Standing in a garden at the University of NSW are several sandstone columns known as the Subiaco Columns, precious fragments of our colonial past holding up the sky. They have no signage and no obvious purpose.
The Doric columns once decorated the impressive verandah of Hannibal Macarthur’s early 19th century mansion known then as The Vineyard and later known as Subiaco. Built in 1835, possibly by John Verge and John Houison, the classical Greek revival styled building is historically significant to the Australian story, similar to any grand home in Europe although more humble and it was one of a handful of mansions built during the early colonial period.
The loss of this building shocked all those who knew about it and understood its importance. It was the community’s lack of focus, resulting in a lack of funding that caused it.
The columns were rescued from the demolisher’s wrecking ball in 1961 by a group of people, dedicated to saving our colonial heritage. Their purpose was to save The Vineyard from destruction, they didn’t succeed, however they didn’t give up, they saved parts of it, precious fragments. Now the columns stand, in a garden, waiting once again to be rescued. The mantle has been handed on, its now time for our generation to take up the challenge.
When they were first placed in the garden they were handled with tender loving care and a walled terrace garden was created especially for them. The terrace, over time rotted and was eventually dismantled. Now they, sadly, through lack of funding once again, stand alone, disconnected from the walled garden, their significance forgotten by all except the historically aware. For those passing it everyday, some may wonder what these elegant columns represent and why are they in the garden.
I believe they represent two things. Firstly, something historic we can see and touch. Secondly, a memorial honouring the people who fought, with all their energy, to save our heritage.
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