a rare gem

Bundanon Architecture

Bundanon's built environment begins in the 19th century. From a timber hut on the hillside to the 1860's sandstone homestead, Bundanon's history as a farm property is still evident in many of the buildings on site, re-purposed and restored to form the vibrant artistic hub of the Trust.

Homestead & Farm

19th Century

The two-storey stone homestead at Bundanon was completed in 1866, prompted by the need for increased room for the growing Mackenzie family. It was built of local sandstone and timber, with lime mortar made from shell deposits collected downstream. The homestead was sited on high ground above the flood level of the river, taking advantage of cooling breezes and providing views across the property. Doors, windows and all internal fine joinery were of locally cut red cedar with the exception of the floors which were hardwood. Ceilings were lined with wide planks of red cedar. The Mackenzie family lived in their new house at Bundanon from 1866.

The photograph of the new servants’ quarters taken before construction of the hipped roof kitchen and brick water cistern indicates that a number of women worked both as domestics and probably on the farm milking.

Early 20th Century

By the early 1900s the homestead was the focus of an estate which reflected the self-contained nature of the rural community at Bundanon. Service areas including a smithy, laundry and buggy shed were sited near the western gate to the homestead yard. To the north a range of service buildings, including a curing shed for hams and bacon, were located in treed areas which gave way in the east to large fenced vegetable and orchard plots above the dam. Post and rail and wire fences controlled stock movements and defined arable areas planted with maize and lucerne. Other buildings in the homestead yard included stables, stallion shed and maize store with below the homestead fence a 32 cow feed stall and 5 bails. Beyond the gate were stockyards, slab sheds, slab barn and pig pens. The need for quantities of clean water was evident in the number of galvanised iron rainwater tanks associated with the house and working buildings.

The onset of World War 1 saw a reduction in the numbers working on the property and afterwards there were a number of farm workers and servants families living on the site. The latter were accommodated in houses and huts on the property including the old homestead; three timber workers’ cottages, including the manager’s house, were located north of the main house with smaller ‘humpies’ or ‘huts’ in the vicinity of the slab barn near the western boundary of the property. A fourth timber worker’s cottage was erected around 1920 adjacent to the western-most slab barn.

The death of Kenneth Mackenzie and his daughter Helen, who were drowned on 29 January 1922, resulted in a decline in family involvement with farming at Bundanon. The Mackenzie family left Bundanon in 1926.

Tenant farmers

Bundanon was leased in 1927 to George and Florence Henry and family. Records show that buildings included a carpenter's and blacksmith's sheds, laundry, workshop, stables, buggy shed and a dairy and bails. In the late 1920s the property appears to have changed slowly. Changes were limited to removal of one of the early slab sheds at the stockyards and the addition of new sheds on the ‘common’.

Bundanon was occupied in turn by two families during this period; those of Tom Davis Snr, a local, and John Martin. Tom Davis Snr leased the property 1934-35 and 1945-46. John Martin and his son Fred Martin ran the property between 1935 and 1945. The dam below the main house was lowered c.1945.

The Scott family purchased the stock and plant from their predecessors on the property paying some £400 rent per annum to the Mackenzie family. Although there was some modification and loss of ancillary working structures recorded in photographs of the 1920s and earlier, the property still retained its two remaining worker’s cottages, six staff rooms, a well-equipped schoolroom and the Singleman’s quarters in addition to most early homestead structures. Between 1946 and 1949 Worker’s Cottage 1 was extended to the north by the addition of a gabled kitchen. A new barn was built later to replace the two slab sheds west of the western entrance to Bundanon Common. North of the stockyards new enclosures with small shelters were used as pig pens.

In 1957 Neil Boomer from Kangaroo Valley leased the property but was soon replaced by the Warren family. In 1967 Bundanon was sold to Jim Lawrence by Colin Mackenzie. The Warren family stayed on for another year after sale. In 1968 Bundanon was sold to Sandra and Michael Anthony McGrath and Francis McDonald, art dealers, for $56,000.

Bundanon Restored

.. a Sydney art dealer had built a mid-nineteenth century landscape on a grand scale.
- Carol Henty, The Australian Home Journal

In 1968 Bundanon was sold to art dealers Sandra and Tony McGrath and Frank McDonald. The architectural practice of Allan Jack & Cottier was commissioned in 1968 to undertake restoration work. In the process of doing so all the nineteenth and early twentieth century working buildings on ‘Bundanon Common’ were removed, in addition to the former Bundanon schoolhouse and skillion kitchen to the main house.

Before 1968 the landscape setting of the main house was articulated by the river crossing, defined by two Bunyah pines, and the working axis defined by Bundanon Common and the little used road from Beeweeree and Cambewarra to the west. Under McDonald and the McGraths the landscape setting changed dramatically. Changes included tree planting, a modified ‘cottage’ garden setting for the house, servants’ quarters and kitchen and extensive plantings of American poplars along an adopted track below the feedstalls and dairy to the punt. Lombardy poplars were planted in the wider landscape as indicators of scale and ownership.

In keeping with the 19th century ‘vision’ the landscape was modified; the stark contrast between the uncleared bush and the paddocks surrounding the house was reduced by selective thinning. With the removal of the majority of working farm buildings there was an urgent need to build modern farm facilities. A new barn and workshops were erected close to Worker’s Cottage 1, integrated with the late nineteenth century slab barn.

In 1979 Bundanon was sold privately to Arthur and Yvonne Boyd. Bundanon was gifted to the people of Australia in March 1993 and Bundanon Trust was set up by the Federal Government to administer the gift.


Arthur & Yvonne Boyd looked at properties near Canberra, then visited Bundanon in late 1971 for two weeks as the guest of owners Frank McDonald and Sandra and Tony McGrath. Bundanon had an immediate and profound effect on Arthur's thinking and work. Arthur and Yvonne decide to establish an Australian base on the Shoalhaven River and asked Frank McDonald to look out for properties in the vicinity of Bundanon. McDonald located Riversdale, the property next door and sent photos to the Boyds who were back in the UK.

The Boyds bought Bundanon from Sandra McGrath and Tony McGrath and Frank McDonald in the summer of 1979, and thereafter spent their time in the United Kingdom, Italy and Australia. Arthur Boyd built his studio at Bundanon in 1981.

On 28 August 1993, Bundanon was opened to the public for the first time under the Trust’s control, and 1700 people visited. Tonkin Zulaikha Architects with Spackman + Mossop Landscape Architects were appointed in June 1995 to produce a strategic plan for the development of the Bundanon properties. In 1996 the Trust had taken the decision to change the focus and location of the residency program. It was decided that from 1998 artists in residence would stay in the Bundanon Artists complex, made up of new buildings and facilities created by the adaptive re-use of existing farm buildings at Bundanon. Stage 1 of the complex included the Hymie Sherman Studio, the Alec and Helene Gonski Studio and the Oscar and Mary Ramsay Study Centre, commenced in 1997 and opened by Arthur Boyd in 1998. Stage 2 comprised two self-contained studio apartments, one to be known as the Sylvia Freedman Studio made possible by a donation by Laurence Freedman. Around this time the Bundanon Manager’s Cottage was also restored.

In 2004 an upstairs room in the Bundanon Homestead was renovated to create a gallery space. In 2009 the machinery shed was transformed into a dance/performance space with a sprung floor.

Single Man's Hut

Arthur Boyd's Studio

Bundanon Garden