Markdale's pioneer family property goes to auction

The Sydney Morning Herald | NSW News | Thursday 4 May 2017

.

The unrivalled pioneering history of one of Australia's great country families – the Ashton family of Markdale – is about to go under the hammer for the first time in a century.

Markdale rose to prominence over four generations from a rugged and rabbit-infested holding to become one of Australia's great sheep stations.

.

The property at Binda, about three hours south-west of Sydney, showcases one of Australia's few remaining, beautifully preserved Edna Walling gardens and has been a meeting place for a who's who of international polo figures, heads of industry, academics, lawyers, policymakers, and British and American society.

.

SMHMarkdale

.

Markdale's owners, Geoff and Mary Ashton, are soon to auction their heritage collection of furniture, textiles, glass, silver and objects d'art after the property was sold last month to an undisclosed buyer.

"The time has come to hand Markdale over to a new family and the generations that follow them," Geoff Ashton said.

"Markdale has been our work, rest and play. For me, it goes back to doing school by correspondence there as a child. For my wife, the nine-bedroom homestead and historic garden were the greatest test of her love of art, colour and design."

.

Markdale was bought in 1920 for four young Ashton boys whose father, James Ashton, thought it would keep them out of trouble. James Ashton started life as a journalist and became the NSW minister for lands, but he was best known as the founding father of Australian polo.

.

From a polo club in Goulburn, his boys rose to the top of the Australian circuit within a few years, dominating the sport of kings over a decade.

The Ashtons became a media sensation in the 1920s and '30s, touring Britain, America and India, where international players helped cover the costs by buying their polo ponies.

Invitations flowed to society cocktail parties and the royal enclosure at Ascot and, on one evening in London, a cake in team colours was dispatched to the Ashton table by Australian-born opera singer Dame Nellie Melba.

.

The Ashtons contributed to public life in journalism, government, commerce, philanthropy and the arts. The visitors books kept over 90 years reveal the writings and impressions of hundreds of extraordinary people who experienced the unique brand of Markdale hospitality, including shared bathrooms, picnics by the lake, tea in the garden, horse rides and fire-side conversation.

Bush poet Banjo Patterson, editor of The Bulletin J.F. Archibald, painter Arthur Streeton and head of the Sydney Art School Julian Rossi Ashton were considered friends.

.

Markdale will be open to the public from Friday, May 12, for the rest of the weekend.

.

.

Read the article on SMH.

View the illustrated catalogue online.