Unexpected local history connection at Rouse Hill

 

Recently, students from Cudgegong Valley Public School had the opportunity to visit Rouse Hill House & Farm as part of the Unlocking Heritage project.

They were there to take part in Expanding the Colony, a Stage 3 education program that explores the expansion of the colony of NSW in the 19th century and the resulting impact on the environment, Aboriginal people and the colonisers.

The Cudgegong Valley students were also introduced to part of their own local history, as the Rouse family expanded their farming interests across the Blue Mountains in 1825, establishing the headquarters of the Rouse grazing interest at Guntawang on the banks of the Cudgegong River, near the township of Gulgong.

By the 1860s the Rouse family’s original grant of 4,000 acres increased to 10,000 acres, encompassing the two stations, Guntawang and Biraganbil; and with access to good water and pasture land the prosperity of the Rouses grew through the production of fine wool and beef cattle.  Guntawang was a self-contained community with its own school, post office, church and an inn to service the workers and miners on the gold fields around Mudgee. The Rouses also had the good fortune to find gold on their property, not only providing another important source of income but also leading to the establishment of the Guntawang Freehold Gold Mining Company.

However, their reputation as breeders of some of the finest racing and carriage horses in the colony is perhaps the most lasting legacy of the Rouse family, who firmly entrenched the ‘Crooked R’ brand among the Australian horse fraternity. It also inspired Banjo Patterson when he wrote ‘A Bushman’s Song’, declaring that there were no better horses than those that wore the ‘Crooked R’. This passion for horses and racing is echoed in the magnificent 1876 horse stables built at Rouse Hill House & Farm back on the eastern side of the Blue Mountains.

Even today it is possible to appreciate the majesty of the stables building and the attention to detail, from the foaling stall to the finish of the tack room, that maintained the comfort and care of their prized horses.

Stables at Rouse Hill House & Farm. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums

In 1908, Guntawang was finally sold out of the Rouse family. The property has continued its strong connection to horse breeding and racing, with the current owners maintaining the tradition of rearing elite thoroughbreds for the ‘sport of kings’ at the Guntawang Thoroughbred Stud.

Unlocking Heritage is a two year trial project funded by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage to provide NSW primary school students with greater access to some of the state’s most significant heritage sites. For more information and eligibility criteria, visit www.unlockingheritage.com.au

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