The Wallpapered Manse…if these walls could talk.

Take a glimpse into the history of domestic interiors and artefacts of houses in the Eurobodalla.

This wonderful exhibition uses the collection from the historical Presbyterian Manse in Moruya, and  MDHS historical collections as a touch-stone to rediscover the domestic life of families in local homes.

Peter Freeman, local heritage architect and author , recognised the significance of this humble but elegant Georgian cottage built in 1865, and restored the former manse as part of Sydney Living Museums’ Endangered Houses Program. Peter wrote a book The Wallpapered Manse, about the restoration of the home , its finishes and its treasures. The book was released in 2013, and was shortlisted for the 2014 NSW Premier’s History Community Awards, a considerable achievement in the field of community history.

The exhibition, full of exquisite wallpapers  from the 1860s through to more the modern designs of the 1930s;  as well as linoleum from the same early time through to some very familiar ‘modern’designs’, is a real snapshot into interior decoration through the decades from the late colonial period onwards.

These artefacts, together with the considerable domestic collection held by the Society, help tell the story of domestic life in Moruya.

This exhibition, which opened on 18 March, has been extended and will now close on 30 April. If you haven’t already seen the exhibition make sure you do. It is well worth the visit!

Group bookings

Group bookings are available. Groups will be guided by local architects, Peter Freeman and Tonique Bolt.  Morning or afternoon teas (using recipes from our cookbook collection) are also available at an extra cost. The cost/group will be determined by the number in the group and if catering is required.

If you are interested in making a booking for your group or society please :

1. Contact The museum’s curator on

Please mark the subject line: Manse Group Visits  


2. Complete and submit this online EXPRESSION OF INTEREST.

Peter Freeman

Mr Freeman has brought to life the story of the early Presbyterian church and its characters, such as the Reverend J D Murray, whose photo appears in the Bay Post’s online photo-gallery, along with snippets of wallpaper and historical buildings.


Part of the display of wallpapers
A handwriting exercise book, owned by Janetta Archibald ( daughter of Rev JH Arcibald), and used as underlay. Janetta Archibald was headmistress of Newtown North Practice School in 1920 and in 1937 was awarded the Coronation Medal for her work as a teacher and as a civil servant.
11 Fragment-of-wallpaper
Another fragment of wallpaper showing Janetta Archibald’s near perfect handwriting exercise book being used as underlay. The wallpaper, from 1887 decorated the southern bedroom
Wallpaper panel created from newspaper underlay and Rev. Henderson’s new moire wallpapers.The date of the Sydney Morning Herald underlay is October 7 1916.
Wallpaper sample c1930s taken from the northern parlour.
Tonique Bolt and Tani Freeman at the opening
A patchwork of some of the linoleum
MDHS Vice President Huon Hassall and museum curator Brian Harris admire some of the many layers of linoleum found during the restoration of the former manse
This bold geometric design is featured in one of the more modern layers of linoleum from the kitchen.
One of the Hawdon family tables set for a morning tea following church. The coconut ice and the Paradise Cake were cooked using recipes from Sarah Anderson’s handwritten recipe books. These recipes can be downloaded at the end of the post.
‘Coral’ is in the parlour following church and is wearing a dress from the Leila Campbell Estate.
Annie Fitzgerald admiring some of the Cork silver on display as well as Anderson family images and old samplers – all features of early domestic life
“Faith’ playing the piano following church. The dress is from the Leila Campbell Estate. The hat is from the extensive MDHS Hat Collection.
MDHS member, Dawn Daken at the opening
Cooked old recipes and set the kitchen table. The Paradise Cake and the ‘Cocoa Nut’ Ice were both delicious

Behind the scenes

The collection team:

Planned the exhibition
Photographed the exhibition
Jesse Rowan photographing while Peter Freeman is closely supervising
Looked through old catalogues
Received expert advice on publicity
Looked through old, handwritten recipe books and then cooked favourites

The following three recipes were taken from cookbooks from the early 1900s. The recipes from Sarah Anderson’s book were made and eaten at the opening. PS The coconut ice was a real favourite for many!

Downloadable recipes:

Please download a recipe by clicking on its name

Sarah Anderson’s Coconut Ice Recipe

Sarah Anderson’s Paradise Cake Recipe

Carolyn James’s Chocolate Nut Cake Recipe

If you haven’t seen the exhibition please make sure to find the time!


2 responses to “The Wallpapered Manse…if these walls could talk.”

  1. Jesse Rowan Avatar
    Jesse Rowan

    I’m so proud to have been involved in taking some of the photos and designing the poster and for this exhibition. What a wonderful team effort this was – and the coconut ice was to die for! Thanks, Maureen:) I love the free downloadable recipes here.

    The Moruya Museum is a wonderful step back into the past of our grandparents’ and great grandparents’ eras. A whole 2-storey house set up as it was… Peter’s book is so interesting and brings Moruya’s past to life, and the wallpaper fragments and other architectural remnants are like artworks the way they have been salvaged and displayed. This exhibition is really worth seeing.

    1. mdhsociety Avatar

      Thanks, Jesse. You are an invaluable member of the team. I have a a real treat at the museum that is just waiting for you to work your magic on it. It is a 1920’s Charleston dress – made and bought in Paris. The fabric is exquisite. It need to be photographed, displayed for a time and then carefully ‘rested’ in a textile box.

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