The Maltings, Part Two- The Light.

by Lori Dwyer on June 14, 2012 · 17 comments

Continued from yesterday…

There’s a fireplace in every room, some with their original cast iron molded plates. The most recent version of wallpaper still lines the walls, and the beautiful detail of skirting boards and cornices that were crafted rather than mass produced is evident. A wood stove and tiny kitchen are built into the kitchen, which is directly next to the old fashioned pantry with its ice box and fly screen door.

There is one bedroom in rich dark wood with wine colored walls, and it feels like love– this was the master bedroom, obviously, and the couple who occupied it for most of it’s time were happy.

Ancient light fixtures and electricity boxes survive; as does as a tiny, screened out door area at the rear of house, with benches built into the walls– it would have been so beautiful out here in spring and summer, surrounded by rampant greenery, with that continual smell of malt in the air.

And the floors… I know how strange this may strike you as, but the floors in this house took my breath away– solid, shining Australian timber, red maple and dark eucalypt, all still intact without a touch of termite’s teeth. The wood alone would be worth a small fortune– even after years of mistreatment, the floors still shine when you rub off the dust. And the front hallway contains a proof of life so solid it makes me gasp– a stripe of that exquisite wooden flooring in the centre of the hall that is a slightly different tone to the rest.

It’s where a hall runner has lain for countless years, tracked upon by thousands of footsteps. It’s solid proof that, once upon a time, lives ebbed and flowed right here.

As Bunny and I had excitedly roamed our way through the first building, we had found ourselves unintentionally trailed by two women– one I assume to be my age, but I later discover she’s forty; the other is older– I’d guess sixty or seventy, but in good health and great conversation. We smiled and said hello to them, and assured them of the safety to the upper floors; they had arrived maybe ten minutes behind us, but weren’t as thorough in their expeditions; so by the time I was marveling at the cottage floors (and Bunny was outside playing with his phone, sick of ’looking at old crap’), they were looking around the tiny house too.

”Excuse me”, I say, unable to help my curiosity, “do you happen to know when it closed here? When did everybody leave?” It’s a fair enough question– such big, beautiful buildings in prime real estate position, in the midst of an area that prides itself on it’s heritage… like all the abandoned places I’ve been, there is an eerie feeling of surreality and encapsulation here– it defies the laws we live by, the corporate commons sense that boils down to greed and money.

The older lady smiles, and she’s quite lovely. I couldn’t see her drinking tea from a mug, or discussing anything as vulgar as menstruation or flatulence in public, in the way women of my age have no issues with. She has certain grace about her– she reminds me of my gran.

”The mid–Eighties I believe it was, dear”, and Google says she is correct, “but it’s been much longer than that since I was here. My daughter bought me down for the day,” she indicates the tall, pretty woman beside her. “I grew up here.”

”Here?” I say “In Mittagong?”

”Well, yes dear– I was born here, went to primary school here. But I mean to say, I grew up here– my family lived in in this house.”

I stare at her for a moment, wondering if either she’s senile and her daughter is about to take her by the arm and lead her gently away; or if I’m seeing a ghost or having some kind of PTSD hallucination.

Then tall woman pulls out her iPhone to start taking pictures. That pretty much spells reality to me.

But the serendipity of it is startling– what are the chances of that happening, of finding this women here on the random day, at the random nothing–ever–happens time of about two o’clock?

One in million, maybe? Higher?

I have so many questions I don’t even know how to verbalize the one. This woman doesn’t mind– she’s a story teller, obviously, like me, and she’s happy to talk through my slightly stunned silences.

The cottage was custom built for the caretaker of the Maltings, she said; he lived on the property year round. That caretaker was her father; and he and her mother, not long married, moved into the newly constructed building in 1908.

This woman grew up here– she played in the creek that runs under the little bridge we crossed betwee
n buildings. She remembers when this silent, overgrown yard was bustling with people; when this area was a major transit hub and twice as populated as it is now.

Her mother gave birth to nineteen children and raised them all in this tiny three bedroom house, luxurious as it might have been by standard of a hundred years ago. Nineteen. The cottage is lined with tapering pine trees– I imagine they once separated the cottage garden from the work yard and gave the family their own space. The woman I’m talking to tells me she has photo of her family, a portrait taken with them all posed in the front of this house.

The towering pine trees were just saplings.

I expect her to pull the picture from her sensible, sturdy hand bag– that would work just perfectly with the eerie sense of perfect timing that’s laced through this conversation. She doesn’t, of course. But she tells me that in this photo, the mother of the family is pregnant with her final baby. Her eldest baby is man now, and he’s in this photo too– it’s the last photo ever taken of him, because he went off to World War One just days later, and passed away in France two weeks before the war was over and a cease fire declared.

He left the country before that final baby was born. This mother never had all her children in the same room, at the same time… it strikes me as the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.

That family did what families do– they grew up, gradually moved away, had families of their own. They spread out away from the Maltings. The last caretaker here was this woman’s uncle, who left here just a few years before the whole place shut down in 1981.

I say goodbye and thank her… I’m dazed, my heads still trying to stitch all these facts and stories together, and outside the house feels cold.

This place, it’s missing the dust and must of the house down the road, or even Shed Five… It’s been too long, too many people have trampled over the history that was here to find any real detail left in it.

But the woman, this serendipitous ghost… she makes the house feel warm, she fills this silent place with people.

I can’t help but wonder if it hurts her, or if it’s gratifying, to return here… she seemed as though she grew up very happy. There’s something about growing up here that’s left a pleasant, indelible mark on her soul.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous June 18, 2012 at 9:22 pm

hey i was there this last weekend, so cool to wander around, and im hoping to find some old pics of the place before it closed to add to my pics i took, so if anyone knows of any please contact me,


Melissa June 15, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Holy WOW. That is too amazing to have been a coincidence. Wow.


Nellie June 15, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Hi Lori. I read every day and comment sometimes.

I loved this post. I live in the states and my grandmother had 18 kids – my mom was number five. She is still living and we go to her house a couple times a year. Your story really made me look at something I had just taken for granted my whole life. A very large family being raised in a not so large house, all on one salary. As an adult I see things in their life I never did as a child. Thanks for the great post and for helping me see my family in a new light. :)

Ps – I assumed she confused the world wars. It makes the most sense. Besides many people refer to the conflict that happened in their generation simply as THE war. Makes it even easier to confuse too though for someone trying to follow the story a wise one is telling. :) I love these posts Lori!


A. Fool June 15, 2012 at 10:13 am

Why the hell hasn't someone bought the old cottage and done the place up?
It has sooo much potential..such a waste.

And the Maltings…man imagine what you could do with that with a bit of time and cash.
We have big ugly oncrete blocks going up left right and centre but this beautiful old building gets left to rot?!

Love your urbexing tales Lori.So wish I could check out the places you mention.
There is nothing like that around where I live now.
When I was a kid though there were a few old 'haunted houses' that were always so fun/scary to explore.

Amazing how peoples energetic imprints never go away,hey.


Anne-Maree Palmieri June 14, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Perfectly put! So true.


Anne-Maree Palmieri June 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm

….. And further more ( screen froze before I was finished) I loved these two posts and the pics are awesome Lori. I know these buildings and have often wondered about them.
I shared your posts with my sister as she and my mum live just around that same area.

Let's just appreciate and enjoy Lori's efforts. She never said she was keeping some kind of historical archive here; just sharing her enjoyment of a hobby , with I'm loving.
More please!



MockingbirdDontWrite June 14, 2012 at 10:39 pm

I grew up in historic houses. My parents were passionate about restoring them, and I have never lived in anything younger than 75 years. In my childhood my parents tried very hard to piece together the stories of those who lived in the house, but when there isn't concrete evidence, and more than just the relating of the stories by Historic District heads, and elderly women who once lived there, it can be quite a daunting, and messy, task. I believe the story matters far more than the accuracy. Much of history as a whole is little more than story, but it's an essential story. Were it not for stories like your's, we drive by that house, or for most of us never know of it's existence, and the memories would forever lie dormant within those walls. So, maybe you didn't get it all right. But that doesn't matter. You told the story you were told. You honored the memories of the home. One day I can only hope someone will do the same for my daughter's childhood home. Whether they get it all right, or not.


Anne-Maree Palmieri June 14, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Hi Lori, hi kinda rude anon commenter…
Just doing some quick sums myself… Is it possible she was talking about WW2 rather than WW1? Let's assume that little old lady's mum was very young when she got married in 1908. Instead of assuming she had a baby a year for approx 20 years, it's entirely possible her kids were born over more like 30 years…. Taking us up to 1939 and WW2. It's also a fact that the infant mortality rate was much higher back then so she could well have lost other babies and pregnancies along the way. This was very common back then. Even if the old lady is in her 80s she could still have a nice walk around the old house.

My mother was born in 1929 and can still get around just fine and loves a chat.


Fiona June 14, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Ahh so much potential!


Debyl1 June 14, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I love your stories about your discoveries in Tiny Train Town.I also always get facts like dates,daughter/grand daughter etc mixed up as I am usually so caught up in listening to the actual story that the little details go in one ear and out the other.
Thanks again for sharing.
Please dont be upset by people who are not proud enough of the words they write to put their name to those words.


PlatformSoul June 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Rude cow. Back to your sad, dark, negative, critical life ANON. We don't want your kind here.
Thanks for lovely post Lori. I'd do anything to spend just five minutes with my parents in my lovely childhood home. Just to tell them thank you for providing me with love, warmth and caring. So glad that when you walk through this old place, you can visualise the life long forgotten.
And speaking of forgotten. Who cares about dates? Someone got it wrong … But really, is it that important?


Madam Bipolar June 14, 2012 at 3:19 pm

That was so rude, Anon! Back in your box.


Lori @ RRSAHM June 14, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Woah- excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor!
Anon, if that is your real name- I can assure you that this 'fiction' is a true story- if it weren't, I certainly wouldn't have messed up dates like that, nor included a second person/ my mate Bunny.

If you're implying the lady I met is telling stories- well, what on earth would the point be…?

Amateur mathematicians… considering, as I said, I didn't take notes and have left a considerable period of time before posting this- is it possible that with all those maternal family relations, I got confused, and the woman I spoke with was the *granddaughter* of the couple who lived in the house originally, and the younger women with her their great granddaughter…?


Anonymous June 14, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Wait. The mother was pregnant with her last child in 1918 (when her oldest was sent off to the tail end of WWI). The last child was a male, so obviously this "old dear" was born before that, no? That would make her 94+ years old.

A nice piece of fiction…


Anonymous June 14, 2012 at 11:10 am

Ha, can you tell I work with numbers and can you believe I sat there working out the dates, maybe I have OCD ;) . Great post though, I too love exploring old places, they are very evocative.
Lisa x


Lori @ RRSAHM June 14, 2012 at 10:43 am

Lisa, it's probably me who has mixed up the dates- I met this woman two months and had nothing with me to take notes!
Let's say, at a stretch, the woman was eighty? Nineteen kids take a long time. And I'll go for the romanticized version of 'newlyweds', because it just fits better with the old dear's story- say, married in 1900 and the first baby born immediately? A sixteen year old going to WW1 isn't much of a surprise.


Anonymous June 14, 2012 at 10:05 am

That's a funny time divide, if the woman was 70 she would have been born in 1942. If the parents moved in 1908 as newly-weds that would mean the lady was born 34 years after they moved in. If the eldest son went to WW1 in 1914-1918 he would only have been 10 when he died, if say he was born in 1908 when they were married?
God sorry, it's like one of those maths questions, "if the train left at 6 O'clock and passed through 5 stations what time would the pear drop from the tree".
Lisa x
Maybe the lady was a little mixed up with her dates :)


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