All Roads Lead to Murrurundi
the Murrurundi Gallery story, by Gallery Chairman Michael Reid OAM
Living a densely populated existence in Redfern, Sydney, at the turn of the new millennia, my wife Nellie and I were on the lookout for a house in the country. The need was real, we even flew down to scope out Hobart. Nellie’s family had for generations come from the NSW Liverpool Plains, and I had grown up in the Riverina, at Narrandera. As much as we were intensely urban beings, we ever increasingly felt the call of the mild.
Then Nellie’s great, great, great grandfather’s house at Murrurundi, in the Upper Hunter of New South Wales, came into play – owing to a distant relative. Bobadil House, built in 1842, had been uninhabited since the early 1990’s and left in a Dickensian-Miss Havisham-state by skinflint cousins. The House in all its crumbling, was purchased in 2003. The evening we took possession of the jailers-like keys, the rooms were completely barren but for the truck-sized wall cracks within the stone.
If the house was critically dishevelled, by comparison the former convict sandstone cell block on the property was wantonly neglected to the ground. Converted into a buggy stable by Nellie’s ancestor, it had since gone to ruin. A Mayan-like jungle of vines and dense privet trees ensured the structure’s existence was completely hidden from view.
What had we done? We had, in fact, found the other love of my life.
Love often comes with hard decisions. We could either renovate the house or the stables, but not both. It was decided to tax-effectively first renovate the stables, then obviously move on to the house renovation. Bucolic downtime, is not me. I am work. So, a country gallery it was. Enlivening the stables before the house gave me something to do. Showcasing talent away from the conventional urban scenes, and breathing life back into the long-neglected property.
The Murrurundi gallery, after attention fits and starts from me, achieved my undivided attention about four years ago. At the time we were still based largely in Sydney and so, Nellie & I made the decision to base ourselves from the house we loved and spend more of our time in Murrurundi as its various facets came into existence. Majestic in sandstone, the scale revealed by exposed wooden beams, the stables-cum-gallery opened to the public in 2007 and marked the beginning of our Murrurundi venture. Nearly two decades since it came into our lives, our plans for Bobadil House are with the architect, at long last.
In late 2018, Michael Reid Murrurundi expanded into a new exhibition space constructed adjacent to the original stables-cum-gallery. Drawing on the history of Bobadil House as a working Colonial Inn, the Sydney-based Dods and Zuccon Architects conceived the new gallery as a large agricultural ‘outbuilding’ designed to complement the existing late-Georgian sandstone structures.
With the addition of the new gallery, the old gallery, housed in the former convict cellblock & then stables, was turned over to our Concept Store and Kiosk. Over the last four years, with inland travel booming, Michael Reid Murrurundi has grown into a significant regional destination for art, food, retail and a most beautiful garden, supported by a wonderful team of local staff. Michael Reid Murrurundi is now the leading commercial art gallery in regional Australia. We grow.
Michael Reid OAM