Sometimes a house is more than a house, it carries the imprint of a way of living and an approach to life. Such is Meroogal, a much loved house built in the nineteenth century primarily inhabited by the four Thorburn sisters. Heading south out of Sydney, through the rain and towards the now vivid green hills round Nowra, you come across Meroogal on the corner of a suburban block. Painted in a pale fresh mint green colour, the architecture a gingerbread style called Carpenter Gothic; it charms from first glance.
Inside, it’s a 100 year old time capsule. The lighting is dim, to preserve the delicate fabrics. It’s not styled or redone in heritage colours; it feels genuinely old. The bedrooms up under the eaves are the most endearing. With sloping ceilings and the walls painted half pink half blue its easy to imagine the Big Bad Wolf awaiting Little Red Riding Hood here; lupine features obscured by the shadows falling around the iron bed.
It’s when you hear the story of the Thoburn sisters that the house comes to life. It’s impressive and strangely invigorating to hear of their lifestyle and routines. In summer the sisters rose early, often at 4:30 am. Household chores commenced; flowers were picked and arranged, the laundry started, soap made, kindling collected and an abundance of fruit gathered from the orchard. They had afternoon siestas and read Dickens by kerosene lamps in the evening. There was much baking at Meroogal: fruit pies, Christmas cakes, scones, pikelets, soda loaves, shortbread and apple cake – a lot of friends visiting from Sydney. The sisters made their own clothes and frugally repaired them. It’s appropriate that there is now a yearly Meroogal Women’s art prize where artists respond to the house and grounds and have their art works displayed there.
Heading back through Berry and a nourishing late lunch at the Sourdough Cafe. An exploration of the picturesque main street revealed some finds- I’d known about the extensive embroidery shop, but was new to the unexpected treasures of the Moss Nest store( subtitled flotsam & flora for nature lovers) and found a great hat in Little Rae ( clothing, lifestyle, home, cacti)next door. There’s an artistic spirit in Berry: I think the Thorburn sisters would have liked it here.