A grand old lady in the French colonial style, Jimbour presides over the plain that shares her name north of Dalby, silently watching the world as it keeps changing its shape around her.
Built from locally-hewn sandstone, there she has stood for the better part of 140 years (a long time in Australian terms). She has known good times and bad, dry times and wet. She has hosted governors and ghosts (Ludwig Leichhardt famously stayed there on his well-known expedition to Port Essington), children have slipped down the banisters of her grand staircase and played in her cedar-clad grand hallway.
Gentlemen have played billiards in her grand billiard room, and beautifully dressed ladies have perched on her dainty velvet chairs, making polite conversation. All this history she holds close to her heart as she stands, solid and silent, on the last probing finger of the Bunya Mountains as they finally give way to the rich agricultural flatness of the Jimbour Plain.
Once there was no viewing place from her grand verandahs that did not look out over Jimbour Station’s 300,000 acres. Today there is less land, at 11,500 acres still a more-than-substantial holding. But there the story takes a different twist from the usual run of colonial mansions in this day and age.
Over a number of recent years, under the direction first of Wilfred and Millicent Russell, subsequently Charles and Hilary Russell and more recently their son David and his wife Deborah, Jimbour has been restored to her former glory – and then some. Ugly utilitarian renovations made over the years of business and necessity have been stripped away. Lovely symmetrical gardens, in size and keeping with the grandeur of the house, have been established and are maintained under the ministrations of two full-time gardeners.
Poignancy combines with breathtaking beauty in the northern garden – in particular, The Deborah Russell Memorial Garden. Deborah Russell did not live to see her dream garden, dedicated to her in November 2011 by her grieving husband David. On the eastern side, dominated by magnificent spreading Moreton Bay figs, a huge, manicured vegetable garden honours the memory of the lady who commenced the restoration of the house, David’s grandmother, Millicent.
The Russell family has always shown generosity towards the district that bears their home’s name. The swimming pool that is a central feature of the southern vista has been open slather for the local populace. Visitors are welcome to stroll around the beautifully-maintained grounds.
But most of all, the local Arts Council regularly makes use of the elegant interior of the house, a perfect setting for concerts, operas and recitals, which are held in the lavishly appointed drawing room twice a year. Up to 150 guests can be comfortably accommodated in the interior when the Arts Council hosts its regular concerts there. The biennial Queensland Music Festival will conduct a lunchtime opera in the outdoor amphitheatre at Jimbour House on July 20.
Words by Jane Grieve | Images by Janine Waters