Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Beaulieu Homestead

Beaulieu is one of the oldest buildings in the New Town area, dating from the late 1820s.
Henry James Emmett arrived in Van Diemen's Land in November 1819 and held various middle-ranking positions in the colonial administration.   In the late 1820s Emmett built Beaulieu (originally known as Beauly Lodge) and lived there with his wife and nine children.

Unfortunately, with the erection of his house, Emmett's fortunes declined. Unable to cope with building expenses, he temporarily borrowed the fees collected by his office. When they fell into arrears, a board of inquiry ordered him to repay them fortnightly and furnish regular accounts, but exonerated him from deliberate dishonesty. As his financial troubles increased, his requests for a larger salary became more urgent, but the presumptive nature of his pleas for improved status, including appointment to the Commission of the Peace and a retiring allowance of land, met with blunt refusal. However, in 1833 he was appointed clerk of the peace and registrar of the Court of Requests, a title he considered of greater prestige than that of chief clerk. His financial embarrassment continued and he resorted again to the public purse, this time borrowing from wine and spirit licences which he had collected although he knew they were not his responsibility. Dismissed from office, he set up as a general agent, amanuensis, and debt collector and appealed unsuccessfully to the Colonial Office. Beaulieu was advertised for sale in the Colonial Times newspaper in May 1833.  The notice describes 'the house, containing an elegant entrance hall 16 ft. by 8 ft., an elegant saloon 24 ft. by 16 ft., a comfortable dining-room 20 ft. by 16 ft., all communicating by folding doors, and opening by French windows into a tasty veranda.  There are five bed-rooms, corresponding in size and proportion to the others, a good kitchen, laundry, butlers' pantry, secure store-room and dairy. The out-offices embrace servants' rooms, good stables, coach-house with lofts and granaries, poultry house and yard, dove cot, and an extensive range of useful buildings. There are three acres of land encircling the house, laid out with much taste, and covered with English grasses.'

Beaulieu wasn't sold and was advertised again in November 1833 when it was described as a 'delightful residence for a family of the highest respectability'.  Beaulieu was purchased by George Bilton, a merchant who operated from premises at Old Wharf in Hobart.  Bilton only lived at Beaulieu for a few years before advertising it for sale in The Hobart Town Courier newspaper in December 1837.  The property was described as a 'beautiful residence … commanding one of the finest views in the island.'
John Swan purchased Beaulieu and 13 acres for ₤3,000.  Swan had arrived in Van Diemen's Land in 1823 and had established a successful store in Hobart.  Swan purchased some of the surrounding land so that the estate extended to some 100 acres and became known as 'Swan's Hill'.  Swan lived at Beaulieu with his large family and two of his daughters married men that were to become prominent politicians - Catherine married Thomas Daniel Chapman and they lived at Sunnyside (today's 7 Swanston Street, New Town), and Maria married William Nairn and they lived at Leyton (today's 36A Augusta Road, New Town).  John Swan died in 1858 but the Swan family continued to own Beaulieu until it was sold to Russell Young in November 1875.

Russell Young was a solicitor with the firm, Russell Young and Butler, and he helped to found the Southern Law Society.  Young was a member of the House of Assembly between 1872 and 1877.  Young also served on the committee of the Southern Tasmanian Agricultural and Pastoral Society and won prizes for his livestock at shows that were held in the grounds of Hobartville (today's Friends' High School), located on the opposite side of New Town Road from Beaulieu.  Young was an excellent amateur photographer and his photos are now part of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery collection, an institution that he was largely responsible for founding.

Henry Robert Brent moved into Beaulieu in 1883 and lived there until the early 1920s.  Henry was the son of John Brent who co-founded the successful auctioneering business, Brent and Westbrook.  In the 1870s, Henry became a salesman for Roberts and Co, and later became one of the company's directors.
The Beaulieu estate was about 10 acres at this time and the homestead had extensive gardens, including a large croquet lawn.  The Brent family gradually subdivided the Beaulieu estate during the 1910s and 1920s.  The Church of England purchased a block of land fronting New Town Road and St James' Church was built in 1916.  Rupert Avenue, which was named after Henry Brent's eldest son, was constructed in 1920.
The Beaulieu homestead was purchased by William James Taylor in 1927 and it remained in Taylor family ownership until at least the 1950s.  Beaulieu still had tennis courts at that time but units were built at the rear of the property in the 1970s. Beaulieu is in wonderful condition and is currently a private residence.

Information Sources: Australian Heritage Database
Australian Dictionary Of Biography: Henry James Emmett (1783 - 1848)