Clarendon, Tasmania Australia

A great Georgian House in Australia

I love the National Trust and try and visit their properties when I'm travelling. I was able to see 3 properties when in Tasmania earlier this year, Clarendon is the grandest of them.

Clarendon can be found just past the little township of Nile, about 30 minutes from Launceston. I came from the direction of Hobart, on the Midland Highway and there's a signposted turnoff to come off the Highway, the road winds around to Nile and then there are signs to Clarendon. The road is a minor one and parts of it are gravel before it's back to tarmac near Nile. (Coming from Launceston you would go through the town of Evandale)

Clarendon is such an impressive property and it illustrates the wealth of the pastoralists in the 19th century. The house was built in 1838, on a land-grant given to James Cox in 1817. He received 6,000 acres, as well as having convicts assigned to work on his property. By all accounts he treated his convict well and later campaigned against transportation. Non convict labour was also employed on the property. As James Cox was given prime agricultural land he was able to prosper at a time when northern Tasmania was a major food producer for colonial Australia and for export as well. He built a house to reflect his status, his second wife Eliza created the park around the house.

There is more to Clarendon than just the house but I visited late in the afternoon and managed to see the house and then it poured with rain so didn't venture around to see the park and the other buildings. (Saving it for a future visit!) There is a nice tea house next to the house, so managed to squeeze in the traditional scones, jam and cream as well! Priorities!

The hallway, to enter the house you need to ring the bell and a National Trust guide lets you in and gives a quick explanation about the history of the house. You're then free to wander around on your own, one thing that surprised me was that they do encourage you to interact with the displays, you can sit on the couches, play the piano, open the cupboards, this is very different from visiting most historic homes. There's no 'please don't touch, sit' etc signs.

The furniture and furnishings aren't from the Cox family, the last Cox family member sold the property in the early 20th century when legislation was introduced to reduce the size of property holdings. The Clarendon estate was reduced to 700 acres and not viable so the family sold up. In 1945 it was bought by Walter and Kathleen Menzies who established a horse stud, and it was Mrs Menzies who donated Clarendon to the National Trust in 1962. The house was very rundown and needed extensive work, it was ready to be opened to the public in 1974. Restoration work is ongoing, as the guide told me they've managed to raise the money to reroof the house and now that that was done, the next major task was the interior repainting in the original heritage colour scheme.

The house is furnished in the style of the period it was inhabited in the 19th century.

The dining room.

A more old style bedroom.

A slightly more modern bedroom.

The nursery complete with old bath.

One of the upstairs rooms has a display of period dresses.

And there's also a dress up section for anyone who wants to.

Standing under a tree trying to keep dry as it pours with rain!

The impressive column facade of the house is actually the back of the house. The front opens out to the South Esk River, I assume the river was the main form of transport to and from Launceston so the house faced it. Currently the steps from the house are not safe to the front entrance isn't open, and the steps are cordoned off. 

The property is National Trust and so is run by volunteers, I found all the volunteers on my Tasmanian travels delightful. As much as they were informative they also loved to have a 'bit of a chat' as one pointed out that's what she enjoyed about being a volunteer. It all added to the experience of visiting, the volunteer that I chatted to at Clarendon certainly did.

Clarendon is open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 4pm. It's closed during the months of July and August. It's closed Fridays April to June as well. If you're a National Trust member then entry is free, if not (well worth joining!) it's $15 for adults, $10 concession and children under 16 are free. The park area is free to enter and there's the Tea House for refreshments.