I knew of it, of course and I had been told tales of the homestead in particular, because for a brief time, which never extended beyond her training, Sue had hoped to be a volunteer there. She was wide-eyed in her descriptions of what could never be described as a house.
So despite being aware and spending years and countless trips north and south passing the sign on the New England Highway, I had never turned in. Perhaps because Armidale has been a place I have returned to regularly for business and personal reasons, familiarity bred an ill-conceived contempt.
Saumarez Station dates back more than 180 years when Henry Dumaresq, ex 9th Regiment and gallantly wounded at Waterloo and then a commissioner with the Australian Agricultural Company, decided to squat on a run “outside the boundaries” dictated by the then Governor of NSW, in order to find suitable pasture for his stock. He named it after the famous Saumarez family of his home, Jersey in the Channel Islands. Dumaresq and his brother William had their main properties in the Hunter Valley and had been the centre of controversy about the acquisition of land. Great debate raged in the public arena as to whether they were free settlers or rogues. It was never his home and after his death in 1838, the family continued to use it as a head station. It was sold to Henry Thomas in 1856. Thomas extended the original cottage by adding a brick extension but the everlasting story of Saumarez started in 1874, when Francis White bought the property.
Francis was gone soon after arriving on Saumarez and his 23 year old son, FJ White, set about creating his own dynasty on the place. He married Maggie Fletcher in 1881 and seven years later, built a single story brick homestead on the hill above the farm buildings, at the same time as Uncle Fred was building "Bool". Maggie set about having children and creating gardens. The core of White’s business was fine wool and with accessible markets overseas which could be easily accessed by the northern railway line, taking his wool directly to markets in Sydney and loading on ships to overseas customers, it was a business that boomed. The White’s were very wealthy and their lifestyle and position in Armidale’s society reflected that.
|The imposing entrance|
FJ and Maggie were gone by the end of the 1930’s and although the property was left to their five daughters, it was managed by their brother Archie from his property “Bald Blair”, near Guyra. Over time, the property fell to the care of two of their daughters, Mary and Elsie, neither of whom ever married. Mary, the socialite and actively involved in Armidale life, was on the first council of the University of New England and is remembered most often by Mary White College. Elsie was the homebody and attended the gardens, the affairs of the farm and was a keen horse rider.
When Elise died in 1981, aged 97, the homestead was beginning to need closer love and attention, the once glorious gardens were overgrown and the business of farming was rust on the old machinery. The family decided to offer the homestead and ten acres to the National Trust and because of its significance in showing the pastoral history of NSW, the Trust accepted.
|Henry Thomas built this brick|
extension to the first farm cottage
This is a great place to visit.
Tours of the homestead happen at 10:30am, 2:00pm and 3:30pm on weekends and public holidays but the venue is open on all other days of the week. It’s not just the homestead to see, because below the main building, there is an extensive array of old farm buildings and equipment to explore and Henry Thomas’ 1860’s brick extension to the original farm cottage.
The gardens are lovely and there is at least an hour of wandering to soak them up. A heritage rose garden is well underway, including many of the roses originally bred at Saumarez Homestead pre 1930’s.
|Guest sitting room|
|Today's photos available soon|
Take your camera, take a hat and take your time.