Visiting local homes built in the era of my story is such a great thing to do, and I have a valid reason for traipsing all over the countryside. Research reader, that’s what it’s all about, and this weekend I went to Tocal Homestead.
A local house that was contemporary with my story’s setting. There were several homes built in the same era as fictional “Shelby”, one was Dalwood House, we’ve been there before, Tocal and another is Windermere House, I need to contact the owners to gain access there. I am fortunate to have a small degree of prior contact with both houses.
I used to work at Tocal Agricultural College where Tocal Homestead is located and know the Principal and Manager Cameron Archer slightly from my time there. I’m reasonably confident that I can approach him for some assistance as he has already written several books relating to the history of Tocal and the convicts assigned there, I’m pretty sure he will be happy to help me with my own research.
One of the first things you notice on your arrival reader is the noise and funny smell! If you look down into the gully, you can see that the place is dripping with bats. I’m not exaggerating reader to say there would be a good kilometre or more of gulley filled with them.
Aside from the bats, Tocal is a beautiful place steeped in Australian Colonial history, here are some interior shots of the house. You can visit yourself, here is the web address, http://www.tocal.com/index.html
The first settlers lived in crude bark or slab huts, then this small brick building was built as the first homestead at Tocal.
As for Windermere House, my mother used to cook for the bus tours that visited the Hunter Valley’s oldest homestead, so I have met and spoken to Peter and Lorna Capp on several occasions over the years.
Still approaching someone to have a sticky beak around their home is a bit daunting, but I need to be brave and just do it. There’s no historical accuracy for the feint hearted reader!