Ahh to be a rich man…

October 29, 2006 at 8:33 am | Posted in General, Out and About, Sydney, Travel | 1 Comment

Elizabeth Bay House was my stop this week in my travels around Sydney. As the name suggests the house is located in, of all places, Elizabeth Bay but it is no mere house but a mansion from ye olde colonial days and completed circa 1840 for Alexander Macleay and his family. As a side note I learnt that his family’s extensive collections are now stored in the Macleay Museum at the University of Sydney, so that may well be worth a look too. Alexander was a prominent member of colonial society and was granted a sizeable portion of land that encompassed my current building. Unfortunately the cost of developing the mansion and the surrounding lands was – in conjunction with a general economic downturn- his ruin. Leading him having to sell the house to his son in order to cover his debts. Ungrateful son! The House continued through the Macleay family who, amongst others subdivided the property again and again leaving ultimately just the house. Even the garden opposite I’m not 100% that it was part of the original property. Ultimately, the house is now part of the historic houses trust. Second side note for the day: this week Admirality House was also open and would have been an excellent opportunity to view the Governor General and Prime Minister’s Sydney Homes but as they’re located all the way in Kirrabilli and costs a non-student about $25 compared to just $8 for EBH, which is only down the street. Now for those of you not in Sydney Kirabilli really isn’t that far, just over the harbour, but laziness and procrastination took hold. I guess I’ll just have to wait for next year to see them.       

As to the House and Museum itself. I have been to many historic houses or recreations of ‘traditional’ life in one site or another and without a doubt the people at EBH did a fantastic job, there are plenty of pieces of furniture and small minutiae to make you feel like you’re almost walking into an open house. For example, the dining room scene where there is “half-eaten” food on the table makes everything seem more authentic. The staff also seem very involved and passionate about the house and its history.



The cellar on the other hand is relatively bare with no fake stands or racks (wine not torture) but I presume that they’re looking for authentic period pieces to put here. Meanwhile the cellar also has a help yourself tea and coffee section for the weary traveller as well as free copies of the Sydney Morning Herald, They ask for a donation of 50c for the drinks … although no one’s watching…  Also in the cellar is a short video about the house and the Macleay’s. Generally it was pretty informative, I might tentatively say I even enjoyed it. Although the fact that it was made in 1987 could have added to the general amusement. Most of the rooms don’t offer additional notes and it’s up to you to walk around and inspect them in conjunction with the handout you are given at the counter. From the ground floor the building feels considerably larger than on the first. I imagine that’s because not all rooms are open on this floor.  

After looking through the house I went on a small trek to find the grotto, the last remnant of the original gardens and my photo journey is below:





And then I  found it:


Not only was the grotto very un-Heff like nor was it like this spot: 

Wandering down the trail towards the grotto and later up the steps back to Macleay Street I’m reminded of the warren-like feeling I get about these early-ish suburbs of Sydney. If you’re interested in history or are in the area make a stop at Elizabeth Bay House, it shouldn’t take too long and afterwards you can relax in the park or go for a coffee in Potts Point.

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  1. […] … the surrounding lands was – in conjunction with a general economic downturn- his ruin. leading him having to sell the house to his son in order to cover his debts. ungrateful son! the house continued through the macleay family who, …Read more: here […]

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