Glimpse into a bygone era

September 20, 2017

Tatura's Phyl Mactier is looking forward to opening the doors of Nithsdale on Sunday, September 24.

A special charity event will soon see the doors of one of Tatura’s oldest homes flung open to the public.

Nithsdale House has sat quietly in Thomson St for almost 100 years and those passing by might recognise its picture-perfect qualities.

Its red-brick exterior is certainly eye-catching and, coupled with its well-maintained garden, it provides a sophisticated glimpse of a bygone era.

What many people most likely do not realise is that Nithsdale has been in one family since it was built in 1921.

Owner Phyl Mactier said the home was constructed by her husband’s family when they migrated to Australia and came to settle in the area.

During the 1920s Tatura looked very different and Nithsdale was a quaint farmhouse surrounded by paddocks.

This is certainly hard to imagine as Nithsdale is near Hogan St and the Tatura police station.

Phyl said she was excited to open Nithsdale to the public and by extension help support the Tatura Museum, which will receive all the proceeds raised from the event.

‘‘I’ve been a caretaker all the time of this (home) and I just think if I don’t share it with the community now it won’t be shared,’’ she said.

Phyl and her husband Stuart came to live at Nithsdale in 1971 with their children and made a few adjustments to the interior, but this has not impacted the house’s charm.

‘‘When we came in here I had four children and before that there was only two children in Stuart’s family, so I needed to spread a bit, which I did,’’ Phyl said.

Phyl and Stuart put a lot of time and work into modernising the house, but ensuring it kept its historic roots intact.

Great complements to Nithsdale’s interior are the many different historic pieces scattered throughout. Paintings and photos line the wall and a particularly eye-catching part of the home can be seen in the lounge room, where a magnificent portrait of Mr Stuart’s great-grandmother Mary Primrose Wilson hangs from the wall.

Phyl said the portrait was painted in the 1840s and relocated to Australia from Scotland in 1854 when Stuart’s family migrated.

At the time the portrait was painted, Mary Primrose was 11 years old.

Prior to the portrait’s present home at Nithsdale it was hung at Kilmore, then in the Victoria Hotel at Whroo and then at James Wilson’s properties in Tatura — Kelvin Grove and Overton.

The painting was restored by Maxwell Hall in 1986 and the frame was restored by an Italian restorer who applied four different shades of gold leaf.

‘‘The restorer used a cotton bud with paint remover and went over the whole painting, then when he got to a colour he stopped,’’ Phyl said.

There was also a crack and a hole in the painting that needed to be repaired.

After the painting was restored to its former glory, Stuart showed it to his mother — who cried when she saw it.

‘‘(Mary Primrose) just looked as though she’d had a bath, it was quite funny,’’ Phyl said.

‘‘And the scenery you could vaguely see before but now you can really pick it up and you can see the fine cracks in it.’’

Although the artist of the painting is unknown, it is believed to have been crafted by a painter from the Gainsborough School in Scotland.

A keen artist herself, Phyl absolutely adores the painting of Mary Primrose and said you could tell it was of a very high quality because the eyes followed you around the room.

It is clear Phyl loves her house and enjoys caring for it in memory of Stuart, who died last year.

Phyl said because the house was creeping up on 100 years old, now seemed like a good time to open it to the public.

‘‘I was always going to do it when it was 100, but then I thought if I did that I’d be nearly 100,’’ she said with a laugh.

Nithsdale House at 20 Thomson St, Tatura, will be open to the public from 1pm to 3.30pm on Sunday, September 24.

Entry is $10 per person, which includes afternoon tea in the garden.

People are asked not to take photographs of the home.

All money raised from the open house will be donated to the Tatura Museum.

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