The only new house we have ever lived in was a mid-century box shape on stilts at Broulee, a seaside village on the South Coast of NSW. We had some happy times there in our holiday house with four of our six children, but as you can guess, life became too busy with weekend sport, etc., so we let it go (at a good price).
The most exciting house we ever lived in was “Blue Haze”, a 16th century thatched house in Berkshire, UK, not far from Oxford. It comprised three farm cottages formed into one house, set in a large formal garden. It oozed history. It had a fresco on the wall of an upstairs bedroom where the Catholics used to hide from Cromwell. It had the original four poster bed in it. The locals had many stories about who used that bedroom but we kept it for guests from Australia who came to stay. We were very poor living on Frank’s Fellowship allowance but rich in accommodation.
Right now we live in one of the oldest cottages in Benalla, “Barkly Cottage” in Barkly St. When we decided to down size on to flat ground, we sold Market St with its lovely outlook over the park and looked for a smart villa with a courtyard garden – nothing to be found in Benalla at that time. When I walked into 66 Barkly St with its pretty front garden, I felt a sense of “I’m Home” come over me! The front bedroom was derelict, every window and door seemed to need attention, but the newer part of the house was in good condition.
I saw the courtyards on either side, while the ancient grape vine hovering over one of the courtyards offered a piece of Tuscany for outside dining in hot weather.
The backyard was an uneven paddocks of weeds. My idea of a courtyard had grown beyond all expectations and now is too much for us. The back is now landscaped, but needs little kids to play on the huge flat lawn.
The front bedroom is now a study with bookshelves filling the wall. Peter Maher did the renovation over a 12 month period. He built cupboards and shelves, fitted them in place both in the study and other rooms, then turned painting the exterior along with general maintenance to exterior cladding. The kitchen remains dated but a joy to work in with its lovely timber benches.
The history of Barkly Cottage is interesting and goes back to the original Crown Grant of the land to James Swords in 1853. The Blackburne family lived here with nine children!
One of the interesting and well known occupants was Lorna Blair, residing here between 1962 to1981. By this time the block had been subdivided from 2023m2to 927m2. I sometimes feel her spirit in the house.
On Wednesday 22nd September I was in the kitchen at 9:18 am when I heard a tremendous roar. Suddenly everything started vibrating, until it became more violent. The house shook, a strong wind blew inside the house (nothing was open to the outside). I thought a helicopter had crashed on the roof. The floor rose and fell in waves. Yet we don’t seem to have any damage.
At 9:20 am I wondered if Lorna was disturbed in her grave.
NOW really, during an earthquake, you don’t want to be sitting in a kitchen of a house with home-made bricks and with the original hand-made glass, and wonder about its history!
At 9:20 am it had all stopped. We were lucky, and amazed that even the old chimney is still standing.
Thank you Lorna!