IT’s a story of riches to rags, of grandeur to ruin, and ultimately saviour and restoration, driven by the spirit of a group of enthusiasts dedicated to preserving an important slice of Australia’s pastoral history.
Glengallan Homestead was the ambitious vision of 19th century Scots-born pastoralist John Deuchar and his wife Elizabeth who set out to build a grand sandstone home reflecting the colonial era.
The John Deuchar story starts in 1839, when the 19-year-old left Aberdeen to work as a stockman for the North British Australian (Aberdeen) Company.
He arrived on the Darling Downs a year later with a mob of Leslie Brothers’ sheep from the NSW Liverpool Plains, camping on the Condamine River where the town of Warwick is now located.
The colonial life clearly suited Deucher, who rose through the ranks to become the manager of Goomburra, Rosenthal and South Toolburra stations and had his own leases at Canal Creek, further to the west.
In 1855 Deucher went into partnership with Charles Marshall (who is understood to have worked as a book keeper and then acquired the lease from the Campbell brothers in 1852) for the then 17,000 hectare (42,000 acre) Glengallan Run. The operation became particularly well known for its Merino and Shorthorn studs.
In 1865 Deuchar contracted to buy out Marshall, who retired to England.
Soon after Deuchar embarked on an ambitious building program including the construction of the magnificent Glengallan Homestead, which was carried out in 1867-68.
However, the wheel turned. An economic downtown, drought and a government program enabling graziers to “pre-emptively” buy leased country that would be compulsory acquired left Deuchar unable to pay his mounting debts.
Just two years after a lavish house warming party Deuchar was bankrupt and moved to Mile End on the western side of Warwick. Later that same year he was killed in a horse accident out fighting bushfires.
While Marshall went on to form a new partnership with William Slade, the grand statement of Glengallan Homestead was never completed. To this day is it unclear what the completed home would have looked like. The consensus suggests the structure is a mirror image of what Deuchar may have envisaged.
IT’s one of rural Queensland’s great mysteries. What would the Glengallan Homestead have looked like if it had ever been completed.
While there are have been plenty of guesses, the plans or associated drawings have never been located.
Glengallan Hometead Trust chair Donna Fraser said she had spent plenty of time since the restoration work began 25 years ago imagining the completed sandstone structure.
“I’m pretty sure what we see today is half of the structure that John Deuchar envisaged, a mirror image if you like,” Mrs Fraser said.
“Going by the structure that is there I don’t think it was designed in a U-shape or some other variation.
“What we can be sure of it would certainly have been an even more impressive and imposing building with its 15 foot wide verandahs.”
Such is the interest in the ultimate design of the homestead is the tour guide provides space for visitors to sketch their own vision of a completed Glengallan.
A visit to Glengallan is literally a walk into the grandeur of Australia’s colonial past. Visitors enter the homestead complex, via the facility’s impressive cafe and interpretation centre.
What is remarkable is that the sandstone building had not been lived in since 1927 and was in a state of ruin when the push was made to save the iconic building in 1993. The restoration project was the vision of the late Wally Leggett, a former Warwick resident who remembered seeing Glengallan as a child “lit up like a Christmas tree”.
Mr Leggett was later recognised as the trust’s founder and patron and was on hand to see the opening of the homestead.
The first official guests entered the homestead in 2002, after more than $2 million had been spent on the building and thousands of volunteer hours working on the project.
Mrs Fraser said the homestead had been restored to a point where it met the expectations of the people who came to visit.
“The most common statement is ‘I’ve been driving past here all my life and always wondered what it was all about’,” Mrs Fraser said.
“I think what we have been able to achieve is a centre that faithfully shows the journey.
“There is the wonderful architecture, the cultural experience and the archaeology including the restoration of the original gardens.”
However, the search goes on for fittings that were removed from the building in the 1960s. These include the dining room mantelpiece, a Hinks’ hall lamp, the blue and white toilet bowl from the upstairs bathroom, and sections of cedar paneling.
Highlights on the 2018 Glengallan calendar include Australia Day markets and on January 26 and the Deuchar Dinner in September.
UNINHABITED for more than half its lifetime, Glengallan is a country mansion that captures a past time.
Described as a rare example of a substantial 19th century country house in Queensland, the 1867 two-storey sandstone mansion is now a recognised iconic heritage place.
Glengallan is a tribute not only to its visionary builder and to 19th century craftsmen, but also to the 21st century team that brought it back to life.
The delicately balanced restoration that enables the centre’s up to 10,000 visitors a year to experience the best and worst of its times.
Set in beautiful gardens on the eastern Darling Downs, Glengallan takes visitors back to a time of grand visions and where the land was at the centre of everything that mattered.