There aren’t many untouched places left in today’s modern world, but a visit to Kilburnie Homestead, Biloela, is like taking a step back in time.
Walking around the grounds, it’s not hard to see children of yesteryear playing tennis, their laughter ringing out above the sounds of coaches rolling past and blacksmiths hard at work.
Perched in the hills 25 kilometres out of town, the homestead is a hidden treasure.
Predating the township of Biloela, Kilburnie was established as a pastoral property in 1883 by John and Elizabeth Campbell, with the homestead built in 1884.
Today, this piece of history rests in the hands of the fourth generation, with Fiona and Allan Hayward.
Living in the homestead until 2017, Fiona said she was proud to raise her children there.
“I’m pretty thankful that we had the opportunity to live here, and I am proud to say that my children weren’t raised in a modern box with air conditioning and builtin cupboards and stuff like that,” she said.
“Sometimes it was a bit interesting because there’s no connecting doors to any of the upstairs rooms, so if you wanted to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night you had to walk outside and go around the verandah.
“But I think it was a really good experience for us to have lived in the homestead that my children’s great, great grandparents built.”
Modern appliances like a dishwasher and coffee maker may have taken up residence in the kitchen, but Fiona said very little had been altered in the homestead since the 1900s.
“We did fix up the upstairs bathroom because I saw a taipan going into the original downstairs bathroom one day and was very much against having a bath in there from then on,” she said.
“And we’ve had to do little things to preserve parts of the buildings, but we haven’t done a great deal considering its age.”
The history at Kilburnie isn’t just limited to the homestead itself, but also what’s inside of it.
Furniture, artwork, books, photographs, old diaries, and dinning settings remain, showcasing the beauty of the past.
Fiona said her favourite thing at Kilburnie was the dining room table, a piece that would easily seat 14 people.
“I love that table and I’m very attached to it,” she said.
“We’ve had a lot of happy, family Christmas meals and other gatherings around that table throughout our time living in the homestead.
“And thinking about all the other gatherings that have been around that table during the homestead’s history is a bit mind boggling.”
Take a tour through the past
With so much history on offer at Kilburnie Homestead, it’s no wonder the family wanted to share it with others.
Offering open days from April to August, Fiona, along with her mother, Heather Stewart (nee Campbell), and husband, Allan Hayward, offer guided tours of the main homestead, outbuildings, burial sites, and gallery.
Multimedia displays help tell the story of Kilburnie and the Campbell family, and live blacksmithing displays, live music and horse and buggy rides at some open days take people back in time.
Perhaps the most amazing part of it all though is the works left behind by the very talented Ruby Campbell.
Aunt to Heather, Ruby never told anyone of her art, but just prior to her passing, Heather discovered drawings, watercolours, and furniture decorated with pyrography, some of which is now proudly displayed in galleries across the state.
Fiona said it was always her mother’s vision that one day Kilburnie Homestead could be opened to the public so the amazing collection of history and art that has been amassed there could be appreciated.
“We had a discussion years ago about how we’d one day love to have Kilburnie open to the public, then in 2016 I had a motorbike accident and broke my back so while I was laid up recovering it gave me time to plan what we wanted to do,” Fiona said.
“Once I was back on my feet we started to sort stuff out, physically going through things and getting organised. Our family never threw anything away and we’re really glad about that.
“Last year we opened to the public for the first time and had a great response from really supportive locals and a few visitors.”
The success of their first open day, which attracted over 250 visitors and raised $1300 for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, encouraged Fiona, her family and volunteers to open the homestead on a monthly basis.
“It’s been an interesting learning curve and we’re looking forward to having more open days,” Fiona said.
“Sometimes you get a bit of inspiration that comes from somewhere and you wonder if that’s Ruby saying you should do this.
“After four generations, we’ve decided to share it with the outside world, and we couldn’t be more proud to still be here.”
Recognising that it was necessary to gain further understanding of documenting and caring for the family collection, Fiona undertook workshops delivered by the Queensland Museum Network’s Museum Development Officer program on cataloguing, object handling, basic conservation practices, and digitisation.
And in 2017, she was recognised for her efforts, being awarded Winner of Engagement: Organisations Volunteer Run category at the Gallery and Museum Achievement Awards.
A long grazing history
The area now known as Biloela has a long grazing history, with the 'Prairie' pastoral run having been taken up in 1854.
The first lease for Kilburnie was 10,000 acres, with the family’s holding getting to 20,000 acres at its peak.
Originally breeding draught horses, the Campbell’s were pioneers in the valley, becoming the first family to bring Hereford cattle to the area. Heather Stewart (nee Campbell) said it was amazing to think of what the property would have been like in the early days.
“Back then there were no paddocks and laneways, only a boundary fence,” she said. “Stockmen would have brought cattle in from one side of the property at a time and given them a dose of arsenic to ward off any parasites, then marked them somehow to ensure they didn’t give anything a second dose, which would have been fatal, when they brought in the next mob.”
These days, the Haywards run 130 Charbray breeders on lease country that used to be Kilburnie, and fatten progeny on the remaining 4000 acres, selling to Teys Biloela.