A jolly fine home
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.”