25 March 2022

Historic Cliftonwood to open its doors to raise money for Can Assist

| Sally Hopman
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Old kitchen

The original kitchen at Cliftonwood in the servants’ quarters will be on show during the Family Day. Photo: Supplied.

When Tony Wade was approached by the Yass branch of Can Assist to see if his family home, Cliftonwood, would host its major 2022 fundraiser he said yes, but under one condition; “I don’t get anything out of it,” he said.

“Can Assist is such a good charity, I want all the money raised to go to them.”

It was music to the ears of Can Assist spokesperson Annie Waterhouse, who said the Wade family’s generosity would allow the group to raise significant funds this year to help make life easier for people living with cancer in the Yass Valley.

Yass volunteers need up to $70,000 a year to support the 50 to 60 people in the Valley living with cancer.

“This Family Day at Cliftonwood on 9 April will make a big difference,” she said. “It’s our biggest fundraiser for the year and we’ve been trying to hold it since 2020 but of course COVID stopped everything. With this event, our plan is to raise money locally and to spend it locally.”

Cliftonwood is one of Yass’s most historic and well-known properties. Originally purchased by explorer Hamilton Hume, it has been owned by the Wade family for about 50 years. It was built by John Watson in 1841 on land owned by Hume.

House on the river

Historic Cliftonwood, on the Yass River, will play host to Can Assist’s Family Day on Saturday 9 April. Photo: Supplied.

Family matriarch Ivy Wade lived in the house, which overlooks the Yass River, for 62 years before she died in 2011. Her son Tony said it was “absolutely fabulous” to grow up in a house like Cliftonwood.

“I wasn’t very good at school when I was younger,” he said.

“I was always thinking about what I’d do when I got home. I just loved living here.”

Tony Wade will take visitors on tours of the house during the Family Day. “My tours can run to two hours so other people will have to take tours if they are to run every half hour,” he joked.

“You can walk through Cliftonwood in five minutes, but you won’t see anything. We hope visitors will take their time to see everything.”

Though history oozes from almost every corner of the double-brick home with its hipped roof and original shingles, the “new” front of the house was added in 1876, evidenced by the cast iron pillars on the verandah stamped, “Trigg, Marr and Taylor 1876”.

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As you enter the house, a collection of hats owned by members of the Wade family hang in the entrance hall. This hall leads out to large reception rooms on either side, with bay windows out to the verandah. There are photographs of the three families who have lived at Cliftonwood – Hume, Shaw (from 1902 to 1948) and Wade.

The room on the southern side of the entrance hall is believed to be the drawing room, complete with original fireplace surround and window pelmets. Next to the fireplace is a full-length silk butler’s bell, fragile, but still working. Visitors will also see a painting of Mary “Granny” Davis in the room, aged 113, who is related to the Wade family. Family history has it that she was the first white woman to travel across the Great Dividing Range.

A green baize doorway off the hall leads to the oldest part of the house with a family/dining room and renovated kitchen. This part of the house features the artworks of Mrs Ivy Wade.


All roads will lead to Cliftonwood, Yass on 9 April for the Can Assist Family Day. Photo: Supplied.

But it’s outside where visitors will see why Cliftonwood is so famous as a fine example of early Australian architecture. The original kitchen looks like the servants have just ducked out for a moment with its huge open fire for cooking and sturdy pots hung close by. In the early days, kitchens were always built apart from the main house, in case of fire. Tony Wade said he remembers, as a young boy, sitting cosily by the kitchen fire as his mother cooked over the flames.

One of the special features of the house is outside in the flagstone courtyard – the original well where the servants would hand pump the water into an overhead tank to supply the house.

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But the house is probably most well known for Watson’s Bottle, a huge underground storage tank built by convicts in the 1840s which stored sacks of grain. The grain was used in what was known as Watson’s Mill, a steam operation below the house on the Yass River. It ran until 1870 when it was destroyed by flood.

Activities on the open day include house tours, a working display by the Yass Antique Farm Machinery Club, vintage cars, live music, stalls, bush games and devonshire teas.

For more information about the Can Assist event at Cliftonwood on 9 April, go to the website.

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