Monday, 15 April 2013

The Fire (Part 1)

Forewarned is forearmed (or so they say) so I am not going to pretend that this will be a lighthearted post. It is a month tonight since the fire which changed the direction of my life, and the house plan which I had determined for Hanworth House. 

So after week 1 post fire (which could only be described as surreal), then week 2 post fire which was really a low point , week 3 starting slowly looking up and I have just come out of week 4.  And I guess it is a milestone that I can now look into a devastated room without bursting into tears. I have even grown accustomed somewhat to the post burn smell which many claim will never go away.

But let's go back to this time last week - this post might go on. But it is part of my therapy you see - so just deal with it! 

Let's look at the ballroom, one of the grandest rooms in the house - this was it 5 months ago. Its redeeming features were high ceilings, and the most spectacular white marble fireplace.

Some may call it a lounge room, but this room has entertained Queensland royalty so I call it the ballroom! When Heath's oldest daughter Cecila Georgina Heath (don't you just love that name) married John L Marx, RN Commander of JMS Swinger (as reported in The Queenslander 17 April 1886), the bride and groom "were drawn in a carriage from the church door [St Mary's Church Kangaroo Point] to the residence of Captain Heath". And here "they entertained his Excellency the Governor and Lady Musgrave and other dignitaries". I rest my case to call it a ballroom.

Well just look a month ago. The floors had the previous week finished being polished.

On that Monday afternoon, I was just so excited with the transformation.  I did have my detractors who did not like the idea of a raspberry red fireplace (I justified it by calling it a 2013 version of heritage red!). But I was in love with the colour. 

Swatches had been collected, every variation in the shade of raspberry was critically examined. Paint shops were scoured.

A panel of experts was assembled - Some (as seen by their expressions) loved the whole idea (thanks Forever Friend HH and Miss HH!)

For others, like Carpenter HH, the whole prospect of a raspberry fireplace did nothing to thrill! Even when I stuck the magnificent swatch right in front of his nose! He continued with his work. You will be pleased to learn he does not react the same if I put cake there!

But even the detractors (you know who you are!) admitted to just a tang of "maybe it is not that bad after all" when they saw the final product emerging - well OK, we did have to get rid of the yellow wallpaper to really win their hearts and minds.

But when my Super Wallpaper Hanging Man did cover that old yellow paper with the glamour of wide silver stripes and hung the final roll on the morning of 18 March, the vision was complete. How spectacular is this!

The adjoining dining room was similarly transformed. It boasted these spectacular and original double hung windows and a black marble fireplace to counter the one in the Ballroom. Here was the ugly duckling 5 months ago.

And here is the swan at about 5pm on 18 March. I even cleaned the fireplace - I think it must have been the first time in about 50 years it had received any such love!

I could not wait to get some furniture into the dining room and Ballroom to make these rooms feel more like the end was finally in sight (and that word "end" has a literal meaning as I pen this). Little did I know their end was very much in sight.

Note the roses. My birthday was a couple of days later and that evening was the only night of the week we would all be together to celebrate so Husband HH bought me flowers which I promptly put out. They were on that table the night of the fire and remained there. The rooms looked just so perfect as I locked up for the night. I was so proud of what they had become.

As part of the birthday week celebrations, we headed to Cru Bar to celebrate the birthday which was (that of PA HH) and the birthday to come (mine). And before you may ask, of course there was champagne!

Heavens knows how much I needed it because, within 2 hours of arriving home, tragedy was to strike the baby which I had left so joyous earlier that evening.  And what a long night it was to become...

(to be continued)

x HH


  1. The colour and everything else about the Ballroom and Dining Room was fantastic. I was lucky enough to see it for myself that very afternoon. Just superb. The photos here are great but don't capture the splendour and spirit of HH.

  2. Hi Hh. What a tragedy! I am sure Hanworth will again shine in your hands.. YOu do everything with such a passion and your blogs are amazing just sa one of my childhood memories I will never forget is the time you handed in an assignment in HS I think about the wars where you had interviewed people and it was completed in a velvet bound book with lettering on the fron. I always admired your success!! The teapot is awesome as are your mother and your daughter and i can see where the success comes from with such a loving and supportive family. I have wondered from the morning I heard of the fire on the news why oh why did he do it .... was there ever a reason? the history of Hanworth comes alive in yur hands ... never stop .... Sharon x

  3. Sharon, so lovely to hear from you. I remember the assignment too - can you believe i still have it. Mrs Vidler I think was pretty impressed but all that work - why did I do it!thanks for being so encouraging. Stay in touch!