HOUSES OF IP­SWICH: ROCK­TON

QT Magazine - - HOME & GAR­DEN -

IT is one of the most iconic homes in Ip­swich, and chances are you’ve driven past it hun­dreds of times.

Just a stone’s throw from the Five­ways in­ter­sec­tion sits Rock­ton, a home that rep­re­sents a part of Ip­swich his­tory that links it to sev­eral his­toric homes in the New­town area, plus a fam­ily con­nec­tion that this year rep­re­sents 100 years of own­er­ship by the one fam­ily.

Ip­swich in 1855, as you can imag­ine, was vastly dif­fer­ent to the city we know to­day. It was a small town, with not many places to live. Wil­liam Craies was com­mut­ing be­tween Ip­swich and Bris­bane, be­ing the man­ager of the Bank of New South Wales for both towns. Find­ing the com­mute stress­ful (you only imag­ine how long it took by horse), he left the bank and de­cided to work full time in Ip­swich as a part­ner with the mer­chant Wal­ter Gray & Com­pany.

Craies wanted to bring his young fam­ily to Ip­swich from Bris­bane, and af­ter ac­quir­ing seven and a half acres of land, he set about build­ing a three-roomed cot­tage which still stands to­day.

Within a year, the cot­tage was ex­tended by builder Wil­liam Han­cock, and Craies sold the house in 1862 af­ter seven years of own­er­ship due to fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties as­so­ci­ated with the col­lapse of the busi­ness

Af­ter an­other sale, the house was taken over by the Bull­more fam­ily, who ex­tended the house again. The fam­ily had five daugh­ters who all later at­tended Ip­swich Girls’ Gram­mar School and in 1892 the house was ex­tended again.

The Bull­mores were liv­ing at Rock­ton by 1877, when their el­dest daugh­ter Grace was born. It is un­known when they ac­tu­ally bought Rock­ton, but it is be­lieved to be well be­fore the date of 1882, which ap­peared on the ti­tle deed in Syd­ney, more than 100 miles away.

Trag­i­cally, the Bull­mores had two older sons who drowned aged 12 and 10 in a boat­ing ac­ci­dent in Scarborough. The fam­ily grew, with one sur­viv­ing son and five daugh­ters. One daugh­ter, Gre­tel, mar­ried

Sir Frank Packer af­ter whom his Amer­ica’s Cup yacht was named.

Then in 1918, ex­actly a cen­tury ago, the prop­erty was pur­chased by Will and Laura Haenke. The house by this stage was in a bad state and the sell­off of the land had meant the prop­erty had shrunk some­what.

For­tu­nately, Will Haenke was an ar­chi­tect, re­sult­ing in the mov­ing of the kitchen, changes to the ve­ran­das and in the 1930s adding new door­ways and bay win­dows. The swim­ming pool was added in 1953, and over time the prop­erty con­tin­ued to shrink as de­mand for the sur­round­ing land so close to the CBD made the site an ideal lo­ca­tion.

To­day, the home sits on 1.75 acres (7082sq m) and is sur­rounded by many homes that also prob­a­bly have a story to tell.

The house is oc­cu­pied by Wybe and An­gela Geertsma, and the cou­ple rel­ish the fact they live in a home with such his­tory.

An­gela’s grand­par­ents, the Wil­lis fam­ily, be­gan liv­ing at Rock­ton in 1944-45 and her fa­ther in­her­ited it af­ter his par­ents’ deaths, and it is a home that An­gela has grown up in. To her, it is more than a house. It rep­re­sents her fam­ily.

“My fa­ther in­her­ited it and be­gan liv­ing here to­wards the end of World War II. Dur­ing that time my aunt also moved in with her two chil­dren.

“I love the heritage build­ings in Ip­swich, the old stonework in and around Queens Park and Cun­ning­ham’s Knoll, along with the trees.

“When peo­ple started buy­ing the old houses of Ip­swich around the 1970s, they re­tained the style. Now these homes are be­ing snapped up again.”

As you walk through Rock­ton, you can feel the his­tory. You can see it has been ex­panded sev­eral times, with the old cot­tage clearly the show­piece.

As you climb the stairs to the roof, a trap­door re­veals some­thing spe­cial, a so-called wi­dow’s walk on the roof that al­lows you to see right across Ip­swich and gives a per­fect view of the Bris­bane sky­line.

A wi­dow’s walk is gen­er­ally a small, fenced area on the roof where a wife could watch out for the re­turn of her hus­band’s ships. Some­times the ships would come back and other times not at all, re­sult­ing in the ‘wi­d­ows’ who would walk there in de­spair.

“My fa­ther was an in­dus­trial chemist and was sec­onded to the mu­ni­tions fac­tory in Mel­bourne and then to Ade­laide dur­ing WWII,” An­gela con­tin­ued. “He wanted to join the army, but they wanted him for his skills as a chemist. He made one im­por­tant in­ven­tion there.”

The cou­ple had two chil­dren and now have three young grand­chil­dren, which means when they come to visit, it is some­thing spe­cial.

“To see our grand­chil­dren run­ning around a gar­den like this, I love it,” An­gela said.

“They come over and love to ex­plore the gar­den, es­pe­cially the straw­ber­ries. The branches of the trees are a favourite. In sum­mer they love the pool, of course. When I was young we used to play all sorts of games in this gar­den, the neigh­bours too, plus some cousins … won­der­ful mem­o­ries.

“I had fam­ily around me all the time grow­ing up. My favourite mem­o­ries are cook­ing lunch on Satur­day, each with an open fire sur­rounded by big lime­stone rocks. Some sea­sons we would have lots of spi­ders in the trees and we’d get them out with bam­boo sticks. Climb­ing the trees was fun too, all those things.”

Wybe said the house had taken up much of their time through the years, but that was part and par­cel of liv­ing in an his­toric home.

“We’re used to work­ing on the house,” he said. “Not only paint­ing but the main­te­nance, and we think we are at a stage now where things are man­age­able. In many ways, Rock­ton is like the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge. Once you’re fin­ished, you then start again.”

Older homes in the colo­nial style are be­ing snapped up in Ip­swich, with one in Sadliers Cross­ing re­cently be­ing sold within 24 hours of hit­ting the mar­ket.

An­gela has some ad­vice for any­one con­sid­er­ing one of the older-style homes.

“To any­one think­ing of buy­ing an older home, I’d say do some cour­ses in car­pen­try and wood­work and take an in­ter­est in old fur­ni­ture and up­hol­stery.

“At Rock­ton, we’ve al­ways tried to re­tain the view of the house, as we in­her­ited it to­gether with many an­tiques and fur­ni­ture. My par­ents and grand­par­ents would go to auc­tions on their va­ca­tions in Syd­ney or Mel­bourne.

“You need to re­alise that the older fur­ni­ture dur­ing the war years was cheaper and new fur­ni­ture was just too dear. I’m still sort­ing through items to this day, in­clud­ing glass­ware, ta­bles, books, chairs and col­lecta­bles.”

One thing that ev­ery­one who owns an older home will tell you, is that they are amaz­ingly cool in the warmer months, de­signed to catch the breeze no mat­ter from which di­rec­tion it comes.

“The house re­mains cool all year. I don’t like house­work, who does? But I’m happy to do the gardening.”

The 100 years the fam­ily has had the house looks set to con­tinue, with An­gela and Wybe’s son Wil­liam telling his par­ents that one day he too would like to live at Rock­ton.

Watch this space Ip­swich, Rock­ton’s his­tory is go­ing to go on for quite a while yet.

PHOTO: ROB J WIL­LIAMS PHOTO: ROB J WIL­LIAMS

TRAN­QUIL PAST: One of many peace­ful spots at heritage home Rock­ton. The in­ter­nal stairs that lead up to the wi­dow’s walk.

PHOTO: ROB J WIL­LIAMS

Me­men­tos of the past at Rock­ton, while (top) the orig­i­nal cot­tage still re­mains the heart of the home.

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