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Vaucluse House is a beautiful and slightly odd historic house in Sydney, that was built by William Charles Wentworth, an Australian born colonist who fought to be rid of the social conventions that put free settlers above those descended from convicts. The house is odd because, as the Sydney Living Museums' website notes, there are too few bedrooms for the number of children his family had (three bedrooms for ten children), and there are some key omissions that one would expect to find in a great house - or indeed any house - like a front door, for example. James Broadbent, an architectural historian and the former curator, referred to the house as "a fragmentary, muddled house with a character particularly evocative of its mercurial owner".
Talented, extremely wealthy, and a politician, explorer and barrister, despite his wealth, his living in one of the most beautifully situated estates in Sydney and having a successful career, his family were never accepted as part of respectable society in Sydney, because of their convict origins and the fact that he and his wife had their first two children out of wedlock. Perhaps because of this, he was an ardent civil rights activist, strongly advocating for among other things, representative government and the right for the accused to have a trial by jury.
While this is no Pemberley, this (or one of Sydney's other historic houses) is the closest thing you're likely to find in Sydney to it. And it is definitely worth a visit. If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, but can't quite make it over to the UK for the Downton Abbey tour, this may satisfy those cravings for an upstairs/downstairs historic great house encounter.
The story of William Wentworth and his family is both interesting and sad. William Wentworth is famous for many reasons. Among his accomplishments were chairing the committee to draft a new constitution for New South Wales and leading the expedition along with Gregory Blaxland and William Lawson to found a route across the Blue Mountains. The town of Wentworth Falls is named after him as a result of this expedition.
Since the family struggled to be accepted into the highest social circles in Sydney due to their convict heritage, they lived an existence of social exclusion. To escape this, they travelled extensively and lived abroad in Europe for several years.
Vaucluse House is surrounded by ten hectares of beautifully landscaped gardens, which is free to walk around and explore. You can find heirloom vegetables there, as well as friendly ducks, goats and chickens, and a waterfall in the Southern paddock. There is plenty to see and do at Vaucluse House, so plan to make a day of it if you are visiting. Don't forget to visit the Vaucluse House tea rooms, where you can have a delightful high tea, or breakfast or lunch, if you prefer.
There is free parking on site, but it is just as easy to catch the 324 or 325 bus from the City and do a 10 minute walk to get to Vaucluse House.