Taste of Downton Abbey in Macarthur at Camden Park House open day: pictures

Our local version of Downton Abbey - Camden Park House - will open its doors to the public next weekend.

This rare opportunity to tour the famous Georgian house and garden is expected to attract thousands of visitors on September 21-22.

Built for wool pioneers John and Elizabeth Macarthur around 1835, the house was designed by John Verge and is thought to be Australia's oldest residence still occupied by its original family.

Edwina and John Macarthur-Stanham - the seventh generation to live in the 80-room mansion - are keen to encourage residents of the newer housing estates in Macarthur (the region, of course, named after their famous colonial family) to visit their home.

"People travel overseas to see houses like Camden Park," Mrs Macarthur-Stanham told the Advertiser.

"Camden Park is obviously not as big as most of the grand old houses in England, but it has that same feel - the Macarthurs in the early days were trying to replicate England, from the leather-bound volumes on the bookshelves to the gardens outside.

"You can step back in time as you come through the front door - we'll all be on deck, as people follow a set route through the house, via the cellars and old kitchen, then out in garden where we have Devonshire teas, and stalls with refreshments, arts, crafts and plants."

Mrs Macarthur-Stanham said the biggest surprise to many visitors was that Camden Park House, full of historic gems, was actually a "lived-in" family residence, not a museum.

All funds raised at the open day go to the Camden Park Preservation Committee, to fund the conservation of the historic site.

Camden Park was central to the commercial beginnings of the wool, viticulture and dairying industries in Australia and its early occupants played significant roles in NSW's early political, social and scientific development as well as in agriculture.

In 1805, John Macarthur was given a land grant by Lord Camden in The Cowpastures (as it was then known) to promote the development of the NSW wool industry.

Belgenny, the Macarthurs' first homestead on the site, still survives as a popular tourist attraction. The construction of Camden Park House commenced in the late 1820s and was completed in 1835, five years before the foundation of Camden township.

Given the number of Macarthur ancestors who have lived there, the Advertiser asked Mrs Macarthur-Stanham if she ever felt a "presence" in the house.

"I've always felt Camden Park is a very friendly house, and given all the people and stories that came come through here you can't not feel something there...but, no, I've never seen or felt any ghosts," she said.

Is there any member of the Macarthur family tree she feels a special bond with?

"Well, like most people I admire the original Elizabeth Macarthur, an amazing woman," Mrs Macarthur-Stanham said.

"But her granddaughter Elizabeth Macarthur-Onslow was also amazing, setting up all the dairies around here... she had a lot of foresight and strength."

At its peak, as a sort of colonial version of Downton Abbey, Camden Park House was a social centre of the colony and had about 30 staff working indoors, and the same amount outdoors.

A fine example of Georgian architecture - Palladian Revival style mansion - it is constructed of brick with a rendered finish and dressings in local mudstone. Joinery is of Australian cedar. The cellar still contains pre-1870 wine and some of Australia's oldest exotic plants are also growing in the garden.

Camden Park is still an operating farm with a dairy milking herd of 250 cows.

"We welcome anyone who would like to come and see a glimpse into an aspect of Australia's history," Mrs Macarthur-Stanham said.

"It's takes a lot of work to keep a place like this going, without government funding, so we do its through our open days, and also having film crews here for advertisements, fashion shoots, films, etc.

"All the funds raised goes back to preserving Camden Park."

The open day is also supporting Turning Point crisis centre in Camden, with all money raised from car parking going to that worthy cause.

OPEN WEEKEND: From noon to 4pm on Saturday September 21 and from 10am to 4pm on Sunday September 22.

BOOK TICKETS ONLINE AT: camdenparkhouse.com.au, and remaining tickets will still be sold on the day.

Prices: House & Garden, adults: $22 or concession $16, and garden only $10. Enquiries: camdenparkinfo@gmail.com.

Camden Park House can be accessed via Elizabeth Macarthur Avenue in Camden South.