11 April 2023

WATCH: Inside the oldest building in the ACT – it even has a 'fridge'

| James Coleman
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Duntroon Dairy

Inside Duntroon Dairy. Photo: James Coleman.

It’s perched into the hillside of Mount Pleasant, overlooking Morshead Drive and the Molonglo River, on a slice of what could be England.

Duntroon Dairy is the oldest building in Canberra, constructed about 1832 by one of the earliest European settlers in the region.

Soon after James Ainslie introduced sheep to ‘Pialligo’, Scottish trader-turned-member of the first NSW Legislative Council Robert Campbell took over the estate and renamed it Duntroon, in honour of his ancestral Duntrune Castle in Scotland. While others made do with convict labour, Campbell brought in tenant farmers from his homeland to run the farm’s day-to-day operations in exchange for two acres of land.

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The dairy, together with two homesteads, an orchard and a tennis court, were built above the fertile floodplain to provide milk and butter for these tenant farmers, as well as settlers living nearby.

While all that remains of the homesteads are the outline of their walls in the grass, the dairy building – constructed from local stone and brick with a restored wooden shingle roof – measures five metres wide by 15 metres long.

And ACT Heritage is cracking open the front door – and inviting an array of classic cars, colonial military demonstrations, and more – for the 2023 Heritage Festival.

We took an early look inside with festival coordinator Linda Roberts:

The Duntroon Dairy Open Day on Saturday, 15 April, runs from 10 am to 3 pm. Ample parking is available off Kelliher Drive, Russell. Entry is by gold-coin donation.

See the Heritage Festival website for more information.

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