The Thump­ston fam­ily’s trea­sured wares take cen­trestage in their Blue Moun­tains home in NSW.


SEA­SONED COL­LEC­TORS MEG and Neil Thump­ston have a knack for un­earthing hid­den trea­sures, and they cer­tainly struck gold when they stum­bled across this his­toric prop­erty in 2015. The Syd­ney cou­ple had been scout­ing for a new base in the NSW Blue Moun­tains when the home­stead near Lith­gow came up for sale. “We hadn’t thought of com­ing out this far, we didn’t even know the area,” re­calls Meg, “but the house just looked fan­tas­tic. We couldn’t re­sist it.” The huge 18-room house in Clarence didn’t just have good bones and a charm­ing English gar­den, it also came with a vi­brant his­tory. It orig­i­nally started life as two con­nected mir­ror-im­age tim­ber cot­tages, built in 1879 by en­tre­pre­neur­ial brothers Richard and Wil­liam Richards, who also grew crops, raised cat­tle, op­er­ated a sawmill and ex­ca­vated clay for the lo­cal pottery works. Back then, Clarence was a thriv­ing rail­way town and the savvy brothers spied the op­por­tu­nity to open a ho­tel, adding a brick ex­ten­sion in 1905. “Guests would travel 1.5 miles from the sta­tion by dray and would spend days en­joy­ing bush walks, pic­nics and ten­nis,” says Meg. “It was never li­censed but we have found lots of old, big bot­tles, which could have con­tained wine or beer.” The prop­erty re­mained a guest­house for many years, a tra­di­tion the own­ers who sold it to the Thump­stons up­held by op­er­at­ing it as a bed and break­fast. These days, how­ever, the home’s unique charm is re­served solely for the Thump­stons and their fam­ily and friends. Af­ter liv­ing in the bustling Syd­ney sub­urb of Padding­ton for 30 years, mov­ing here ful­filled a long-held dream for both Meg, 69, and Neil, 70, who met in Lon­don in the early 1970s. “We have al­ways wanted to live in the coun­try,” says Meg. “Neil was born and grew up in Eng­land and re­mem­bers the sea­sonal changes there, and I was born in Kyo­gle near the Queens­land bor­der and later lived in Nowra on the NSW South Coast. My days were mainly spent out­side play­ing in the creek that ran through my par­ents’ gar­den, so the coun­try’s al­ways been there in my blood.” The tran­si­tion back to coun­try life has been an easy one for Meg, a for­mer per­sonal as­sis­tant, and Neil, who works oc­ca­sion­ally as a film ed­i­tor — his cred­its in­clude Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and The Year My Voice Broke (1987). The house only needed mi­nor work — the cou­ple painted it inside and out, joined two en­suite bath­rooms, re­placed floor­boards where nec­es­sary and made cos­metic changes to the kitchen by swap­ping out a Formica-topped bench for a con­verted an­tique ta­ble and in­stalling a new oven and tiles. Meg and Neil then filled the home with fur­ni­ture and trea­sures lov­ingly col­lected over years of trav­el­ling, both around Aus­tralia and over­seas. “None of our pieces are worth a lot but they hold mem­o­ries of our trav­els and the tal­ent of friends and fam­ily,” Meg says. Reg­u­lar trips to see rel­a­tives in Eng­land — and side trips to Paris — have af­forded the Thump­stons plenty of trea­sure­hunt­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. “I’ll col­lect any­thing,” says Meg with a laugh. Her love of French crock­ery, lead fig­ures, an­tique paint­ings and crys­tal glass­ware is ev­i­dent in ev­ery room, >

“We hadn’t thought of com­ing out this far — we didn’t even know the area — but the house just looked fan­tas­tic. We couldn’t re­sist it.”

while some of Neil’s finds in­clude an or­nate mir­ror in the liv­ing room and Art Deco pen­dant lights in the en­closed ve­ran­dah. It’s a hobby they’ve also passed onto their son, Toby, 32, who uses one of the many sheds on the prop­erty to build bi­cy­cles, both vin­tage and new. Beau­ti­ful fab­rics are an­other temp­ta­tion for Meg, who cre­ates in­tri­cate patch­work quilts. “I never fin­ish them,” she chuck­les. “The back­ing is al­ways my stum­bling block. But I thor­oughly en­joy it and I have so much fab­ric, it’s ridicu­lous!” For now, the quilts may have to wait, as Meg is pre­oc­cu­pied with a new hobby: gar­den­ing. “My fa­ther was an agri­cul­tural science teacher and he grew veg­eta­bles ev­ery­where in our gar­den in Nowra. But me? I know noth­ing, re­ally, about gar­den­ing,” she ad­mits. “That’s all part of com­ing up here. I’m learn­ing some­thing new.” Much of the 18-hectare prop­erty is cov­ered in moun­tain ash and woolly­butt eu­ca­lyp­tus, but it also boasts many es­tab­lished Euro­pean trees, such as horse chest­nuts, pears, lilacs, and some oaks that the Thump­stons reckon to be about 140 years old. The pair have added sev­eral large gar­den beds and in­vested in a ride-on mower to tackle the lawns, but they have help — the res­i­dent kan­ga­roos do a good job of keep­ing the grass in check. “They’re like pets, they’re gor­geous,” says Meg. Al­though it’s just the two of them, ev­ery room of the sprawl­ing house is used through­out the year, from the cosy sun­room in win­ter (Meg’s favourite read­ing nook) to the large and light-filled kitchen in the brick ex­ten­sion, which stays de­light­fully cool in sum­mer. And the cou­ple are far from lonely. A steady stream of guests, in­clud­ing Toby and his friends, and ex­tended fam­ily, fill the bed­rooms and gather for fes­tive feasts un­der the ch­est­nut trees. “We do tend to have more peo­ple than we have ever had come and stay,” Meg says. “And we can do that here re­ally well. It’s just lovely.” His­tory re­peated.

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