John Olsen's former Chapel House, Rydal, listed by Maxwell family

John Olsen's former Chapel House, Rydal, listed by Maxwell family
John Olsen's former Chapel House, Rydal, listed by Maxwell family

Chapel House, the Rydal property associated with some of the best works of the artist John Olsen, is on the market through Nicolette van Wijngaarden from Unique Estates.

The historic 75 hectare property, near Lithgow, has been listed by the Maxwell family who bought its from Olsen and his wife Katherine in the late 1990s.

Surrounded by gardens featuring two ornamental lakes with weeping willows, the main homestead is a 1920s Georgian-style building that dates to its times as a Franciscans Brothers seminary.

But there's a village like mix of Colonial, Federation and Bungalow style historic buildings, the oldest a Cobb and Co Inn, built of stone around 1832 when the Old Bathurst Road ran through the property. It became known as the Queen Victoria Inn. There's a quaint cottage which was the original inn kitchen plus the studio cottage used for 10 years by Olsen, probably Australia’s best known contemporary artist.

The property was originally part of a land grant to the Reverend Henry Fulton, who was sent to Australia as a convict on the SS Minerva in 1803 for seditious practices. He was later pardoned for services rendered to the Hawkesbury parish.


The current owner Jo Maxwell discovered she was is a direct descendant of the Reverend Fulton, after she and husband Michael purchased the property in 1998 for $965,000.

Olsen, desiring peace and quiet to paint, had hoped to never move house again, according to his 1997 book, Drawn From Life. But wife Katherine, who oversaw the large gardens, dressage rings and stables, insisted on moving to the Southern Highlands where they reside nowadays.

John Olsen's son, the Woollahra art dealer Tim Olsen, believes that some of his father's best work has come his decade at the property. There was a series entitled Spring at Rydal,

One painting called Picnic at Rydal is a large work depicting John and Katharine having just prepared a chicken risotto and sitting up on the hill overlooking the property having a picnic. 

Rydal, which is right on top of the Great Dividing Range with an altitude of almost 1,000 metres, is rarely very hot and never humid. The Chapel House garden is ever changing with its summer irises and then roses, onto autumn with it glorious tones of reds and golds. Spring sees a festival when thousands of daffodils provide a sea of yellow.

This article first appeared in the Sunday Telegraph.

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.

Trophy Listing Rydal

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