In December Bec and I took a drive down to Warwick chasing sunflowers, but we made time to call in to Glengallan Homestead. The homestead has an interesting history as well as demonstrating a unique approach to restoration.
Originally built by pastoralist John Deuchar in 1867, it boasted marble mantlepieces, crystal chandeliers and a curving red cedar staircase. John Deuchar and his wife, Eliza, became known for their opulent and generous hospitality, however, it was to be short-lived. While Deuchar was described as “visionary”, he had failed to foresee the unpredictability of life on the land. After a series of crippling droughts and mounting debts, he was eventually declared insolvent in 1870. Just two years later he died a broken man.
The homestead changed hands a few times until being finally abandoned in the 1940s and stood derelict for many decades. Left open to the elements and wildlife, birds nested in the rafters, vandals smashed windows and thieves helped themselves to the fittings. With stock and vermin also using it as a refuge, the homestead became a very poor shadow of its former glory. At one point it was even gifted for demolition. In 1963 John Deuchar’s grand-daughter, Kate Baly, visited the homestead, writing…
When I saw for the first time in my life, the ruined Glengallan homestead which had been built by my grandfather…never had I seen such wanton neglect and destruction: Panes of heavy thick plate glass smashed out of the French doors and strewn about the verandah; evidence of sheep having been in the house and halfway up the stairs, which were built of cedar, as was all the woodwork, but so incredibly filthy that their naturally beautiful contours were blurred, to say the least. Marble mantlepieces had been hacked out with some instrument that could have been a pick, leaving hideously jagged and mutilated gaps which had been beautiful freestone walls; no sign of the crystal chandelier I had been told about as a child at my grandmother’s knee; uncontrolled growth everywhere, a sense of complete desolation.
However in 1993 the homestead was acquired by the Glengallan Homestead Trust and the lengthy process of restoration began. The history and state of the homestead reflected the colonial story of boom and bust, and this became the theme for the restoration project. Parts of the homestead have been restored to its former glory with the use of photographs, while others have been left to show the ruin caused by abandonment and time. The living room, in particular, is a striking combination of boom and bust. Walking through the doorway your first impressions are of a room lovingly restored and decorated with period furniture. Until you turn around and look up and see the damage deliberately left to demonstrate how quickly lofty visions can turn to dust. There was also a very unique discovery under the floor boards. Something to do with superstition…
There are many old buildings and homes around Australia that have been restored, but this is one of the first that I have seen that shows both sides of the pastoral story. Sure, there were some who took a gamble and made their fortune, but there were plenty who, like John Deuchar, fell victim to the cruel cycle of drought and debt.
Glengallan Homestead is located on the New England Highway just a short distance outside of Warwick, Queensland. The heritage centre includes a display of photographs and memorabilia, a range of souvenirs and a cafe.