The house that Ogilvie built

Yugilbar Castle Photo: Adam Hourigan/The Daily Examiner
Yugilbar Castle Photo: Adam Hourigan/The Daily Examiner Adam Hourigan

A poem penned in the 1960s by Mrs Freda Sabine, granddaughter of Edward Ogilvie who established Yulgilbar Station in 1840, beautifully captures the magic of the Castle despite its derelict state at the time.

It gives you some indication of the grand position it has held since work begun on the 'Big House' as Ogilvie preferred it to be known, some 100 years prior to Mrs Sabine's glowing tribute.

It wasn't too many years after that prose was written that the Castle was restored back to a private family home, resurrecting Ogilvie's vision of a Moorish castle and reclaiming a portion of the grandness it once echoed across the Clarence.

Sadly the Castle's upper storey and its twin towers were unsalvageable due to thievery, vandalism and the ravages of time, and were removed during its restoration by the then new owner Sam Hordern.

Despite looking more ranch-style with the loss of its first floor 'crown', a tributary crenulated feature added during the 1960s restoration, honours the castle's majestic architectural past.

Sitting there with a proud historical presence are the Maltese-made stone lions that have been quietly guarding Yulgilbar Castle's entrance since they arrived back in the 1860s under Ogilvie's instruction.

It took Ogilvie and his German builders six years to complete the ambitious 8000 pound 40-room construction, designed by Ogilvie to counteract the Clarence Valley's heat using sandstone and serpentine quarried from the property to construct walls that were to be 'three-foot thick'.

All materials used in its construction were said to be drawn from the property including grey gum hardwood and rich red cedar for the finer work.

The sheer amount of stone used to create the almost 27 metre square residence is almost unfathomable given the equipment of the time (bullocks), its tallest tower extending up to reach more than 15 metres.

The drawing room alone was said to be around 10 metres by almost seven, with ceiling heights of more than five metres rising to six in the dining room.

The master plan included extensive servant's quarters, a large kitchen and cool rooms on the ground floor, and a series of family and guest bedrooms on the upper level. The first floor passageways would be reached by a 'great staircase of local red cedar'.

The station had its own vineyard, stables, school house and gateway cottage. These are all just distant memories now.

Today, the castle's floor plan has barely changed, built around an open, inner courtyard, a style favoured by a lot of today's architects, with a centrally located Italian marble fountain which still provides a visual anchor today through the castle's French door entrance.

The grandness that once inhibited its interior is now replaced with a homely elegance, with tributes to its past dotted throughout, on the walls and in the corners, juxtaposed with evidence of a working cattle station and the practicality of modern living.

Owners Sarah and Baillieu Myer have been at the helm since they inherited the castle from Sarah's father Sam in 1960 and have instigated complementary additions since that time including a tower extension in 1999 and reclamation of the cellar space to create an archive room dedicated to keeping the colourful story of Yulgilbar alive. Stories abound within these walls as relics from the past are slowly returning to their rightful place and display cabinets, crafted from cedar rescued from the castle's decaying upper level, become full with mementos.

But besides the obvious grand physicality of Yulgilbar Castle, it is the rich history and air of mystery that provides the awe that surrounds this place.

Stories that now touch three centuries of families and many workers and descendants who have their own connection to this Clarence Valley castle.

Significant events in the history of Yulgilbar Station:

1840 Edward and Frederick Ogilvie settle at Yulgilbar

1844 Original homestead completed

1860 Laying of the Foundation stone for the 'Big House'

1866 'Big House' housewarming party

1896 Edward Ogilvie dies. Ownership passes to his daughter Mabel Lillingston

1925 Mabel Lillingston dies

1926 Yulgilbar Pastoral Co. forms. Shareholders include the Baillieu and Morrissey families

1932 'Big House' auction of contents

1947 NSW Government Proclamation for closer settlement

1949 Sam Hordern purchases the Yulgilbar Pastoral Co

1952 Introduction Santa Gertrudis and Quarter horses

1960 Sam Hordern dies. Ownership passes to daughter Sarah and son-in-law Baillieu Myer

1961 NSW Government acquires 8000 acres and lift Proclamation

1963 CSIRO establish research station

1966 'Big House' housewarming after restoration

1966 First production sale - cattle and horses

1998 Reafforestation begins

1999 Yulgilbar Tower addition. The first Myer Family Muster.

2004 Broadwater redevelopment begins

2005 Launch of Yulgilbar archives

2006 Purchase of Tooloonki



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