AFTER 150 YEARS, T V’S ‘CROOKED HOUSE’ FI­NALLY FALLS

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - EL­IZ­A­BETH FORTESCUE ARTS EDI­TOR

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.

Pic­ture: Dane Tozer

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.

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