Vaucluse House is one of the great stately homes in Sydney that are open to the public – in fact it’s the first of all stately homes that have been opened to the public almost 100 years ago back in 1915. Located in a harbour-side setting in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, it is masterpiece of early colonial architecture and landscaping. Originally, the estate covered most of the suburb of Vaucluse, today there is still the main house and outbuildings as well as the more formal gardens which flow down to the harbour, all of which can be visited at a small fee (well, the garden is free, but it would be a shame to miss out on the house).
When entering the grounds there are two things that are striking in their beauty – a massive tree and, tucked behind that, the stables. It requires a family with passion for horses to build stables like this – they almost outdo the main building.
Vaucluse House, now a museum, will be entered from the back side, that is through the outbuildings that used to house the behind-the-scenes of the estate. The kitchen is huge and intact – props such as pots and pans, herbs and pickles are planted everywhere and provide a good impression of how this place used to be run. Thanks to the printed guide you can easily follow and understand what you look at.
Next to the kitchen is also the butler’s pantry and the housekeeper’s office – little kingdoms in themselves. They open up to the inner courtyard which is enclosed by family rooms, the main building and a garden wall. This inner courtyard really is something – it almost gives a Mediterranean feel and is so unusual for these kind of houses that clearly have British roots.
In the main building you can see how the Wentworth family used to live for over five decades. The salons and drawing rooms are spectacular and homely, again filled with props and antique furniture. What makes them really appealing are the generous French doors which open to the front veranda and the gardens – it is clear that the family welcomed the warm, mild climate of Sydney.
Upstairs there are a number of bedrooms which can be visited – a nursery, a young maidens’ room, the master room, the young master’s room (which is actually just a section from the hallway which had been partitioned off by use of furniture, poor boy).
The house is complete (although unfinished in the eyes of the Wentworth family), you will even be able to check out the historic toilets!
A beautiful house, beautifully maintained museum which I can warmly recommend. In my view, there is no better way to discover Sydney’s past – through the places people lived in, the objects they touched, the things they cared about.
After the visit, make sure you also visit the Tea Rooms which are a treasure box in themselves – have an Eton Mess or a tart, and a lovely cup of coffee to finish your visit!