One of the pioneers living at Goulburn Plains, where Riversdale is now situated, was Matthew Healey.
He was an early pound keeper and innkeeper who also became a landowner and built the stone barn at Riversdale. What is not so well known was that Matthew Healey's family lived with him at Goulburn Plains.
In the 1830s, Healey's wife Catherine Dillon, along with his daughter from a previous relationship, lived with him at Goulburn Plains.
During this period two more daughters were born to the Healeys at Goulburn Plains.
The eldest, Eleanor, was baptised by Father John Therry, the pioneer Roman Catholic priest in Australia, during his visit to Goulburn Plains in August, 1833.
It was during this visit on August 3 (while staying at Matthew's inn) that Fr Therry celebrated the first Mass in Goulburn. In August of the following year, he was back at Goulburn Plains.
On August 23, 1834, Mary Julia Healey - Matthew and Catherine's second daughter - was baptised. Ann Healey, Matthew Healey's other daughter, married John Byrne. The witnesses were Matthew Healey and John's half-brother Thomas Sykes.
On the next day John Byrne's step father, William Sykes, was received into the Catholic Church. His sponsors were John and his eldest son George Sykes.
Matthew Healey, his wife Catherine and John Byrne all came from Appin and it appears that some of John's family had made the difficult journey from Appin to be with John and Ann on their wedding day.
The Byrnes lived at Goulburn Plains for the first years of their marriage. John took over as licensee of Matthew's inn - the Goulburn Inn - but the licence was not renewed at the end of June in 1836.
By this time, John and Ann Byrne had two small children and soon after, they moved to Spring Valley to farm John's land where they reared a large family.
They were joined at Spring Valley by John's step father and half-brothers.
'A never failing well'
Many Colonial houses had a well to supply the household with water.
Riversdale's well is near the stone barn and must have been quite a luxury for Catherine Healey and Ann Byrne. Even at a time before the need for hygiene and cleanliness was understood, it would have made their housework and child rearing much easier.
The well is the only other trace of Matthew Healey's occupancy of the Riversdale site. Built in the 1830s, the well is 10.4 metres (30 feet) deep and brick lined. Bricked over when modern plumbing reached Riversdale, it recently became necessary to replace the old brick cover and the well now has a brand new concrete cover and has been fitted with an electric pump.
This will give the well a new lease of life as it's hoped water from the well can now be used on the garden. Described as a 'never failing well' when the property was offered for rent in the 1840s and "excellent" when offered for sale in 1856, we hope the well can live up to its reputation.
Riversdale has now reopened after our winter break and the team look forward to welcoming visitors to the property.
The next Devonshire teas will be held on Sunday, August 18, so we look forward to visitors coming to join us for a leisurely tea or coffee and a jam and cream scone.
Take a tour of the house with its colonial furnishings and 19th century bric-a-brac. Come and browse our gift shop, located within the house and stocked with a unique range of books, cards, candles, Miss Mollie's lollies, luxury and home products plus our homemade jams, chutney and pickles.
National Trust (NSW)'s Riversdale house and garden is open Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays 10am to 2pm at 2 Twynam Drive, Goulburn. Ph. 4821 7441.
- For more information on Riversdale, visit our website at nationaltrust.org.au/nsw/Riversdale or follow us on Facebook @RiversdaleHomesteadNSW
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