|Historical notes: ||Riversdale is on an 1830s grant, on part of the site chosen by Governor Macquarie for the future town of 'Goulburn Plains' (Read, 2001, 23). In 1828/29 allotments were surveyed for a town and a design was prepared by R. Dixon, Associate Surveyor. In 1832 Governor Bourke visited the area and selected another site (the present Goulburn town) to the south-east.
From 1833 to 1837 grants and purchases to Matthew Healy were made on condition of erecting a building within 2 years.
Said to be the oldest stone structure built in the township of Goulburn, the stables at Riversdale were built by Matthew Healy in 1832 (Bligh, 2011). In the 1830s Riversdale's garden included hops for the ale brewed on site (Read, 2001, 23).
In 1837 Healy sold 3 parcels of land to John Richards, who then left it to his wife, Ann Richards. In 1840 Ann Richards appointed trustees and shortly after married Benjamin Gould. In 1848 there was an advertisement placed by Gould in the Goulburn Herald on 5 August 1848 for a verandah dwelling of 14 rooms and stabling for 13 horses. Richards ran the building as a coaching inn (Bligh, 2011).
In 1853 Riversdale became a boarding school under David Patterson of Sydney College but soon closed because of an unfortunate riding accident.
Fruit trees surviving may date back to in the mid-1800s. One black locust/false acacia tree (a specie used for fast-growing shelter belts) remains from that period and the other of Riversdale's oldest trees date from the 1850s schoolhouse period - a line of English elms at the rear (north), a mixture of pine species, including an Aleppo and a Monterey pine and a long-needled pine, likely to be a Himalayan or chir pine (Pinus roxburghii)(Read, 2001,23).
In 1856 the property was sold to Thomas Bowen, occupation grazier, who sold it the following year to Henry Wilson. Wilson sold it to John Fulljames, a stock and station agent in 1860 and Fulljames added to the property, purchasing eight allotments in addition to the original three.
During the 1850s Riversdale changed hands several times. It appears during the 1860s and 70s the house and its site were leased. R. H. Blomfield's family were there during 1870 - 72. During this time John Fulljames, a stock and station agent consolidated the property by adding the surrounding allotments. Fulljames leased the property in 1870s to, and finally sold it to, Edward Twynam in 1875.
Reviewing the occupation of the site up to 1875 and Twynam's purchase opens the possibility of the Mounted Police during the 1830s and 1840s. It is possible the establishment of a Wayside Inn on the site during the 1840s on Wayo St, closest to the ford across the Wollondilly River. A ford continues to be used, but appears to have changed its location to a point further west by 1845.
During the Twynam era which lasted 92 years, from 1875 to 1967, Riversdale achieved its essential character and its garden was expanded, reaching its peak of development. The garden was created by two generations of gardeners, it was once a haven for a family of eight where lavish garden parties were held. The Twynams with their six children created a substantial garden of trees, shrubs and perennials, some of which were sourced from other Southern Tablelands gardens such as Lanyon and Tuggeranong (ACT). An important part of the garden were raised vegetable plots with trellises of beans and asparagus as well as an orchard of stone fruit.
When Edward Twynam died in 1923, his daughter Alice 'Joan' Twynam (1882-1967) took over the house and garden, using it as a genteel boarding house until shortly before her death, when the family sold it to the National Trust of Australia (NSW). During her time at Riversdale, Joan continued to develop the garden, including planting a medlar (Mespilus germanica) and an espaliered apple (Malus domestica cv.) planted by her brother Ned, which, although fragile, survives today (Bligh, 2011).
In 1967 the National Trustof Australia (NSW) reconstituted the Lindesay Garden Group as the National Trust Garden Committee, with Diana Pockley as chair. This Committee's work was broader, including work on replanting the grounds of Experiment Farm cottage, Parramatta, Old Government House, Parramatta and Riversdale, Goulburn (Simpson, C., 2003).
In 1967 the garden was redesigned by Jean Friend in the style of Gertrude Jeckyll (English Arts & Crafts garden designer, artist, and author) popular after the second world war. The formation of a talented committee ensured the property went from strength to strength. A Victorian cottage garden was established full of greys and greens, lavender and silver, with highlights of pink, yellow, white and red, and heritage roses. Fruit trees were added to the surviving orchard. In the early 2000s the property was leased for a short while as the Trust attempted to resolve the perennial problem of attracting ongoing funding for maintenance of the highly significant heritage in its care. This proved unsuccessful and the experiment was terminated, but not before the committee had resigned. And then one of the worst droughts in living memory struck. Goulburn's water table dropped below the level of the Riversdale bore and the town was on level 5 water restrictions (Loftus, 2013, 22).
Since the Trust took over the property, local members and others have tried to maintain the integrity of its garden, but ten years of drought took a toll. Large trees and special plants died and its beauty faded. The toughest plants struggled on. The Trust employed Debbie Sibbick as new Property Manager and provided support and encouragement. The Friends of Riversdale group was formed as a committee of local volunteers who look after the house and garden. Working with other committee members, 'work for the dole' crews, The Mens' Shed, the 'We Love Goulburn' group and the Southern Tablelands Vintage Farm Machinery club who manage the paddock area. An autumn 2011 appeal raised $25,000 which provided resources to protect the garden by installing an irrigation system. One hundred olive trees (Olea europaea var. europaea cv.) were planted to screen unsightly neighbouring buildings and a pergola was constructed. Soon the reestablishment of the important historic feature of heritage fruit trees and a substantial raised vegetable garden will take place. So in 2011 after years of drought and neglect, Riversdale's garden has been restored (Bligh, 2011).
In 2009 a new committee was formed and volunteers swung into action in 2010. Gravel paths were unearthed and new planting began, transplanting all and sundry from other parts of the garden. The garden now abounds with lamb's ear, catmint, larkspurs, peonies, delphiniums, poppies, sweet peas, lavenders, melianthus (honey flower), salvias, roses and flag iris, alliums and perfumed Lilium candidum. Since winning the Goulburn district Lilac City Garden Competition Judges' Special Award and Best Overall Garden in October 2012, it has attracted more attention.
At the beginning of 2013 over 500 people gathered to hear a special Mass in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Catholic Diocese of Goulburn. The gardens were the site of Goulburn's first Catholic Mass, held there in 1833 (Loftus, 2013, 22).
Volunteers Ray Shiel has made Riversdale's vegetable garden his responsibility and has transformed it, along with the viability and appeal of the properyt. It provides the kitchen and catering team with produce for soups, pie and sandwich fillings, chutneys and pickles that are bringing funds to the property, and re-establishing the property's long tradition of sustainable self-sufficiency. Ray has set up links with groups including the local TAFE School of Horticulture and Primary Production and Goulburn's Permaculture Group, giving demonstrations and workships and supplying the Homestead Markets (on the third sunday of each month (Loftus & Giles, 2014).