01 May 2019 / Story by Ian Bottcher, (additional words by Rod Nicholas). Photos by Rod Nicholas
Sunday 28 April saw 22 MX5s loaded up with 39 people leave Hall layby for Iandra Castle (aka Mt Oriel Homestead).
The road to Iandra Castle took us through some very, very small villages (including the thriving metropolis of Murringo and Bendick Murrell), and some lonely sealed back roads that had not been travelled before by many of the group.
Iandra Castle (a stunning old homestead of some 60 rooms plus stables) is located almost in the centre of a triangle formed by Grenfell, Cowra and Young in Central-West NSW. In 1880 George Henry Greene knocked up his single-story brick homestead on his 32,000 acre property, and after a rather successful few years in 1908 commenced the conversion (on the same foundations) of his house to the imposing two-storey reinforced concrete castle you now see. George named it Mr Oriel Homestead, in honour of his cousin Lord Oriel back in Ireland, but locals quickly christened it Iandra.
While he was at it, George built the reinforced concrete stables, a water tower with silo beneath, filtration plant, sheds, and 40 houses for the sharefarmers. Not content with that, he was instrumental in obtaining rail transport from the Koorawatha line to Grenfell (with the rail siding of Iandra taking Greenethorpe as its new name), arranged the layout of the village of Greenethorpe, and established a sharefarming system that seems to have been a world leader.
George Greene’s grand vision was not finished until 1911. It is a remarkable building now, clearly tired and in need of plenty of love and care, but it must have been an incredible sight in its heyday. Iandra had its own store, post office, public school, carpenter's and blacksmith's shops as well as a handling agent for much farm machinery. Some 350 men were employed on the property not including the 61 sharefarmers, the contractors or carriers. The house provided accommodation for visitors from various parts of the world who were interested in the sharefarming methods introduced in 1893 which were of benefit to all concerned, eventually allowing the share farmers to purchase their particular piece of land.
Our group had the honour of hearing the history of Iandra Castle and its surrounding land(s) from local Rod Sheather and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the castle’s many extremities, not to mention a picnic within the sprawling, beautifully maintained gardens.
On the way back to Canberra some happened to stumble upon the Wombat Pub (just by chance!) where some sought a caffeine fix and others just a plain old thirst fix.
Unfortunately, James and Joyce sustained a damaged tyre and had to stay overnight in Young; the only downer in an otherwise most enjoyable day.
Read more about Iandra at https://www.iandracastle.com.au
Rod's photos can be accessed at https://photos.app.goo.gl/P8J9RYCuoG5Es5Bp6