A handsome colonial house
Originally the area of Aberglasslyn was a grant of 1,100 acres in June 1822 to Henry Dixon Owen who had arrived from England in 1821 with his brother. Henry then purchased a further 300 acres on the eastern side of his grant.In 1826 Henry Owen began to suffer financial difficulties and the house that had been erected at much expense and labour was uncompleted for want of a carpenter.
On 9 September 1828, the property was sold at a Sheriff’s sale and was purchased by Sir John Jamison (1776-1844) in two portions. Jamison was a leading figure in the importing of superior Saxon sheep to NSW and, in 1822 was the founder of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of NSW. In 1833, Jamison let the estate to John Dow for the next eight years and during this period the name 'Aberglasslyn' appeared.
In 1835 Sir John Jamison leased Aberglasslyn to George Hobler (1800 – 1882) for a year with an option to purchase.
In July 1836 George Hobler, at the time the leading breeder of Hereford cattle in Australia, purchased the land for £5,000. The original house was deemed unsuitable for his family and Hobler engaged John Wiltshire Pender as foreman of the carpenters ifor the completion of a mansion style house. There is evidence that architect Henry Robertson submitted plans for Aberglasslyn’s design in 1836 and that the supervising architect, John Bibb, had been employed by John Verge (1782 – 1861).
With drought, and depression ravaging the colony in the 1840s, Hobler became insolvent and lost most of his stock and property. Hobler stopped work on the main structure of the house in 1842 but at a cost of approx. £12,000 he completed the entrance hall, stair hall, drawing room and breakfast room. The house was now a square, massive structure with brackets in the outer walls for a courtyard that was never built.
In 1846 the estate was leased to William Nicholson (1816 – 1865), a local innkeeper and prominent businessman. He was instrumental in importing many of the best blood-horses to the colony and one of the first racecourses in the Maitland area was known as “Nicholson’s”. He made the remainder of the house habitable and in June 1848, advertised to let the House, garden and 3 acre vinery. The House was described as a most spacious stone building, has cellars underneath the whole and is admirably adapted to making and storing wine.
William Nicholson eventually purchased the estate in 1853 and subdivided the land into “farms” of 20 and 50 acres adapted to the wants of agriculturalists with limited capital.
The work on the house appears to have been completed by 1858 when William Nicholson leased Aberglasslyn House to the Misses Hall who utilised the house and grounds as their Educational Establishment for Young Ladies until December 1857.
In 1865, William Nicholson engaged William Cains, builder, to add a verandah around three sides of the house, which was supported by fluted iron pillars/columns imported from England, and mounted on stone.The house stood for many years without a purchaser and was tenanted in 1872 to preserve it in good order and repair.
Aberglasslyn later passed through marriage to the McKeachie family
In March 1937, when occupied by Amelia’s son, Mr. James McKeachie, the house was described as always cool inside, where rooms are 18 feet high and windows 9 feet by 9 feet. The fittings (doors and shutters) throughout are beautiful old cedar and the fire places of mottled marble.
Between 1933 and 1944, James McKeachie purchased the remaining portions of the estate owned by his two brothers, Charles and William. In 1962, after living on the property with his family for around twenty years, James sold the estate and the house, by then deteriorated, to Mr Jackson, a local plumber.
In 1977 Jackson subdivided the land around the house into four lots. The now largely derelict house and two of the lots were sold to Phillip and Elizabeth Jones who undertook urgent and major conservation work. In 1981 the NSW Government invoked the Heritage Act and placed a conservation order on Aberglasslyn House.
In 1985 Aberglasslyn House was purchased by Mr. Norman Wheeler. His intention to add extensions to the building met with disagreement with the National Trust who declared it one of the most striking manifestations of the 1842 depression and that it should be left in its arrested state. Wheeler’s endeavours to restore the house were never completed before his death in 1993.
In 1995 it was purchased by Paul and Yvonne Maule who spent six years undertaking restoration work and sourcing original items from the 1840s to return the house to its former glory. It was again sold in late 2000 and the house currently remains in private hands.Since the 1840s, the property has had various ownerships and undergone several periods of neglect and improvement but its essential foundations create an impressive sandstone exterior. It is one of the few surviving examples of a handsome colonial house that sits impressively over the rural landscape.