Woodford Academy, Oldest Building in the Blue Mountains

From its origins as a roadside inn, the Woodford Academy on the Great Western Highway has seen a variety of uses over the years. It started out as a weatherboard and stone inn called the ‘Sign of the Woodman’ in 1834, providing accommodation for 10 people and stables for passing travellers.

During the early decades of the 19th century, the Great Western Road to Bathurst was a journey of up to four days. Twenty Mile Hollow (now known as Woodford) was a popular stop at the end of the second day of travel, between Springwood and Blackheath on the road west.  The pub was rebuilt and expanded further during the gold rush years of the 1850s onwards, when it was known as the King’s Arms. In 1868, it was bought by Alfred Fairfax as a gentleman’s residence, and he renamed it Woodford House.

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Old taproom with shelves marked out and a centrepiece of grapes, peaches and corn above the door

The alternations, extensions and repurposing of the property helped to ensure its survival. Various uses included as a guest house, licensed hotel, boarding house, private hospital and a boarding school, when it became known as the Woodford Academy. From the late 1930s onwards it was a private home until Gertie McManamey, daughter of scholar and principal of the Woodford Academy, bequeathed the property to the National Trust in 1979.

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Old schoolroom at Woodford Academy

Aboriginal heritage in the area is acknowledged; the nearby reserve has an engraved groove in a sandstone platform, considered likely to be a signpost or signal to assist travelling Aborigines.

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View from bedroom in loft looking towards Great Western Highway

From foot traffic to horse and carts, wagons to motor vehicles, the passing parade of people heading west has been viewed from this site. The loft area above the residence is accessed through tight wooden stairs. The rooms offer views of the highway, gardens and courtyard. The property has a central courtyard area, reminiscent of Rouse Hill House, with access to washrooms, kitchen, laundry and stable areas.

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Kitchen, including stone sink

Throughout the property there are series of photos celebrating previous eras, highlighting the many lives the property has had. Memorabilia in the rooms provide insights into what life was like in earlier times, before the arrival of electricity, sewerage and running water.

On the day of my visit the academy was doubling as an exhibition space, continuing to provide a place for people to come and gather and experience something unique.

[Photo: front of Woodford Academy from Great Western Highway, Woodford]

 

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Riversdale, Goulburn

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.

View from back garden, Riversdale

View from back garden, Riversdale

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.

Stables and shed at Riversdale

Stables and barn at Riversdale

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.

Riversdale, Old Goulburn

Riversdale, Old Goulburn

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.

Front entrance, Riversdale

Front entrance, Riversdale

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.

Carved chair, Riversdale

Carved chair, Riversdale

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.