Rose Cottage, Canberra

About Us

The Beginning

The land on which the current Rose Cottage estate is situated was originally part of Andre Cunningham’s ‘Tuggeranong Station’, which was spelt Tuggranong earlier. The land on which Rose Cottage is situated formed the northeastern boundary of Hya Macquoid’s Waniassa until it was sold to Andrew Cunningham after Macquoid’s death in 1857.

Between 1875 and 1877, Richard James Harris (1830 – 1904) purchased Tuggeranong land from Cunningham. In 1878 Harris’s new 2,000-acre (809.37 ha) property became known as the Sweet Hills Estate. It is thought that Margaret Harris planted Kurrajong trees on the southeastern boundary (facing the former Monaro Highway, part of the old road is visible).

Harris, a cabinet-maker from England, built the cottages. The older, smaller of the two cottages, now the Café, may date from late 1860’s to early 1870’s. The second cottage, now called “Mary’s Bar”, dates from about 1878. The method construction of the huts was called ‘pise de terre’ or ‘rammed earth’. According to the historian (the late) Lyall Gillespie, Eusebio Ponsey, a South American, introduced this form of construction to the Tuggeranong region in the late 1860’s.

The two simple early vernacular cottages are build in subtly different ways. The earlier rear Pise cottage has a kitchen fireplace, (now rebuilt), Gabled iron roof over shingles, narrow eaves and a loft. The later cottage has timber-framed mud-packed walls, with a hipped iron roof. It has an encircling verandah and a massive fireplace. The cottages are significant for the way they ‘demonstrate one aspect of prioneer life in the Territory and as evidence of traditional construction techniques.’ (The Heritage of the Australian Capital Territory, 1992, p.52)

The Early ‘Rose Cottage’

When Richard Harris subsequently managed Tidbinbilla Station for Andrew Cunningham, John Thomas Edlington and his family occupied Rose Cottage for a short period around 1911. Harris’s son, Richard (Junior) returned to Rose Cottage around 1913 and ran sheep and cattle. In 1927, the land was acquired by the Commonwealth (Gazetted 5/5/27) and leased back to Richard (Junior), where he and his family remained until 1945.

The Middle Years

After 1945, when Richard Harris (Junior) left Rose Cttage, the land had a number of subsequent lessees however the buildings were untenanted and began to deteriorate until 1983 when formal restoration began.

The Restoration Period

Murray’s Coach Service began using the cottage as a stopover from about 1966. During their usage of the cottages, Murray added some facilities and carried out some basic repairs.

In 1975, the cottages came under threat of destruction by the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) and its plan for the construction of Isabella Drive. After much lobbying by interested parties the buildings were preserved and the road was re-routed around the property.

The site was classified by the National Trust of Australia in 1980 and listed on the Register of the National Estate, (Australian Heritage Commission) in June 1981. Rose Cottage estate is listed as a Site of Significance, NCDC, 1988 and nominated to the Interim Heritage Places Register of the ACT, ACT Heritage Council, (Date 1992? Current status?)

A note in the Canberra Times on 31st January 1983 stated: ‘Restoration of two buildings, construction of a service block, driveway, car-park, courtyards and children’s playground are scheduled for completion in March (1983).’

In 1994 Helen Fullgrabe and family purchased the property and instigated many improvements: repairs to Mary’s bar, paving and glassing-in of the function room, paving and roofing of the area between the cottages to create an atrium and several buildings added to the property.

The Glasswell family took over the property in 2000 and sold it to the Piagno family in 2006 who have further upgraded Mary’s bar, installed a commercial kitchen, and rejuvenated the beautiful gardens.

The Origin of the Name

There are several origins of the Rose Cottage name. One was that Richard Harris’s whife, Margaret Harris (nee Murphy -1840-1918) grew roses at the front of the first cottage and named it accordingly. Another originated from Ruby Harris, daughter of Richard Harris (junior) who, when interviewed in 1982 said that her mother, Mary, had named it Rose Cottage as she was interested in building up her rose garden.


The Rose Cottage Estate, comprising of only nine of the original 2,000 acres until recently provided premises for several small businesses. Today, one of those businesses continues as the Old Rose Inn. The original two cottages are occupied by a café, and Mary’s bar. The additional glass room is used for functions and events and has a huge indoor open fireplace – wonderful for those winter nights. And the beautiful grassed and landscaped surrounds make a perfect beer garden, or outdoor function areas.

The gardens have been lovingly restored and are an historic feature of the Rose Cottage Estate. Three of the Kurrajong trees that Margaret Harris is thought to have planted remain in the grounds as well as many heritage rose varieties.

Rose Cottage History – Time Line

Circa 1874
First Cottage constructed by Richard Harris.
Richard James Harris purchased 3 blocks from ‘Tuggeranong’ on which the cottage stood.
One hut is shown on Portion plan, land valued at £15.
Circa 1878
Second cottage constructed.
Circa 1882
Richard Harris and family moved to Cunningham’s ‘Tidbinbilla’.
John Thomas Edlington and family occupied cottages.
Circa 1913
Richard Harris (Junior) and family returned to Rose Cottage.
Land acquired by the Commonwealth – leased back to Richard Harris (Junior).
Richard Harris (Junior) vacated Rose Cottage. Farm leased to James Lindbeck. Cottage separately leased by Don McDonald of Hill Station.
Land used for farming – buildings begin to deteriorate.
Land leased by Leo Hawke until 1972. Murray’s being using cottages as a Coach stop-over. Basic repairs carried out.
Cottages under threat by NCDC’s plan to construct Isabella Drive.
Ron Murray proposed plan for complete restoration valued at $60,000.
Complex classified by the National Trust of Australia.
Buildings registered on the National Estate, (RNE), Australian Heritage Commission (AHC).
Restoration of buildings completed. Construction of service block, carpark, courtyard,Children’s playground.
Development plans proposed for dual Service centres and bridge over highway.
Gap in history research – Can you help?
Helen Fullgrabe who instigated improvements and added buildings to the property.
Mike and Sharon Glasswell
The Piagno family. Mary’s bar re-opened, gardens rejuvenated.