Ipswich Heritage House Gooloowan
Ipswich Heritage House Gooloowan Darren Hallesy

Houses of Ipswich: Gooloowan

IT'S a house that you've probably driven past hundreds of times, and never realised what a treasure trove of history lies within.

The history of Gooloowan, on Denmark Hill, can be traced back to 1849 when Benjamin Cribb, a name that often pops up in the Houses of Ipswich features, moved into the area with his wife Elizabeth and three children.

Mr Cribb opened a store in Bell Street, followed by another called London Stores.

Sadly Elizabeth died after having a fourth child, and the a year later Benjamin Cribb married Clarissa Foote, the sister of his manager, John Clark Foote.

Raising the four children as her own, Clarissa went on to have another six with Benjamin.

In 1856 Benjamin and John became partners, so Cribb & Foote, a name synonymous with Ipswich history was born. Their department store dominated retail business until the sote burnt down in the mid-1980s'.

With ten children to house, Cribb built Gooloowan in the early 1860s, and lived there until he died in 1874. Clarissa stayed at Gooloowan until her death in 1899, only days before the start of the 20th Century.

Since then, the home has been passed down through the Cribb and related Walker families until 1988, when Graham and Genevieve Isbell bought the house.

"We bought it 30 years ago, as previously we lived in Waghorn Street, spending a long time making our dream home over a 20-year period," Mrs Isbell said.

"I have always loved Gooloowan, and I knew that four generations had lived here before they decided to sell. I've always admired the exterior, and I knew it needed some rejuvenating, but we were okay with that."

As you walk into the home, like many of the older homes in Ipswich, it is amazingly cool. With long verandas around the entire house, and French doors from most rooms, homes in the 1800's were designed to catch the breeze, no matter from what direction it was blowing.

The main bedroom is air conditioned and is only used a few weeks of the year. The house does get cold and the main fireplace in the drawing room is used throughout winter.

The Isbells have six adult children, and eight grandchildren who love to come and visit. When they moved in, the youngest was only three years old, which led to many an adventure.

"Our grandchildren love the place, its full of all kinds of things. They love all my bits and pieces. It's full of discovery for them," Genevieve said. "Having a three-year-old was hard and our youngest would often wander off, as the property wasn't fully fenced. Kerrod Walters rang me one day and said my daughter was at his place down the hill."

As you walk into the house, first door on the right is a library, stacked to the ceiling with books, mostly dating back to the 1800s'. As part of the sale, the owners left a multitude of items behind, which might deter many people, but the Isbells loved the idea.

"We were delighted with all the memorabilia they left, the books are marvellous, most are from the 1800s and you can see what the original owners were interested in. It understand the interests of the people who lived here. I was very grateful they left them," Genevieve said. "It's lovely to be surrounded by all those books. The Oxley library took many, and then a private buyer, and the rest were left.

"Gooloowan will always be a work in progress, but we enjoy looking after it."

With big verandas that give amazing views of the mountains, the house is a stone's throw from the Ipswich Hospital, yet is so incredibly peaceful, and surrounded by trees.

In every room, there are books and magazines, with a radio tuned to ABC giving it a sense of calm amongst the history. Only one TV was found on QT Mag's guided tour, and two computers. The rest of the house, including the servants rooms, formal dining rooms and even a courting chair, make the house popular with history buffs.

"We often have bus tours through as I like to open it to promote Ipswich and Queensland heritage. We would have had thousands of people through over the years, and I have visitor's books full of comments. At the last Great Houses of Ipswich event we had 800 people visit," Genevieve said.

"People say to me on occasions that how much they would love to live here. It's so different...they like seeing an old house that is still lived in, as a family home. Some have said to me it's a 'living museum'."

She knows every detail about this place!" Dr Isbell added. "You have to love what you do in these old homes, and we are careful to look after the heritage of the house.

"Someone once said 'are you doing it up to sell it?'

"No. Not at all. We spent 20 years at our last house, and loved it.

The Isbells clearly love this home too, especially the conservatory where they spend most of their time in the summer months.

"We think of ourselves as custodians," Genevieve said.