Conservation works on Blundells Cottage, including foundation stabilisation, stone re-pointing and the installation of new displays,were completed in July 2017.
The new displays give an insight into the lives of the families who lived in the cottage and their experiences on the Limestone Plains from the colonial period to the time when Canberra was selected as the site for the Federal Capital and during the construction of modern Canberra. For the first time, the museum also tells the twentieth century story of the cottage. Further conservation work will be undertaken to the slab shed from September 2017, followed by exciting landscape works to interpret the original land uses.
The stone dwelling, now known as Blundells Cottage, was built in 1860 to house Duntroon's head ploughman, William Ginn, and his family (1860-1874). It was then occupied by George Blundell, a Duntroon bullock driver and his family (1874-1933) and finally by shepherd Harry Oldfield and his wife Alice (1933-1958). When Harry died in 1942, Alice took in boarders. This included the Sainsbury family, who lived at the cottage between 1958 and 1960.
After the last tenant vacated the cottage, the Canberra and District Historical Society (CDHS) approached the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC), for custodianship. In 1961, Sir William Holford, a British consultant town planner, wrote:
'Oldfield's cottage is a valuable relic of Canberra's early days. Encircled by trees it could well remain as an object of interest to visitors, without appearing incongruous in its new surroundings. Restored to something like its original state it would make a symbolic foil for the majesty of the Parliament House opposite'.
Cited in Freeman Collett and Partners, 1995, Blundells Cottage Precinct Conservation Management Plan, ACT. Vol. 1: 29
In 1964, following its restoration, the Cottage was handed over to the CDHS, which managed it and established a museum collection. Since 1999 it has been managed by the National Capital Authority (NCA) as a house museum. It is the only pre-Federal Capital building in the National Triangle.
- The Cottage was built around 1860, from stone taken from Mount Ainslie and Black Mountain.
- This area of Canberra was once a rural landscape. This changed when the site was chosen for the National Capital of Australia.
- When built, the Cottage was surrounded by paddocks and overlooked the Molonglo River, which was located a quarter mile (400 metres) away. It was a working smallholding, with a collection of outbuildings, haystacks, animals and farm equipment.
- The Ginn family were the first to live in the Cottage, staying for about 14 years.
- The Blundells lived there for about 60 years. During this time, they had 8 children and added two rooms to the Cottage to create more space for their large family.
- The Sainsburys were the last family to live in the Cottage, moving in as tenants of Mrs. Oldfield and staying until 1961.
- Water, gas and sewerage have never been connected to the Cottage and electricity was only connected when it became a museum.
- During the 100 years that the Cottage was occupied, there were just three tenants - the Ginns, the Blundells and the Oldfields, but many different people lived there.
- Due to a lack of accommodation in the young National Capital, boarders rented rooms in the Cottage. At times there were two families renting rooms from Mrs. Oldfield, with other individuals living on the front verandah (which was enclosed) and in the turkey shed.
The Cottage is open Saturdays from 10:00am - 2.00pm for general visitors with scheduled tours at 10:15, 11:30 and 12:45. The Cottage is closed on Easter Saturday and other public holidays.
Tour bookings are free and can be made through Eventbrite . Bookings are not essential but with numbers limited, are recommended.
The cottage can open on Thursdays or Fridays (by arrangement) for School and Group Programs only.
Please note: Blundell’s is over 150 years old, which means no air-conditioning and poor ventilation. From December – March, for not only your comfort, but also for your safety and that of our volunteers, we may need to close Blundell’s Cottage. We’ll keep you updated on any closures on both our Facebook page and twitter feed.
The story of Canberra doesn’t stop at Blundell’s; explore the significant events and extraordinary people that shaped Australia’s capital at the National Capital Exhibition. Not only is it air conditioned, but it has a great view over the calm waters of Lake Burley Griffin. A fun, relaxing and cool environment, the Exhibition is open Monday – Friday 9.00am – 5.00pm and Saturday – Sunday 10.00am – 4.00pm. Closed public holidays (except Australia Day and Canberra Day)
For more information contact:
Phone: (02) 6272 2902
Fax: (02) 6247 1875