This property, which includes some of the oldest colonial buildings in the town of Goulburn, is set in delightful gardens along the Wollondilly River. As a coaching inn, Riversdale was located next to the old stock route and road to Sydney. Mounted police had been stationed on land nearby.
The property was the first land grant in the area, and was given to Matthew Healey in 1830 under the condition that a dwelling be constructed within two years. A stone barn and stables were built and remain in place today. The property was used as an inn during the early colonial years as the country beyond was opened up. Hops were grown on site for ale brewed and sold from the inn.
When it was decided by Governor Bourke in 1832 that the growing settlement should be moved away from the banks of the river, the property remained in use.
When Healey sold up, the property known as the Old Goulburn Inn was bought by John Richards. Richards built Riversdale as a coaching inn but died before it was opened. His wife Ann took over the running of the business and she later married Benjamin Gould. The stone entrance archway to Riversdale still records the original licensees: Louis Levy and Benjamin Gould. A guide told me that the painted records of ownership were found by chance during restoration work.
As with many old buildings, it has been various things in its time, including an inn, a school and a private residence. The property was known as Goulburn Grammar School from 1850 – 1856 before being bought by the Fulljames family, who are credited with calling the property Riversdale. Various ownership changes followed. It was owned by the Twynam family for nearly 100 years before being sold to the National Trust in 1967. Edward Twynam was Surveyor-General of New South Wales from 1888 to 1900.
Entry to the property is through the rear of the house, and on the day I visited there was a clutch of volunteers in the courtyard and as well as a couple working away in the gardens. The large dining room was beautifully set out, and the parlour had a number of treasured possessions from the Twynam family. Emily Twynam, Edward’s wife, was a woman of many skills and there are some beautiful needlework panels featuring local fauna and flora, as well as some of her intricate woodcarving including this chair.
Riversdale is regarded as a rarity due to its historical, social and environmental association with the establishment of Goulburn as a town. Goulburn’s first Catholic mass was held in the gardens in 1833, and there is a memorial plaque in situ. Follow the winding road back towards the town and you pass by the foreboding entrance to Goulburn Correctional Centre (designed by Colonial Architect James Barnet), and there are cemeteries perched along the top of the embankment.
A visit to Riversdale is an enjoyable step back in time.