Henry Kendall Cottage
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The Central Coast sits amidst beaches and bushland, bookended by Newcastle to the north, and Sydney and it surrounds to the south. Whilst the beaches and bushwalks of the Central Coast are idyllic and charming, there are many other areas and hidden gems around the area that are worth exploring.
The history of the Central Coast is woven within its suburbs, and hidden away in West Gosford, behind the shopping centre just as you come down Kariong Hill from the freeway, is Henry Kendall Cottage. It was built in 1836 by Peter Fagan after receiving his ticket of leave, and it was originally named Cooranbean. It is now known as the Henry Kendall Cottage, after poet Henry Kendall spent some time there with the Fagan family, recovering from illness in 1873. The sandstone exterior sits just behind the sign that welcomes you to the site, and with various historical artefacts and farm equipment dotted around outside, you can explore the various colonial buildings, take a tour, and have a picnic lunch near the museum which was opened in 1983. Henry Kendall wrote some of his much-loved poetry amidst bushland and trilling bellbirds with the Fagan family as he recovered in what is now the museum. the friendly staff conduct tours of the site and the cottage where Kendall and the Fagans lived, with informative talks, and books available about local history. A booklet about the museum and cottage is also available for purchase.
This is one area of historic interest on the Central Coast and should be explored by more people - it shows a side to the area that perhaps, not much is known about unless you know it is there, making it a hidden gem in an area renowned for beaches and a laid-back lifestyle. It is one of those places that you can also stumble across, not knowing it is there and be pleasantly surprised to find it. Run wholly by volunteers who give up their time and weekends, it is a friendly, fun, and informative place that connects history, bush poetry and one of Australia's best-known bush poets for tourists, and seeing where Kendall lived, and how he lived is interesting and eye-opening. Of most interest, would be the original manuscripts and samples of his handwriting kept in the cottage - well worth viewing when you attend. When most people think of history, particularly in NSW and the areas near Sydney, they mostly think of places like The Rocks and Circular Quay, or the Blue Mountains – places that people associate exploration or significant historical events with. But I think that is the beauty of history – there will always be places to find out more about – whether off the beaten track, or an area that might not be as well-known for historical places or people as somewhere else that is featured heavily in history books. I haven't visited for a few years, so it would be interesting to see if anything has changed if there are any new additions to the collection, and how the books might have been added to or changed since I was last there as a volunteer.
The acquisition of the site in the 1980s by the local Brisbane Water Historical Society has ensured the continued maintenance and preservation of the site, and the continued education about local history that shows just how unique the Central Coast is. Whilst it might be most famous for its beaches, sometimes it is nice to explore more than just the rugged and beautiful coastline and engage with the Central Coast on a cultural and historic venture. Keep an eye on the website to find out about the seasonal exhibitions that often highlight various aspects of local and Australian history, or that are centred around a specific theme.
The museum is staffed by volunteers, who help around the museum and guide tours. They also sell a range of books and run tours for groups and schools – the money raised from the books and visits help run the museum. You can also follow the Facebook page to get more information and updates.
Open on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and public holidays from ten until two thirty.
Museum open: Wed/Sat/Sun/Public Holidays (not Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or Good Friday) 10am-2.30pm
Cottage grounds open 10am-4pm for the public to explore.
Fees: $5 for an adult, $4per child, $3 for concession card holders, $10 for a family (2 adults and 3 children), $4 per person for group tours, and $2 per student for school groups, with teachers and carers free as part of this group arrangement.
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