Travel In Time To See Australia's Housing History


Australia’s modern approach to building and housing can boast unique design and innovative architecture. It is certainly a big step forward from the humble beginnings of past centuries, which sometimes involved mud, clay and lime.

But in support of the belief that it’s important to know where you’ve come from before you can know where you’re going, Australia celebrates its rich history of housing, and some of these ‘living museums’ are still around today. An example of the historical conservation and pride includes the National Trust's management of nearly 280 heritage properties Australia-wide, with about 180 open to the public.

Here are some examples.

Royal Bull’s Head Inn - Drayton, Queensland

Established in 1847 by ex-convict William Horton, the first timber slab Bull’s Head Inn was constructed to offer lodgings, stables for animals, host events such as auctions and other social occasions, in addition to maintaining a solid bar trade. It was bought in 1879 by saddler Richard Lynch, who converted it to a family home which it continued to be until 1973. After a massive reconstruction effort, Royal Bull’s Head Inn opened to the public as a museum in 1985.


Old Government House – Parramatta, New South Wales

A convict-built Georgian house and World Heritage site, the Old Government House was the residence for the first ten governors of NSW. It was built in 1799-1816, and is the oldest surviving public buildings in Australia.


Wilson’s Cottage – Penola, South Australia

Currently surrounded on two sides by a two-acre lavender garden, this four roomed stone cottage was built by William Wilson in 1856 upon his return from the gold fields. Wilson used Mount Gambier stone for the front wall, and to build the other walls he dug out local soft stone like clay, leaving it to dry in the sun. The cottage’s original 1856 roof was made of wood and bark, but was eventually replaced with pressed steel which still remains today.

William Wilson was famous for his garden, successfully farming fruit, vegetables and flowers which he proudly displayed at shows held in Penola.

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Runnymede – Hobart, Tasmania 

This building was built in 1840 and was built for Robert Pitcairn, one of the first lawyers admitted to the Supreme Court of Van Diemen’s Land and a leading campaigner against the transportation of convicts.

It was also home to Captain Charles Bayley and his family, who made it their home for over 100 years. Runnymede was named after the captain’s favourite ship and hosts a rich collection of maritime artifacts. The house now promotes marine conservation, which is certainly different from its beginnings – Charles Bayley was a whaling captain!

Rippon Lea house

Rippon Lea House and Gardens -Elsternwick, Victoria

Rippon Lea was the result of a lifetime’s work of Marion and Frederick Sargood after purchasing 11.3 hectares of scrubland in Elsternwick in 1868. It was sold in 1903 to the Premier of Victoria, Sir Thomas Bent and went on to have a number of owners after his death in 1909, serving mostly as the scene of lavish balls, parties, family weddings, and musical performances.


Photos sourced from

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