Kenneth McKenzie collection
A collection of handcrafted timber furniture and domestic arts and crafts items made by Kenneth McKenzie (1836-1922), mining engineer and amateur cabinetmaker. The collection includes tables and table-tops, cutlery boxes, a work box, picture frames, a small cabinet, and a travelling trunk. This collection forms part of the broader collection associated with the house museum Meroogal at Nowra on the south coast of New South Wales.
Kenneth McKenzie was the youngest of six children of Thomas and Mary McKenzie, Scottish emigrants to the Shoalhaven district on the south coast of New South Wales in 1839. He was a mining engineer who made enough money, working on gold fields across New South Wales, to retire early at the age of 50, when he returned to the McKenzie family home in Cambewarra, NSW. He became an amateur cabinet-maker and a self-taught architect and builder. In the 1860s he had designed a house called Llanthony near Cambewarra for his sister Georgina Matthews and her husband Samuel. In the 1880s he designed and built Meroogal, a double storey, timber, Gothic-style house in Nowra for his widowed sister Jessie Catherine Thorburn and her four unmarried daughters. Although Meroogal probably derives from an American pattern-book source, McKenzie, like many other craftsmen of the time, had an interest in the use of Australian timbers. He was a keen naturalist, spending many hours bushwalking, particularly in the Cambewarra ranges, often in the company of William Bauerlen, a German-born botanist and collector of Australian plants for Baron Ferdinand von Mueller and also employed as a botanical collector for J H Maiden by the Technological Museum, Sydney, from 1886-1904. McKenzie used his craft to make gifts for soldiers returning to the district following active service as well as for his family. He exhibited at the Royal Agricultural Show and at local Schools of Arts and his work is also held in private collections.
One of the items in the Meroogal collection is a marquetry table-top made by McKenzie in his home workshop at Cambewarra using local timbers such as red cedar, rose mahogany, silky oak, blackwood, honeysuckle and musk. McKenzie recorded the list of woods used in the construction of the table, listing both their common and botanical names. This handwritten list survives at Meroogal and the table-top exemplifies McKenzie’s significance as a contributor to the tradition of Australian amateur craftspeople whose craft provided an expression for their love of the Australian bush and its timbers.
Arts and crafts movement; Australian timbers; Cabinet-making; Marquetry; Parquetry; Timber houses
Shoalhaven, New South Wales, Australia; Cambewarra, New South Wales; South Coast, New South Wales, Australia; Nowra, New South Wales, Australia