As you enter some homes, the presence of THE people who used to live there is palpable, and this is certainly the case with Dundullimal, one of the original slab houses in Dubbo, NSW.
This was the homestead of Aphrasia Maughan, the daughter of the first Postmaster-General of NSW who lived in Dundullimal in the 1850s, and a tour of it offers a wonderful peep into the past.
Like many women in the colony, Aphrasia had experienced isolation and loss: before moving to Dundullimal, two of her seven children had died and her husband had succumbed to influenza.
But her fortunes changed when she re-married John Maughan, a wealthy merchant who owned Dundullimal and several other properties. Here on the verandah, overlooking the bend of the Macquarie River, Aphrasia found consolation and security
It’s easy to see why. The house was brilliantly designed to suit the climate so that the rooms never get hit by direct sun and the doors, left open, let the breezes through. One writer described the roof as “like a low-slung hat, pulled down on its brim”.
Rae Ayling, who has been the National Trust manager of Dundullimal since 2009, says it’s a wonderful house to work in.
“They really got it right when they built it,” she says. “There’s an incredibly calm atmosphere – often when I lock up at night, someone will be still there sitting on the verandah with a cup of tea, reluctant to leave…”
The beautiful proportions of the homestead are immediately striking, as are the elegant touches introduced by John Maughan, influenced by his time in the East Indies. These include French doors, cedar joinery, and servant’s bell pulls.
There was also a rudimentary air-conditioning system that today’s architecture students could investigate: uneven cobblestones on the verandah over which water was poured to slowly evaporate, thus creating a cool breeze.
Remarkably, Dundullimal only narrowly escaped the bulldozers, but thanks to the National Trust the main dwelling, stables and outbuildings have all been immaculately restored, making it one of the oldest surviving homesteads in western NSW. You can’t help thinking Aphrasia would have been pleased.
This article is from Country Style magazine – out now!
For more images of this beautiful homestead click here