When the Rev. Thomas Hassall sold Salem Vale two of his men, John Hearne and William Marks, remained in the district, each taking up land on his own account – Hearne buying 640 acres of present Markdale land, then known as Slete’s Gully, in 1836. This property was later bought by Marks (1858) who built the tiny slab cottage surviving beside the stone house (shown in the photo above). The stone house was probably started in the mid 1800’s and completed by Mr Wells who owned the property 1877-1912.
In 1920 Markdale was bought by Mr James Ashton, parliamentary member for Goulburn 1901-1908 (Minister for Lands), father of the Ashton Polo Team grandfather of the present owners, Mr and Mrs Geoffrey Ashton.
Mr and Mrs James Ashton chose a site on the slope opposite the stone house to build their new homestead, a single storey traditional family home enclosed by deep verandahs, using concrete blocks made from a single mould on site and timber cut and milled on the property.
Markdale has been the pastoral home of the Ashton family for three generations. The Ashtons have entertained their family and friends there since 1921, when the new homestead was built with local timber, hewn and sawn on the property and concrete blocks, hand cast on the site. Mr. James Ashton had four sons Jim, Robert, Geoff and Phil. Markdale provided a perfect venue for James Ashton’s four enthusiastic polo-playing sons. A polo field and a hitting pit on the property, plus frequent trips, riding and driving their horses to and from Goulburn for weekend matches, helped hone their skills.
In the 1930’s, the four brothers shipped their horses to England, the United States and India to compete against top international teams, winning numerous tournaments, including England’s Hurlingham Championship and the Indian Empire Shield. Polo was the family passion and the brothers formed an invincible team in Australia retiring unbeaten in 1938.