who discussed conservation works’, security measures in place across the three sites and OH&S in heritage places. The afternoon was filled with brilliant and interesting [not to mention entertaining] presentations by our casual and volunteer guides. What a variety, from Andy Cunningham to Blandfordia, the topics were based around vast themes and presented with professionalism and a true depth
of knowledge.

Jean Abbott our housekeeper at Calthorpes’ House leaves us after more than 20 years of service. Jean is retiring and we wish her well, after many years of hard work, dedication, passion and enthusiasm she will be deeply missed.

Duntroon House

The Physical Connection Between Duntroon
and Mugga-Mugga

by Peter Welch

Whenever I conduct a guided tour of Mugga-Mugga Cottage I always commence at the stock grid near the Education Centre. This is the only spot that the Royal Military College Duntroon can now be seen. I point out that it is over there, where Duntroon House [still standing] was built in 1833 for Robert Campbell
as his Homestead and family home on his rural Estate.

I tell my visitors that this is a vital source of the history of the Cottage and Mugga-Mugga, as in 1838 the cottage was built for Campbell to house the shepherds and their families minding the sheep on the southwestern portion
of his Duntroon Estate.

In those early days there was an uninterrupted view across the valley as it
was then a treeless plain. The physical connection between the two sites however, is the subject here and I am referring to the track between Duntroon, and the Cottage at Mugga-Mugga. This track was not only the access between the two sites but was also the main thoroughfare from the Estate to all areas further south.

This track in the mid 1800’s, starting at Duntroon crossed the Molonglo River at a ford located between what is now Staff Cadet Avenue and Plant Road, both entrances to the Royal Military College off Morsehead Drive. Very close to this point on the Duntroon Estate was the cottage where the Curley Family lived up until 1913 when they moved to Mugga-Mugga Cottage.

Sylvia Curley in her book “A long Journey” records an incident at this ford where her Mother, Lizzie in 1912 stood in pouring rain in the dark with a lantern to warn the approaching horse drawn coach containing Lady Bridges and party that the ford was badly flooded and impassable, probably saving everyone on board from being swept away.

After crossing the ford, the track went due south across the flat area slightly west of the present Monaro Highway which then did not exist and passed very close to the wind powered Duntroon Mill and the stone Millers House which stood on a rise still visible near the present sewage treatment works. Nothing now remains of these historic old mill buildings.

The creek running through that area to join the Molonglo River in the old days was called Mill Creek; however the current and correct name is Jerrabomberra Creek, which actually rises in the hills up near Royalla on the Monaro Highway.

At a point near where this creek crosses under Canberra Avenue,
then known as Uriarra Road there was another ford.

Near this spot the Curley girls took their Father’s stock to water and to collect the mail from their mailbox on the roadside after they moved to Mugga Cottage from Duntroon in 1913. The area around the ford was notoriously treacherous as a crossing point and for stock watering there, due to the prevalence of quick sand. There was a branch of his track at this point, that continued on the eastern (Queanbeyan) side of the creek for some distance, then crossed it
and went on to Woden Homestead, after which it joined the Tharwa to Queanbeyan Road.

At the ford over Uriarra Road the main track to Mugga-Mugga curved fairly sharply south west up towards Mt. Mugga and the Cottage, passing close
by the then nonexistent buildings now on the Olive Farm.

Towards the end of her life, Sylvia Curley planted some gum trees on the Mugga property to mark the location of the track, but those going uphill to the Cottage from the Olive Farm have died. Those trees directly behind the Cottage on top of the hill Sylvia still survive, but at that point the track there is still visible.

After passing very close to the northern fence (the side where the flat is now located) of the Cottage precinct, the track went over the hill, down towards the adjoining property on the western boundary and left the Mugga property at the extreme southwest corner where some poplar trees now grow. This old road then curved west till it joined Mugga Lane at about the present Quamby Remand Centre.

Mugga Lane was a very important road in the early days of European settlement, extending in those days right through to the Yass Road (now Limestone Avenue) connecting the northern extremity of settlement on the Limestone Plains to the south.

The old track from Duntroon to Mugga and beyond remained a public thoroughfare past the Curley’s Cottage until at least 1923 when Patrick successfully applied to stop the blue metal from Mugga Quarry being carted
past his house at all hours, due to the disruption that it caused to his family
and stock. It is believed that this action also marked the end of the Uriarra Road to Mugga Lane section of the track from Duntroon to all public traffic.

The track, as it proceeded past the northern side of Mugga Cottage ran between the cottage and the stable (burnt down in the 1952 bushfire) which stood underneath the Robinia tree still miraculously alive having been planted by the Curley’s predecessor at Mugga, Arthur Wilden in 1908. This tree has survived at least three bush fires and is almost completely hollow inside. Also, rather bizarrely it seems that the old original drop toilet stood on the far side of the track from the Cottage at the stable.

Lanyon Croquet set

Croquet Days at the Homestead

by Kate Gardiner

Whilst visiting the Museum of Sydney exhibition An Edwardian Summer;
Sydney and beyond through the lens of Arthur Wigram Allen, an image of
ladies playing in a croquet tournament caught my eye and reminded me of the potential to add to our repertoire of games played at Lanyon by young visitors. Subsequently, I am pleased to write that we have recently received a croquet set for children to use in our programs. You may have noticed the collection sets that are currently in the Fernery, and it will be a bit of fun using the newly purchased equipment particularly during the Education Program Child’s Play, and later in the year during a Community Program currently in development titled Fabulous Ferns. First played at club level in Canberra in the 1920s,
it is a past time most likely to have been enjoyed by the second generation
of Cunningham’s living at Lanyon rather than Andrew and Jane.

There is a lot of information on the web about the sport, including that it evolved from a style of game played variously in France then Ireland,
and I was surprised to learn that in Victoria alone there are approximately
100 clubs! Croquet is played on all types of surfaces from short cut grass to sand, and Croquet Orangewood Australia, from whom we purchased our set, encourage the game to be played on whatever outdoor surface is available.

Anyone who’s looked closely at the collection mallets displayed in the Fernery will have noticed that there are two types of heads; square and round,
and our new set has square heads. There is also an indoor version called
Puck Croquet which is played using balls modified into ‘pucks’ that skim synthetic floor surfaces like tennis courts and bowling greens, however,
we won’t be proposing this option for the Education Centre any time soon.
We will play the game on the Apricot Orchard Lawn when the weather is fine.
In the conventional game the heavy balls are weighted so as to avoid the chance of becoming airborne after the player strikes it with their mallet.

Beyond all things croquet, Term 2 (which runs through until the first week
of July), now has capacity bookings for the three sites, with a good spread
of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary groups visiting the three historic sites.

Image of a spill holder


by Allison Jones

Sometimes in ‘our’ Drawing Room at Lanyon Homestead, we see on the mantel piece what looks like twisted paper in vases.

In the days before striking matches were invented, paper was rolled and twisted into bits called “spills” to light the fireplace, or to transfer a flame from one stove or fireplace to another. Small splinters of wood and slivers of curled wood shavings were also carefully collected and stored in Spill Holders on the mantel or hearth, kept handy at all times for lighting the fire.

Spill holders resembled vases and were commonly made of earthenware, wood, glass or metal, but decorative glass spill holders were the most common from the 1850’s to the mid-Victorian era when striking matches became affordable due to mass production.

Image of the green baize tablecloth, which adorns the cedar table in the Lanyon dining room

Green Baize

by Helen Liszczynsky

Most of you would have noticed the green baize tablecloth, which adorns the cedar table in the Lanyon dining room. Baize is a coarse woollen cloth, sometimes called "felt" in American English based on a similarity in appearance. Wool baize has many traditional applications, such as covering the tops of card tables or lining display cases. Baize has also been used to line built-in sideboards; lining silverware drawers or cupboards, even gun cabinets.

However, baize is most often used on snooker and billiards tables to cover the slate and cushions, and is often used on other kinds of gaming tables such as those for blackjack, baccarat, and other casino games.

The surface finish of baize is not very fine (and thus increases friction, actually slowing the balls down, from a player's perspective). Baize is available with and without a perceptible nap. Snooker, where an understanding of the effects of the nap is part of the tactics used in the game, uses the variety with a nap, while pool (pocket billiards) and carom billiards use the napless type. Table baize is available in many grades, with pool halls preferring smooth, "fast" worsted woollen baize, while rather fuzzier, "slow" cloth is commonly used for bar/pub pool. For gaming use, baize is traditionally dyed green, in mimicry of a lawn. Nowadays, a wide variety of colours are used for tables. For other uses such as clothing it has always been available in other colours.

The green baize tablecloth at Lanyon is used as a protective cover for the table in between uses. Interestingly, at one time, "the green baize door" (a door to which cloth had been attached using brass tacks in order to deaden noise) in a substantial house was used to separate the servants' area of the house from the rest of the home. It was considered a firm dividing line. Members of the household such as master, mistress, children, and guests were not encouraged beyond the baize door, while servants were permitted to come and go freely so that they could conduct their work in an invisible and efficient manner. Houses evolved so that domestic staff could go about their tasks without interruption, not to ensure the privacy of the staff – they had none.

Another interesting use for green baize is in soundproofing strategic rooms, such as in the case of the War Cabinet Room at Victoria Barracks during
World War 2.

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