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June 21, 2024 2:32 AM

Skellatar history inspires the Taylors

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BY ALEX TIGANI

In just over 50 days, Granville and Yvonne Taylor will be celebrating 50 years of marriage.

More than 17 of those years have taken place at Muswellbrook’s Skellatar House, one of our region’s most iconic structures with panoramic views of Scone, Muscle Creek and surrounding valleys.

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Yvonne and Granville Taylor pictured before Skellatar House which they have called home since 2004.

“We had a very long time in the same house in Sydney,” Yvonne reflected when walking past her olive tree.

“In my heart that was the house our children grew up in and this is the house we’ve seen our grandchildren grow up in, so they have both had a family connection.”

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Here they are pictured on their wedding day in England on September 23, 1972. They will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this September.

Races up and down the two sets of staircases in the homestead have transitioned into scavenger hunts and hide and seek games for their grandchildren over time.

Now Granville and Yvonne are waiting until their grandchildren are old enough to learn about the history behind the home which has had a watchful eye over Muswellbrook for 130 years.

Once the focal point of a 3000-acre land grant for Chief Justice of NSW Sir Francis Forbes, the structure now sits in the centre of a two-acre space and features seven marble fireplaces and 14ft ceilings.

Skellatar was named after the Forbes family’s ancestral estate in Aberdeen, Scotland.

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The Taylors’ pictured in front of the portrait of Sir Francis Forbes, former landholder and Chief Justice of NSW.

After his Sir Francis’ passing in 1841, it was purchased by the wealthy Bowman family, of which George Bowman of Richmond was the patriarch, and in 1848 the property was divided between William Bowman and his twin brothers Andrew and Edward, the eighth and ninth sons of George Bowman born in 1840.

In 1881 Andrew and Edward Bowman, commissioned Edmund and Cyril Blacket, to work on the plans to build a grand manor home on their portion of the estate for 2800 pounds (this excluded the cost of the materials supplied by the Bowmans).

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One of the many bedrooms.

Edward was an alderman at Muswellbrook for 22 years, and mayor for six terms from 1875-1901. He was also the first president of Wybong Shire Council, a magistrate, and First Lieutenant in the Muswellbrook Corps of NSW Volunteer Infantry. On his death in 1926 his only son Hunter Bowman inherited the estate and lived there until his passing in 1952 where it was purchased by the Catholic Church at an auction.

In 1953 St Mary’s High School for Girls was established in the homestead, with an enrolment of 18 pupils under the tuition of the Sisters of Mercy.

In the 1960s the demands of the school curriculum called for such additions as a science block (now a garage and workshop).

The house has now been privately owned since 1997 and the Taylors’ moved in around Christmas in 2004.

It was by this time that the Taylors’ commenced their long list of discoveries during their renovations including the original underground cellar with brick floor, accessed down well-trodden timber stairs, now located between their kitchen and laundry room.

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The billiard room pictured outside the main building.

The upper level accommodates the master bedroom with en suite, four guest bedrooms and the small servants’ bedrooms are now used as a sewing room and a study near an internal back staircase leading downstairs to the kitchen area.

Now, the question remains.

If the walls of Skellatar House could speak what would they say?

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Granville discovered the wine cellar in the mid 2000s.

“I hope they would say that the house has found fitting custodians because with a house like this you must be dedicated to preserving the history and passing it on to the next generation,” Yvonne concluded.

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