Cobham Hall is the villa that Mr. Thornhill builds on the hill on Thornhill's Point. It's modeled after Cobham Hall in London, where Mrs. Middleton worked before she married and had Sal, and parts of it are modeled after London churches. Although it's a grand building, it's not quite right in Thornhill’s eyes: the steps are awkward and too small, and the lion statues that Thornhill orders for the gateposts are tame-looking instead of ferocious. The building becomes representative Thornhill's strange success in New South Wales. Although Thornhill achieved wealth and status in New South Wales, his success doesn't quite sit well with him. Like Thornhill's success, the villa is built on unspeakable violence against the Aborigines who originally inhabited the Hawkesbury River: the house rests on top of an Aboriginal drawing of a fish and Thornhill's boat. In this way, the villa also represents the erasure of the river's original inhabitants.
Cobham Hall Quotes in The Secret River
He would not have thought that William Thornhill could ever have any relationship with a house like this except of the trespasser. But if a man had enough by way of money, he could make the world whatever way he wanted.
Under the house, covered by the weight of Mr. Thornhill's villa, the fish still swam in the rock. It was dark under the floorboards: the fish would never feel the sun again. It would not fade, as the others out in the forest were fading, with no black hands to re-draw them. It would remain as bright as the day the boards had been nailed down, but no longer alive, cut off from the trees and light that it had swum in.
But there was an emptiness as he watched Jack's hand caressing the dirt. This was something he did not have: a place that was part of his flesh and spirit. There was no part of the world he would keep coming back to, the way Jack did, just to feel it under him.