“Lockyersleigh” opens its gates to show people the workings of a unique Australian agricultural centre and the historical importance of Australian pioneers.
Established over 150 years ago “Lockyersleigh” is a property boasting a homestead dating back to Queen Victoria, acres of garden, fully functional equine facility and a commercial agricultural enterprise. It offers the chance to experience the real Australian country experience, from a family who have been there for over a century. Lockyersleigh. Real farmers, real animals, real facilities.
Nineteenth century pastoral properties abound with homesteads, which began modestly enough, and were enlarged by the second generation to confirm their transition from pioneer settler to long-settled pastoral family. What sets Lockyersleigh apart from others of its ilk was that aggrandizement was vertical rather than horizontal. It didn’t grow out; it went up.
At Lockyersleigh’s centre is a two-storey homestead of elegant proportions. Commenced in 1827 and added to in 1856 it fuses two distinct architectural fashions in a harmonious union, reinforce by giant wisteria draping the whole. Framed by single-shaft stone columns, the ground floor level celebrates the elegance and symmetry of the Georgian era; the upper storey with its cast iron columns is robustly mid Victorian. The detailing and joinery within reflect both the care lavished upon them by successive generations for 150 years, and the difference in Georgian and Victorian workmanship and taste.
Driving towards the homestead over open, undulating pastureland, punctuated at intervals with windbreaks of poplar and pine, you cross a weir, a popular meeting place of wild duck and domestic geese, and pass through tree lines into the seven acre garden. Ahead lies a broad oval swathe of lawn, and the homestead beyond. Behind and adjacent to the garden is the business end of Lockyersleigh – assorted outbuildings, a garage, laundry, 19th century servants’ quarters and machine shed – all built from bluestone, some ornamented with gabling and orange brick. Apart from a modern sunroom at the back, the homestead looks much as it did 150 years ago.
Lockyersleigh began as a land grant of 2500 acres in 1827 to Major Lockyer. As an explorer (Brisbane River), colonial administrator (securing George’s Sound, Western Australia, against the French) and planner (NSW Government surveyor of roads and bridges), he served king and country with distinction.
But as a pioneer settler he lived beyond his means – the homestead cost a staggering 1,200 pounds – eventually forcing him to sell and move to Sydney. There, in recognition of his government service he was appointed first as Sergeant –at-Arms and then as Usher of the Black Road to the NSW Legislative Council.
In 1856 Lockyersleigh passed from a John Edge (who had bought it several years earlier from Lockyer) to a Scots immigrant, Arthur Ranken. In 1826 Ranken had sailed out in the Greenock Ship to join his brother George who had migrated five years earlier and who was then farming at Kelloshiel near Bathurst. In 1844 Arthur acquired land, which he named Glenlogan after the family farm in Ayrshire, and with handmade bricks and stone foundations, built the first European house on the banks of the Lachlan River. Three years later a flood took all his worldly possessions. The only surviving items, a d=desk and a sideboard, are now at Lockyersleigh.
With his wife Annabella, daughter of Colonel John Campbell of Bungaribee, Arthur Ranken took a job managing St Clair station on the Hunter River for the Australian Agricultural Company. In 1855 he leased Lockyersleigh, and bought it the following year. While the upper level was being added to the homestead his family lived in a farm cottage on the property.
The property has since remained in the Ranken family for a further four generations expanding fourfold to nearly 10,000 acres and employing a housekeeper, gardener and several station hands and their families. A horse stud was commenced in 1968 by Tony Onions who had married Jean Ranken and is the foundation of the equine facilities still present.
The horse stud at its peak had six stallions and 80 brood mares and covered up to 1000 acres of the property. His horses won over 200 top races. It was a great diversifying enterprise which produced income when droughts drained the agricultural production. Unfortunately the stud was dispersed in 1995 after Tony Onions was killed in a car accident.
The Onions family still live at Lockyersleigh and have continued the agricultural tradition producing meat, wool and grain to the Australian and international markets. Now they add tourism to their enterprises allowing people to experience the real Australia and be proud of the ancestors who created it.