AFTER 150 YEARS, T V’S ‘CROOKED HOUSE’ FINALLY FALLS
IT stood on the Windsor floodplain for almost 150 years, a landmark that was a part of Sydney’s history, from feeding a growing colony to starring in music videos and soap opera TV.
It defied gravity as its planks lifted, its roof rusted and its veranda sagged.
On Friday the 13th this month the “crooked house” at Freemans Reach finally collapsed. A whisper of wind would have done it. Locals took to Facebook, lamenting that the pile of timber and iron should have been left for a while to let them “get used to” the loss of the Hawkesbury River landmark.
But the man whose family owned the house and its then dairy farm for almost a century — and who spent many happy holidays there with his grandparents — is glad it’s gone.
“I was relieved, to be honest,” said Ken Ridge, treasurer of the Hawkesbury District Agricultural Association, who was busy preparing for the Hawkesbury Show this weekend.
Mr Ridge was tired of the “do-gooders” who insinuated that the house was derelict by neglect.
“There are a lot of misconceptions and I find it quite disturbing, if not insulting,” he said. “No one knew the full facts and didn’t care.”
As the house was not heritage listed, there was no obligation to preserve it. Restoration would have cost a fortune. And the house, bought by the Ridges in the 1920s, would still have been floodprone.
“We reckon it’s been inundated by floodwaters about 10 times in its life — then people say: ‘Why is it falling down?’,” Mr Ridge said. “It’s not still water, it’s raging torrents of water that come down the Hawkesbury River.” In the epic flood of 1867, the house disappeared, chimney and all. The family took to high ground and looked down at where the house would be.
“An old man told me the story that the family thought the house would be gone,” said Hawkesbury Museum curator Rebecca Turnbull.
“But the water receded and they saw the top of the chimney, so they knew it survived.”
The house has been empty for about 20 years and was sold to turf farmers about eight years ago.
When it was no longer a home, the house was regularly used as a backdrop by wedding photographers.
Guy Sebastian and Missy Higgins were among singers who used it in their videos.
The house was also an occasional location for the TV soap A Country Practice, which ran from 1981 to 1993.
Known these days as
Ridge’s Farm, the house was built by the Farlow family in about 1865, Ms Turnbull said.
With its ramshackle charm, the house was a celebrity. And not just locally.
“People would often come up just to drive past it,” Turnbull said.
Although Mr Ridge has happy memories of holidays at the house, he knows how hard his family struggled.
Floods on one occasion brought contamination on to the land. This caused the farm’s milk to be rejected and robbed the family of their main income for two years.
Another flood was followed by a white ant infestation.
“People don’t see those sort of things, and no one wants to stump up any money,” Mr Ridge said.
Floodwaters batter the building in 1978.
The house at Ridge’s Farm not long before it finally gave in to gravity.
A Country Practice actors Emily Nicol, Shane Whittington and Anne Tenney.
Built circa 1865, the home collapsed on Friday the 13th.