Eskbank House and Museum is an unique Lithgow institution which celebrates the past with a wide range of activities from theatre to seasonal events and science-based days to bring the community together in a spirit of fun and enquiry.
The original Eskbank House was built from Australian cedar and local sandstone on Wiradjuri land by Alexander Binning for Thomas Brown in 1842. Brown was the first local industrialist, establishing the coal industry in Lithgow.
The fairly simple house is perhaps the first significant house built in the Lithgow area. It consists of four rooms connected by a hallway, attached to a court-yard which leads to the kitchen and wood-room. Together with its outbuildings, Eskbank House provides a wonderful insight into early colonial life.
In the 1920s William Mortlock enclosed the courtyard and extended the building. Then Eric Bracey, a local businessman, bought the property in 1948 and spent many years re-furbishing and re-furnishing the house. Eventually he donated it to the people of Lithgow, and in 1966 it was opened as one of the first house museums in NSW.
Now Eskbank House stands in a hectare of beautiful lawns and gardens. The four front rooms have been preserved much as they were in Thomas Brown’s day, and house the Bracey Furniture Collection, with some beautiful early Victorian furniture. They also contain the Nationally Significant Lithgow Pottery Collection, and many objects from the history of the ironworks in Lithgow. These include popular heritage items in the grounds such as Possum the Locomotive.
Originally named Cyclopes and built in 1912, Possum was brought to the Lithgow Blast Furnace from England in 1919 by Hoskins Bros to work in the Lithgow iron and steel works. After time in Port Kembla it retired in 1967, was donated to the Lithgow District History Society and moved to Eskbank House in 1969. Other exhibits include a hansom cab and a pennyfarthing bicycle, as well as a Buffalo Pitts Engine used to haul coal and two skips from the State Mine.
Visitors to the museum can enjoy a group tour of the museum or wander by themselves amongst the buildings and gardens. The Courtyard Gallery hosts regularly changing art exhibitions of community and professional art, including an event called Waste2Art.
Eskbank House also hosts music concerts, plays, and themed events such as the Roaring 20s Garden Party, Steampunk Festival and a Halloween Fashion Parade. Its Treasures from Home event invited people to bring along an object with a story about its significance to the local area. These included specially commissioned jewellery, a babys night dress and a pair of convict manacles.
The popular Eskbank Steampunk Festival turns the house into a Victorian Village of the future. Eskbank Steampunk is such a wonderful experience, comments Lithgow City Council Mayor Maree Statham. The activities, displays, markets and high tea are all first class, but it is the visitors in costume that really win the day.
Eskbanks 1950s party, commemorates the Blagoyevich family which lived there during the 1950s and held parties there with Michael Blagoyevichs band The Fugitives. It offered dancing to the Ridgey Didge Duo, a milk bar with bottomless milkshakes, and a carnival with 50s wheels and flicks. Other entertainment included the balloon pop and ring toss, croquet with the local Lithgow Croquet Club (which started in the 1950s, badminton, totem tennis and quoits, as well as 50s cars and caravans from the Lithgow Historic Car Club. There were also prizes for the best 50s threads in the Hip Threads Competition.
Theatre also finds a home at Eskbank House. The local Blast Furnace Theatre brought a childrens picnic theatre production Hansel and Gretel to Eskbank House in
2015, with the audience travelling all over the grounds of Eskbank House with Hansel and Gretel. Writer and director Catherine Lockley also created and directed the Vampire Masquerade Fashion Show as part of the Halloween 2016 festivities.
And Blaxland and Daughters moving one-woman play Pioneers in Petticoats in 2015 brought four outstanding colonial women to life in this perfectly appropriate colonial space. This year Blaxland and Daughters Matilda Fish and the Bushranger will perform there too.
Eskbank House also embraces the sciences, holding a Pollinator Week Workshop where the community took part in activities including building a bee hotel, identifying pollinators and making seed-balls. Eskbank has celebrated International Mens Day too, with a Movember event including a barbecue.
So Eskbank House and Museum continue to be a vibrant part of Lithgow life, led by Lithgow Councils imaginative Cultural Officer Wendy Hawkes, backed by Council and helped by a dedicated team of wonderful volunteers.