Historic Entally House in Tasmania Australia
Updated: Feb 8, 2022
Entally House near Hadspen in Tasmania is an elegant two storey brick building that is open to the public. Visitors can wander through the house and see it as the home it would have been to the Reibey family for three generations. Starting as a single storey cottage in 1819, one hundred convicts were loaned from the Government to work on the building.
It was intended as the home for Thomas Haydock Reibey II (1796 - 1842) and his wife Richarda nee Allen. Thomas is the son of Mary Reibey nee Haydock (1777 - 1855). Her image and that of the original Entally Estate in New South Wales are on the Australian twenty dollar note, in recognition of her philanthropy. Mary was one of the richest and most successful businesswomen in Australia. A former convict, (Mary was convicted of stealing a horse) Australia is the only country in the world to have an image of a person convicted of a crime against property on its national currency.
Thomas II built the house on a 300 acre land grant and at one stage the Estate had 2,430 acres of pasture, 200 acres of wheat, 92 cattle and 600 sheep.
When Thomas II passed away, his son Thomas Reibey III inherited the estate. Thomas III married Catherine Macdonald nee Kyle in England in 1842. They had no children. Thomas was ordained into the Church of England, and was Archdeacon of Launceston for thirteen years. However, he was accused of "diverting a lady's affections" in 1868 and resigned from the ministry. He entered politics and was Premier of Tasmania from 1876 - 1877. He retired from politics in 1903.
When Thomas III passed away, his nephew Thomas Reibey Arthur inherited in 1912. When he passed only 7 years later, the estate was sold to non-related persons. It was used as a private residence for various families until 1948 when it was purchased by the Tasmanian Government. As it was unfurnished, they fitted it out with antique furniture from the late 1800s and opened it to the public in 1950 as the first house museum in Australia.
I feel that part of the fascination people have with visiting these grand old houses is that they do look like a family has just gone out and we can peek into what their lives were like. This is not a museum, it is a home. We are transported back in time for a short while.
Not all rooms were grand. The busy kitchen would have bustled with activity as meals were prepared for the family and guests.
The Governors Wing is where visitors can find the main bedroom, decorated as it would have been in the 1800s with a four poster bed, a straw mattress, wardrobe, toilet table, commode, wash stand, mirror and bedroom chair.
Next door is the Lady's dressing room with examples of nineteenth century women's clothing. Helped by a servant to dress, the lady of the house would have worn seven layers of clothing under their dress. Bloomers, chemise, corset, under petticoat, hoop skirt, camisole, over petticoat and finally a blouse or day bodice and a day skirt. To top it off, they would have worn a bonnet or hat. It makes me wonder what the women of then would have thought of the yoga pants and tops that women often wear today. Would they have been shocked, or jealous?
The only Reibey children to be raised at Entally were the three children of Thomas II and Richarda. The children were born in 1817, 1821 and 1823. A nursemaid would have been employed to look after them and a lovely children's playroom is on display here, with the toys that would have amused and entertained the young Reibeys.
The grounds here are magnificent. Surrounded by acres of parkland and over two acres of gardens, the large English oaks that were planted by Thomas II are now beautiful, large mature trees. The cottage in the background of the photo below is the Caretaker's Cottage, built around 1860. This is now privately rented and cannot be inspected, however it can be admired from the outside.
The formal walled garden has been restored. The English Boxus hedges in the garden are also being restored back to glory.
On the estate is also a cricket ground, thought to be the oldest in Australia. Built around 1834 as recreation for his workers. Thomas III believed that cricket "brought people together".
The 25 metre long conservatory is thought to be the oldest surviving Victorian glasshouse in Australia. It has a Baltic timber frame on a brick base and was probably prefabricated in England and shipped in pieces to Entally Estate.
As I wandered around the now peaceful grounds, I wondered how noisy it would have been back in the 1800s. This was a self sufficient working estate, staffed by assigned convicts. In exchange for housing, feeding and clothing them, Thomas received free labour.
The land was cleared of trees for crops to be planted, so the sound of axes felling trees would have been heard. Horses were used for riding, pulling carts and wagons and farm machinery. The stables are still standing today. As the Reibeys became more prosperous, they bred racehorses at the property. Thomas III had over ninety racehorses. (Most of those stables have been demolished in the following years). Thomas looked after his horses well and never allowed his jockeys to use a whip or spur. His stables had to be light, well ventilated and kept clean. Sadly, not all other owners maintained such good standards. He also never bet on his horses.
The blacksmith shop would have been a hive of activity, not just making horseshoes, but making and repairing machinery and tools.
The outbuildings would have been originally constructed of wood, then replaced over time with brick and stone.
The building in the centre above is the chapel on the property, built in the 1850s. Services were conducted here by Thomas III. Thomas contributed funds to build a church at nearby Hadspen, but after he was accused of scandal, he withdrew the funding. The church in town stood unfinished for almost one hundred years. Click here to Read more
A fine collection of old vehicles is housed in the old dairy. These horse drawn vehicles include an old baker's cart, a britzka and a pony phaeton.
There is an English Derby Coach with an interesting information board. These coaches were used for travel or special occasions by wealthy families. It seems that the family would sit on the outside where they could be seen, and the servants would often travel inside. Quite the opposite to what I presumed would happen. This coach was built in 1852 by Alex Fraser of Hobart.
An enormous and interesting looking harvesting machine is kept in the yard nearby.
After looking through the house and the gardens, it was delightful to enjoy a coffee and scone in the tearooms on site. I had a lovely chat with one of the friendly volunteers. She had moved from Queensland to Tasmania the previous year and said that by volunteering, she had met new friends, and enjoyed giving back to the community. Thank goodness for volunteers!
By the way, the scone tasted as good as it looks.
782 Meander Valley Road, Hadspen Tasmania
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