Nestled in the grounds of Tahlee Ministries near Carrington is the beautiful, heritage-listed ‘Tahlee House’. It was built in 1826 by the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) as the home for the Company’s Commissioners. Only the first four commissioners (Dawson, Parry, Dumaresq and King) lived here before the AACo moved its headquarters to Stroud around 1849.1 The original house was quite small with outbuildings and a walled garden at the back built using convict labour. Each Commissioner added extensions.2 Sir William Parry (1830-1834)3 described the house as a long, low building with a verandah in front…surrounded by orange and lemon trees overlooking the wooded islets in the harbour.4
In March 1860, tragedy struck when the shingle roof caught fire and the house was totally destroyed leaving a pile of scorched, blackened walls. Realising the house couldn’t be spared residents saved the furniture.5 The house remained mostly neglected after this time until Robert Hoddle Driberg White bought it in 1880 and rebuilt the house around the ruins. Over the next decade R. H. D. White built a large lounge room on Tahlee House and the wooden building that housed the billiard room and ballroom with a secret nailed floor.6 The ballroom was also used as a Chapel and housed Australia’s first three-manual pipe organ.7
After R. H. D. White’s death the house passed to his son A. B. S. White who used it as a haven away from his Sydney home. Today the house and property are owned by Tahlee Ministries and visitors and groups are welcomed by appointment. Tahlee’s boat harbour and well, wine cellar and servants’ quarters are a legacy of the AACo which can also still be seen today.
Author: Janine Roberts based on the research of Carolyn Theobald.
1 Carolyn Theobald, A place called Tahlee: A short historical narrative covering the fascinating history of Tahlee, Port Stephens, since 1826.Tahlee Ministries: 2004.
2 Figure 26: Physical Development of Tahlee House. Document held at Tahlee House.
3 Ann Parry, Australian Dictionary of Biography: Parry, Sir William Edward (1790-1855). http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/parry-sir-william-edward-2539
4 Gloucester Advocate 23 March 1907, 2.
5 Sydney Morning Herald, 3 April 1860, 2.
6 Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 23 August 1888.
7 Carolyn Theobald, A place called Tahlee.