Back to previous page
Special Offer

Virtual tour of Craigmoor House - text version

Step back in time to the colonial era at Craigmoor House, a grand heritage residence in Hill End Historic Site. This lovingly preserved building was home to the Marshall family for a hundred years and remains intact and unmodified since that time.

Explore Craigmoor House

Discover how the Marshalls went about their daily lives during the 1800s and early 1900s, and see the treasures they left behind. During this time, Hill End's gold rush was in decline and resourcefulness was essential, even for upper middle-class families like the Marshalls. The furnishings, artworks and keepsakes in the house paint a vivid picture of the simple, but aspirational life the Marshalls lived at Craigmoor.

Meet the Marshalls

The Marshall family lived at Craigmoor House for roughly 100 years, from the mid-1800s to the time Hannah, the eldest daughter, died in 1950.

James Marshall, head of the family and originally from Scotland, was the first to arrive in Australia at the age of 27. He immigrated here after trying his luck in the Californian gold fields without success. After landing on Australian shores, James set up home in Hill End, seeking gold at the time when the Bathurst gold rush was at its peak. He married Sarah Marshall around 5 years later and they had 11 children together.

Two of their children died in infancy and the rest lived to adulthood. This was remarkable for the time, given the frequent illnesses that took the lives of many children of the goldfields.

Marshall family stories

The Marshalls were a fascinating family with interesting lives. Captured in their photos are some of their stories:

  • Sarah Marshall had a daughter named Maud before she met and married James Marshall. Sarah and her parents arrived in Australia on the Emigrant in 1849, but Maud’s father, Godolphin McDermot, abandoned her and went back to Scotland. James raised Maud as his own child and was even listed as being Maud's father on her death certificate.
  • Craigmoor House was affectionately referred to as Big House Marshall. In contrast, the house across the road, which was built and owned by James’ brother, William Clark Marshall, was called Little House Marshall.
  • One of James and Sarah’s grandsons, William (Billy) Wentworth Marshall, was a professional photographer with an interest in aeroplanes. A chance meeting with aviation pioneer Nigel Love led to him being the only passenger on board the very first commercial passenger flight from a bullock paddock in Mascot across Sydney on 19 November 1919. Nigel Love eventually transformed that bullock paddock into Sydney Airport.

Meet James Adams

James Adams was Sarah Marshall’s father. He arrived in Australia on board the Emigrant with his wife and daughter in 1849. During his time in Hill End he made a marked impact on the small country town.

James discovered the area’s rich gold reef, called Hawkins Hill, thought to be the richest gold field for its size ever opened in Australia. The world’s largest gold-and-quartz nugget at the time – a 286kg rock that contained 57kg of gold – was found there in 1872. It recharged the gold rush.

James lived a full life and died in his 90s.

Tales of survival

The long sea voyage to Australia during colonial times certainly had its risks. The trip was often dangerous, hygiene was poor and the conditions on the ship were ideal for spreading disease.

However, James Marshall’s journey from California to Australia took a markedly different turn to most when his ship was wrecked on a reef in the Fiji Islands.

A small group of survivors including James and a large African American man known as ‘Black Nat’ made it to shore on a whaleboat. They found themselves on a tiny atoll, where they stayed for some months until they were rescued. James is credited with considerable heroism during the shipwreck and its aftermath.

Amongst their shipwrecked belongings, the group managed to salvage a musket and plenty of gunpowder, but they had no bullets. To get around this, the ship's carpenter constructed a sieve, which they used to sieve gravel to get pebbles the right size to use as bullets. While they were stranded, James and the others survived by eating seagulls, which they shot using the pebble bullets.

Once they’d set up home at Hill End, the Marshalls hung a figure of a seagull as a reminder of the birds the shipwrecked group were forced to eat to survive.

In the years afterwards, Black Nat used to say, "Jimmy Marshall is the best shot in the world. He kept fourteen of us alive for months on seagulls.”

Marshall family legacy

The Marshall family left a lasting legacy on the mining industry in Australia, and none more so than James and Sarah’s grandson Charles Wooller Marshall.

Charles took part in and led oil and minerals explorations in Papua New Guinea, where he travelled to places previously unvisited by Europeans. Those expeditions and his survey work resulted in some of the first accurate maps of the country.

By 1949 Charles was the engineer-in-charge of all open-cut coal mining in NSW, and later in life, he revolutionised open-cut coal mining in Australia. He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1988 for his services to the mining industry.


Although the Marshall family were considered gentry, colonial times were a period of resourcefulness. The Marshall women made their own clothing, bedspreads, furniture covers and curtains, many of which can be seen throughout the house. Most of the lace pieces, like runners, pillow slips and bedside tablecloths, would have also been hand-sewn by the Marshalls.

To make the bedspreads, sisters Hannah, Agnes and Janette pieced together offcuts of fabric leftover after sewing other items. They also ordered pattern-book samples from Sydney to make quilts, and they sewed silk cards from cigarette packets into cushions.

Despite their age, the bedspreads in the house are still in wonderful condition, forming part of Hill End’s large conservation heritage collection of over 5000 items.

A musical life

The Marshalls were a middle-class family, and as such, they enjoyed some of the luxuries that being part of the gentry afforded. This included owning several musical instruments, which were financially beyond the reach of most families.

Music was a constant fixture in the Marshall family home – James Marshall was a talented violinist and his daughters could play the piano and organ.

James’ eldest daughter, Hannah, not only played music for herself and the family, but also for clergymen when they came to visit. On Sundays, she would share her musical talents with the Church of England at Sunday school, where she taught.

Ghost stories

Music was a large part of Hannah's life and she was the family member who most often played the organ and piano. The next-door neighbours, Alan and Marilyn, said that after her death, when the house was empty, they still heard the organ playing quite a bit at Craigmoor House.


The Marshalls were a devout family, particularly the eldest daughter Hannah, who dedicated much of her life to the Church of England. She played hymns at mass and taught Sunday school.

In her adult years, Hannah would invite visiting bishops to stay at Craigmoor House and take them out to meet the neighbouring families of the town.

The room that they stayed in is towards the back of the house. It was affectionately known by both the Marshalls and their visitors as the Bishops’ room.

Wedding cake flowers

The Marshall family stored treasured keepsakes all around the house, including photos, sculptures and many decorations.

These wedding cake flowers, preserved under a glass dome, are thought to have come from the wedding of Sydney Marshall in 1896, one of James and Sarah’s 11 children.

Lighting the way

Although electricity supply began in Australia’s colonial era, there was no electricity in Hill End at the time the Marshalls lived in Craigmoor House. The family relied on kerosene lamps to light the way after dark.

Note the blackened area on the ceiling from this hanging kerosene lamp that the family used in the formal dining room.

Works of art

Take note of the paintings along the walls of this room and hung up in other rooms of the house. Many of them were painted by Janette, one of the talented Marshall women.

Janette was artistic and painted numerous oil paintings, mainly still life. She loved painting flowers most of all, and she would also arrange all the flowers in the house.

Aspirational living

If you look closely at the interiors of the house, you’ll notice places where cheaper materials have been reworked to mimic fancier ones. For example, in the study, the mantlepiece has been painted to give it a marble finish.

This was very much the way of life in the colonies – simple, but aspirational.

Treasured keepsakes

Craigmoor House is a treasure trove of little knick-knacks, decorations and artifacts from the time that the Marshalls lived there.

In the study and throughout the other rooms of the house, the family have left items that they used in their daily lives, along with their mementos and treasured keepsakes. Many relics hark back to a time long since past, such as little kerosene lamps, inkwells and kettle burners.

A connection to their homeland

This copy of the Illustrated London News (ILN) dates back to the year 1908. The publication was an important part of life in the colonies during the 1800s and early 1900s.

The newspaper was highly sought after, partly because it was the first publication in history to combine both images and text. But it was also popular because it gave colonial families an opportunity to see what was happening in the country they’d left behind.

Since the articles included tales of life in the colonies, families in Australia could also see how people in their homeland viewed their new lives down under.

Copies of the ILN would arrive in Australia by mail, and most of the readers who subscribed to it were upper-middle class, like the Marshalls.

The Young Ladies Journal

Without today’s gadgets and electronics, the Marshall family passed the time cooking, housekeeping, playing music and reading. One of the publications that seems to have been quite popular with James Marshall’s great-grandchildren, Jenefer and Sue, was The Young Ladies Journal.

After reading the journal’s contents, the girls carefully cut out the fashions of the time, framed them and hung on the walls of the house. You’ll notice these illustrations in several of the bedrooms and along the hallway.

A formal affair

Although the Marshalls had a dedicated dining room, it was a long way away from the kitchen, which was outside the house. So by the time the food got from the kitchen to the dining room, it was was often cold.

For this reason, the dining table was mainly used for formal dinners when the Marshalls had guests. On other days, the family would eat their meals in the external service block.

Kangaroo pelt

This kangaroo pelt, like most of the quilts and bedspreads throughout the house, was made from scraps that were sewn together. Look closely and you can see the bullet holes where the kangaroo was shot.

Visiting Craigmoor House

James and Sarah's great-grandchildren, Jenefer and Sue, used to visit Craigmoor House as children during the holidays. The memories of their visits paint a vivid picture of what life was like at Hill End.

Although holidays at Craigmoor were enjoyable and they certainly were an experience, they weren’t exactly comfortable.

In the summer it was hot and dusty and in the winter it was freezing cold. The girls both worked and played hard, and although they went to bed exhausted, the nights were often too cold to be restful.

Spooky nights

The  upstairs bedroom with the Juliet balcony might seem like the nicest room in the house. After all, when the Marshalls lived there and the trees outside were smaller, there would have been a picturesque view of the avenue beyond and the shops down to the Royal Hotel.

However Jenefer Turtle, one of James and Sarah’s great-grandchildren, tells a very different story of her nights in the Juliet room during her visits to Craigmoor House.

When Jenefer and her sister Sue slept in this room during their stay, they found the creaky floors, darkness and flickering shadows in the candlelight to be a very scary experience.

Hannah Marshall

This bedroom belonged to the eldest Marshall daughter Hannah, who remained at Craigmoor House throughout her entire adult life until her death in the 1950s at 90 years of age. She was a key figure in the Marshall household and was described as sweet, kind and warm.

Hannah was very involved with the Church of England, where she played the organ and taught Sunday school. She would invite visiting bishops to stay at Craigmoor House, and take them to visit almost everyone in the town.

The bishops would stay in one of the downstairs bedrooms towards the back of the house, which became known by family and visitors alike as the Bishops’ room.

The Bishops' room

This bedroom was nicknamed the Bishops’ room, since visiting bishops would sleep here when they came to visit Hill End. They were invited to Craigmoor House and taken care of by Hannah, the eldest Marshall daughter.

Later in life, when she could no longer make it to her bedroom upstairs, Hannah herself slept in the Bishops’ room.

Table washstand

The Marshall family didn’t have access to running water during the time they lived in Craigmoor. Water collection took place in the service block, outside the main house.

Members of the family would use a table washstand to wash their face and hands, and there were night pots in the bedrooms so they could relieve themselves at night.


In addition to not having running water or electricity, Craigmoor House wasn’t connected to a sewerage system. The family used a commode toilet at times when going to the toilet outside the house was difficult, especially on icy, cold nights. The chamber pot that sat in the commode would be emptied each morning and washed out.

A stitch in time

The Marshall daughters, Hannah, Agnes and Janette, were avid seamstresses. Keep an eye out for their handiwork around the house – the bed canopies, table runners and pillow slips were hand-made by these talented women.

This sewing stash, which takes up an entire cupboard, is testament to their love of, and aptitude at, the craft.


At the time that the Marshalls lived at Craigmoor House, there was a small orchard on one side of the house and a giant mulberry tree on the other side. During visits to Craigmoor House, James and Sarah’s great-grandchildren would don hessian bags to protect their clothes and climb the trees to pick fruit.

Their great-aunts, Hannah, Janette and Agnes, would then use the fruits to make apple and mulberry pies, bottles of preserved fruit and home-made wine. They stored the wine and preserved fruit beneath the stairs.

Old mattresses

Although it’s hard to tell without taking off the blankets and bedspreads, the mattresses in the house are made of straw. These are the original straw mattresses that the Marshalls slept on when they lived at Craigmoor House.

School days

All of the Marshall children attended Hill End Public School, which opened its doors on 30 May 1870 and still exists to this day.

Three of the Marshall children (Hannah, Alexander and Maud) attended on the day the school first opened. They were part of a group of 61 boys and 54 girls that were enrolled that day, ranging in age from 3 to 15.

Attendance grew and fell over the years, reflecting the ups and downs of the mining community. In contrast to the original 115 students that were there on the day Hill End Public School first opened, by 2020 a mere 7 students were enrolled.


After James died in 1905, the Marshall family went through a period of mourning. The ladies of the house wore these black Victorian mourning bonnets to mark James’ passing.

While the rest of the ladies returned to regular clothing after the mourning period ended, Sarah, James’ wife, donned mourning clothes for 21 years, from the time James passed away until she herself died in her 90s.

Battling a pandemic

The Marshalls suffered through a global pandemic during the time they lived at Craigmoor House. Cases of the Spanish flu first appeared in Australia in early 1919, and by the time the pandemic was over, around 40 per cent of Australians had fallen ill.

In the bedrooms throughout the house, some beds have canopies and others don’t. In this particular room, the canopy from one of the beds was cut off at Quarantine Station in Manly because it was believed that the atmosphere or vapour from the Spanish flu would collect under it. For this reason, bed canopies were outlawed for a time.


This is an early 1900s carnival glass epergne, a table centrepiece with a number of small baskets or dishes.

Traditionally, epergnes were used in dining rooms as a fancy way to display side dishes. In this bedroom, the Marshall family likely used it to hold flowers.

The kitchen

Although external to the house and not much to look at, the kitchen was a key part of home life for the Marshalls. Rather than using the formal dining room, this was where the family ate most of their meals.

There were always big, black kettles heating up on the fire and the AGA stove to warm water for the house. This would have been where the sisters Hannah, Agnes and Janette, spent time making the preserves and wine that they kept under the stairs.

Blue and laundry soap

The caption on this laundry soap reads “Original hand made soap and blue found in old disused laundry from 1800 Craigmoor, Hill End.”

Laundry bluing was a way of making white fabric appear whiter, because white cloth had a tendency to yellow over time.

The outdoor bathroom

The outdoor bathroom of Craigmoor House is a small brown building that stands under a large tree near the wood picket fence of the property, quite a distance from the house itself.

Unlike the gothic style of their main home, the bathroom was made of mud plaster. To help with waterproofing, the walls were coated with a crushed version of a rock found in Hill End called pipe clay.

Inside the bathroom was a mangle for ironing (like a roller, cranked by hand) and metal tubs, plus a dipper for hand washing.

The Marshalls would fetch water from the well behind the house and heat it on the fuel stove before bucketing it into the big tin bathtub in the bathroom.

During times when it was difficult to reach the bathroom, like at night, the family would use the commodes in their bedrooms.

See also

  • The exterior of Craigmoor House in Hill End Historic Site. Photo: John Spencer © DPE

    Virtual tour of Craigmoor House

    Step back in time on a virtual tour of historic Craigmoor House in Hill End. Home to the Marshall family for a century, this heritage building has bee...