Case studies

Vaucluse House


Few of us will have ancestors who lived as grandly as the occupants of Vaucluse House, but visiting it always sends my mind back in time to imagine what life was like back then.

The imagination is stirred by the heat of the kitchen fire and the smell of basil leaves burning; by the damp and cold as you enter the larder; by the games on the table waiting for their players; and the clothes lying on the bed ready for the children after their baths.

GenerationsGenealogyStove Vaucluse House

Vaucluse House is situated on Wentworth Road, Vaucluse, New South Wales, Australia. A small cottage was built in 1803 by Irish convict Sir Henry Browne Hayes. The cottage was extended by William Charles Wentworth after he acquired the property in 1827. If you know your Australian history you will probably recognise the name. The house is managed by Sydney Living Museums, which is part of the NSW government.

When I used to visit museums as a child, there were signs everywhere telling you the history of the place and describing the lives of the people. They told us why the places were important, what the object were and when they were made. There is almost a complete absence of signage at Vaucluse House now. The curators prefer to let the visitors interpret things for themselves. I found that confronting at first – I like to read information about the places I visit. However, it does make it easier to let your imagination flow. If you want the information, the guides are happy to talk to you or you can buy books in the gift shop or browse the stories online.

If you are in Sydney, I recommend a visit.