Sadly, the well-known Deasland homestead, located on the Barton Highway, is one of the properties slated for demolition as a result of the ‘Mr Fluffy’ asbestos disaster.
It was Ginninderra storekeeper, George Harcourt, who built and first occupied the six-room, single-story timber homestead with its distinctive verandahs and iron roof. Deasland was completed for the Harcourts by local contractors, Lazarus and Holland in 1893. Harcourt was born in 1842 at Edgbaston and seems to have named his homestead after Deasland Farm in Worcestershire, where his parents were married in 1819. But Harcourt only enjoyed his new home for a short time. He died at Christmas in 1893.
George Harcourt made a valuable contribution to the community during his time at Ginninderra, having started working in the district as William Davis’ bookkeeper around 1860. He was not just the storekeeper and postmaster, but also farmed in the district, became a notable local cricketer and was prominent in civic affairs. His widow, Millicent Harcourt (nee Ward) and children, continued to occupy the homestead and run a 685-acre property until the land was resumed in 1913 for the new Federal Capital Territory. This was a development which the family tried in vain to resist.
Two short-term tenants occupied Deasland after the Harcourts. These were Ted Boreham in 1913 and Joseph Burgoyne in 1915. The following year John and Edith Edmonds became the lessees. Like the Harcourts, the Edmonds family became popular in the district. When they moved to Burrowa in 1927, they were sent off in fine style by the Ginninderrans. One of the Edmonds children, Stanley Edmonds, who was born at Deasland in 1918, served with the Royal Air Force and died in battle over Jutland in 1944.
In January 1927, it became the Curran family’s turn to occupy Deasland. Henry 'Babe' Curran was the local blacksmith’s son. He had married Tallagandra girl, Amy Reid, in 1921. They had been living in the cottage next to the convict barracks at old Palmerville with their two daughters, Nell and Heather, before they had saved enough to take on the Deasland lease. Babe’s father’s blacksmith's shop was next door to Deasland and the Currans were already very familiar with the property and its potential. Arguably, the Curran tenure (lasting 44 years) marks the golden age of Deasland’s history. Babe Curran became Australia’s premier woolgrower, setting a succession of world, Commonwealth and NSW record prices for a flock, primarily pastured at Ginninderra in the late 1940s and 1950s. Curran was also an accomplished sportsman and supporter of the local community.
The Currans improved Deasland’s pasture, renovated the homestead itself, and constructed a large woolshed, hayshed, shearers’ quarters and a farmhand’s cottage. They sunk a bore, built dams and even prepared an ant-bed-clay tennis court. When the Currans started to think about retirement in late 1963, the homestead, plant, equipment and the 1,178 acres of home paddocks were valued at £50,000. Tragically, Babe Curran died 12 months later and his son, Richard, was left to wind up the estate, with the Currans finally selling up in 1971.
After this, the property was bought by developers, Molonglo Mall P/L, and tenanted out. It no longer operated as a high-yield sheep farm. Then came the MacKinnon family, the current owners, who have lived in the homestead from 1975 to the present day. They have seen the property whittled down to a few acres around the home as the adjacent suburbs and golf links have encroached.
Click on the caption (⧉) to view photo details and attribution.
- Barrow, G., Canberra’s Historic Houses: Dwellings and Ruins of the 19th Century, Hackett, 1998
- Gillespie, L.L., Ginninderra: Forerunner to Canberra, Campbell, 1992
- McDonald, J., ‘When Ginninderra Grew the Golden Fleece’, Canberra Historical Journal, no. 75 (2015), pp. 15-23
- Newman, C., Gold Creek: Reflections of Canberra’s Rural Heritage, Ngunnawal, 2004
- John Armes and Associates Deasland Homestead Ginninderra, A.C.T. : conservation management plan. The Consultants, Yass, N.S.W, 1998.
- MacDonald, James Our Golden Fleece, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 Feb 2012