A jolly fine home

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - Jessica Howard Any­one in­ter­ested in putting their own amaz­ing home up for con­sid­er­a­tion for house of the week can email jessica. howard@news.com.au

IF THERE was just one pri­vate res­i­dence in Tas­ma­nia that best rep­re­sented the state’s var­ied his­tory, it would have to be Mar­garet and Henry Reynolds’ Rich­mond home.

Aptly named Tas­ma­nia’s His­tory House, it has been known by many other names since be­ing built in 1825, in­clud­ing The Union Ho­tel, Jolly Farm­ers Inn and Strat­ford House.

Built by Ir­ish con­vict Si­mon McCul­logh, it was run as a pub for the first 48 years of its life be­fore be­com­ing a pri­vate home, which it has re­mained ever since.

Liv­ing in Launceston, his­tory pro­fes­sor Henry and for­mer La­bor se­na­tor for Queens­land and staunch ad­vo­cate for Tas­ma­nian her­itage Mar­garet, stum­bled upon the house three years ago.

“I just hap­pened to get up early on a Sun­day morn­ing, which is very un­usual for me, and went on the in­ter­net just look­ing at what was avail­able,” Mar­garet said.

“I wasn’t look­ing in Rich­mond but all of a sud­den I found my­self here look­ing at this won­der­ful house.

“I rang the agent about 9am on the Sun­day to look around and I just knew it was for us even af­ter look­ing at just one room.”

As the great- great- great­grand­daugh­ter of a con­vict, Mar­garet said her choice of home was quite ap­pro­pri­ate.

This is even more the case given the as­so­ci­a­tion of her name with the house.

The pre­vi­ous owner, who sub­di­vided the land and now lives next door, is also named Mar­garet and it’s also the name of the wife of for­mer Aus­tralian prime min­is­ter Gough Whit­lam. The Whit­lams came to visit the house in Fe­bru­ary 1974.

Their visit, in­ci­den­tally, was the im­pe­tus for adding the sun­room at the rear of the home which over­looks the flour­ish­ing gar­den with its small vine­yard, fruit trees, ve­g­ies and flow­ers plus a pond with two res­i­dent ducks.

“The own­ers had the then prime min­is­ter and his wife com­ing to stay overnight,” Mar­garet ex­plained.

“The wife said, ‘ I’m not serv­ing break­fast to Gough and Mar­garet and the two boys in this space.’

“Like all houses of this kind, the rooms are very small, so that was when the sun­room was built.”

The Whit­lams sat in the cor­ner eat­ing Tas­ma­nian scal­lops for break­fast and a gar­den party was held to al­low peo­ple from the town to meet the leader and his wife, an oc­ca­sion the Reynolds mark on an an­nual ba­sis with their own friends and fam­ily in the back­yard.

The home’s as­so­ci­a­tion with the La­bor party doesn’t end there. For some time the for­mer mem­ber for Franklin Ray Sherry owned the home.

The two front rooms which are now used as a for­mal liv­ing area and din­ing room/ li­brary were the orig­i­nal bar ar­eas from the build­ing’s time as The Union Ho­tel and there is still a trap door in the fl oor of the din­ing room lead­ing down to the cel­lar where the al­co­hol would have been stored.

It has been a fam­ily home for a long time, but the rem­nants of the old ho­tel and the colo­nial pe­riod are still very vis­i­ble, es­pe­cially down in the cel­lar.

A slit in the wall, known as an em­bra­sure, would have al­lowed a gun to be dis­creetly poked through to take care of any pass­ing bushrangers.

“Henry tells me that about the time the house was built there was a big group of es­caped con­victs who locked up half of the peo­ple in Sorell, tak­ing them pris­oner, so when this house was built there would have been knowl­edge of that, so they weren’t tak­ing any chances,” Mar­garet said.

“In win­ter when the trees in front of it are bare, you can see through it right down to the bridge.”

Up­stairs houses three bed­rooms and a large space over­look­ing the gar­den, which used to be the mas­ter bed­room, but it is now Henry’s study.

“With a hus­band who’s a writer and aca­demic, it was just too good to be true, so it’s his study,” Mar­garet said.

“Orig­i­nally the room was used for coun­try dances.

“When­ever he buys yet an­other book to add to the room I worry about the weight of it all but then re­mem­ber all those peo­ple danc­ing.”

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