Harper's Original Kitchen Site - Excavation

After an amazing and very satisfying week in early August 2014 the remnants of the kitchen at Harper’s Mansion were revealed.

The kitchen was built at the same time as the house, sometime in 1835/6, but it collapsed in the 1930s and had since become a dump pile, which the garden volunteers occasionally disguised with pumpkins and the like.

A team of twelve volunteers drawn from as far afield as Adelaide and Newcastle  worked under the direction of field archaeologist Ted Higginbotham and John van Tilberg over five days to reveal what lay below the pile.

And it proved much more than was expected. Part of the back wall has always been visible but more courses and a longer length were revealed. Also a good section of brick floor plus the hearth area and a brick partition wall between what was the main room and possibly a cool room at the southern end. The front (eastern) and southern walls are missing but there are traces of a footpath that may have gone along the front wall and linked with the house. The floor is well above present ground level accounting for the apparent height of the building in the one old photo we have.

There were some delightful details remaining. An iron ring that would have held a vertical support for pots and pans is still set into the side of the hearth as is a hole into which a bolt would have gone to hold the main door open.

The dig also turned up lots of what some might call ‘rubbish’ but which are professionally called ‘artefacts’. Among the most interesting was a small (child’s) crucifix which links beautifully to the 120 or so years the house was owned by the Catholic Church and a brick whose markings show it has come all the way from Scotland. More mundane were several rabbit traps which had to be carefully trowelled in case they were still set!

The site has been prepared for display but is temporarily protected beneath straw bales and tarpaulins and will need to stay this way until the frosts are over as the brickwork is fragile. Though it can be uncovered occasionally for visitors, the Harper’s committee is now considering how best to provide permanent protection so that it can be viewed all the time.

The archaeological dig was funded by proceeds from Ann Beaumont’s book, A Light in the Window, a grant from Wingecarribee Shire Council and generous donations from several local National Trust members.   


Day 1 - Carefully removing the top soilDay 3 - The partition wall appearsDay 4 - Cleaning and sorting the artefacts
Day 5 - Ready to beautify the site: Ted Higginbotham at far right






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