Duntroon Dairy may be the oldest building in Canberra. It was constructed about 1832 at the same time as Duntroon House. It served both the Duntroon tenants and other local settlers. It is cut into the lower southwest slopes of Mount Pleasant and is protected from the western sun. The stone removed from the cutting was used to build the walls, which are 60cm thick and 1.8m high. The building is 5x15m, with shingled roof and dirt floor.
Inside the eastern end of the building is a seepage well 3.4m deep and 2.8m in diameter. It was dug into the rock and lined with unmortared bricks. Groundwater seeped into the well and kept the dairy cool and humid. Perfect for storing butter and cheese.
In 1864 the Dairy briefly housed St John’s school when the schoolhouse was damaged by fire. In 1865 Ambrose Austin, a brickmaker and tenant farmer on Duntroon, raised the walls by adding several courses of bricks, and made other structural changes including a wall to separate the well area.
He also built a cottage nearby. Another cottage was built in the 1930s and was occupied by the Edlingtons until the 1960s. From 1942 to 1945 the Army used the Dairy for storage. The Dairy was abandoned after the Edlingtons left and was occupied by itinerants until the roof collapsed.
In 1972 the Canberra and District Historical Society proposed it's restoration which was conducted in the late 1970s, The surrounding ruins of cottages and outbuildings were demolished. Vandals and fire damaged the building during the period 1990–2000. The Dairy was resumed by the ACT Government in 2003 and conserved.
The Duntroon Dairy is, on the available evidence, the oldest standing structure in the ACT. It is demonstrative of the way of life on a then remote pastoral property where self sufficiency was a requirement. The place provided the facility for the production of dairy products for the Duntroon Estate in ways, which are no longer, practiced, and evidence of which is rare.
ACT Heritage Register click here (pdf)
ACT Museums & Galleries (Duntroon Dairy Collection) website here
Tams.act.gov.au (pdf) here
Great timeline here
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