Lanyon Historic Homestead

Lanyon Homestead is found on an historic sheep station on Canberra's southern outskirts, about 30km south, its centrepiece of the complex is the beautifully restored early stone cottage built by convicts in 1859, occupied until 1974. This National Trust homestead documents station life from early convict days in the region before Canberra existed and houses the Nolan Gallery, some of Sydney Nolan's paintings including his famous Ned Kelly works.

The site was first occupied following white settlement by Timothy Beard, who depastured cattle on the Limestone Plains as early as 1829. Beard had been transported to Australia for life and arrived in the colony in 1806. After receiving his pardon he entered the pastoral industry as a squatter. Beard's huts were located on the Molonglo River near Queanbeyan and on the site of Lanyon homestead. Beard was forced out of the area by land grants and later became an innkeeper at Bringelly.

By the late 1960s, the growth of the National Capital had necessitated the resumption of large tracts of farmland south of Canberra. Up to a dozen rural leases, in parts of South Woden and Weston Creek, were resumed to make way for development of Tuggeranong, the second of Canberra's urban satellites. Lanyon was the largest single parcel of freehold land in the ACT. Tom Field lodged plans to sub-divide some of his 9,000 acres (36 km2). When the Federal Government proceeded to acquire Lanyon, Field refused an offer of $1.875m and sought compensation of $33m, the amount a private valuer had placed on the land when assessed at urban values.

The matter of Field versus the Commonwealth of Australia eventually proceeded to Australia s High Court. The outcome was that the Federal Government acquired Lanyon for $3.7m in 1974. In the early to mid-1970s the McMahon and Whitlam Governments withdrew the rural leases for Lanyon, Cuppacumbalong Homestead and Gold Creek Homestead.

The government converted the homestead into the Sidney Nolan Gallery which opened to the public in 1975. It housed a collection of the paintings of Sir Sidney Nolan. A purpose-built gallery for the Nolan collection was built in the grounds in 1980. An extensive conservation and restoration program was undertaken and the homestead is now managed as a house museum, within a working property, by the ACT Government and the National Trust.

Lanyon Homestead was threatened by the 2003 Canberra bushfires, which also threatened the nearby township of Tharwa. On January 18, 2003, as fires were approaching Canberra, the homestead was hosting a wedding. The fire situation deteriorated, prompting the evacuation of Tharwa, which was defended and saved by Southern Rural Fire Brigades. The Lanyon Homestead was not impacted by fire, though it did come under ember attack. A single fire truck was on hand to hose down and protect the historic homestead. Given the age of Lanyon, this was certainly not the first time the property had faced bushfires.

Location: Tharwa Drive, Tharwa.

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