Main photo: Iandra Castle
Second photo: Entry foyer
Third photo: Dining hall
Fourth photo: Upstairs sitting room
Fifth photo: Looking toward the stables
Most tourists enjoy castles, but they’re significantly lacking in Australia. Which is why Iandra Castle, the destination of one of our car club runs, absolutely knocked me over. Out in the middle of rolling wheat fields, this 57 room mansion is almost infinitely improbable! Equally improbable is that it remains unknown to most Australians.
The official description is that Iandra is an ”idiosyncratic example of Federation Romanesque architectural style with Tudor influences”. I reckon I also could see Art Nouveau in the interior leadlighting and Mediaeval in the turrets – have a look at the photos and see how many styles you can identify in this Edwardian building.
So to the story. Back in the 1870s, this (then) 32,000 acre property was acquired by George Henry Greene, a significantly wealthy gentleman who established the nearest thing to a feudal land operation in Australia, by introducing share farming to the property. In the early 1900s, over 600 men were employed growing and harvesting the record wheat harvests.
GHG was what we would today call an “early adopter”. His huge wheat crops were assisted by volumes of the new fertiliser, superphosphate; his baronial castle was Australia’s first building made of reinforced concrete; he was among the first to use that new-fangled electric lighting; and, to enable the family to communicate within the vast building, he introduced the first telephones and switchboard (but, beyond the house, telephones were not introduced until years later). Even with somewhat stripped down furnishings, the building is impressive – as are the extensive stables nearby.
After Greene, the house changed hands several times before becoming a church-owned home for wayward boys. It fell into disrepair until being retrieved by an enthusiastic new owner in the 1970s. It now is listed in the NSW State Heritage Register. If you are heading to this area I would recommend a visit, but you will need to check the timing as open days are infrequent, typically every few months: the website below gives details. You also will need to be either in an organised tour or a group, though I fail to comprehend why!
Directions: About 30 km to the north of Young, toward Cowra.
You can see it on GoogleEarth at 148deg 21’ 51”E 340deg 04’ 50”S. I also have added more photos in a travelogue below.
If, like us, you take the drive from Young to Temora, about half way through the one hour trip you will pass through Milvale. It’s a sad little place, typical of many you will find as you travel around Australia, essentially a victim of the population shift to the larger towns and cities. With sealed roads and modern motor vehicles making the larger towns accessible in under an hour instead of a day away by horse, farms becoming larger, more intensive and more mechanised, there just was no population to support places like this. By the look of it, the building in the main photo was a shop many years ago.
Just behind the former shop, the wheat silos in photo 2 are still very much in use. After leaving Young on the road westward, wheat becomes the main crop. This place would buzz with semi trailers hauling grain during the wheat season.
Across the road from the former store and the wheat silos of the previous tip, you will find another former store. The paint, though peeling, suggests that this may still be in use as a residence, as do the bricks holding down tin on the roof.
Most of all, in the second photo you will see a public phone box which looks to still be in service! If you don’t live in Australia, you may well smile in wonder that I should consider something so seemingly trivial worthy of mention – but the significance is that it is highly improbable that your mobile phone would be working this far from major towns. If you really need to make contact with the rest of the world, this is just about the only way.
And that, gentle reader, is pretty much the sum total of Milvale!
Main photo: Greenethorpe wheat silos
Second photo: The Shamrock Hotel
Third photo: Not quite an Irish Pub – the main bar
Fourth photo: Our lunch
Not content to build what is probably as close as Australia has to a genuine castle, George Henry Greene built a village for his hundreds of workers. Greenethorpe is the result. Yes, it is included in the VT places listings, but our short visit hardly warranted a full page, so I’ve included it here as OTBP for Young: it would equally well fit as OTBP for Cowra, as it is between both towns.
Greenethorpe isn’t large, but it has a school, a police station and, maybe most importantly, a pub. Created for the needs of wheat workers, wheat remains the main business of the town, with large grain silos at the railway station.
We visited as part of our car club run, mainly to lunch in the hotel. Built in the early 1900s from mud brick, it’s a classic bit of Australiana. While we were there on an Easter Saturday things were fairly quiet, apart from the race broadcasts on the TV, but you’d fully expect to see the bar full of shearers or wheat harvester drivers. If you go to visit Iandra Castle, don’t miss a visit as it’s nearby. Our lunch was inexpensive and consisted of plates of ‘finger food’. It wasn’t fancy, but it was tasty and met our needs.