The Parlour Room

The Parlour Room

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The Parlour Room

In 1965, Dr. E.H. Farmer (NSW Government Architect) and Justice McClemens suggested that the panelling from the walls of the parlour of Macquarie's house be used in one of the University's buildings. The parlour is a room 20ft x 11ft., with a ceiling height of approximately 8ft 6in. The owner of the house, Mr E.J. Mather, offered the panelling as a gift, and hoped it would find a 'worthy place in the new Macquarie University'.

In 1817 Lachlan Macquarie had issued a charter of incorporation to the Bank of New South Wales. For this reason the Bank of New South Wales (now known as Westpac Bank) regards Macquarie as its founder and therefore gave its support in 1967 to the project of relocating the panelling to Australia. As such, it undertook to meet the full costs of removal, repair and transport to Macquarie University.

At that time the old house was in a bad state of repair. The rooms on the ground floor were being used as a store for farm implements and stock fodder. The panelling needed considerable work on it before shipment and this was carried out by Scottish craftsman at Messrs. Lawrence MacIntosh [Joiners] 1/2 Science Gardens, Edinburgh (under the supervision of the National Trust for Scotland). When the restoration work had been completed the panelling was shipped to Australia from Glasgow (in 7 crates) on the Blue Funnel Line ship the SS Hector. It sailed on 18 September 1967, and arrived in Sydney nine weeks later on 25 November.

The Bank appointed Sir Robert Wilson and Dr E.H. Farmer as Trustees for the gift, and indicated its wish ' that the room be placed in a situation where as many students and public can see it as possible'. It was suggested that perhaps it could be located within the Library building and fitted up as a small museum of Macquarie relics or other material.

It was not possible to do this until Stage 4 of the Library was built in the mid-1970s. In December 1975 the University Council resolved to locate the panelling in a separate room adjacent to the Rare Book Reading Room. The Bank of New South Wales agreed to this suggestion and provided funds with the aim of completing the installation at the same time as Stage 4 of the Library in March 1978.

In 1976 a complete inspection of the panelling was made by Dr Farmer, officers of the University, the Architects for Stage 4 (Jackson Teece Chesterman Willis Pty. Ltd.), Mr J.G. Snepp, the Bank's architect, and Mr F.P. Bridges, Head of the Historic Building Group, Government Architects Branch.

In May 1977, Jackson Teece Chesterman Willis Pty. Ltd. were commissioned to document and supervise the reconstruction work. This began in March, 1978, and was completed in mid-1978 by Fischers Modern Homes Pty Limited.

Extensive research during the planning stages failed to identify conclusively the finish applied to the timbers when first installed, i.e., during the period associated with Lachlan Macquarie. Close examination of the oak lining boards and pine detail before installation clearly showed evidence of light coloured opaque pigmented paint, although the exact age of this coating was doubtful. Advice from the National Trust for Scotland, the Stenhouse Conservation Centre (Edinburgh), and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland was inconclusive, but supported the likelihood of an opaque rather than a clear wax finish.

After the installation of the panelling had been completed and the rich character of the timbers could be fully appreciated, an earlier decision recommending the application of pigmented finish was reviewed. It was now recommended to the University Council and the Bank of New South Wales that the panelling be finished with a matt clear coating 'which would reveal the qualities of the timber and evidence of events, both during the period it was at 'Jarvisfield' and what had occurred to it since it was removed.' This recommendation was adopted in July, 1978, and the timbers were finished with beeswax.

The panelling consists predominantly of material erected in the 'Jarvisfield' parlour in 1824. Some elements, such as the doors and shutters, reveal the restoration work carried out in Edinburgh. The cornices, part of the skirtings, the architraves to the two doors, a number of minor mouldings and the soffit of the arched alcove were missing from the consignment and in the case of the mouldings were machine-run to original profiles using local pine stock.

The Room was officially opened by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Roden Cutler on Monday 24 September 1979.

Lib_LEMR_ParlourRoom Photo: Macquarie University Archives
(left to right)
Emeritus Professor Edwin C. Webb [Vice-Chancellor, Macquarie University]
Mr. Robert J. (Bob) White [Chief General Manager, Bank of NSW]
Emeritus Professor P.H. Partridge [Chancellor, Macquarie University]
Sir Roden Cutler [Governor of NSW]
Sir Vincent Fairfax, one of the directors of the Board of the Bank of NSW.

To see the floorplans of Gruline House [showing the Parlour Room]

The Lachlan Macquarie Room remained open to the public from 1979-2010; however in 2011 work commenced on dismantling the entire parlour room prior to its relocation to a prominent position inside the front entrance of the new University Library. This building, in a different location on campus adjoining Macquarie Drive, re-opened in late July 2011.

Detailed heritage assessment and preparation was undertaken as part of this relocation. When the room was dismantled features that had not been accessible for over 30 years became visible and these have offered new lines of interpretation regarding the historical legacy of Gruline House. The timbers were treated against any contaminants and resealed with a wax finish preservative paste before the installation was completed, and a new timber floor was laid to help highlight the features of the room. The parlour room is now fully encased in glass and visitors to the Library can view the parlour room from all four external sides, as well as having the opportunity to look inside the room through its original doors and windows.

An official re-dedication of the parlour room in its new location took place on 20 September 2011. At this time the room was officially renamed as The Lachlan & Elizabeth Macquarie Room in acknowledgement of the pivotal role that Elizabeth Macquarie played in the renovation and installation the oak panelling in the room in May-June 1824. Thereafter this dwelling also became her dower house, after the death of Lachlan in July 1824. She resided mainly in London and Aberdeen in the period 1825-1831, then returned permanently to Gruline House in 1832 and died in the house on 11 March 1835.

The naming and dedication ceremony was performed by the Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency Marie Bashir AC, CVO, the first woman to be appointed Governor of New South Wales (on 1 March 2001).

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