Bathurst’s Blackdown Homestead
After an unsuccessful auction in May, the historic Blackdown Homestead remains on the market.
Blackdown was first settled in 1823 by naval officer and pioneer Thomas Hawkins. Thomas was given a grant of 2,000 acres and appointed commissariat store-keeper in Bathurst, so he and his wife Elizabeth, their children, his mother-in-law and nine convicts set out with a wagon from Sydney to make the journey to Bathurst. The 220 km trek took them 18 days (nowadays the trip can be made in a 2.5 hour drive).
No sooner than he arrived, he quit his job as store-keeper and tended to farm, running sheep and cattle. He also planted the first vineyard west of the Blue Mountains in 1827.
Thomas died in 1837 and the farm was let out. In 1845, John Rodd purchased the farm and later sold it in 1852 to Henry Rotton. Henry had a multitude of business ventures including running the Bathurst mail coaches and owning a row of shops in Bourke. He was also a publican, bank manager and politician.
In 1883, the farm was sold to John Newell Gilmour of Bathampton estate. Bathampton was sold by descendants of Gilmour in 2011 for $2.35 million. John was said to have owned more houses and land in Bathurst than any other citizen.
After John’s death in 1896, the farm was passed down to his son, Robert Gilmour. Robert and his wife lived at Blair Athol in Bathurst, which was on the market in 2013 for $2.95 million.
The farm was later inherited by Robert’s daughter Mrs. Una Brown. Una travelled to Italy at a young age to study music, and it was there that she met her first husband Count Marcio Vincenzo Romano of Eboli. They returned to Bathurst and had two children, Adele and Robert. In 1929 she divorced the Count after he deserted her, and married Frank Brown in 1931.
Una went to Italy in 1939 to accompany her daughter who was studying classical dancing. Robert later went to study sculpture at The Louvre and Una was with her children in Paris when the war broke out. They returned to Italy in order to travel out to Australia. Unfortunately, Italy entered the war soon after and the family was interned for three years in a one-roomed house in a small village 50 miles inland from Salerno.
They returned to Blackdown in 1945, where Una managed the farm with the help of Robert and Mr. Noel Brownscombe.
In the 1950s, Una helped more than 70 migrants from England, Italy and France settle in Australia by hosting them on her farm. Some were employed on the farm, while others went on to permanently settle in the community. The old mill house, which was built by Thomas Hawkins in 1832 and used to mill wheat and shear sheep, was converted into a home for a migrant family by Robert. He added windows while retaining the character of the building. The mill house is located on a separate landholding to the property currently for sale. Another cottage and the former servants quarters were also used to house migrants.
Up to 20 acres was cultivated by Italians to grow vegetables, including a 10,000 cabbage crop. Much of the garden and landscaping can be attributed to Una. During a drought in 1951, 22 varieties of vegetables were grown in flowerbeds near the house so that they would be close enough to water using buckets from the house.
The house was owned by a local doctor in the 1980s, and heritage architects from Sydney were enlisted to begin a full renovation in 1989. This included building a northern wing.
Blackdown is currently on 56.47 hectares, or 139 acres. The sellers, artist Tim Storrier and his wife Janet listed the property for sale late last year with hopes of $4 million-plus. It then went up for auction in April but was passed in with a $3 million vendor’s bid. The Storriers purchased the property in 2008 for $2.5 million.
It was recently advertised in June at a reduced price of $3 million.
‘Historic Blackdown Farm at Bathurst’ The Weekly Times, April 4, 2013.
‘Tim Storrier lists Blackdown at Bathurst with $4 million-plus hopes’ Property Observer, 2 October 2012.
‘Blackdown Rural Estates’ The Age, 15 March 2003.
‘New Australians find kindly welcome at historic “Blackdown”, The Land, 27 June 1952.
‘Historic Bathampton’, The Land, 8 November 2010.
NSW Government Environment & Heritage