When Thomas arrived in Sydney, he applied unsuccessfully for a grant of land, so he crossed the Blue Mountains and rented Andrew Brown's property "Cooerwull" at Bowenfels for 2 years in 1839. Lithgow sold its first block of land in 1840. Thomas Brown bought, and continued buying, land, knowing about the discovery of coal during his time at Cooerwull.
Eskbank House courtesy of facilities.arts.nsw.gov.au/facilities/eskbank-house-museum
Thomas Brown built a permanent home in Lithgow, which he named 'Eskbank", after Esk River in Scotland. He actually tried to rename the entire Lithgow Valley, Eskbank, but was 20 years too late, with Lithgow already being named after William Lithgow, the Auditor General of the Colony.
Eskbank House, built on rich soils and iron ore, is a historical sandstone home and museum with early Victorian furniture, imitating Thomas Brown's lifestyle. Thomas Brown certainly prospered from his purchase.
Thomas Brown and his wife, Mary, lived at Eskbank House, which comprises 4 front rooms displaying early style, Victorian furniture from the local area. These are period pieces of pure craftmanship. Time appears to have stood still here.
It can be argued that Lithgow's history really starts here at Eskbank House, with Thomas Brown and his beautiful sandstone Georgian style home.
My favourite part inside Eskbank House, would have to be the heavy wooden framed windows and walls, one of the reminders from the 1880s, a true step back in time. The constantly polished wooden furniture and arrangement is like Thomas Brown and his wife had just walked out 5 minutes ago. A magnificent, hand-carved, scrolled, grained wooden desk and so many more pieces are exhibited, just as they would have been in the 1880s.
Eskbank House and Museum is home to possibly the largest collection (with up to 5000 items) of Lithgow Pottery in Australia. Lithgow's history, artefacts from the pottery works, photos of the mining era of Lithgow, and memorabilia all create a fascinating story.
Lithgow pottery symbol courtesy of www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=346704492095567&set=pb.230262727073078.-2207520000.1381157663.&type=3&theater
The rear of Eskbank House is the museum, including a hansom cab, pennyfarthing bicycle and a locomotive called "Possum", one of the engines used to transport all scrap iron and reusable, valuable equipment down to Port Kembla, after the closure of Lithgow Blast Furnace. Kids will love being on board "Possum", reliving the days of Lithgow's green grass to black hills, days of the industrial boom.
Possum Engine courtesy of mgnsw.org.au/organisations/eskbank-house-museum
The cottage gardens at Eskbank House feature a stunning array of roses, daffodils, irises and a hexagon shaped garden shed, stable and coach house, surrounding relics of yesterday with superb craftmanship that still stands today. Meander through the gardens while the children will be occupied with the hidden wonders of Eskbank. It's an extremely historic and eye catching estate, from the glorious gardens to the impressive elegant rooms and the pottery and brickworks. Thomas Brown, I believe, was a man on a mission and I believe he succeeded in his quest for a better life.
The stables and coach house, minus the hall stalls, workers living quarters, and hay loft above the stables, were accessed by the outside stairs. Unfortunately the workers quarters and hay loft are not open to the public, but you can view these superb buildings on the grounds. The blacksmith's courtyard has a forge with bellows and tools demonstrating the importance and essential services of a blacksmith during the 1880s.
Rustic Relics courtesy of www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=455445107886247&set=a.332813700149389.74197.309481259149300&type=1&theater
Around the grounds of Eskbank House you may find wooden patterns that were essential to the wheelwright and sulky building trade, as well as all sorts of carts used during the Industrial boom of Lithgow. Railway line samples branded from Lithgow can also be found around the grounds.
Water trough and stables at Esk bank courtesy of facebook
There is an incredible amount of history. It's hard to imagine that such a quaint place as Eskbank house was once the central hub of the blast furnace and mining era. The green grass of the estate must have contrasted with the large black hillside landscape, just over the road, emerging from the industrial, steel and coal boom in Lithgow.
Thomas Brown, forever an opportunist, opened a mine at Eskbank on one of his many properties. Esbank Mine opened in 1868, and was situated close to the Sandford Avenue Bridge. After the closure of the mine, Eskbank Colliery was the new adventure in 1869, and that too was closed in 1903, the colliery is situated near the Lithgow Regional Library and the Lithgow City Council works depot.
Thomas had interests north and south of the line. Part of the north line was sold to James Rutherford and partners and Eskbank Ironworks went into production in 1874. Thomas Brown supplied the Eskbank Smelter, Copper and Ironworks and with coal from Eskbank mine, carted the coal over a rail bridge at Bridge and Tank Streets
Eskbank Ironworks courtesy of www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=334186600012099&set=a.332813700149389.74197.309481259149300&type=1&theater
Thomas Brown sold in 1881 after his wife had died and and his embarrassing departure from parlaiment. Eskbank House, reminds us of our historical relics and their place in Lithgow's history. Its last historical use was as a manger's residence and works office for the steelworks, used by various owners and companies such as James Rutherford (of the Eskbank Ironworks Company) and William Sandford from Lithgow's Iron and Steel Industry from 1892 till 1907, when he sold to the Hoskin Family Company, which became the Australian Iron and Steel Company.
Eskbank House became "The Grange" for a while and was also a school for a short period of time. Eric Bracey, a local well established businessman, purchased Eskbank House and handed this timeless piece of Lithgow's history back to the community.
Lithgow Historical Society managed Eskbank as a historic home and museum from 1966, and it was then handed to Lithgow Council in 2003. Today we may step back to the 1880s, thanks to Eskbank House. Considering all that has transpired in this sandstone home, it is in almost original condition. The diversity of Lithgow's 1880s history, is still evident today. Eskbank estate includes, Eskbank Ironworks and the first iron ore blast furnace, copper smelting and an abattoir.
Next time you are in Lithgow, make sure you come and visit Eskbank House and Museum. Where else do children get to play with a 'Possum'?
Special thanks to Lithgow Heritage Trail and State Mine for their assistance.