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Saving Quambi

A story by Beryl Bowden

quambi1

Quambi in 1976 before restoration

I have never been more proud to be part of the Stroud community than when, after forming the Stroud Historical Society, we successfully rescued Quambi House from demolition.

The Stroud and District Historical Society was formed in 1970. The inaugural office bearers elected were Harold Bowen President, Rosemary Neville Vice President, Olga Williams Secretary and Athol Allen Treasurer.  Twenty- nine people attended the meeting. The following year Mr Bowen resigned and John Chadban became President and continued in that position for more than twenty years. Olga Williams as Secretary was the driving force behind the idea of forming the society. Her son Rodney and his family still live on the Williams farm at Stroud Rd.

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Laurie Dixon, Harry Woods, Stella Wilson, Beryl Bowden and Bubbles Rowe removing the original wallpaper

New members joined the society and we were able to cater for tourist buses…sometimes two in one day. The catering for involved supplying morning tea and lunch. Thelma Wood and helpers, made gallons of pumpkin soup, buckets of custard and numerous plum puddings. We also supplied a guide to escort the bus to our other historic buildings. We sold hundreds of souvenir tea towels, post cards, hankies, place mats etc.

Apart from the catering there was the building itself to clean out and demolish the sections not part of the original building. The grounds also needed attention. Assistance came from near and far. Apart from Stroud, the towns of Booral, Girvan, Limeburner’s Ck, Stroud Rd and Allworth were all represented. The community response was wonderful! When Athol resigned the position of treasurer I was elected and continued in that position for thirteen years.

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Beryl Bowden restoring the cedar woodwork to its original condition

With intensive fund raising on our part and help from government grants, (which we had to match dollar for dollar from our meagre funds), it was a very busy time. Our goal was to restore Quambi as a museum and even though it took the best part of fifteen years to accomplish, we found it to be a happy and rewarding time because of the harmony that existed within the group. Working bees were quite jolly affairs. Sometimes there were upwards of twenty people happily working away, stripping wall paper, clearing undergrowth and demolishing rundown outbuildings.

Initially, the Historical Society, by itself, was not eligible for Heritage grants. Fortunately, the Great Lakes Shire agreed to act on our behalf, which enabled us to access Heritage funds. Quambi is a heritage building so the restoration project was supervised by an architect who wanted everything as original as possible. His insistence, though correct, cost the society money. Often it would have been much easier and cheaper to do things the modern way. Present-day paints for the inside walls were not allowed…they had to be painted with original paint, which was mixed in Sydney using the original ingredients and had to be used soon after being mixed. We waited three weeks for it to come! When the paint finally arrived it was impossible to spread! Reluctantly, we had to pay out for a second lot to be mixed. Lloyd Bowden and John Chadban did most of the painting under the watchful eye of the architect. John was a ‘hands on’, president. He was always there when there was work to be done. He even filled the role of treasurer when needed. As Health Inspector, John was involved in the move of the Stroud Shire Office to Forster but busy as he was he still continued his interest in the society.

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In all its glory…Heather Williams, Beryl Bowden, Flo Dixon, Rodney Williams and Laurie Dixon.

Some of our ‘happy band’ of workers were, Kevin Gorton, John Chadban, Stella Wilson, Thelma and Harry Wood, Bubbles Rowe, Allan Gorton, Gwen Bowden, Olga and Don Williams, Beryl and Lloyd Bowden, Laurie and Flo Dixon, Athol Allen, Rosemary and Darby Neville, Keith and Glynis Grey and others.

While speaking to a tourist one day he told me the Stroud buildings are ‘unique’ (his word) because they are all still standing…in good order! He maintained that other towns might have more buildings and perhaps, grander ones but they are not all intact, as ours are!

Demanding as the work was, we found it quite rewarding. Through our efforts we had saved Quambi for future generations. We can all be proud of that!

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2 Comments on “Saving Quambi”

  1. Cindy January 22, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

    Thank god it was saved

  2. Wal Towells September 19, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    Keep the stories coming Beryl, they are great. I love seeing some of the names I remember. I recall that in the mid 40s a family called Kennedy were living at Quambie. My Dad and George Kennedy were very good exponents with cross-cut saw.

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