Last updated 2Jul19

Orroral Homestead

The Orroral Homestead complex is located in the lower Orroral Valley on the Orroral Heritage Trail south of the Orroral Tracking Station car park in the Namadgi National Park.

Location: GR 55H FA 77465-54126 (MGA94), Rendezvous Creek 8626-1S 1:25000. Well at GR 55H FA 77495-54113 (MGA94).

Orroral Homestead and kitchen chimney, February 2013

Orroral Homestead well, May 2011

Visits: numerous other times, 14 May 11, 3 Jan 11, 27 May 08, 10 Apr 07, 9 Jun 03

Photographs are available.


KHA web site: Orroral Homestead is readily accessible to the public being 200m off Orroral Road in the north of the NNP. Grid Reference 775 540. Orroral is a magnificent homestead, typical of the period and easily accessible. It has been well restored, and features a central slab homestead, plus outbuildings. The homestead was built for Archibald and Mary McKeahnie for grazing in the 1860’s. It has three rooms and a chimney at each end, plus a full length verandah at the front. The original kitchen and staff quarters were built behind, and were as large as the house. The main chimney for the kitchen remains. The stockyard and woolshed were built for a later owner, Andy Cunningham in the 1930s.

• KHA Namadgi database (private source). Site 227. On register of National Estate.  Dates from 1860s and is oldest standing habitation in Namadgi.  Of stone and slab construction with shingle roof overlaid with corrugated iron.  Subject of many NPA work parties in 1990s.  Stone chimney of homestead restor ….

Gudgenby: A register of archaeological sites in the proposed Gudgenby National Park, J H Winston-Gregson MA thesis, ANU, 1978. Site OR6 7-10. Stone-lined well and cultivation paddock. Well is 18.3m at 70º from from western end of Hut “1”. Well is stone-lined; cultivation paddock identified by plough lands and a raised area (possibly a vegetable garden). Well is a natural spring. Site OR6 8-10. Hut “1” [Orroral Homestead]. Shingle roof overlain with corrugated metal; vertical timber slab side walls; rendered and whitewashed stone end walls, gables and chimneys; timber decked north verandah; all verandah posts whitewashed with corners planed off to give octagonal cross-section. Constricted by Charles McKeahnie, possibly using materials from his former dwelling (Site OR3). Was occupied until 1950. Source: A Gregory 26 October 1977. Provided living and sleeping quarters; is still in good condition. It is notable for stone-lined well, luxurious and decorative construction (interior walls are plastered and wallpapered, fireplaces have surrounds and mantles), two stone exterior chimneys. Was valued at £100 in 1893. Site OR6 9-10. Hut 2 [Orroral Homestead kitchen]. Granodiorite chimney and brick oven, timber floor joists, corrugated metal-clad shingle roof, walls missing. Date and reason for partial destruction unknown. Kitchen area; chimney comprises western wall, it is not rendered, its flue shows signs of reconstruction and enlargement; the oven on south-west face of chimney is made of handmade bricks, some with a diamond frog identical to bricks recovered at Ginninderra schoolhouse and at Duntroon Dairy. The ceiling bearers have been removed from the eastern half of the roof frame and an internal gable fitted half way along the frame. Site has been pillaged for firewood. Was valued at £30 in 1983. See extracts of the relevant pages in the photos above.

Sites of Significance in the ACT. A 9 volume set, pre-cursor to the ACT Heritage Register. Published in 1988 (Vols 1-7), 1989 (Vol 8) and 1990 (Vol 9); pp38-43. Site G5. Of central interest is the main Orroral Homestead building (circa 1860’s) and adjacent (ruined) kitchen which is the most substantial (obvious) indication of European settlement in the valley. The homestead is located on a gentle slope about 500 metres south and 10 metres above the Orroral River. The main building is rectangular with the long axis parallel to the valley trend with doors and windows opening towards the north with a view across the valley. The two side walls are of wide vertical timber slabs while the two end walls (both with fireplaces) have large stone chimneys which are externally cement rendered and internally covered with lath and plaster and wallpapered. Originally of three rooms, the central room has been partitioned and an extra external door inserted. Internal walls are plastered and papered over the slabs and there are small wooden skirting boards and cornices. Both fireplaces have ornamental wooden surrounds. All ceilings have lining boards and there are wooden floors. There is a wooden verandah along the eastern side of the building. On the western side the narrow verandah has an earthen floor. The roof, originally shingle, is covered with corrugated iron. The kitchen building is 4.4 metres west of the main house and linked by a cement path. This building has collapsed and the remaining section of the roof rests on the ground. There is a substantial chimney of stone blocks (mainly ‘granite’) but with a few thin slabs of slate. There are ground trace of other building structures near the homestead house which have been interpreted as either a stable or a school building (Winston-Gregson, 1978; Corkery and Butt, 1983). Other features of the site are a cultivation paddock beside the river and a stone-lines well. See extracts of the relevant pages in the photos above.

• Signage: Orroral Homestead. The Orroral Run. Grazing began in the Orroral Valley thirty or more years before the construction of this homestead in the late 1860s by Archibald McKeahnie and his father Charles. The Orroral Run, as it became known, was owned by many of the well known families of this area and often by different members of the same family. The McKeahnies had a major impact on the pastoral industry of this area. At various times owners of Orroral had connections with the Booroomba, Naas, Bobeyan, Gudgenby, Cuppacumbalong and Congwarra properties. Homesteads and huts. Many of the structures remaining from the early grazing era of the park are huts. Most of the huts were used for short term accommodation when working on distant or smaller properties. Homesteads were generally a viable year round concern. At 5,600 acres, the Orroral Run was large enough to support a family and servants. At one tine the homestead complex boasted the main building, its kitchen block, a school house and other buildings. The climate of the valley enabled a large number of stock to remain here all year round. How it was built. Orroral Homestead is the oldest standing building in the park. Its simple but dignified form and fine workmanship are credit to the McKeahnies. The end walls were of masonry with a mud mortar which was rendered at a later date. The side walls were of slabs possibly taken from trees further up the valley. The roof was originally of shingles; these can still be seen under the verandah. The structural timbers show signs of being shaped using a variety of methods. Internally, the board ceilings are a later addition and there are several different layers of wallpaper visible. Restoration. By the 1980s the homestead had fallen into a state of disrepair. A conservation study identified repairs required to maintain the building. The National Parks Association of the ACT along with expert contractors and park staff have completed conservation work to help protect the homestead. As you inspect the homestead notice the mix of original and new material.

• See NPA Bulletin Volume 20 number 4 June 1983 page 12-14 here.

• ACT Heritage Register: See here.