Since I was a little girl I remember driving past the old place we have always known as Watchman House and I still recall seeing members of the Watchman family out on the front porch. Sadly, over the years I also remember seeing the place fall into disrepair. As you can imagine, seeing it being restored to its former glory over the last few years is something I have been very excited about.
Today, my son Jett and I decided it was long overdue that we stop in for a poke around and we were lucky enough to chat to a group of very passionate volunteers that have some amazing knowledge of the history of Coromandel Valley. It turns out one of the lovely people we chatted to this morning lives a few doors up from us, and had loads of stories to tell. As I have lived the area my whole life, we had loads to chat about, including discovering I grew up across the road from his brother and his family, and as kids we played together. In fact I discovered I knew most of the volunteers and we had a good old catch up.
When you first enter the house, you are encouraged to sign the visitors’ book and grab a flyer with the history of the house and information about what the community facility can be used for.
For those that don’t know, Watchman House started its life in 1890 as a butcher’s shop and residence for Oliver Winn. The original “sausage shed” is still standing and the large front window used to open up to sell to the public, with a cellar below for meat storage. My son was desperate for a look in the cellar, but it was unfortunately locked off! A stunning replica leadlight door has been installed back into the front door passage (this was done with the help of original photos of the house) Another interesting fact I discovered, was the reason the bottom of Winns Road is so narrow is because this is where they used to heard the livestock into the holding paddock of the butcher.
The old lean to out the back has been removed and replaced with a brand new extension that fits perfectly with the old, and is complete with toilets, kitchen facility and room that can hired for small gatherings and meetings. What I am most impressed with, is that a ramp has been installed, as well as an ambulant toilet, making this community facility completely accessible.
Watchman House has become a bit of a hub for local history, there are photos and displays up throughout the house, and there is a dedicated reading room/library where you are welcome to browse the collection of books, and brochures. I am pretty chuffed to say, I have an item I am able to contribute, a copy of an SA Life Magazine from 2011 that featured an amazing story on the biscuit factory.
The house has been purchased by the City of Onkaparinga and is leased by The National Trust. It is now open to the public on Saturday mornings 9-12 and is a great place to take the family, have a wander around, and discover amazing things about our history and community. The volunteers supply morning tea for a small donation, and today’s offering did not disappoint! Jett and I had the most divine lemonade scones with homemade blackberry jam and cream.
So what are you waiting for? Take the time to pop in, hopefully I haven’t got any of my facts muddled up, but feel free to correct me if I have!
If anyone out there has anything that may be of interest, PLEASE do take it in and show the volunteers. They have facilities to scan any photos you might have of the area back in the day, and then you get the warm fuzzy feeling knowing you have shared something for all the community to see.
Vikki (and Jett)