With some 60 exhibits at the Historic Village Herberton , their ‘jewel in the crown’ is the recently restored 130 year old Elderslie House. The home’s owner was miner and entrepreneur, Irishman, John Newell and founder of Herberton. The house has been proudly restored and it is indeed magnificent. It once sat where Mt St Bernard College sits now, in Herberton. Newell had founded Herberton as a tin-mining town in the 1880’s and would sit in his home, which overlooked the mine.
A map of the village pin points the various carefully restored exhibits. While it is not numbered, hover over the big white house to the left of centre.
Step Back In Time
It really was a step back in time when my family toured the house. I enlightened my nieces as to the reasoning behind each room’s set up. The kids were fascinated about the wearing of gloves, top hats and having to lug around the brown plain luggage. This ‘lugging around’ was a foreign concept compared to their favourite purple luggage, on wheels with adjustable handles.
Formal Dining Room
When they commented on the amount of silverware on the white embroided table cloth, they got a lesson on how to use the six cutlery pieces for each setting, and the three glasses per setting. One of them commented that it wouldn’t take long to spill something on that white damask tablecloth and those grey velvet bentwood chairs.
The formal dining area had a sideboard to display the pieces of English China plates, crockery and silverware.
Front Entry and Sitting Room
Elderslie House was an excellent example of the more affluent disposition of some pioneers from that era. The beautifully decorated front entry with velvet arm chairs and its hall mirror, would have been used as a waiting area for guests. The waiting time, allowed the lady or gentleman of the house to prepare themselves to receive guests in their guest-receiving lounge room. Usually a butler or maid, other than the owners, would have answered the door.
Affluent Pioneer Kitchen
In this pioneer’s kitchen a large centre table was used as the bench preparation area for meals, before being served. They would have stoked the fire to heat water and cooked food in their pot belly stove. The stove was placed in a recessed corrugated iron section. The metal reduced the risk of the house burning down. Also the maid’s hair bonnet primarily informed others of her place on staff and also kept hair out of food.
When you retired to the master bedroom, it didn’t just mean for sleeping. It was used for dressing, bathing, toileting, resting, reading, writing and as such the extra table allowed them to pass the time as they saw fit.
However, the sleeping suites were primarily white; bed covers, sheets, towels and nets, to complement the wrought-iron double bed; no such thing as king and queen beds. The room had its own bedpans for each side which was the earlier version of a flushing toilet. The cotton white towel allowed them to wash using a round wash basin. Then they would hang their towel in their room on their towel rack. The net, like a mosquito net, ensured a more comfortable night’s sleep from annoying insects.
In the bedroom was the Chaise Lounge where you could rest. Also a three legged table with benchwood chairs was used to write, take a meal or have a quiet conversation with family if need be. The red cedar tallboy or chest of draws were for keeping your clothes.
The wardrobe was used for hanging your clothes. So the whole bedroom was a multi-functional area for the more affluent pioneers from that era.
The children’s bed room was similar but it was mainly used for sleeping. However in one room they displayed cradles and cots for where the baby slept. Also there were tea sets, rocking horses, blocks, books and dolls which children would played for hours on end. My nieces were fascinated at no technology in sight.