Beleura is a beautiful mansion situated on Snapper Point at Mornington – on the Mornington Peninsula. Construction of what was to become ‘the finest mansion in the Colonies’ (Haven’t we heard that before?) was commenced in 1863 for Mr James Butchart, a wealthy pastoralist. He was another who had made his fortune from sheep and the ‘Golden Fleece’.
Mornington in those days was know as Schnapper Point. Mr Butchart died in 1869. At that time the mansion was purchased by Charles Edward Bright and his wife Georgiana Manners-Sutton, daughter of the Colony of Victoria’s Governor, Sir John Manners-Sutton. Beleura became the unofficial summer retreat for the Governor and his family.
The property passed through the hands of several other wealthy and powerful families until 1916 when it was purchased by Sir George Tallis (but held in his wife’s name, Amelia Tallis). It was again used as a summer retreat by the Tallis family, but Sir George Tallis also proceeded to purchase land to create a working estate capable of supporting such a grand house. In his retirement he farmed Beleura and another property in Wagga Wagga – where he subsequently died in 1948.
Sir George Tallis was a significant businessman and investor in early Melbourne, being the major investor in the JC Williamson Entertainment Company. The Theatre company was internationally successful with stars like Dame Nellie Melba and others performing Gilbert and Sullivan operas through the late 19th Century at theatres such as Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne. The earliest architect to work on the project was Harold Desbrowe Annear.
The gardens were based on designs by the famous Edna Walling in concert with Harold Desbrowe Annear. Desbrowe Annear added Italian style reflective pools to the extensive gardens. Monterey Cypress, Monterey Pine and Lemon scented gums were planted providing shelter for the lower stories of the gardens. These are now all mature trees.
It featured a typical Victorian and Edwardian Rose Garden based on Vita Sackville-West’s famous garden at Sissinghurst in Kent.
The building features a dramatic sweeping Italianate styled villa facade. The Loggia (or front verandah) pays homage to a feature replicated through most significant Australian buildings of the period, and is supported by a complete pageant of Corinthian Columns. Great Urns and an Italianate style balustrade parapet of a most elaborate design complete the vista. The house features a tower to take in the view of the entire estate. The interior houses an amazing collection of decorative arts, with a mixture of Victorian Antiques, Italian Chandeliers (Murano) and sumptuous, traditional period furniture. Mural Artist, Wesley Penberthy was commissioned to paint mythical gods and goddesses on the walls and ceilings but forbidden to paint nudes. All gods and goddesses were to be clothed.
Jack Mortin Tallis (John), by family agreement, occupied Beleura and took ownership in 1950. He was not entirely happy with the arrangement, seeing it as a significant risk.
However he did then devote his life to the preservation of Beleura and upon his death in 1996 he bequeathed his now beloved property to the people of Victoria in perpetuity. To some extent he overlaid the original 19th Century garden with further Italianate features and layout. There are though still remaining significant 19th Century garden features that survive to this day and provide great insight into those times.
This is a property you must see for yourself. For scheduled guided tours of both the house and the gardens please call 03 5975 2027 between 9.30 and and 4pm, Tuesdays to Fridays (with relevant concessions and disabled access). Or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As Melbournians and Victorians we have a rich heritage of Architecture and traditional buildings, all with individual flair and difference. We all have the good fortune thanks to the forethought of our predecessors like Jack Mortin Tallis to enjoy these vistas of living history.
So until next time, I bid you adieu.