Continuing the story of my Hunter Valley history tour, Judith Wright’s Generations of Men (1959) chronicles the early story of her family. I wanted to visit some of the places described in the book and especially Dalwood House.
We set out on Easter Monday, detouring first to visit the Hunter Valley Gardens established by Bill and Imelda Roche. I had wanted to visit for a while, but had never found the time.
I enjoyed the gardens, but was struck again by the sheer scale of the tourist development. When I first visited Pokolbin, there were scattered vineyards but not much else. Now, fueled by proximity to Sydney, there are vineyards and resorts everywhere. All this began with George and Margaret Wyndham, Judith Wright’s great great grandfather.
George Wyndham was born at Dinton, Wiltshire in England in 1801. Educated at Harrow and Cambridge, Wyndham met Margaret, his wife to be, in Italy in 1825. They married in Brussels in 1827.
The couple decided to emigrate to NSW, sailing for Sydney on the George Horne in August 1827 along with several servants, cattle, sheep, horses, pigs, hounds, goods and chattels. The couple reached Sydney on Christmas Eve 1827. The following year, they settled near Branxton in the Hunter Valley, naming the property Dalwood after one of the Wyndham family farms at Dinton.
From Dalwood, George’s interests spread to include Collyblu on the Liverpool Plains, Bukkulla and Nullamanna near Inverell and Keelgyrah on the Richmond River, a total of some 200,000 acres or 80,937 hectares.
Importantly from the viewpoint of this story, George was interested in wine making. He quickly established a vineyard and began making wines. Both red and white varieties of grape were grown, principally hermitage, cabernet and shiraz. He also planted grapes on Bukkulla; thus establishing a Tablelands’ wine industry. Both Dalwood and Bukkulla wines won medals at European wine shows.
Sometime in 1828 or 1829, George began construction of a new house for his family, Dalwood House. It was this house that I wanted to visit, a house brought vividly alive by Judith in her book.
The house was a partial ruin when I last visited it forty years ago. It still is, although restoration efforts have stabilized the main structure. It’s not a grand house by later standards, but with some imagination you can get a feel for the life that surrounded it.
We wandered around in the sun while I took pictures, talking with my companion about its special features. Later over a very nice lunch on the terrace at Wyndham Estate wines, I thought what a wonderful tapestry our history makes.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 7 May 2014. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the columns are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for2014.