Restoration Work on the Yaralla Estate

All money raised from our Open Days and other tours is put back into the estate in various forms.

Unfortunately NSW Health can only spend money on facilities that are actually used for health-related purposes. Finance for all other restoration work has to come from other sources. So far our Society spent in excess of $100,000 for various conservation work around the estate.

We have done much, but there is still much to do

It is through your help on our regular Open Days on the Walker Estates that we are able to raise the necessary money to finance this work.

OUR FIRST PROJECT:

Yaralla Mansion Timber Shed
Yaralla mansion timber shed

In our early efforts we raised $20,000 which, with a dollar-for-dollar grant from the Heritage Council of N.S.W., enabled us to restore a small timber building near the entrance to the main section of the estate. It was originally thought that this building was a slaughterhouse as, during its farming days, the estate was fully self-sufficient, but when the conservation architects began their work they realised that it was more likely to have been used as a calving shed or a grooming area for livestock being transported to the Royal Easter Shows. Yaralla cattle were regular ribbon winners at the Show.


OUR SECOND PROJECT:

Yaralla Mansion squash courts
Yaralla Mansion squash courts

This was the restoration of the historic squash court at Yaralla. This was built for the pleasure of his Royal Highness, Prince Edward (later the Duke of Windsor) who, at age 26, stayed at Yaralla for a week as the guest of Miss Eadith Walker. He was accompanied by Sub-Lieutenant Lord Louis Mountbatten, RN, known to his family and friends as “Dickie”.

Although the court was built especially for the royal visitor, there is doubt that he ever played squash there, although there is a mention in Mountbatten’s diary that he had a “hit up” there.

It is the oldest purpose-built squash court (public or private) to be built in Australia, as building would have commenced early in 1920 to be ready for the royal visit in August of that year.

Christian Bjelke-Petersen – uncle of Joe Bjelke Petersen (later Sir Joe), former Premier of Queensland – ran a gymnasium in Castlereagh Street, Sydney, part of which he converted to squash courts in 1920. Christian attended a garden party at Government House where he was presented to HRH Prince Edward. Upon learning of the newly opened court, Prince Edward turned to Lord Louis and said: “See that I am there in an hour”. Apparently the Prince played every day for the fortnight he was in Sydney, coming incognito and wearing a thick woollen sweater whilst playing (his physician had advised him to sweat profusely every day of his life to keep fit). Those courts were destroyed by fire in the mid 1920’s.

A reason for the Prince not playing at the court at Yaralla could have been that the floor was made of concrete. The specifications for the building of the court may not have mentioned that the floor should have been timber. There was a great problem with white ants on the property, hence the concrete floor.

This building houses our display of photographs (Yaralla 1870-1970) as well as the headstones from the dog cemetery that was on the estate.

FOUR WINDS FOUNTAIN:

With the help of a bequest of $50,000 from our late member, Liane Poulton, we have been able to reproduce the Four Winds Fountain, which had been almost destroyed by vandals over the years. Total cost for the fountain was in excess of $55,000. This is a faithful replica and is now fully restored and working

Yaralla Mansion four winds fountain
Yaralla Mansion four winds fountain

ITALIAN BALUSTRADE:

Sections of this had fallen into disrepair and various urns had been damaged over the years. We accepted a quote to repair all damaged sections and this work was carried out during 2006.

Most of the above work was undertaken by professional people. However, a great deal of work has also been undertaken by member volunteers who have dedicated a great deal of their time in protecting this magnificent estate.

Members have restored a former gardeners’ shed, as well the cattle ramp adjacent to the calving shed – both of which had virtually collapsed over the years.

DAIRY BUILDING:

The restoration of the interior section of milking bays of the Dairy building was a major job undertaken by our volunteers, under professional supervision.

During the Walker occupation the estate carried a fine prize-winning dairy herd, which supplied milk for the estate as well as for surrounding hospitals. Even after the death of Dame Eadith the hospital still continued to supply milk to other hospitals. This only ceased when pasteurisation became compulsory and the cost of upgrading proved too costly.

Since the building closed operations it was neglected and the interior fell into disrepair. A team of our members, both men and women, undertook the daunting task of restoring the milking section. This is now used for serving morning and afternoon teas to our tour groups.

General clearing of grounds, minor repairs and such are undertaken by members as well.

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