Tour by candlelight at Elizabeth Farm

 

Visiting a history museum for a tour means you may come with certain expectations, but the nightlight tour at Elizabeth Farm was not what we had expected at all.

From the moment 'John Macarthur' came out to greet us in full costume my kids were enthralled. He invited us into his house to observe him and his convict servants in the various rooms of the house doing what they would normally have been doing at dusk.

As we walked in from the moonlight to the candlelit spaces, we were able to interact with various members of the house in different rooms. My kids did not know where to go first!

First we sat at the dining table with 'John Macarthur' - being enacted by Scott Hill, house museums' curator. It was fascinating to hear about the foods the Macarthurs ate, such as 'spinach anglaise'. And to note the symmetry of the table setting and the manner in which the food was served by the hosts.  After calling a convict servant into the dining room with the bell pull, the children went on to play 'speculation', a card game from the 1820s, with the women in the drawing room.

When we entered the Macarthur's bedroom, it was slightly startling to find a woman in the bed but the kids were fascinated by the chance to speak with her. They learnt about the three mattresses on the bed and what they were made of, as well as the chamber pot!

The place where the kids spent the most time was the kitchen. A convict servant was working hard in there, preparing vegetable dishes for the Macarthurs' evening meal. Kids of all ages were busily grinding spices with the mortar and pestle, stirring the spinach dish, plating food and taking it to the dining room, watching the convict servant tend to the cooking fire, and cutting the bread. There was so much to do and all without the aid of machines or electricity!

The tour really embodied the concept of a 'living' museum for my children. It was fascinating to travel back to this time 200 years ago to visit this famous Australian family in their home.

We were truly transported to another time and we did not want to leave at the end of the night!

Related blog post

Blue and white platter with spinach dish surrounded by flower shaped croutons.
Spinach a l'Anglais, prepared for Elizabeth Farm nightlight tour. Photo Scott Hill © Sydney Living Museums

Of Spinage, Silverbeet and Swiss chard

Read about how spinach and other greens are cultivated and prepared, including the spinach a l'Anglaise mentioned in this story, in a blog post by curator Scott Hill, on our popular The Cook & The Curator food blog.

About the Author

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Naomi Manning
Naomi is passionate about teaching history and has worked in different contexts to do this over the years. Currently she working for Sydney Living...

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