New gateway and a chance discovery

 

During the process of  resolving a long-standing access problem with the main driveway leading up to Rouse Hill House, gardens team member, Stuart Macpherson, discovered the remains of the original 1850s fence posts still buried under the gravel.

Reopening access

The Rouse Hill House & Farm estate’s front gates once stood at the top of the hill, opposite the schoolhouse. In the 1920s the excavation of a deep culvert for Windsor Road and its increasing motor vehicle traffic made this redundant, and a new gate and drive was created to the west (our staff still recall the harrowing left turn at the gate as semi-trailers raced along the Windsor Road behind them).

With the relocation of the road and the recreation of its original Macquarie-era profile, it has now been possible to reopen this much-needed access point. Our intention in opening this gate was not to recreate the estate gates, but to improve emergency access across the property.

The chance discovery

During work on the driveway by our gardens team and Rouse Hill House & Farm staff, one side post from the remnant pedestrian gate was found to have rotted at ground level. It was hoped this could be spliced to a new base, but the rot proved so invasive the entire post had to be replaced. Incorporating extensive physical evidence of fencing techniques, the original post was placed with a selection of other archived fencing material.

The ‘new’ entrance was created over a partially surviving and carefully uncovered shale base.

The chance discovery of a timber remnant, part of a once-substantial post, during repaving by our gardens team, revealed the location of a much earlier gate, possibly the original white timber gates seen in mid 19th century views by Thomas Wingate.  

The location of the matching post was then found. While totally rotted away, its hole – of soft earth contrasting with the surrounding, much harder, clay and shale, and stained by the decomposed timber – was discovered to be 1.4m deep, matching other substantial post holes in the area. A single iron pin, which probably secured a gate hinge, was found in its base.

The locations of these long-lost gateposts have now been marked with pavers.

Working on the driveway

Our gardens team and Rouse Hill House & Farm staff hard at work on the driveway. Footage shot by Steve Halliday, gardener.

About the Author

Sydney Living Museums Image
Dr Scott Hill
Curator
Elizabeth Farm, Meroogal, Rouse Hill House & Farm
As a teenager, Scott Hill was captivated by pictures of ruins, trying to imagine how people had lived in these dramatic and crumbling spaces.
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