History on the doorstep

St Joseph’s Public School years 5 and 6 students received a hands-on history lesson at the end of term one with a field trip to Tenterfield Station homestead, thanks to custodian Beryl Dean.

When teacher Gayle Tickle encountered the history component of the curriculum, she said she realised there was a prime resource practically on the school’s doorstep, with the historic homestead ripe with stories and artefacts and a host that’s very keen to share the station’s stories with the younger generation.

While there’s little of the original furnishings still in place, the 13-room homestead still whispers echoes of a past that provided a home for state premiers and received visits from Australia’s first prime minister Edmund Barton.

The floorboards underfoot as the same ones tread by iconic Australian poet Banjo Patterson as he courted eventual-wife Alice Walker, just one of a large brood of Walker children who called the station home, waited on by servants and enjoying being the social hub of the young town.

The school children explored the homestead at liberty, particularly enjoying the butler’s pantry with its huge floor-to-ceiling sideboard. The room also had a hutch to transfer meals prepared in the kitchen housed in a separate building, as was the custom then to contain any outbreaks of fire.

The covered walkway that once linked the kitchen to the homestead is now gone, the nearby meat house and storeroom are in poor repair and the iconic water tank on its high stilts is beginning to lean, but sufficient bones of the manor remain to provide the children with a sense of what it must have been like to call the station home.

Mrs Dean has a valuable archive of historic photos and journals which the class also discussed, imagining what it must have been like to play tennis in long skirts and corsets and living on stores and what the once-huge property produced.

In another component of their studies, Mrs Tickle said the children will be recording interviews with Millrace residents, to document first-hand accounts of Tenterfield’s history.

“It’s important to use primary sources,” she said. “We’ll also be encouraging family members to bring in old photos and other memorabilia to prompt memories and get the stories flowing.”

She feels the interviews will bring alive the period up to the Second World War.