Timeless classic

After a respectful rejuvenation, Minimbah House, one of the Upper Hunter’s most magnificent estates, has once again become a much-loved family home.

Legend has it that Duncan Forbes Mackay commissioned the build of Dulcalmah Homestead in 1874 when his neighbours, the Dangars, failed to invite him to a party at nearby Baroona.

It would have to have been a snub of epic proportions as Mackay’s response was a repartee for the ages. Dulcalmah, today known as Minimbah House, is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of High Victorian architecture in Australia and one of the Hunter’s grandest estates. Sitting on a ridge, it offers commanding views towards Barrington Tops, the Brokenback Ranges and the Broke and Pokolbin Valleys.
Over its almost 150-year history the stunning 45-room, U-shaped property with its wide verandahs, graceful wrought-iron columns and soaring watchtower has been the glamorous stage for lavish entertaining.

It served as a training ground for the Australian Army during the second World War, was acquired by the Australian Inland Mission Bible Society at a give-away price and later became the home of a former Miss Australia, Bliss Ryan, and her late husband, hotelier and vigneron Bill Ryan. In the early 2000s Minimbah was to be transformed into a retirement home for wealthy women.

Thankfully, that project fell through, and this grand old dame of the Upper Hunter has entered a new chapter as a much loved, multigenerational family home after a respectful rejuvenation by Prue and Hamish who bought Minimbah House in 2013 after it had been passed in at auction. “We had been driving past this house for years as we have family in the Hunter Valley and had always admired it,” Prue says.

Let’s do this!

“When the opportunity came up, we were up for the challenge. Hamish has a building background, and this wasn’t our first renovation project. The building’s bones were solid, with the original features intact, and we knew that we could do this.”

The couple embarked on the renovation, fully aware that this would be an open-ended project, one they would never truly finish. “We triple checked that there were no termites because that would have certainly been a deal breaker,” Hamish explains.

“The roof was the biggest problem. There’s one acre of roof space which had to be completely redone and the watch tower needed a lot of work too.

“We brought in specialists who had worked on churches and other heritage buildings to make sure we would get this right. We have had some amazing industry professionals help create what our home is today.

A team of experts

“Benton Kitchens & Joinery have custom designed and made the kitchens, laundries, wardrobes and all other joinery on the property.

Read more about Minimbah House in the Summer edition of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story by Cornelia Schulze, photography by Jacob Riordan, Open Angles