Rediscovering Ginninderra: A database:
Red Hill (Gungaderra) homestead
From 1861 with the introduction of the Robertson Land Act, selectors began to occupy smaller holdings, primarily the less desirable and less well-watered lands in the northern and western part of Gungahlin. This gradually resulted in a denser and more varied population than the previous large pastoralist holdings. The Act's requirement that selectors reside on their land resulted in an increase of the area’s population.
It was this selection process that enabled John Winter and his wife Jemima extend their prior holdings in the area by means of individual 40 acre selection, resulting in a property of almost 1000 acres by the end of the 19th century. Upon their acquisition of the ‘Gungaderra’ property, they constructed a homestead of slabs with a shingle roof around 1861, naming it ‘Red Hill’ for the nearby ironstone outcrop. Here, they had nine children between 1862 and 1882, one dying in infancy. Their homestead was surrounded by 40 acre blocks broken into small fenced areas of cultivation. Jemima’s family, the McPhersons, owned adjoining land. Sheep grazing was the main land-use, followed by arable land planted with grain crops.
‘Red Hill’ historically had two special features that distinguished it from other ‘large’/medium holdings in the district:
Firstly, it was a source of white pipe-clay, primarily from shafts into the side of Red Hill lying about 0.5-1.00km NW from the Gungaderra Homestead. There was commercial interest in this resource which continued well into the 20th century. The Canberra Brickworks, seeking new clay sources for pipe production, surveyed the main shaft and found massive deposits, but did not develop them due to a low economic evaluation.
Secondly, in the late 19th century Red Hill was the centre of a mechanised ploughing business established by John Winter’s son William and his three brothers, working the Canberra-Queanbeyan area with their machinery. Such mechanised ploughing gradually took over. William Winter appears to have had strong entrepreneurial traits, also introducing a wheat-harvesting machine for William Farrer of ‘Lambrigg’ during his experiments to produce rust-proof wheat, designing a sawmill in Tidbinbilla and owning the first motor-car in the district.
In 1902/4, a second homestead was constructed, for William, at the time of his marriage. It was a pisé construction, comprising five rooms with a verandah along the northern elevation. Pisé is a method of building walls in which semi-dry earth with a low content of clay is rammed between a temporary framework, producing an artificial rock. This was a relatively common method of construction in the ACT area in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
In 1915, the Commonwealth resumed the property and William Winter, then managing the property for his father John, became the lessee. In 1919, the lease was taken over by Charles Peden, who was part of the McKeachnie family leasing the neighbouring property, ’Well Station’, later being the leaseholder, starting a long, close association between the two holdings.
Extensions to the homestead were undertaken in 1925-28, including weatherboard additions which enclosed a kitchen and laundry.
After other changes of leaseholders, in 1935 Richard Crace bought the lease and re-named ‘Red Hill’ ‘Gungaderra’. His long lease of the area provides correspondence showing that the land-use was typical of such a property in the district. He ran sheep, and cultivated lucerne, wheat and oats. He was also afflicted by rabbit plagues so typical of that era. Crace undertook various changes to the main homestead and constructed two new houses at the site. To the existing 1902/04 homestead he added a porch, bedroom and bathroom to the south east and converted the two eastern bedrooms into one room. The 1937 extension to the southeast was constructed of pisé. In addition, extensions undertaken to the north-east in the late 1950s were also constructed of pisé. Crace sold his lease in 1959 to the Gungaderra Pastoral Company, which still held the lease in 1976.
Two key historical buildings remain at Gungaderra - the 1902/1904 homestead and the 1911-13 Machinery Shed. Historical plantings and other landscape elements surrounding these features also remain including an avenue of Monterey pines (Pinus radiata) and a row of Roman Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens). The pines were introduced by Crace after 1937.
[edited extracts from the Heritage Register entry for Gungaderra, which in turn was largely based on Eric Martin and Associates (2005)
Click on the caption (⧉) to view photo details and attribution.
- Australian Capital Territory. Heritage (Decision about Registration for Gungaderra Homestead and portion of Well Station Road, Harrison) Notice 2011
- Eric Martin and Associates, ‘Gungaderra Homestead – Conservation Management Plan’, report prepared for the Land Development Agency 2005.
- John Armes and Associates Heritage assessment of Red Hill (Gungaderra) Homestead, Gungahlin. John Armes and Associates, Emu Bank, A.C.T. 1995.
- Gillespie, L.L., Ginninderra, Forerunner to Canberra, Canberra, 1992.